What About The 13?

Apple's new 13-inch MacBook Pro received the biggest upgrade of the lot. Last year Apple opted against moving the 13-inch model to Arrandale and instead gave it a beefy GPU and a mildly evolved Core 2 Duo CPU. The presumed public reasoning was Apple didn't like Arrandale's GPU performance and needed a two chip solution to maintain the platform's size hence the NVIDIA GT 330M + Intel Core 2 Duo setup. Internally I'm wondering if there was a small amount of corporate politics being played there. Apple used to get a discount on Intel CPUs in exchange for exclusivity, that agreement expired with Nehalem. When Nehalem hit, Apple had to pay the same price as everyone else for CPUs. Now does the 2010 Core 2 based 13-inch MacBook Pro make more sense? Keeping Intel's flagship CPU out of Apple's highest volume MacBook Pro had to hurt. I wonder if Apple got discounted pricing on Sandy Bridge as a result...

Evolution of the 13-inch MacBook Pro Early 2011 Mid 2010 Late 2009
CPU Intel Core i5 2.3GHz (DC) Intel Core 2 Duo 2.40GHz (DC) Intel Core 2 Duo 2.26GHz (DC)
Memory 4GB DDR3-1333 4GB DDR3-1066 2GB DDR3-1066
HDD 320GB 5400RPM 250GB 5400RPM 160GB 5400RPM
Video Intel HD 3000 (integrated) NVIDIA GeForce 320M (integrated) NVIDIA GeForce 9400M (integrated)
Optical Drive 8X Slot Load DL DVD +/-R 8X Slot Load DL DVD +/-R 8X Slot Load DL DVD +/-R
Screen Resolution 1280 x 800 1280 x 800 1280 x 800
USB 2 2 2
SD Card Reader Yes Yes Yes
FireWire 800 1 1 1
ExpressCard/34 No No No
Battery 63.5Wh 63.5Wh 60Wh
Dimensions (W x D x H) 12.78" x 8.94" x 0.95" 12.78" x 8.94" x 0.95" 12.78" x 8.94" x 0.95"
Weight 4.5 lbs 4.5 lbs 4.5 lbs
Price $1199 $1199 $1199

While the 15-inch MacBook Pro is quad-core only, the new 13 is strictly dual-core. You get two options: a 2.3GHz or 2.7GHz dual-core Core i5 or Core i7. In Intel speak it's the Core i5-2410M or the Core i7-2620M (it's no wonder Apple doesn't list model numbers for these things).


The 2011 13-inch MacBook Pro Motherboard

Apple 13-inch 2011 MacBook Pro CPU Comparison
2.3GHz dual-core 2.7GHz dual-core
Intel Model Core i5-2410M Core i7-2620M
Base Clock Speed 2.3GHz 2.7GHz
Max SC Turbo 2.9GHz 3.4GHz
Max DC Turbo 2.6GHz 3.2GHz
GPU Base Clock Speed 650MHz 650MHz
GPU Max Turbo 1.2GHz 1.3GHz
L3 Cache 3MB 4MB
AES-NI No Yes
VT-x Yes Yes
VT-d No Yes
TDP 35W 35W

The primary differences between these two parts are clock speed, L3 cache size and AES-NI support once again. The 2.3GHz Core i5 lacks AES-NI, has a 3MB L3 cache and can only turbo up to 2.9GHz. The 2.7GHz Core i5 has AES-NI, a 4MB L3 cache and can turbo up as high as 3.4GHz.

I verified turbo frequencies on the 2.7GHz 13-inch. The highest I saw single core turbo hit was 3.4GHz, and dual core turbo was good for 3.2GHz. There's absolutely no funny business going on here, the dual-core 2.7 is allowed to hit its maximum frequencies.

You'll notice that the 2.7GHz DC chip has the same max single core turbo as the 2.3GHz QC chip from the upgraded 15-inch MacBook Pro. In practice this means that for light workloads the upgraded 15 won't feel any faster than the 13 (or that the 13 will feel as fast as the 15 depending on how you look at it). I'm talking about things like web page load times and application launch/install times. There may even be a slight performance advantage for the 13-inch setup as it's able to turbo up to higher frequencies easier than the quad-core 15. Crank up the threads and you've got a different story entirely of course. There's no replacement for more cores on highly threaded workloads.

Turbo and the 15-inch MacBook Pro Mostly No QuickSync
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  • jb510 - Friday, March 11, 2011 - link

    It would seem to me their is one currently shipping Thunderbolt periphral... A 2011 MBP in target disk mode. Maybe you could drop an SSD in one and do some preliminary testing? Reply
  • jb510 - Friday, March 11, 2011 - link

    damn... wish i could edit that comment originally typed on my iphone... but their doesn't appear to be any way... (misspelling repeated for comedic effect) Reply
  • deadshort - Friday, March 11, 2011 - link

    Thanks for the genuinely informative review. Running both low-load and high-load battery tests is especially helpful to developers, etc.

