Measuring 2012 in Macintosh performance

Measuring 2012 in Macintosh performance

Summary: Comparing benchmark performance tests of Mac models released in 2012 makes interesting reading and offers some striking conclusions.


A recent post to the Primate Labs blog by founder John Poole compares the Geekbench benchmark results of all the Macs released in 2012, from iMacs to Mac Pros and the MacBook Pros, including the Retina Display model. It's a great big chart.

The first thing that pops out from the Geekbench results is that the Mac Pro speed-bump offered in mid-2012 is still about twice as fast as the next non-Pro model, the 27-inch iMac released this month.

However, Poole (like most professional content-creation users of Macs) is eager for a real upgrade to the Mac Pro line.

Even though the Mac Pro hasn't had a significant update in over two years, the 6- and 12-core Mac Pros are still the fastest Macs available. However, the Mac Pro processor architecture is starting to show its age. Both the 4-core and 8-core Mac Pros have been eclipsed by Apple's latest 4-core laptops and desktops.

As I mentioned in a December post, there's hope that Tim Cook's promise that "something really great" will come in the new year for professional customers of the Mac. Some expect that this will be a new machine and could well be built in Apple's new U.S. manufacturing operation.

Check Out: Is Apple's on-shore manufacturing pledge good news for the future of the Mac Pro?

Meanwhile in the benchmark tests, Poole notes that there's little performance gains with the Core i7 iMacs and MacBook Pros.

There's only a minor performance difference between the quad-core Core i7 desktops and the quad-core Core i7 laptops. You no longer need a large Mac (or, for that matter, a desktop Mac) to have a fast Mac.

Apple appears to taken some time figuring out what will be the qualities necessary for its future highest-performing machines. Perhaps the Thunderbolt port — introduced on the 2011 MacBook Pro and now integrated across the lines — was a complication? Thunderbolt lets users expand their iMacs or MacBook Pros with big displays, fast storage and PCIe cards, all without needing a big enclosure.

We can only hope that Apple sorts out its high-performance line. As we can see, there's still a serious performance hit in the all-in-ones and laptops vs. the "real" performance machines, the Mac Pro. While offering terrific performance, the Pro is the pro machine.

Topics: Apple, Hardware, Laptops, Operating Systems

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  • Wouldn't it be interesting if Apple created a Mac Pro using ARM processors?

    Apple has already begun to design their own ARM variant for sometime now. Perhaps the next Mac Pro would be an ARM server using 64 bit designs in a massively parallel arrangement.

    Just a thought.

    Of course, running all the legacy Intel coded software like Photoshop and Final Cut Pro X might need a Rosetta layer for that to happen but it wouldn't be the first time Apple has gone that path until software was redesigned to run run natively on a certain hardware platform.
    • The Unbearable Lightness of DonaldGary Who May Be Seeking a Space

      Very tangential, but who agrees with me that the more times one says "Your call is important to us." the less I believe it. Just saying. More a comment on the efficacy of spambots.

      Pardon the diversion.

      I don't think ARM fabbing is to the point where it can produce the performance of the Intel chips. I take this point of view having listened to a Hypercritical episode of November or so, and any errors would be mine and not John Siracusa's.

      Regarding Adobe's ability to port, I don't have much to say. But, regarding Final Cut Pro X, Apple did put iMovie on iOS, and I expect that iMovie and FCP share significant amounts of codebase.
      • Apple abandoned RISC once

        Do you really think they would go back to it? ARM is RISC..They would have to tweak and recompile their entire BSD implementation (aka OS X) for RISC.
    • ARM wrestling

      ARM processors are great for mobile devices because they are much more energy efficient than Intel/AMD x86 processors, but they haven't reached the same level of processing power... yet!

      The first 64-bit ARM processors are just starting to come out, and it is possible that they will be used in notebook computers this year, but we won't see workhorses like the Mac Pro running ARM processors for a while.

      Regarding the Mac Pro model, the introduction of Thunderbolt negates the need for "big box" computers. Since Thunderbolt provides the same data speeds as internal SATA, a logical direction for the next "Pro" computers from Apple would be a modular approach.

      Why try to sell a large, expensive pro model with lots of room for internal expansion when external expansion is unlimited and just as fast?

      A new Pro model only needs to be a bit larger than the Mac mini. With multiple Thunderbolt ports and modules for hard drives, RAID, PCI cards, etc., users can buy just the modules they need saving both desktop space and costs.
      Harvey Lubin
      • Is Mac Mini the next Mac Pro?

        If the future of pro machines is modular, with video cards, expansion cards and drives all external, then that's going to look a lot like a Mac Mini.
      • Intel is catching up

        ARM processors are more energy efficient than their x86 counterparts? That's what I thought before I read about the Atom Z2670. The dual-core hyper threaded little beast could do so much more than the ARM chips, and with a lower power consumption as well.
    • A6/A6X/A7/A7X co-processors?

      The GPUs in these chips are extremely powerful, even to the point of doing the AirPlay Mirroring feature which is just real-time 720p h.264 encoding. I could see an A6X being powerful enough to run a physics engine for something like Motion or AfterEffects, being that both the CPU cores and the GPU are OpenCL capable. I don't think Apple would use their own A-series chips as graphics in the Mac Pro, however, as it would be easily outclassed by mid-level gaming and pro graphics cards; that doesn't mean that they wouldn't eventually become the graphics in low-end iMacs, MacBook Pro 13 and Air, and Mac Mini.

