The GeForce GT 330M

The discrete GPU Apple settled on in the 15 and 17-inch MacBook Pro isn't bad for a notebook. The GT 330M is a 40nm chip with 48 SPs, cores, CUDA funhouses or whatever you want to call them. This is up from 16 in the GeForce 9400M that shipped on last year's MBPs, and 32 in the optional GeForce 9600M. Those GPUs were also built on TSMC's 65nm process, but power consumption may not be lower on the 330M given what we've seen with NVIDIA's desktop 40nm.

In addition to having more shader power, the GT 330M runs at a higher clock speed than last year's offerings. The end result is much better GPU performance, something that will start to matter now that OS X is getting Steam.

I didn't have access to any MacBook Pros with a 9600M, so my only performance comparison is to the 9400M. The 9600M should fall somewhere in between the 9400M and the GT 330M in performance.

I ran all of my gaming tests under Bootcamp in Windows 7:

GPU Gaming Performance Comparison - Windows 7
  Left 4 Dead (1440 x 900 - High Quality) World of Warcraft (800 x 600 - High Quality)
15-inch MacBook Pro (Late 2009) - GeForce 9400M 16.9 fps 19.1 fps
15-inch MacBook Pro (Mid 2010) - GeForce GT 330M 44.9 fps 52.3 fps

Compared to the 9400M the GT 330M is amazing. Compared to the rest of the world though, we're still not looking at desktop GPU speeds. Less than 60 fps under World of Warcraft at 800 x 600, and not even 50 fps at the panel's native resolution in Left 4 Dead. We can at least run these games at high quality settings, which isn't something that was possible with previous graphics solutions on the MacBook Pro.

If you can deal with running a game at medium quality settings and a lower-than-native resolution, you'll get ok performance out of the 330M.

Apple's GPU Switching Technology Even Better Battery Life
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  • MySchizoBuddy - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    sorry i was looking at the 620UM. someone needs more clearer names Reply
  • DLeRium - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    seriously? Didn't the 15" get the 9600GT in the two higher level ones?

    The 9400M was a 13" MBP model and also for the base 15". But clearly the 330M GT is designed to replace the 9600M GT not the 9400M. The 320M GT now in the 13" MBPs is designed to replace the 9400M. The base 15" MBP got an upgrade this year from 9400M to 330M GT, but it's clearly two different classes.

    I would've preferred if you benched the 330M GT against the 9600M GT which was an upgrade to the old 8600M GT that I have from an early 2008 MBP. The 9400M is just the wrong card to bench against.
    Reply
  • DLeRium - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    so yes, it's obvious the 330 will be faster than the 9400, but how much faster than the 9600? I think that's the most crucial question.

    The 320 should've been pitted against the 9400 and 330 against 9600.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    I agree, I just don't have any of the MBPs with the 9600M around the lab anymore :)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • DLeRium - Thursday, April 15, 2010 - link

    aww how unfortunate. I just figured that since you put the 2.53 ghz MBP in comparison that it would be the 9600M one. Oh well. I'm glad you at least included my 2008 MBP in the benches (way to make me feel like I need to upgrade :D )

    Great review
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, April 15, 2010 - link

    I always try to have at least n-2 generations of MacBook Pro hardware laying around for comparisons like this :)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • youguy - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    With SSDs offered as an option, why aren't we seeing TRIM support in Snow Leopard? Reply
  • Griswold - Thursday, April 15, 2010 - link

    Ask steve@apple.com

    Should he respond, it might be something along the line of "We dont believe people want to trim anything". Or that SSDs "are a mess".

    Good luck.
    Reply
  • ggathagan - Thursday, April 15, 2010 - link

    Battery life would be my guess.
    To a lesser extent, I suppose a 5400rpm drive also generates less heat than a 7200, but I don't know if the difference would be significant.
    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Thursday, April 15, 2010 - link

    You know, that used to be my thought as well, and I was totally concerned back when the first notebook form factor 7200 RPM drives swung around, but there's no truth to those assumptions anymore. In fact, back then I found that the newer 7kRPM drive actually gave me *better* battery life and reported cooler temps through SMART. Not sure how, but that's just how it worked out. Obviously there are going to be small differences, but there's also that HUGI (hurry up and get idle) consideration to be made here the same way intel rationalizes turbo mode on a notebook; get the task done fast, then go into a low power state. It ends up being a net energy savings.

    But it's obvious that heat/battery aren't the real reasons; the 7K RPM drives are still options, just not default. $50 isn't that much for a "pro" notebook is my point.

    At the same point, a platter drive is a platter drive; the performance gains aren't going to be anywhere near what you'll see with an SSD, so perhaps it makes more sense to just forget about upgrading the HDD and save the $50 for your SSD. There are arguments for both I suppose.

    -Brian
    Reply

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