Rosetta vs. Boot Camp vs. VT

When the Intel based Macs were first introduced, the only option for running non-native binaries was through Rosetta, a binary translator. As we showed in our iMac Core Duo review, performance using Rosetta was pretty horrible, but that was compared to an iMac G5. Would someone upgrading from a PowerBook G4 really notice the performance difference between an application running natively on their G4 and an application running on top of Rosetta on a MacBook Pro?

To find out I ran the same MS Word tests I ran a couple of months ago on the iMac Core Duo, and compared the results between the native version of the application running on the PowerBook G4 and the Rosetta powered MacBook Pro. As an additional pair of reference points I also ran the same benchmark using Word 2003 on a Windows XP partition using Boot Camp as well as Parallels' Workstation VM.

Non-Native Performance - Microsoft Word

Although Rosetta on the MacBook Pro wasn't that much worse than the G4 in opening the test document the HTML conversion process was significantly slower. What's truly impressive is how much faster everything is under both Boot Camp and running under Parallels' VM. Although we can't explain it, the VM consistently posted slightly faster times than under Boot Camp, although it wasn't perceivable other than by stopwatch.

Non-Native Performance - Microsoft Word

What these tests show is a very interesting alternative to Rosetta - simply running the non-native application in Windows instead. While you don't get all of the benefits of running something in OS X, you do get a huge increase in performance. It's also quite impressive to see that the VM solution truly is basically as fast as running Windows XP natively using Boot Camp.

I dug a little deeper to see how the Boot Camp and VM offerings stood up to one another in a couple more tests. The first being a script that Intel uses to measure performance using Adobe Photoshop CS2 (if I could run the script under OS X I would, but it is not supported).

Windows XP Performance - Adobe Photoshop CS2

Once again the Parallels' Workstation VM manages to be a bit faster than Boot Camp, which doesn't exactly make sense but the results were consistent.

I wanted to run both sets of Winstone benchmarks but Business Winstone 2004 consistently failed to complete running in the VM. The applications themselves didn't crash but I suspect there may have been a timing issue related to the VM. Luckily, I could at least get Multimedia Content Creation Winstone running and got a set of results from it:

Windows XP Performance - MMCC Winstone 2004

While Boot Camp is slightly faster, the difference is hardly noticeable. This is quite an important benchmark because it shows that disk as well as CPU performance isn't hampered by running Windows XP on a virtual machine. Unfortunately what these benchmarks don't measure is the responsiveness of the UI, which truly does suffer under the VM option.

Using Windows XP on a VM Network Performance and MacBook Pro vs. PC Notebooks
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  • Sengir - Saturday, July 22, 2006 - link

    I'm mainly a PC guy, but while working on Apple notebooks at a Notebook Depot, I've become interested in the Mac OS. Previously I had little to no exposure to it.
    I will say this. Apple has made alot of improvement with the Macbook/Pro in terms of repairing. Alot easier to get to the motherboard, hard drive, memory or anything.

    Unfortunately they didn't redesign for the heat of the CPUs, the ventilation just doesn't seem adequate and as a result, overheating is common.

    There are other issues with the hardware, but none I can really go into. I believe people buy Macs for the OS and not the hardware. Since some of the design/materials are cheaper than an HP notebook, for more cost. If I buy a Mac, it will probably be a mini, due to cost. The Macbooks are very nice, but have several flaws that need to be addressed.
    Reply
  • redison - Tuesday, September 05, 2006 - link

    "I've become interested in the Mac OS ..... believe people buy Macs for the OS and not the hardware"

    Right on, and check out the Leopard ( OS X 10.5 )Preview on Apples website, even better if you have the time see Jobs Kenote

    Reply
  • hasapi - Monday, April 17, 2006 - link

    Excellent reading - I just received my 2GHz MBP - and its just fantastic in every way. My only gripe which was noted in the article is the battery life of just over 2.5hrs!, its probably unrealistic but my old PB was getting 3.5hrs - maybe a new third party battery might help but would have been nice to see upwards of 5hrs imo? Reply
  • Eug - Sunday, April 16, 2006 - link

    quote:

    I would recommend waiting for a Merom version if you can. By the time Merom is introduced later this year there will be even more Universal Binaries available for the platform and hopefully by then all of the issues with the current MacBook Pros will have been worked out.

