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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  • Brian Klug - Friday, March 11, 2011 - link

    So I roll with my optical drive replaced with a Vertex 2 SSD inside an OptiBay daily. It's an awesome combination if you can do it.

    One problem I noticed however is that Apple's EFI won't boot optical drives other than their own $79 external drive. That means if you want to use boot camp, you have to install Windows with the optical drive (internal SATA) connected, then do the swap to OptiBay SSD + HDD.

    -Brian
    Reply
  • AmdInside - Thursday, March 10, 2011 - link

    I'm just not that interested in this years lineup. The better CPU performance is nice but given how much more features Windows notebooks provide today, I feel I can rely on Windows notebooks as a desktop replacement much more than I can a Macbook Pro. I will still use my MBP 13 2010 for home use but for business, I rely on my Windows laptop. Reply
  • Braddik - Thursday, March 10, 2011 - link

    Amazing article! I love how thorough and detailed you are. Mad props! I work in a medium-large size organization and the Dell vs. Apple debate is hot right now. Our Mac user base is growing, but the majority of the organization is Dell. I would love an article that compares the performance/value/support of MacBook Pros vs. Dell Latitudes in the Enterprise environment. Which is better? Can/should organizations feasible make the move to a full Mac environment? I would love your input! Thanks! Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, March 11, 2011 - link

    Thanks for the kind words. I'm not sure I can offer much advice in terms of how the MBPs fare in an enterprise environment. While I know of many corporations that now issue OS X systems as an option, those systems typically have some form of Windows on them (either via Boot Camp or as a VM).

    Perhaps someone else may be able to offer more input?

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • Chloiber - Thursday, March 10, 2011 - link

    I still think it's too early to completely throw away desktops.
    With my T410, I also made the change to use it as my main "working" computer. At home, I can dock it and use my big, comfortable screen. It's very fast in "normal" usage like simple programming, texting, surfing, some "medium" load graphical stuff, some MATLAB etc. etc. - it's just perfect.

    But as soon as I want to do really heavy stuff like hours of video encoding, I still switch to my desktop with 4 or more cores and a fast dedicated GPU. It's just not the same and I really don't like to stress my laptop that much (allthough it is a Thinkpad). I don't know - I'm even less comfortable with a quad in my notebook. I don't know, but it's just not the same as a Desktop for really heavy stuff.

    I do like the new MacBooks - I don't like the resolution of the 13" model though...it's awful...
    Reply
  • Ushio01 - Thursday, March 10, 2011 - link

    While i expect a Mac Pro refresh late 2011 early 2012 I wonder if it could be the last. With the discontinuation of xserve and as this review demonstrates a mobile CPU matching less than year old server level parts in performance and thunderbolt allowing highspeed access to a NAS box I can see Apple discontinuing there last product targeting solely the professional market and truly becoming a CE company. Reply
  • rural_oregon - Friday, March 11, 2011 - link

    Yes, I have to agree with you. With macs only 20% of Apple's total revenue, and the mac pro only perhaps 5% of the mac revenue, at some point soon it just won't be worth the effort. I think it's even possible that there may not even be a sandy bridge mac pro. Reply
  • tipoo - Friday, March 11, 2011 - link

    It certainly seems like a possibility. Apples focus really has shifted to mobile devices, and its Mac revenues are only about a fifth of what the company makes. I can't imagine the Pro is any substantial percentage of their revenue, 1-5% perhaps. Might not be worth the effort for them. On the other hand, it would irk mac developers and creative pro's. Reply
  • wast3gat3 - Thursday, March 10, 2011 - link

    Just a short thanks for such an in-depth review.
    I have a mid-2010 15" MBP and am upgrading this week to the 2011 15" MBP as the performance gain is just too good to pass up. Interesting though that Apple locks the TRIM support in to their own SSD. I'm still going with the 7200rpm 500GB option and will move that disk to an opti-bay and the 3GB controller now knowing that they are using B3 stepping and fit a 6gb sata SSD. Hopefully LION will fix that TRIM support or some clever cookie works out how to enable it.
    Once again thanks!
    Reply
  • Kuril - Thursday, March 10, 2011 - link

    I always wait for AnandTech reviews because they are almost aways the most comprehensive. I love how the technology behind the reviewed product is summarized, and that there is some footwork to better describe the exact hardware being used (e.g., CPUs for MacBook Pros).

    Thanks for the informative reviews. No one comes close.
    Reply

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