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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  • corequadro - Friday, April 14, 2006 - link

    I found it as a perfect help against the annoying whine. Just start and then stopp it, and you will – if you aren't using ichat – have a perfectly silent macbook till the next reboot.
    Of course, a fix from Apple would be more effective, but I can live with the widget fix.
    Reply
  • brich - Friday, April 14, 2006 - link

    I really think the MacBooks have legs to grow, especially once the intel transition is completed over the next year and universal support becomes more 'universal.' My 12" PowerBook G4 1.5 has served me very well, even with the limitations of XP Pro running in VPC 7 inside Tiger. I think that some of the PC-only enthusiasts who add a MacBook to their arsenal will discover that the integration of excellent hardware esthetic and design with an OS that is continually developing/improving (OSX) will make the Mac solution quite compelling.

    That said, if I were a user who was totally satisfied with Windows and was not interested in OSX, then I would not buy a Mac to run Windows...no reason to do it. The real differentiation is the new flexibility of the intel Macs with OSX as a viable alternative to XP now and Vista later. Ther ability to run XP on them is frosting on the cake, imho.
    Reply
  • ohnnyj - Friday, April 14, 2006 - link

    Dear Apple,

    I want a 12in Merom MacBook.
    Reply
  • Desslok - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    Acorrding to Daily Tech the hardware bugs you talked about are fixed with the new revs of the MacBook Pro. The article also stated that Apple would allow you to trade your MacBook in if you were having these problems. Reply
  • JAS - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    Tonight, I visited an Apple Store to see the MacBook Pro in person. What a gorgeous, well engineered laptop -- and impressively fast! The units on display did have rather warm undersides; but perhaps these are from the initial manufacturing run ("version A"). Reply
  • trooper11 - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    Great job on the review, it was interesting to see how close things are coming on the software side to run a Windows environment on Macs and pointing out how similar Macs have gotten to every other laptop maker, at least in terms of parts and performance.

    The thing that gets me now is that the change over to Intel processors and ,in general, a more universal system, has made the Mac just another notebook vendor. So whst the Mac Book Pro has going for it is OS X and any of the Apple software, the machine itself is no better or worse then the many laptop manufacturers putting out Windows based pcs. In the past Macs had sort of mystique relating toa percieved uniqueness.

    If everyone realizes this, then Id like to see a review of a Mac Book from the perspective of any normal system evaluation. Comparing the experience with Apple with those of HP, Dell, Acer, or even Lenovo. If Im not a fan of the Mac OS, then I dont see any other reason to pick them over say Acer or Lenovo. I certainly wouldnt pay a price premium for the Apple name unless I saw some first hand reviews relating to price/performance and quality of service you can expect.
    Reply
  • anthlover - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    Those who have a powerbook that runds under 1ghz will be well served by the new books NOW. Those that have 1.5 and 1.67 have not need to quickly switch unless there is some native apps including apps free ones they want to use.

    Those that have no book will do well with them.

    Waiting unless somthing new was coming out in a couple of weeks is silly. Computers and their prices change constantly, models are refreshed and replaced rapidly. One should always buy what they need and try to future proof too much.

    Of course those wanting to save might want to wait for the Ibooks err Mac Book.

    Glad to hear replacing the drive got **easier then on the earlier Alumibooks... Or at least the 12 inch one. I got through the keyboard replacement part of the disasemly I had done before and then read ahead to the upper case disassembly and realized that I need a brighter room, no cats trying to help, and a lot of care. Too much risk. With the books It sounds like when you want that 200gb 7200 rpm drive it will be easy to put in:)
    Reply
  • plinden - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    The choppiness can be made almost unnoticeable by reducing the "Hardware acceleration" - Display Properties/Settings/Advanced/Troubleshooting, and move the slider one notch to the left. Reply
  • nels0360 - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    The hardware issue mentioned have been or are being fixed.

    Apple has release silent revisions of the MacBook Pro. It is well documented on other sites such as Macrumors.com

    In fact, I believe Apple will give you a new revision if you complain about one of these problems.
    Reply
  • plinden - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    I know they are different benchmarks, but over at http://www.macworld.com/2006/04/firstlooks/xpbench...">MacWorld, they found that the MacBook Pro was faster at running Windows than three Windows-only PCs.

    I'm not going to editorialize here, just bringing this to your attention.
    Reply

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