How Fast are the Intel Macs Really?

Howard asked me an interesting question today:

So, in real terms how will my 1.83GHz intel powered MacBook compare to my dual 2GHz G5 powered PowerMac?

Thinking about it, it actually seems that Apple have been quite sneaky in their choice of first releases with the new Intel architecture, as although their publicity is doing so, it’s actually pretty hard to compare like with like to get a real feeling of how much faster or slower the new architecture actually is.

Looking at the iMac first, the publicity is saying that the new machine is twice as fast as the old iMac. However bear in mind that the new iMac is run by a dual-core Intel processor, whereas the machine it replaces had a single core G5, so the publicity is effectively saying that a machine with two processors is twice as fast as one with a single processor. Whilst it is worth remembering that there is never a one to one correlation between numbers of processors and performance – the architecture of the rest of the machine has a big effect, the performance of the new Intel iMac doesn’t look quite as stunning.

On paper, the MacBook Pro figures say that there is a four times increase over the old PowerBooks. However remember that on top of the doubling up of the processor that the iMac has recieved, the PowerBooks have never had the G5 architecture because of the amount of heat that it produces (both the G5 PowerMac and iMac have multiple fans to keep it cool), so again you’re not comparing like with like.

The real comparision may be when Apple updates the PowerMac line, where currently they have dual core processors, and at the top of the range a pair of dual core processors. However I fully expect that in this line we’ll get Intel processors with a significantly higher clock speed – 3GHz rather than the current 2GHz G5’s, so the advertising will trumpet the massive speed increase, and certainly in the price to performance ratio, consumers are getting a real increase.

So that brings us back to Howards question, and my estimate of the performance. My suspicion will be that the performance will be pretty similar between the two machines. Both have an equivalent number of processing cores but the MacBook has a raw speed that is slightly slower. In terms of the rest of the architecture, the laptop architecture has a more powerful graphics card, but I really think it will be pretty much of a draw in real world usage with some applications running a bit faster on one, and some running a bit faster on the other.

One thought on “How Fast are the Intel Macs Really?”

  1. Intresting article, makes me think about the actual performance.
    I can’t wait to see and try a real one and notice the possible difference.

    It’s true that there is never a one on one corelation between 2 processors and performance. But it is so that already 1 single CPU (on the iMac) of that new Intel Chip is faster already than a G5. So I think its very possible the computer will actuall run twice as fast on CPU side.
    Offcourse there are different factors to think about too, like the performance of the Hard Disk and other components, will they perform twice as fast? Probably not, so the actual work and feel of these new computers will probably be faster but not exactly 2x

    greets

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