MacBook Pro benchmarks: launch times

MacBook Pro benchmarks: launch times

Summary: The MacBook Pro is unquestionably faster than the PowerBook G4 it replaces, but exactly how much depends on how you use it...


The MacBook Pro is unquestionably faster than the PowerBook G4 it replaces, but exactly how much depends on how you use it. Apple sells the MacBook Pro as "up to four times the horsepower of the PowerBook G4" but that's purely based on the SPECint and SPECfp benchmarks from Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC). Apple's benchmarks were compiled using the IBM compiler and a beta version of the Intel compiler for Mac OS.

But SPEC benchmarks don't tell the whole story. I tested one aspect of the MacBook Pro's speed that affects me daily and is a better barometer of real world performance: application launch times. I benchmarked the MacBook Pro (2.0GHz) against a PowerBook G4 (1.5GHz) while launching 14 (native and Rosetta) applications and here are the results...

The first three benchmarks are Mac OS 10.4.5 boot times from being completely shut down. The rest are application launch times (in seconds) for both a PowerBook G4 (1.5GHz, 2GB RAM, 120GB HDD) and a MacBook Pro (2.0GHz, 2GB RAM, 120GB HDD). Overall the MacBook Pro boots twice as fast as the PowerBook G4 and applications launch about a third faster - and it sure feels like it.

Cold Boot to Apple Logo 19:00 06:00
Cold Boot to Blue Desktop 45:00 22:00
Cold Boot to Login Screen 50:00 25:00
iPhoto 6.0.2 02:19 01:31
iWeb 1.0.1 02:13 01:50
iMovie HD 6.0.1 02:90 02:00
iDVD 6.0.1 05:15 04:81
GarageBand 3.0.1 09:00 06:78
Pages 2.0 09:62 05:94
Keynote 3.0.0 16:81 02:44
Safari 2.0.3 04:22 01:30
Mail 2.0.8 06:78 02:50
Address Book 4.0.3 05:00 02:40
iTunes 6.0.4 02:06 01:12
iCal 2.0.3 04:15 02:09
Photoshop CS2 (9.0x191) 28:34 46:10
ImageReady CS2 (9.0x191) 10:69 12:75


Launch times were measured with a stopwatch in a new Mac OS X user account from the time the application was clicked in the dock to the time the application was ready for user interaction. Three launches were recorded and the high and low times were thrown out.

Topic: Apple

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  • Benchmarks

    Thanks Jason, very solid info. Are the slower Photoshop times
    due to software that needs to be tuned to this new machine?

    (NOTE:be aware that the Russian and French judges typically
    award low numbers)
    • Yes the Rosetta Apps launch slower

      As you can see, both Photoshop and ImageReady launch about 50% s l o w e r on the MacBook Pro due to the Rosetta emulation. Please Adobe, release native versions soon!

      - Jason
      Jason D. O'Grady
  • Who cares about launch times?

    This is almost as silly a test as Ou's MS Office vs Open Office launch times. Seriously, who cares how long it takes to open a program?
    • Or boot times, really

      I guess the boot times may matter on a laptop, as you're going to
      power it down at the end of the day so as not to run down your
      battery overnight. They shouldn't matter at all for a Mac desktop
      as you're hardly ever going to reboot, unless you're installing new
      tic swayback
      • Boot to application launch

        Doesnt mean much to me (I do have pbg4) since I let it sleep most of the time and never shut if off.
        • Same here

          I probably unnecessarily reboot my IBG4 2 times a month if I kept count. Apple's hardware sleeps exceptionally well and goes into/out of sleep without a hitch. I've gone over a week with the battery so low it won't come out of sleep but comes on immediately after plugging in the power and lifting the lid happily where I left it.

          That said, what's important to me is not how fast it boots, or how quickly apps take to launch, but rather how well it sleeps and what kind of lifespan the battery gets while sleeping.

          I also have a new Dell laptop that only gets about a day of life out of the battery if put to sleep. Far far cry from the IBG4.

          So, what's the MacBook Pro like in comparison?
          • Haven't tested the sleep time yet...

            Because I don't have the patience to let it sleep that long without using it again. What can I say, occupational hazard?

            - Jason
            Jason D. O'Grady
    • Ummm, people that open and close apps all day long.

      That would be my first guess...
      • Again not so much an issue

        Since the debut of OSX, there's not really any gains to be had from
        closing an application that's not in use, so again, these times aren't
        that important, unless you're talking about the rare times when
        you've rebooted (note: some applications that are poorly coded do
        use resources when they're inactive in the background, resulting in
        a performance hit, so perhaps the numbers are relative there).
        tic swayback
        • Maybe, maybe not...

          Lots of folks will tell you the 1/8 mile acceleration of a car isn't important, top speed and fuel economy is. To each their own...
          • I think there are better measures

            For real world use, I'd rather see things like times to encode an mp3 or a quicktime movie, or do some photoshop manipulations. Real work based things, rather than seeing how fast you can boot up a machine that doesn't require frequent rebooting.
            tic swayback
      • I thought it was a good test b/c some launch times are veeeeeery long

        Especially some of the applications in Adobe's Creative Suite 2. I wanted to see how much longer they got with the Rosetta emulation.

        - Jason
        Jason D. O'Grady
      • you mean you can't wait 5 seconds for an app to open..

        ..but you'll spend hours on end posting on this site?!

        Spicoli's Avenger
    • It's a good measure of the user experience

      And a good comparison of Rosetta v. Universal Binary applications.

      - Jason
      Jason D. O'Grady
  • PBG4 Times??

    Are those numbers MINUTES and seconds???!!

    My ancient 1GHz PBG4 can't come close to the poor start times
    you posted. I get 12 seconds to start Mail (vs your 6:78.) for

    If I got any of the 'minutes' to start any of the apps you list I'd
    bash it against the wall! Perhaps you should describe your
    configuration and proceedure....

    PBG4 1 Ghz, 1G RAM, 100GB Hitachi 7200 rpm.

    • Logically

      Sheer logic tells you that those are *seconds* and *split seconds* !
      • Times are in Seconds and Fractions of Seconds

        - Jason
        Jason D. O'Grady
    • Times are in seconds...

      I.E. 06:78 is 6.78 seconds. Sorry, I should have made that clearer in the article.

      - Jason
      Jason D. O'Grady
  • Launch times and price

    Here's an interesting study to help you justify paying more up front for those faster load times.

    Because of security issues Macs are over all cheaper to run in a business setting than Windoze.

    [b]But Network World columnist Winn Schwartau runs the numbers on what it truly costs to run a PC and a Mac in a business, and finds that a PC is nearly twice as expensive as a Mac when one takes support costs into account.[/b]

    Of course, Linux stomps on both of them. But if you mention that you're an open source zealot. Never mind if there are factual license and support savings coupled with productivity gains because you don't have to reboot every five minutes, you're a zealot.

    I'm a zealot about saving money. I'll cry over your petty insults all the way to the bank.
    • More info on this here

      Here's the original article with the methodology and details:
      tic swayback