At medium settings, it's a bit worse, but L4D2, Mass Effect, STALKER, and SC2 remain almost playable. Battlefield and DiRT, not so much. Overall, we see performance goes down from the 320M by just under 20% on average (not counting StarCraft, which is again marginally faster due to the reliance on CPU performance).

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

DiRT 2

Left 4 Dead 2

Mass Effect 2

Stalker: Call of Pripyat

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

We see a similar result in the Cinebench 11.5 OpenGL test—a 24% decrease in performance relative to the old MBP.

3D Rendering—Cinebench R11.5

Given the huge leap in CPU performance, I'd have been okay if the graphics stayed on par with the previous MBP 13, but I was a little disappointed to see it that much slower. This is a weird one, since the same GPU gave us significantly better performance in the SNB test system. The only explanation we have has to do with turbo. The max turbo supported by the HD 3000 in the Core i5 2415M is 1.2GHz, down from 1.3GHz in the 2820QM. Now max clock speed isn't enough to explain this performance difference, but perhaps under Windows the 2415M's GPU doesn't turbo up quite as aggressively as the 2820QM's.

Anand consistently saw 10-15% faster results during the first run of a benchmark than the next four or five runs of the same test. This is probably due to thermal limitations—heat soak and overheating are pretty time-honored MBP traditions. However, my system shouldn't have been affected by thermal stress over time—I let it sit for some time between each benchmark run to let it cool, just to eliminate residual heat as a factor.

Based on CPU-Z, Apple isn't underclocking the GPU—it's running at the same 1.2GHz that's on the Intel spec sheets. The difference in performance is a little odd. The MacBook Pro, especially in 13-inch form, does have the potential to be thermally limited due to the size of the enclosure, but I'm not sure why a supposedly low-power graphics solution would be so thermally limited, even when testing to avoid the effects of heat build up as much as possible.

13-inch Gaming Performance under Windows The Big Picture


View All Comments

  • tipoo - Thursday, March 10, 2011 - link

    Its a shame that their base 15 inch, a 2000 dollar laptop, has a 256MB card by default. Even for non-gamers, that's starting to become a bottleneck. Especailly as this "pro" machine will make it into the hands of creative professionals, doing video work, rendering, mudbox, etc.

    Interesting about the performance differences in the HD3000 and 320M under Windows vs OSX.
  • tipoo - Thursday, March 10, 2011 - link

    p.s whats an SNB GPU? Is that a typo? SB, perhaps? Reply
  • Brian Klug - Thursday, March 10, 2011 - link

    When we say that, we're just referring to the Sandy Bridge (SNB) GPU. Essentially it's shorthand for the Intel HD Graphics 3000.

  • IntelUser2000 - Thursday, March 10, 2011 - link

    The official short form for Sandy Bridge is SNB, not SB. SB is South Bridge. Reply
  • dcollins - Thursday, March 10, 2011 - link

    For some reason Sandy Bridge is alway abbreviated as SNB. It took me a while to figure out. Reply
  • KoolAidMan1 - Thursday, March 10, 2011 - link

    The baseline 15" MBP is $1800, not $2000.

    In any case, it is an unusual update. Usually the performance delta between MBPs hasn't been so extreme. The last generation had a common GPU between all 15" models, the main difference being video RAM. Now they have completely different GPUs, one being REALLY fast and the other not much better than the one that was in the models from last year.
  • - Sunday, March 13, 2011 - link

    Dear, please consider approximately 9.5% US Sales Tax on $1,799. Then total price reaches to $2,000 approx Reply
  • PeteH - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    There is no such thing as US Sales Tax, only state and local sales taxes. State rates range from a low of 0% to a high of 8.25% (I don't happen to know the range of local sales taxes). Adding 9.5% to the price of a computer seems completely arbitrary. Reply
  • turtle44 - Thursday, June 2, 2011 - link

    sales tax in NY,NY is 11% don't say what you don't know. Reply
  • sfdiesel - Monday, July 25, 2011 - link

    Sales tax in Portland, OR is 0%. So, adding 9.5% to the price of a computer does seem completely arbitrary.

    Do say what you don't know.

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