Three Generations of Macs (Unofficially) Benchmarked

Stats and info are always interesting, so naturally I read the benchmark tests before I bought my new MacBook Pro. But once I had the computer in my own hands I wanted to do some benchmark testing of my own.

Benchmarking the MacBook Pro, Mac Pro and PowerBook G4

I wanted to do my own personal, “real-life” benchmarks to see how the three current Macs in my office compare to one another. Also, I was secretly hoping to discover an excuse to sell the Mac Pro, keep the laptop, and move to a one-computer work-flow. (Let’s face it, syncing sucks.)

And please note, these are by no means official benchmarks — I timed everything with my iPhone for goodness’ sake…

Technical Specs

Each computer is currently running OS X 10.5.2.

Computer Processor Memory Hard-Drive Screen
MacBook Pro 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, “Penryn” 4 GB 200 GB, 7200 RPM 15.4-inch LED backlit display with 1440×900 resolution
MacPro 3.0 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon, “Woodcrest” 4 GB 250 GB, 7200 RMP primary hard-drive; 500 GB, 7200 RPM backup hard-drive 23-inch Apple Cinima HD Display with 1920×1200 resolution
PowerBook 1.33 GHz Power PC 1.25 GB 100 GB / 7200 RPM 12-inch Display with 1024×768 resolution

1. Video Encoding

Using Handbrake 0.9.2, I encoded the “The Three Amigos” (a classic). I turned the 1:42:16 long DVD into an iPhone friendly 635×346, 1.16GB MPEG-4 Video on each of the machines.

Computer Time to Encode “The Three Amigos”
MacBook Pro 1 Hour, 14 Minutes, 21.5 Seconds
MacPro 45 Minutes, 17.8 Seconds
PowerBook 2 Hours, 58 Minutes, 16.1 Seconds

As you can see the Mac Pro was nearly 30 minutes faster at encoding the movie from disc, but I am quite sure the speed there is primarily due to the 16x SuperDrive, versus the MBP’s 8x.

2. Booting Up

The time it took from when I pressed the power button to when OS X had fully loaded and Quicksilver’s icon finally appeared in the menu bar.

Computer Startup Time
MacBook Pro 1 minute 19.8 seconds
MacPro 1 minute 5.6 seconds
PowerBook 1 minute 11.1 seconds

3. Zip Compression

I had each machine take a 272.2 MB folder and compress it into a 108.9 MB ZIP archive.

Computer File Compression Time
MacBook Pro 24.2 seconds
MacPro 22.1 seconds
PowerBook 43.6 seconds

4. The Infamous “Open All Apps” Test

I selected every application in the Applications folder (except for Spaces and Front Row), and hit CMD+O. I then waited until all the icons in the dock stopped bouncing.

Computer # of Apps Time To Open All Apps
MacBook Pro 85 2 minutes and 34 seconds
MacPro 80 4 minutes and 29 seconds
PowerBook 57 Beachballed and had to be force-restarted after 12 minutes

5. FTP File Upload

Using Transmit, I uploaded an 8 MB folder, which contained four images, onto my server.

Computer FTP File Upload Time Internet Connection
MacBook Pro 2 Minutes, 27.8 seconds Wireless
Mac Pro 2 Minutes, 24.4 seconds Ethernet Cable
PowerBook 2 Minutes, 22.9 seconds Wireless

6. The Nitty Gritty

Day in and day out, the apps I have running while working are Mail, Safari, Photoshop and Illustrator. This is my “real life” test.

With Mail and Safari both open, and iTunes playing some hits, I opened a 1.1 GB Photoshop file to manipulate it (turning it into a 1.42 GB file). I then re-saved it, and then exported it as a TIFF.

Computer Open a 1.1 GB File in Photoshop Save the new 1.42 GB File Export as TIFF
MacBook Pro 38.5 seconds 51.9 seconds 13.6 seconds
Mac Pro 25.2 seconds 42.7 seconds 14.3 seconds
PowerBook Adobe only allows you to have two computers authorized at a time, and I already de-authorized the G4 N/A N/A


As I mentioned in my review earlier this week, I have decided to sell the Mac Pro and move to a one-machine setup. It’s true that the Mac Pro won nearly every benchmark, it wasn’t by a lot (in most cases). The time I may lose in performance with the MacBook Pro, I will gain back by not having to sync files and worry about which machine has the latest version of a project I’m working on. Additionally, the idea of owning two, expensive, “pro” machines is a bit against my nature.

And for those wondering why I would keep the laptop and sell the tower: It is because I travel quite a bit and do a lot of work outside of my office. Having a portable is a necessity for me.