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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  • dqnet - Wednesday, March 16, 2011 - link

    I'm really considering splashing out on the 13" but I've read countless articles and all I hear is the glossy screen is either horrible or awful. I don’t want the 15", I need the portability and I don’t know what on earth to do!??????????

    Then comes the SSD issue, if I want this option I have to wait 6 weeks!
    I can always get this later down the line I guess?? Well from what the article suggests??

    Any help (opinions) would be great as right now I’m lost! :(
    Reply
  • Mac Ike - Wednesday, March 16, 2011 - link

    If a person bought a MacBook Pro in the last 18-24 months,I don't see the reason to upgrade unless you're on the Bleeding-edge of performance needs and Mac your living with your Mac. Many Apps and advanced Software aren't even optimized to take advantage of multiple Cores,or Hyper-Threading/Turbo Boost. I don't care as much for Auto Switching Graphics,since I have total control of my Graphics with my March 2010 MacBook Pro 17"/Core 2 Duo/2.8 Ghz/4GB RAM/AG/500GB HD/512MB or 256(IG) VRAM-dual cards/express card. if I was buying new today,Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost schemes would be OK,but there's no way that I'd trade or sell my machine for these updates! To me,speed hasn't been an issue in 2 or 3 years! My 2006 20" iMac was at 2.0 Ghz,and the newest Macs are 2.0-3.0Ghz or so. I know that Sandy Bridge is faster than a Merom Core Duo,but most improvements seem to have come from adding more Cores and RAM,so that more tasks can be done simultaneously! I don't care for gimmicks,Turbo-Boosting,Hyper-Threading,and poorer graphics to convince me to upgrade my Macs. Unless you are a Digital Video Content Creator,or other high-powered user,or your Mac is 3 yrs. Old or so,you should Max-out your RAM,get a faster HDD or an SSD,rather than buying a Whole New Mac! If you have the money to spend,good for you,but a combination of Power,Battery-Life,and Portability,are the REAL issues! I wish people would stop telling others that they're Idiots for paying Mac prices,since it's our Money,and only YOU can determine what's good value for the Performance,elegance,and Stability of Apple Hardware! Reply
  • rredge - Thursday, March 17, 2011 - link

    Today, the local Apple store acknowledged that my 15" MacBook Pro is not functioning properly and refunded the purchase price despite the fact that I was just past the 14 day return period.

    The problem is that the computer ceased to respond to the trackpad even when rebooted with the power button.

    In the course of trying to figure out what the problem was, I discovered that there are reports of people experiencing similar problems for all three models (13", 15", 17") on Apple's support forum, where one thread alone now runs 19 pages, as well as elsewhere on the internet.

    The Apple store personnel told me that Apple has not acknowledged that there is a problem with this line of computers, although they acknowledged in less than two minutes that my computer has a problem sufficiently serious to warrant a refund out of the return period. I declined a replacement because they expressed ignorance of the issue, indeed said that Apple did not acknowledge an issue, and were unable to give me any assurance that a replacement would perform any better.

    The questions at this point are how widespread this freezing problem is and whether Apple is going to acknowledge it and fix it.
    Reply
  • rredge - Thursday, March 17, 2011 - link

    The second paragraph should have said that the computer ceased to respond to both the trackpad and keyboard. Reply
  • nitrousninja - Thursday, March 17, 2011 - link

    I saw the benches but I dont know if that translates into a big real world difference in SSDs. I'm mostly doing stuff in Word/Excel, some light video editing/converting, and occasionally some WoW. This would be in the base model 13"

    Should i go with the stock 3GB 128GB SSD or the OCZ 6GB I can get at Microcenter and install it mysel?. I've never done that on a Mac.

    Thanks for the help!

    Matt
    Reply
  • tno - Wednesday, May 04, 2011 - link

    Doubt you're still wondering but, if you want to have any space left after installing an OS and still want an SSD then you should splash for the 128GB SSD or wait till a reliable larger SSD is available. I wouldn't go less than 120GB.

    As to whether you should get an SSD, just ask yourself this question:

    Have you ever sat, even for a moment, and wondered why an otherwise well specced (but magnetically driven) computer seemed slow?

    If yes, then you'll likely be able to set that question aside by putting in an SSD.
    Reply
  • tranksen76 - Friday, March 18, 2011 - link

    Hello Rredge,

    how frustrating your experience sounds!
    2011 was the year I was finally supposed to buy myself my 1st ever MBP after 18 years in the Windows environment.

    It took me long enough to choose between a 13-inch or 15-inch one but then I started reading about these freeze issues a lot of users have been facing. being French i only heard about this problem within French forums and i was hoping this would have to be a specific problem for a batch of units delivered in France but now I have to admit this really is a larger scope problem.

    For what it's worth there were comments on the forums I went through about I-Stats being a cause for these problems as it installs by default with a settings that take over the fans control.
    Did you have that app on your computer?

    Best regards
    Tranksen
    Reply
  • rredge - Friday, March 18, 2011 - link

    Bonjour Tranksen,

    The fan on my computer was acting normally when this happened and I do not have that widget installed. I was running Terminal, TextEdit and Safari and the processor was under extremely light load.

    You will find a good deal of discussion about this problem on the Apple U.S. support forum at http://discussions.apple.com/category.jspa?categor...

    This is not an imaginary issue. Apple agreed to the return of my computer for full refund despite it being outside the 14 return period.

    I would consider repurchasing one of these computers, but not until Apple clarifies what the problem is and fixes it.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Saturday, March 19, 2011 - link

    You said that noise was an issue with the larger MPB, but I'd like that to be quantified in decibels and compared to other laptops in a table, in future reviews. Reply
  • Omid.M - Monday, March 21, 2011 - link

    Can the AT team comment on this please:

    http://apple.slashdot.org/submission/1504006/2011-...

    Click on "Link to Original Source"

    Can you guys duplicate this issue? Is it just simple overheating and poor design on Apple's part? I really want to know...

    Also tweeted to the three of you. Thanks for your thoroughness, gang.
    Reply

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