By James Galbraith Macworld.com | on June 15, 2009
Price When Reviewed: 781 . 999 . 1130 . 1475
Following their announcement at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) a few weeks ago, we get our hands on the new 13-inch, 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pros, and put them through their paces.
In this article, we'll look mostly at speed. Full reviews with star ratings that also consider the laptops' design and features will appear on this site soon.
13-inch MacBooks go Pro
In case you forgot about the MacBook Pro announcement as soon as the iPhone 3G S was unveiled, the biggest change to the MacBook Pro line was the addition of two 13-inch models.
Essentially, Apple took the unibody MacBook and added a FireWire 800 port to the laptop and the word Pro to the name. The new 13-inch models feature a 2.26GHz or 2.53GHz Core 2 Duo Intel processor, a boost over the 2GHz and 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo processors found in the unibody MacBooks.
The £781 plus VAT 13-inch 2.26GHz MacBook Pro ships with 2GB of 1,066MHz DDR3 RAM and a 160GB hard drive. The £999 13-inch 2.53GHz MacBook Pro ships with 4GB of 1,066MHz DDR3 RAM and a 250GB hard drive. Both models ship with the Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics subsystem.
We tested the two new 13-inch MacBook Pros using Speedmark 5. The new 13-inch 2.53GHz MacBook Pro was a little more than 12 percent faster overall than the new 13-inch 2.26GHz MacBook Pro. The 2.53GHz laptop was about 21 percent faster at Photoshop and Cinema 4D.
Of course, some of this performance difference is due to the 2.53GHz system's additional RAM, so we also tested the 2.26GHz model with 4GB of RAM. Most of our tests (which are run one at a time) don't benefit much from additional RAM, and the two-point improvement in the Speedmark score bears that out. The biggest performance difference with the additional RAM was in our Photoshop suite times, which improved the new 2.26GHz MacBook Pro's score by about 10 percent.
Comparing the new 13-inch MacBook Pros to the last unibody 13-inch MacBook, we see that the new 2.26GHz MacBook Pro is about 12 percent faster overall than the 2GHz unibody MacBook.
Looking at the performance differences between the new 2.26GHz MacBook Pro and the lowest priced Mac laptop, the new 2.13GHz white MacBook, we find about a 7.5 percent improvement in Speedmark scores with the 2.26GHz MacBook Pro. Highlights include somewhat faster frame rates in 3D games, thanks to the faster 1,066MHz DDR3 RAM that the MacBook Pro uses (the white MacBook uses 800MHz DDR2 memory).
Maybe the most interesting comparison is between the 13-inch 2.53GHz MacBook Pro and the new 15-inch 2.53GHz MacBook Pro. There is less than a one percent difference in the Speedmark scores for these two, and their specifications are nearly identical. The $200 price difference essentially buys you two more inches of diagonal screen real estate.