    I agree. Moreover, Boot Camp and Parallels' Workstation both will be improved by then, and Apple's pro line of laptops may just have Blu-ray drives as well available as an option. Even if we don't get Blu-ray drives by the time Merom is incorporated into MacBook Pros, in the very least we'll have 8X DVD-R support as well as dual-layer support.

    I'm most interested in a smaller model though, so I have to wait regardless. I suspect the smallest model may get a 13" 1280x800 widescreen too, considering that as of the Aperture 1.1 update, Apple has arbitrarily (and very annoyingly) removed support for my 1024x768 iBook G4 12" 1.33 GHz, and is saying that a minimum 1280x780 screen is required, even though no such laptop is available yet from Apple.
    Reply
  • tekkstore - Monday, April 17, 2006 - link

    http://www.tekkstore.com">tekkstore.com Reply
  • gamehack - Saturday, April 15, 2006 - link

    Hi there,

    I have a question to any owners of a MacBook Pro - Is the keyboard suitable for heavy use? I planning to get a MBP and use it as my main dev machine so I would typing quite a lot.

    Kind regards,
    gamehack
    Reply
  • bertd - Tuesday, April 18, 2006 - link

    in my opinion, the keyboard is one of the best keyboards i've ever used on a laptop... and i code a lot of html, php and css so i use it a lot too Reply
  • bertd - Saturday, April 15, 2006 - link

    Anand:
    great review!

    I've also bought a Macbook one week ago, and I also had a keyboard issue... My 'e' button wasnt working sometimes... When i lifted the key off the keyboard i could see the plastic under the key was kind of broken: there was a little crack in it. I went back to the apple shop, and because I only had the laptop for like 2 days they just gave me a complete new one...

    I've also experienced the 'heat' problems.. the first macbook i had was an 'earlier' version of the macbook : the serial number was W8611*****... With the new one, the one they have given me to replace the one with the broken 'e' key, the serial number started with w8612****, and I've read that macbooks starting with these numbers in their serial should be newer revisions...
    The heat problem is not as bad as with the first one, but still the bottom gets kind off hotter than with any other laptop i've ever had...
    Reply
  • mzlin - Saturday, April 15, 2006 - link

    Excellent review, Anand! The Parallels vs Boot Camp comparisons are really well done and very helpful.

    I thought the comment about PowerBook weight being 1/3 more than any other laptop you've used was a little misleading. I'm sure you didn't mean to say the PowerBook was especially heavy, but since you didn't actually mention what it weighs (5.6 pounds), it could be construed as the Powerbook weighs 1/3 more than other 15.4-inch laptops.

    I have been looking for 15.4-inch laptops, PC or Mac, that weigh less than 6 pounds with an integrated optical drive. (For me, having the drive integrated is non-negotiable; I wouldn't want to have it in the wrong place when I needed it, so I would be carrying it around regardless, and much better to save the hassle of digging it out and plugging it in when one needs it.) But the Powerbook/MacBook is the only one I have found so far. On the PC side, the VAIO BX and Toshiba Satellite A105 manage to get to 6.0 pounds, but are also are 1.5 inches thick.
    Reply
  • hechacker1 - Saturday, April 15, 2006 - link

    I'd just like to point out that the buzzing due to power state switching (transitioning between C3 and C4 states) also happens in windows and linux. It's purely a hardware issue, and in most cases it just means the manufacturer used low quality components (capacitors).

    In windows it is not as noticible because it runs with a kernel frequency of 100Hz. In linux it's often run with 1000Hz. Because of the increase in frequency of power state switching the buzzing becomes audible to the ear.

    In windows it happens 10 times less than most linux boxes. Hence you don't hear it as much even with low quality components. My own Dell 700m laptop has this issue.

    The only solution in linux is to disable the lower power states, or change the kernel timer to 100Hz like windows. The best solution is to use dynamic tick switching so you get exactly the responsiveness you need, only when you need it. With a patched linux kernel my laptop automatically goes to 54Hz when idle, and 1000Hz when under load.

    Anyways... the only reason those "fixes" work is probably because they cause the processor to do just enough work to avoid having to go into the lowest power mode.
    Reply

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