      Just my two cents.
  • Test

    here in Germany by one of the prominent magazines (c't from heise Verlag) showed that the entry level iMac is actually slower than the previous version in some tests and is slower than the Mac mini and entry level MacBook Pro...
  • Mac Mini's are the best value

    I recently bought the base i5 dual core mac mini ($600 model) and it is lightning fast, even with 4gb RAM. I future-proofed it and maxed its RAM out to 16gb for an extra about $80 (Crucial memory). The access to the RAM is easy as the bottom lid can be opened without a screwdriver, and it's right there to be popped in with your RAM. The LG monitor I bought is 23", full 1080p and was only about $170. Plus, the MacMini already came with an HDMI to DVI adapter (DVI port on monitor seems to actually be a preferable picture result for me). Even so, if I weren't on tighter budget constraints from needing a new monitor as well, just buying the $800 Mini model with the i7 core processor would really be the best option, worth the extra $200 difference, and future-proofed for quite some time for most people. So for only about $850 I got a lightning fast, tiny and quiet Mac, and even about $80 of that was really not necessary but for my preference in immediately maxing out RAM. I can't understand why I ever considered Windows PC's in the same price range, which I did for many years. I should say also I never considered the base iMac (at $1,300), but I would have considered it if it had a retina display at that price. Considering that the Mini line may now be made in the USA as at least a symbolic step away from the all-too-common overseas, underpaid and overworked labor abuses, the Mini is in my opinion vastly superior in value, to all other Apple laptops or desktops.
    D.J. 43
    • What do you use it for?

      Exactly what are you doing that requires an i7 processor and 16 gigs of RAM? Because I can't think of much that I would do on that sort of rig that wouldn't require something far more powerful than that piece of crap intel hd4000 graphics processor.
      • I forgot to add:

        You can get a full blown i7 computer (not the dumbed down 2.3ghz version) with far better specs for that sort of pricing from just about any other manufacturer. Your basically paying a huge premium because it's small and it has a picture of an apple on it.
        • But, but...

          It's the OS stupid, which you can't get any other way. Unless you build your own Hackintosh which I did. Not that much saving after buying the best compatible graphics card I could afford.
          • So wait...

            You're paying several hundred dollars for OSX? Wasn't windows supposed to be the overpriced OS? Good to know.
          • Show of Hands

            Who here likes to tell people "You're doing it wrong." Okay. Just about everyone.

            Who here hates when some officious person tells them "You're doing it wrong!"? Oh. Unanimous.

            Windows floats your boat, sail on. Yours is not the only destination, craft or sea.
          • This is a dicussion about best value.

            I use macs, windows xp/7/8 and linux for various different uses. I would be a complete douche if I told someone this is "the best value" when in fact it is only the best value if you are willing to pay absolutely any price to have one specific OS.

            Linux is obviously the best value in terms of price as it is generally free. Windows probably still represents a better value if / when you need the best compatibility and familiarity. As far as I know there is very little that you can do on an apple that you can't do just as well or better on a Windows or Linux based PC, so I can't honestly place any value in the fact that they run OSX. They are simply overpriced. That is my only real issue with Apple computers. They do more or less the exact same thing on almost exactly the same hardware for more money. Everything else is just semantics.

            If apple had customizable models at Windows / Linux prices, I would gladly call them "the best value", But the model in question has the same crap graphics that you get in a low end laptop and you can't fix that.
          • do what must be done

            Get what you like, I enjoy Xubuntu but 8 drove me off Windows.
            D.J. 43
          • Not that much saving after buying the best compatible graphics card

            I'm not surprised. If you want a Windows machine equipped as closely as possible to a $10,000 Macintosh you will pay much the same price, sometimes more.
            Laraine Anne Barker
          • I highly doubt that.

            First off, we were discussing mac minis, which use integrated graphics...

            Second, how many people actually buy a $10,000 computer by any manufacturer?

            Third, if you were actually considering a $10,000 computer... what are the odds that it isn't being purpose built for a specific OS / Software suite / Job? Are we talking about stupid rich people who just want to blow money? Because people who actually need a $10,000 computer usually need it to run a specific application(s). They don't usually have the freedom to pick any old OS they want. Which means they either can run it on an apple or they can't in most cases.
          • I'll take the best deal

            If you can find a computer as small as the Mac Mini, with equal or better components (cpu, graphics, ram, etc.), for a cheaper price, I'd like to know, seriously. I don't care if it runs Linux, Windows, or iOS, and I don't care if it has an apple logo on it or not, let me know.
            D.J. 43
          • Well...

            You were initially comparing the mini to Imacs and windows PCs, so I don't really see why size should be an issue.

            I received a link to this Dell in my email this morning. It has a much faster processor and far more powerful graphics than the top of the line mac mini and it comes in about $500 cheaper. I imagine that you could do considerable further upgrades with that other $500. Maybe a couple of nice 27" monitors and a few terabytes of extra storage.