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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  • B3an - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    I agree. I dont own either laptop but have used the Sony Vaio Z and this Macbook Pro. The Sony Vaio Z is literally better in every way i can think of. And it's definitely smaller and lighter as you say.

    It kinda makes me sick that people buy Apple products when there's better alternatives that are actually worth the money they cost and have up to date hardware.
    Reply
  • GeorgeH - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    Carbon fiber is lighter than aluminum too. :)

    I did the math before making the first post - here are the results:

    13"MBP - 108.5 in^3
    15"MBP - 133.9 in^3
    Z - 102.9-133.8 in^3

    The Z isn't a conveniently rectangular like the MBP, so volume is much harder to measure. Best possible case it's 95% of a 13" MBP, worst case it's essentially the same size as a 15" MBP. My money is on it being much closer to the latter than the former. It certainly feels smaller, but when you're trying to cram components into a chassis what something feels like is kind of irrelevant.
    Reply
  • doobydoo - Saturday, October 16, 2010 - link

    Of course, when buying or using a laptop, what it 'feels like' is the only relevance, the actual imperceivable size being absolutely irrelevant.

    That being said, I have measured the height of the Vaio at the front and the back, and both the front and the back measurements specified by the manufacturer include 0.1 and 0.2 extra for the feet (respectively). The actual sizes are 0.9 at the front and 1.1 at the back (excluding the feet).

    Applying these dimensions gives an overall 102.92 cubic inches, significantly less than both Apples, which backs up the easy-to-tell feeling you get when you see them both next to each other.

    So Sony has managed to put together a significantly faster laptop (with i7 processor and RAID SSD's as well as dedicated GPU), in a package which is smaller, lighter, and more stylish than an Apple, and one which can run Windows 7 without overheating.
    Reply
  • mlambert890 - Saturday, October 16, 2010 - link

    This has to be one of the craziest discussions I've ever seen... Dude... Take your 13" MBP and go to a Sony store with it... Put it next to a MacBook. You're measuring volumes and water displacement on a laptop. You don't see how that's crazy?

    The Z is a POUND and a HALF lighter and is OVER half an inch shorter in depth. It is smaller in every way that matters.

    I don't own either laptop or particularly care, but it's just mind boggling the lengths a fanboy can go to not "lose" on a point.

    Maybe Apple will make a smaller, faster laptop than the Z. Right now they don't. If that troubles your soul to the gore for some reason just fall back on "well it doesn't run OSX!". At least that makes SOME kind of sense.
    Reply
  • GeorgeH - Saturday, October 16, 2010 - link

    I don't own a MBP (or any other Apple products.) Personally I'd much rather have the Z than 13" MBP, and would recommend that anyone with the cash and no desire for OSX choose the Z as well.

    This was only about the engineering aspect of the thing, more specifically being able to cram ~3-5 new chips (dGPU and associated memory) and their associated cooling and peripheral components into the MBP to support Intel's newest CPUs. The claim was made that the Z was smaller but had more inside it, and I merely disagree that the Z actually is smaller.

    In other words, the above is just a discussion about making computer hardware. That you thought otherwise is your fanboy malfunction, not mine. :)
    Reply
  • softdrinkviking - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    It strikes me as interesting that Apple devotes so much time and money to hardware integration. It undoubtedly adds to the development time and costs for any small change that goes into a new model. Apple kind of locks their designs in place down to the smallest detail.
    That's probably one reason why there isn't a new CPU; the development costs for all of that micro-managed integration are so astronomically high, and the process takes so long, that Apple can't get a CPU refresh to the public this year.

    Perhaps the 'integrated approach' is not such a good thing if it keeps Apple from updating its CPUs to a competetive level.

    I also don't understand why people have developed software to run windows on macs.. if the added value of a mac is the integration of the OS and the carefully choosen components, doesn't it kind of defeat the purpose of the mac experience?
    Is there some kind of practical and necessary reason for it? Do mac owners sometimes get sick of OSX and install Win 7 just for a change of pace?

    Side notes:
    1 I don't think it's helpful to compare notebooks to desktops on a price/performance basis.

    2 The value of 'little things' is too subjective to make a determination in the price of the MBP or any other laptop. Because of that, it's not really useful criteria for a PC to PC comparison. That is why, at least i think it's why, that Vivek stuck to things that can be measured and show their effects in benchmarks that show performance in tasks that people actual use.

    The fact is, everybody has different tastes in keyboards and screens and trackpads and those sorts of things, so maybe an Acer is more desirable to some people, and should therefore demand a premium.
    Basically, Apple is charging a little less than double the price of a 13" windows/linux/chrome laptop for mac OS and their choice of hardware. If you like both of those things to the tune of about double a windows machine, then you buy it.
    It should not be hard, even for a mac fanboi, to see the lack of value in a MBP for someone who doesn't have a preference for Mac OS or Apple's hardware choices. (which is what this article is supposed to be about "Can it be a Decent Windows Laptop?")
    Reply
  • Johnmcl7 - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    The Vaio Z11/12/13 actually goes up to an i7 and can have four SSD drives in a chassis that's smaller and lighter than the Apple machine. Anandtech prefer to ignore the Z series and Sony in general, apparently Sony wouldn't give them one but the fact that these machines existence makes an article like this nonsense probably has a large part in it. I think it's laughable reading such rubbish as the MBP having no equal etc. in the PC market when Sony comfortably exceed it, I'm using an older Z series which trashes the MBP in pretty much every area going. Its smaller and lighter using a carbon fibre chassis, I'd put the build quality of the Vaio as better, it packs in a 3Ghz C2D processor, blu-ray writer and 1600x900 screen none of which the Apple offers. With the 256GB SSD I was able to buy it brand new for the same price as an entry level Macbook as it's an older model which is still far better than the Apple version.

    John
    Reply
  • slickr - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    How about Apple actually focused on what IS important - the CPU, GPU, Battery, HD, etc.. instead of few gimmicky "features" if you can even call them that that people droll over. You have to be pretty stupid to think that few gimmicks are more valuable than a newer, faster, quieter and at the same time cheaper notebook.

    While the outside design is nice, there are hundreds of notebooks out there that are cheaper, faster, more powerful and better looking than the Apple macbook pro 13.
    Reply
  • xype - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    Cheaper, faster, more powerful yes, better looking no. Not hundreds, not dozens and, at best, a couple, _if_ you simply like a different style (ie, black case, shiny case, etc).

    As for the "stupid" comment: it has nothing to do with stupid, and everything to do with priorities. And, if we're being honest, Apple seems to hit a sweet spot with the general populace there. And they know that will sell them more laptops and pleasing the 0.5% of the market that is made of hardcore geeks.
    Reply
  • Piet Boer Mienjong - Thursday, December 30, 2010 - link

    I think Apple does focus on what is important. How cool it will look when using it at the local coffee place. Reply

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