When Apple announced its latest MacBook Pro laptops, not every model received the same level of improvement and update. While the 15-inch and 17-inch models now feature new Core i5 and i7 processors, new graphics processors, and better battery life, the 13-inch models received comparatively little love. The new 13-inch MacBook Pros do feature new integrated graphics and incremental speed improvements to its Core 2 Duo processors--but as the specs suggest, the subtle changes provide subtle performance benefits.
The two new 13-inch MacBook Pros have the same prices as their predecessors, $1199 and $1499. The new $1199 13-inch MacBook Pro now comes with a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor, a 250GB hard drive, and 4GB of RAM. That's up from the 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo, 160GB hard drive and 2GB of RAM in the previous low-end model. The $1499 13-inch MacBook Pro has a 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 320GB hard drive, and 4GB of RAM; the previous $1499 model had a 2.53GHz Core 2 Duo, 250GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM.
Updated graphics represent the biggest change to the new 13-inch MacBook Pro. Both models use Nividia's GeForce 320M, which has three times as many processing cores as the Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics used in previous models.
So what do the tests show?
The new 2.4GHz model earned a Speedmark 6 score of 118, just over 10 percent higher than the 107 scored by 2.26GHz model it replaces. In the individual tests results that make up Speedmark 6, tests involving Photoshop, iTunes, Aperture, and iPhoto showed the new 2.4GHz model to be just 2 or 3 seconds faster than the 2.26GHz system.
The biggest performance difference, as you'd expect, was in our Call of Duty frame rate test, in which the new system, aided by its GeForce 320M graphics, was able to display twice as many frames per second than the older model with its GeForce 9400M graphics. Though improved, the new entry-level 15-inch model was able to display 30 more frames per second than the fastest 13-inch MacBook Pro. In our Compressor encoding test, the older low-end 13-inch model was about 2 percent faster than the new one.
If you're deciding between a 13-inch MacBook Pro and a 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ), you'll find a 5 percent performance benefit with the 2.4GHz MacBook Pro. The difference in Speedmark scores between the two systems was largely based on the Call of Duty results, which favored the new GeForce 320M graphics.
Even with the new graphics, the relatively small increase in processor speed was not enough to boost the new low-end 13-inch MacBook Pro's performance above the last generation's high end, a 2.53GHz model, which received a Speedmark 6 score of 123, a score that falls between the scores of the two new models.
The new high-end 13-inch MacBook Pro with a 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo processor received a Speedmark 6 score of 126, a little less than 7 percent faster than the low-end model, besting that system in each individual test. The new 2.66GHz system was 2.4 percent faster than the last high-end 13-inch 2.5GHz model, again with graphics results making up most of that difference in Speedmark scores.
In most tests, the new 2.66GHz 13-inch model was a few seconds faster, though in a few tests, like the ones using iTunes and Aperture, the older model was a little faster. For some reason, Compressor was much faster (9 percent) on the 2.53GHz mid-2009 model than on the new 2.66GHz system. We'll do some more digging on that head-scratcher soon.
Comparing the new 13-inch MacBook Pros to their 15-inch siblings, you can really see the performance difference that the Core i5 and i7 processors and the discrete graphics can make. The 15-inch 2.4GHz Core i5 model was 16 percent faster overall than the 13-inch 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro. The Call of Duty test showed the GeForce GT 330M graphics in the 15-inch model could display 75 percent more frames per second than the fastest 13-inch model. Cinebench was 24 percent faster, Aperture was 32 percent faster, and Photoshop was 10 percent faster in our tests. I'm sure there are a lot of people wishing that Apple had a Core i5 upgrade available for the 13-inch MacBook Pro.
Check back soon for our full review of the 13-inch MacBook Pros, which will include battery test results.
[James Galbraith is Macworld's lab director.]
This story, "Benchmarks: New 13-inch MacBook Pros" was originally published by Macworld.