After only a few short days since Apple released their new lineup of computers, the OWC Test Lab has completed our benchmarking of upgrades for the new 2011 MacBook Pro models.
First off, considering Apple upgraded the MacBook Pro modes to use the same memory as the 2010 iMac line, we confirmed that compatible OWC memory was immediately available.
Then we started testing on the Data Doubler. Luckily no major architectural changes occurred, so the fit was perfect. In checking over the machines, we found that Apple made several impressive firsts with these new models. One change being the jump from a SATA 3Gb/s to SATA 6Gb/s bus speed. As the Data Doubler is simply an interface adapter, it will perform at the faster internal speeds as well. We’ll be sure to have plenty of drives on hand to take advantage of the faster bus speeds as they become available.
3/1/11 Correction: The optical bus on the new MBP’s remains 3Gb/s, only the main hard drive bay was bumped to 6Gb/s. We apologize for any confusion.
Speaking of future availability and another first for Apple…the next items up for testing were all of our mini DisplayPort adapters and cables. We’re proud to announce that all of those products still work just fine when plugged into the new Thunderbolt port. This is as much as we’ve been able to test out on that port so far as it was a bit of a surprise when Apple introduced a new, faster interface on the computer. Especially given that information about the interface itself was announced by Intel at roughly the same time. Therefore, we found out about the new port at the same time everyone else did – when Apple announced the new MacBook Pro models. It will take some time to develop and incorporate Thunderbolt technology into our drive enclosure offerings, but rest assured, we are on it and as excited and anxious as everyone else about bringing the best Thunderbolt equipped external storage to market.
We certainly cannot begin to guess at a timeframe as of yet, but I can say it will be as soon as we’re satisfied that you’ll be satisfied. As evidenced by our venture into the Solid State Drive market, we’re not about to put our name on a product that we don’t believe in 100% to protect your valuable data.
With compatibility testing on all the changes to the lineup completed, it was time to benchmark just how fast these new Sandy Bridge processors were going to be. Amazingly, all the 15″ and the 17″ models were found to be roughly 30% faster than their predecessors in both boot time and in running various Photoshop action tests; while the 13″ models experienced a more modest 20% gain when it came to raw processing power. Where the 13″ really loses out is the lack of high-performance graphics switching, as evidenced by the drop in average frame rate back to the level that the MacBook Pro line hadn’t experienced since 2009.
So, in general, we’re starting with a faster processing machine across the lineup, even if the 13″ MacBook Pro was again denied all the features of its bigger brothers. But what do OWC’s memory and Solid State Drives do for performance? Quite simply, they make the MacBook Pro screaming fast.
Let’s take, for example, the 15″ MacBook Pro 2.3 GHz model. Doubling the memory in the system resulted in a 25% increase in speed of our Adobe Photoshop CS5 Medium Action Test! Translated to time, that’s dropping the time for completion from roughly 12 minutes in its stock configuration to just over eight minutes.
But just adding an OWC Mercury Extreme Pro SSD sped that same task up by 50% alone – completing that 12 minute task in just under six minutes.
Here’s where the magic happens though. With both the maximum memory installed and an OWC SSD drive installed, the same test is completed in only 4.7 minutes….that’s over two and a half times faster than the stock machine from Apple. Similar performance gains using both upgrades were shown for every model. To see the performance charts and tables with all the raw data, be sure to check out all of our benchmarking pages.