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
Thunderbolt MacBook Pro: GPU performance
All benchmarks are controversial. There's no such thing as a typical user, so it's almost pointless to try to create performance benchmarks that emulate user experience. Instead, it's often best to try to push what you're testing to its limits and count the number of operations the target hardware can accomplish in a period of time.
Most GPU tests are based on video games. These are enormous fun for reviewers, but they bring in so many variables that results are tough for others to reproduce. It's impossible to know how much of the load is being shouldered by the CPU and how much is off-loaded to the GPU. I prefer pure GPU tests, and OpenCL, one of Apple's many patentable innovations made open instead, enables these findings.
The open source Displacement benchmark tests OpenCL and OpenGL performance by animating an irregular refractive shape. Taking the screen shot lowers the frame rate by about 20 frames per second.
|Notes: Thunderbolt MacBook Pro configured with AMD Radeon HD 6750M discrete GPU, Intel HD 3000 integrated GPU, 1600 by 1000 pixel window; Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro configured with Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT discrete GPU, Nvidia GeForce 9400M integrated GPU, 1440 by 900 pixel window; Nehalem Mac Pro configured with AMD Radeon HD 4870 discrete GPU. Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro results are not directly comparable to Intel and AMD GPUs because a different shape is used, but do reflect relative performance.|
I use the open source LuxRender as a raytracing back end for Blender 3D projects. It's fast, and the results are fantastic. The LuxRender team packaged its raytracer into a convenient benchmark called LuxMark. It solves the CPU/GPU problem by letting you test these components separately, but since LuxMark is a throughput benchmark, it also does a great job of testing GPU and CPU together. This is how GPU computing is supposed to be done, so to my mind, the GPU/CPU results are the most relevant.
Testing the throughput of the GPUs alone revealed that for the LuxMark benchmark, the AMD Radeon HD 6750M in the 2.2GHz 17-inch MacBook Pro (the same GPU is in the 2.2GHz 15-inch model) is about 4.25 times faster than the Nvidia GeForce 9600M that's in the 15-inch Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro. You can see the results in the accompanying table. No GPU is an island, though, so it's the combined CPU and GPU tests that better approximate real life and, it turns out, make for a more stunning multiplier than Apple marketing dishes out.
According to LuxMark, when the Intel CPU and AMD GPU in the new MacBook Pro join forces, they make a machine that's 7.5 times faster than Core 2 Duo. Not many commercial apps -- Final Cut Pro is one -- exploit this capability. Most apps, including Photoshop and other Adobe Creative Suite components, use OpenGL for drawing and the CPU for calculating. As GPU off-loading, a.k.a. GPGPU for general-purpose GPU, finds its way into software updates, mainstream apps as well as graphics apps will start knocking you out with multiples of the performance you're used to.
When Apple put Intel and AMD together, it created a monster. In the LuxMark raytracing test, 2.2GHz Thunderbolt MacBook Pro is 7.5 times faster than 2.8GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro.
|Notes: Thunderbolt MacBook Pro configured with 2.2GHz quad-core Core i7 CPU, 6MB L3 cache, 4GB 1333MHz DDR3 RAM, AMD Radeon HD 6750M discrete GPU; Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro configured with 2.8GHz dual-core Core 2 Duo CPU, 6MB L3 cache, 4GB 1067MHz DDR3 RAM, Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT discrete GPU; Nehalem Mac Pro configured with two 2.93GHz quad-core Intel Xeon CPUs, 8MB L3 cache, 12GB 1066MHz DDR3 RAM, AMD Radeon HD 4870 discrete GPU.|