MacBook Pro 2.16GHz
Macworld reviewed both the 1.83GHz and 2GHz MacBook Pro laptops in our April 2006 issue and concluded that the MacBook Pro is a fitting successor to the PowerBook G4. While its new internal architecture makes it noticeably faster than its predecessor – and blazingly faster in certain high-end tasks – it’s still comfortably a Mac laptop.
In addition, you get a built-in iSight camera, Apple’s multimedia Front Row technology, remote control, improved wireless range, an ExpressCard/34 slot, and a cool new magnetic power cord called MagSafe. However, while the MacBook Pro massively improves most of the PowerBook G4’s specs there’s one area with a serious backslide: the optical drive.
Because the MacBook Pro is thinner than the PowerBook, Apple had to use a new optical drive that’s approximately 3mm thinner. So rather than the optical drive in the previous-model PowerBook, which featured an 8x SuperDrive with dual-layer DVD burning support, the MacBook only contains a 4x SuperDrive model that can’t burn dual-layer discs – hard-core disc burners be warned.
If most of the applications you use are available in Universal versions (updated so that they run natively on both the older PowerPC processors and the new Intel chips), or are relatively low-power programs running in Rosetta (Apple’s emulation technology that allows older software to run on the new chips), buying a MacBook Pro will be to your advantage. If you’re upgrading from a two- or three-year-old PowerBook G4, you’ll notice a massive speed boost in Universal applications, while Rosetta applications will run at the speed you’re used to.
However, if you rely on programs that won’t run in Rosetta (for example, some of Apple’s Final Cut Studio applications or Microsoft’s Virtual PC), you should delay your purchase until Universal versions of those programs become available. And if you use a resource-intensive program such as Adobe Photoshop CS2, or you need to wring every last bit of performance out of your system when you’re on the road, you’ll likewise be better off waiting until your software has been updated before buying a MacBook Pro.
But as impressive as those models we tested are, neither the 1.83GHz configuration nor the 2.0GHz version can lay claim to being the fastest MacBook Pro. That honour goes to the built-to-order MacBook 2.16GHz Core Duo.
The news that Apple would offer faster-than-expected MacBook Pro models caught many by surprise – especially since it came before the previously announced configurations even shipped. Available as a build-to-order upgrade, the 2.16GHz Core Duo processor is the fastest Intel processor currently available in a Mac. We ordered one the day that the 2.16GHz model was announced, upping the ante by adding another optional upgrade – the 7,200rpm 100GB hard drive.
It took a while, but our shiny, new MacBook Pro 2.16GHz Core Duo with speedy internal hard drive finally arrived and the test results show that these more expensive upgrades definitely pay off in terms of performance. Whether the increased speed is worth the extra pounds depends on who you are and what you do.
Using our standard performance test suite, Speedmark 4.5, we found that the new system was faster across the board when compared to the 2GHz MacBook, with the extra megahertz of processing power squeezing between 4 to 10 per cent improvements in performance. The processor also helped the 2.16GHz MacBook turn in the fastest Cinema 4D score of any Intel-based Mac.
The optional 7,200rpm hard drive helped the 2.16GHz model finish our 1GB folder archive test 15 per cent faster than the 2GHz MacBook Pro (which has a 5,400rpm drive). Another test, the 1GB file duplicate, was more than 20 per cent faster on the built-to-order MacBook Pro.
Upgrading to a 2.16GHz Core Duo processor costs an additional £210 on top of the £1,779 price of the 2GHz MacBook Pro; the 7,200rpm drive adds another £70 to the price tag. It’s also possible to upgrade to several other components including a 5,400rpm 120GB (£70) hard drive, up to 2GB DDR2 SDRAM, Apple USB Modem, and the AppleCare Protection Plan.
Is the increased performance worth the extra cost over the standard 2GHz model? The performance gains are nothing to sneeze at and almost any user could realise some time-saving benefits right now with these upgrades. But, it seems to me that many of those willing to pay top dollar for every ounce of speed available are professionals still waiting for their bread-and-butter applications to run natively on Intel processors before taking the plunge.