Thunderbolt MacBook Pro: The last notebook you'll ever need
If the new MacBook Pro and its amazing Thunderbolt don't blow your mind, you're not paying attention
The SPECjbb2005 benchmark results are astonishing. It's not all about more cores. Faster memory, bigger L3 cache, and Turbo Boost help push the 17-inch Thunderbolt MacBook Pro past Mac Pro in single- and dual-threaded tests (see the table of SPECjbb2005 results). You read that right -- for some workloads, a Core i7 MacBook Pro is measurably faster than a Nehalem Mac Pro. The new notebook's lead vaporizes once the Mac Pro's second CPU, bigger L3 cache, and split memory architecture kick in (the lesson: no single-socket workstations!), but any other result would point to faulty engineering. If you read my review of that machine, you'd know that's not a problem with the Mac Pro.
The Mac Pro redeems itself in the face of its DC-powered competition, but the not-so-old guard, the 2.8GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro, along with every notebook of its generation, gets thoroughly skunked, skinned, and shamed. Apple claims the new MacBook Pro is twice as fast as Core 2 Duo, my numbers back that up, and most important, it feels that fast. You'll notice the faster architecture most keenly with tasks that run from memory or CPU cache. Second launches of an app will be lightning-quick. Wake from sleep happens almost instantly. Most apps become significantly more responsive after you drive them a bit. That's because the activity moves most-used data from relatively slow memory (and even slower disk) to much faster cache.
As with all notebooks, the 5,400-rpm hard drive is the bottleneck. It's hard not to get impatient with disk speed when the rest of the computer is this fast, and Apple seems to recognize this. On the 2.2GHz 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pro, you can trade the 750GB, 5,400-rpm SATA drive for a 500GB, 7,200-rpm model, no charge. The 7,200-rpm drive upgrade closes the performance gap between notebook and desktop, but at the cost of added noise, heat, and battery drain. Solid-state drives (SSDs) are available options that I haven't tested in MacBook Pro.
While Intel should get loud applause for its second-generation Core CPUs, Apple deserves the credit for bringing a 2X speedup (Core i7 quad-core compared to Core 2 Duo) to market with a seven-hour battery life across all three models. Absent a custom-tuned OS with scheduling and power management that are fully enlightened about second-generation Core i7 and Core i5 features, it's just slightly faster silicon. OS X makes these processors sing.
Incidentally, make sure you use the OS that ships with the new MacBook Pro systems. If you boot from an older Mac or image a new MacBook Pro from an old disk, you'll miss out on the drivers that unlock the architecture's potential.
|Notes: Thunderbolt MacBook Pro configured with 2.2GHz quad-core Core i7 CPU, 6MB L3 cache, 4GB 1333MHz DDR3 RAM; Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro configured with 2.8GHz dual-core Core 2 Duo CPU, 6MB L3 cache, 4GB 1067MHz DDR3 RAM; Nehalem Mac Pro configured with two 2.93GHz quad-core Intel Xeon CPUs, 8MB L3 cache, 12GB 1066MHz DDR3 RAM.|