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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  • san1s - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    This or one of the new Sony Vaio Z series? Reply
  • rowcroft - Thursday, April 15, 2010 - link

    I chose the Sony Z- love the size and was able to get it with the i5 and a SSD for around $1,900. 3.5lbs and 1600x900 13" was too much for me to resist (and I do like OS X). Reply
  • androticus - Friday, April 16, 2010 - link

    I just tried out a Z at the Sony Store -- sweet! The 15" MBP is huge and heavy by comparison. I really feel that Apple is not offering a compelling upgrade this time -- and even upping the base model price by $100! Reply
  • SandmanWN - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    Steep price for only 5400 rpm drives!
    All that room and can't add a number pad to the keyboard.
    The plug on the power brick has got to be annoying sometimes.

    Nice resolution on the screens.

    Overall for the price the attention to detail is kind of disappointing. Not to mention the styling feels sooooooo old now.
    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    Honestly, I'm really confused why they're shipping 5400 RPM drives as well. Ordering online, the 7200 RPM drives are a whole $50 more, which, in the big perspective of things is change next to the MacBook price.

    It seems like the volume discount from shipping exclusively 7200 RPM drives on a "pro" machine would've made more sense than a bunch of default configurations with 5400 RPM drives destined to sit in stores.

    -Brian
    Reply
  • randfee - Thursday, April 15, 2010 - link

    styling = old? Kidding me?

    The Style is rather new, just one and a half years now, isn't it? The prior design lasted for 6 years and my mid 2007 MBP still looks stunning, a timeless design and the aluminum surface is VERY durable. Comparing my almost three year old one to a most other brands with the same age makes people say mine looks like new.
    Reply
  • ltcommanderdata - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    I'm still curious why Apple chose the nVidia GT330M with it's 23W TDP. ATI's Mobility HD5650 is supposed to have a TDP between 15-19W, while still being faster so would seem like the ideal choice if performance/watt is the major concern. Hopefully, Apple developing their on dynamic GPU switching implementation was motivated by trying to make a GPU agnostic method to not be tied to say nVidia and Optimus. Presumably, the GT330M drivers are more mature in OS X due to similarity with existing nVidia GPUs and that combined with price and bundling offers with the 320M cause Apple to choose nVidia in this round, but hopefully ATI isn't permanently locked out of Apple notebooks.

    It's also interesting to note that the GT330M is underclocked at 500MHz core versus up to 575MHz and 1100MHz shaders versus up to 1265MHz being supported by nVidia. Apple's clocks actually match the GT230M. If this was done to reduce power consumption and thermals, that's another reason the HD5650 would have been a better choice.
    Reply
  • jimhsu - Thursday, April 15, 2010 - link

    Or simply opting for 335M (50% more shader cores) would boost graphics performance even more. Though with the heat comments, maybe that isn't such as good idea. I'm reminded with the quite unsatisfactory heat performance (i.e. OMG WTF THIS IS BOILING) of my first gen Macbook Pro (early 2006) with some of the comments in this article. Worrisome. Care to post some temps? Reply
  • redbone75 - Thursday, April 15, 2010 - link

    I would guess it's because Nvidia, not ATI, is their partner and they have to honor that relationship. Think of how p/o'd Intel was when Apple ditched them in favor of Nvidia's chipsets. Reply
  • MySchizoBuddy - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    based on the table Core i5 540M looks better than Core i7 620M Reply

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