Apple MacBook Pro 13—Surprisingly Powerful 320M

Ah yes, the NVIDIA GeForce 320M, a.k.a. the excuse given for why the MBP13 is still running Core 2. It’s an integrated chip, with 256MB of system memory allocated to the IGP. As I said before, it’s got 48 CUDA cores clocked at 450 MHz, compared to the G 310M (in most of ASUS’ ultraportables) which has 16 CUDA cores at 625 MHz. It’s based on NVIDIA’s GT216 core and is basically an integrated version of the GeForce GT 325M. Interestingly, NVIDIA also has a similarly (and rather confusingly) named GT 320M (found in the HP dv6/7t) but that is a dedicated card with a stripped version of the GT216 core and has 24 pixel pipelines clocked at 500 MHz.

So, there’s your NVIDIA mobile GPU lesson for the day. But here’s the basics—the 320M is the replacement for the old 9400M and is basically a GT 325M integrated into the chipset. We expect it to run squarely in between the ASUS ultraportables and the N83Jv/Alienware M11x (GT 335M), slightly slower than the GT 325M, and somewhere around the ATI HD 5470. Here's how gaming performance stacks up.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

DiRT 2

Left 4 Dead 2

Mass Effect 2

Stalker: Call of Pripyat

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

Under low settings, the MBP ended up around 10% faster overall than the Dell Studio 14, which has the HD 5470 (excluding the StarCraft II number). The Alienware M11x, ASUS N82Jv, and Gateway ID49C remain quite a bit faster, as expected, while the ASUS U-series end up significantly slower. The other integrated solutions (9400M, HD 4200/4225) are comparatively woeful. With the G 310M, you can play basically everything in our benchmark suite (except Mass Effect 2) at native res, lowest detail settings. With the other integrated graphics solutions, you need to take the resolution down a few notches to get anything even resembling a playable frame rate.

 Battlefield: Bad Company 2

DiRT 2

Left 4 Dead 2

Mass Effect 2

Stalker: Call of Pripyat

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty 

At medium detail settings, I expected the 320M to falter, but it surprised me by staying playable in all of our benchmarks. Bad Company 2 is a bit low, but if you really want to play it at Medium it’s possible, unlike with the G 310M and other low end dedicated graphics units. Frame rates in the mid-20 to low-30 range are awesome by mobile IGP standards. Things that aren’t playable on the G 310M, like Mass Effect 2 and Left 4 Dead 2, hit the magical 30 fps mark with the 320M. The 320M performs more like a midrange mobile GPU than any shape or form of integrated graphics; this is understandable given it’s roots as an integrated GT 325M, but it's still pretty awesome.

Apple MacBook Pro 13 - Core 2 Duo Performance Apple MacBook Pro 13 - Average Battery Life
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  • MrDiSante - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    Regardless, Apple is notorious for shoddy Windows drivers (and shoddy Windows software in general - iTunes, Safari, QuickTime, need I go on?) Reply
  • tipoo - Thursday, October 14, 2010 - link

    The 13'er doesn't have a dGPU. Must be something else. Reply
  • dagamer34 - Thursday, October 14, 2010 - link

    Charging $1200-1500 for what is essentially a 2 year old laptop is one reason why I can only buy a MacBook Pro every 2-3 years where the "Apple tax" really rears it's head when it comes to performance per dollar across all lines of notebooks. Reply
  • solipsism - Thursday, October 14, 2010 - link

    “If ASUS can manage to fit a Core 2010 processor, the chipset, and a dedicated graphics card into a system with similar dimensions to the MBP13 and a 33% larger battery, then Apple could have too. Simple as that.”

    How is it as simple as that? I’ve seen the Asus to which you refer and it’s significantly thicker over most of the chassis. That means more vertical space for cooling and more room for heat sinks fan or whatever for placing a dGPU. It also means more vertical space for the battery so even if it’s 33% larger it could have a lower footprint thus allowing the Asus MoBo be larger for that dGPU.

    If you considered this and now for a fact that the MoBo isn’t larger then please post some images or links to images disproving this possible reason.

    "Apple products aren’t reknowned for their value for money quotient, but even by Apple standards, this is pretty bad.”

    If you are going to define “value” as the cost of a computer based on the type of processor used or it’s rating in a speed bench then you should denote that is exactly what you mean, because there is a lot of value that can be had from a system that focuses on a complete package and has a resale “value” much higher than other vendor’s systems. By what I assume must be your definition of “value” any notebook is crap because a desktop can be had at a cheaper price with a faster processor.

    Finally, you seem to be basing your price of the entire product on the performance of the CPU. How does this make any sense? Personally, I’d rather have a C2D with a better GPU than the i3 with IntelHD. I’m also willing to pay more for a better chassis, better display, better trackpad and those little things that this article triumphed and then latter pooh-poohed as being irrelevant to the cost of the entire system.

    if you need/want the fastest the processor that’s fine, but for many the CPU is already fast enough, it’s the other things that are lacking in most vendor’s machines. Same goes for the display resolution. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people determine which is “best” by only looking at the resolution and aspect ratio.

    Honestly, I wish more PC and CE companies would focus on details that aren’t easy to market on a spec sheet.
    Reply
  • VivekGowri - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    What about the Sony VAIO Z? That's smaller, and has the Core i5, a dGPU, plus space for two solid state drives (yes, I know it's significantly more expensive). The Asus was just an example, there's plenty of other 13" notebooks to choose from that have Core 2010 and a dedicated graphics card.

    See, the MBP13 and 13" Aluminum MacBook were a decent value right until most of the world moved to Core i3/5/7. A $1200 notebook with a two year old processor is not a good value, regardless of how you try to spin it.
    Reply
  • GeorgeH - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    Smaller? The Z is ~120% of a 13" MBP. Reply
  • VivekGowri - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    Wait, what? The VAIO Z weighs 3.04lbs...that's 50% less than an MBP13. Same thickness as the MBP (don't believe the specsheet; the body is an inch across, but the rubber grips in the back raise it up higher), smaller footprint, etc. Reply
  • GeorgeH - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    Aluminum is heavier (denser) than plastic. You're right about the footprint, and I acknowledge the Vaio has the little foot, but I'd bet my lunch money the Z displaces more volume.

    Maybe you can get Apple and Sony to agree to a liquid submersion test? ;)
    Reply
  • VivekGowri - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    http://www.apple.com/macbookpro/specs-13inch.html

    Click the Specifications tab here.
    http://www.sonystyle.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet...

    Do the math. If it's got a smaller footprint and is nearly the same thickness, how would it displace more volume?

    And for the record, the Z is carbon fibre, not plastic.
    Reply
  • doobydoo - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    We have both the 13 inch macbook pro and the Sony Vaio Z, and the Sony Vaio Z is significantly lighter, smaller, and faster (we have one of the RAID SSD Models). It also looks more stylish, has at least as good build quality, and all the other features you might look for such as an illuminated keyboard.

    We have a case specifically for the Macbook pro which fits snugly, but when we put the Vaio in there there are inches of room all around the case, so I am very confident that the Vaio is significantly smaller in terms of volume, as well as the already proven weight and footprint.

    It's a better all round laptop, extremely long battery life, every good feature you would need, stays extremely cool (whilst running Windows 7), lightning fast even in Stamina mode (6-8 hours battery), smaller, much lighter, amazing screen, and excellent build quality.

    I'd recommend the Vaio every day of the week.

    To respond to another comment, where the guy said that Apples are partially more expensive due to the development costs of OS X, are you completely forgetting that every laptop comes with an OS, which adds to their cost too? And a better OS, at that.
    Reply

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