    One question. You chose the 2.3Ghz/8MB cache system. Was that just 'cuz you swing that way, or do you expect significant performance benefits for some workload you care about? For these machines is it a 10% price goldplate, or a reasonable increment to keep these CPUs fed? I am seriously interested....
    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Friday, March 11, 2011 - link

    I can speak for myself at least, but part of the reason for the 2.3/8 MB system choice was that it's the only preconfigured (Apple Store available) configuration that comes with the anti-glare display.

    Essentially, if you're a customer walking into the apple store and don't want the glossy/glare display, you're immediately forced into buying the highest-specced (and most expensive) MacBook Pro. It's frustrating because the only way to get lower specced systems is BTO online.

    Obviously we got these systems on launch date to immediately start working, and that was the reason for the 2.3 choice.

    -Brian
    Reply
  • synaesthetic - Friday, March 11, 2011 - link

    You know, I don't get this thin crap. I really don't.

    I mean, I can understand it. From a purely aesthetic point of view. Sort of, anyway.

    I'm sick of "thin" gadgets with weak performance and fragile builds. Thick gadgets means more tech fits inside. My HTC Glacier is quite thin, and you know what? I wish it was thicker. It'd be easier to hold onto, and HTC could have put a bigger battery in it!

    Stop making things so stupidly thin. Instead of driving the miniaturization of components on "thin," why not take that same miniaturization power and make things a bit thicker... with more power/cooling/battery inside?

    Thin may be sexy, but powerful is even sexier!

    Then again, Apple's never really cared to broadcast the specs of their devices, hoping instead to gloss over it to such a degree that nobody questions paying ridiculously inflated prices...
    Reply
  • Marc B - Friday, March 11, 2011 - link

    I am finally buying my first MacBook this year, and I am 70/30 leaning toward the 15" MBP. The 17" version has the high res screen and express port, but the 15" MBP is lighter/smaller and has the SDXC reader. Will the Thunderbolt port will provide enough throughput to allow simultaneous in/out?

    I am using this to log HD video on location, and was wondering if the express port is no longer necessary to use with a small ESATA array now that you can have high speed storage in and out using the Thunderbolt port.
    Reply
  • Belard - Friday, March 11, 2011 - link

    If Apple is pushing their notebooks to be more and more Desktop replacements...

    Where is a docking bay to handle all the connectors? How hard for a single connector to handle everything?

    Lenovo sells about 3 different Docking units $130~300 for their regular Thinkpad line (ie: NOT Edge or L/SL series).

    We have a few users who use them. Comes to the office, drop the notebook into the dock and turn it on, not a single cable to be attached. They include 4 USB ports (or more), PS/2 ports, HDMI and DVI ports, Ethernet and of course charge up the battery.

    So one user would have to plug in 7 cables everyday if he didn't have a dock... like his keyboard, wireless desktop mouse, 21" display, various printers and devices, etc.
    Reply
  • name99 - Friday, March 11, 2011 - link

    " I still haven't figured out how to actually grab SINR out on here, all I can see for the moment is just RSSI. "

    Apple's Airport Utility does give you part of what you want.
    If you open it, go to "Manual Setup", see the summary page, and click on where it says "Wireless Clients: 2" (or 3 or whatever) you will be given a page that, for each connection, shows their signal and noise levels (along with a graph).

    Of course this doesn't exactly have any bearing on what we are discussing, because the numbers that are presented are the intermediate term SINR values, relevant to shadowing but not to fading. The numbers that are relevant to fading (and thus to MIMO tricks) change on a millisecond time scale, and so what one really wants is an indication of their standard deviation, along with other info like the connection diversity. This is all way more geeky than Apple (or any other consumer company) is going to provide.
    Reply
  • humunculus - Friday, March 11, 2011 - link

    Any chance you could run a few of the tests on the 2.0 and 2.2 GHz models. I am interested in how much performance difference there is between the 2.2 and 2.3 GHz 15 inch Macbook Pro models. It is hard to assess if the 10% cost increase is warranted. Thanks Reply
  • Belard - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    The $400 price difference is for the extra 200mhz (Apple values that at $250 - these are notebook CPUs, so pricing from intel is a factor)

    And then $150 to sometimes double the performance of the GPU for games.

    Oh, and an extra 250GB of HD space (which is about $5 in the real world).
    Reply

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