We got our hands on two 15-inch MacBook Pros, both the 2.2GHz and 2.4GHz configurations, pretty much immediately after the announcement made by Apple last Tuesday.
Although in appearance they are practically identical models to the previous generation of Apple professional laptops, the new batch incorporates some substantial improvements inside. Now all MacBook Pros include 2GB of 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM, which is 1GB more compared to previous models, plus the maximum memory capacity has been increased to 4GB. The new models also offer a faster front end bus that runs at 800 MHz compared to 667 MHz in the previous version.
They are also the first notebooks to include nVidia graphics (specifically the GeForce 8600M GT processor, with 128MB of dedicated video memory on the 2.2GHz model and 256MB on the 2.4GHz model).
Another change from this generation of MacBook Pro is something Steve Jobs alluded to in his open letter on Apple’s environmental measures: an LED-backlit display. Available on 15-inch models, LED backlighting can improve battery life while being less polluting from an environmental point of view by dispensing with the fluorescent used in most LCDs. (We haven’t had a chance to test its impact on battery life yet.)
How do these changes affect performance? As we’ve seen in previous tests, increasing RAM doesn’t always mean better performance, as most of our tests perform well even with just 1GB of RAM.
The new speeds of the MacBook Pro processors are around 2 and 3 percent faster, with the new 2.4 GHz model outperforming the previous 2.33 GHz MacBook Pro in virtually all tests, including those performed with Photoshop. , Cinema 4D and Compressor.
However, the puzzling result came when we ran our 3-D gaming tests with Unreal Tournament 2004. The 2.4GHz MacBook Pro equipped with the nVidia graphics chip was 28 percent slower in frames per second compared to the 2.33 GHz model equipped with ATI’s graphics processor. Further testing with other games indicated that Unreal Tournament was the exception to the rule, with the new 2.4 GHz MacBook Pro outperforming the 2.33 GHz model by 28 percent in our Doom tests and by 33 percent. percent in our Quake 4 tests. Even more impressive was the result obtained with the 2.4 GHz model on a 2.66 GHz Mac Pro Quad, as both were practically identical in the Quake and Doom tests.
Testing with Unreal Tournament affects overall Speedmark performance, and newer MacBook Pros are clearly affected by the inexplicably low frame rate achieved with that game.