Monday, October 21, 2013

Predicting the late-2013 MacBook Pro Retina performance

Some wouldn't be surprised if new MacBook Pro Retina were to be announced at tomorrow's Apple event. Whether they are indeed announced tomorrow, or in the following months, I for one wonder what their performance will be.

I'll focus on the Geekbench 3 score, because it is the most widely used, and in particular on its single-core, 64-bit score, as I think this is the number that best reflects the experience I have using the computer as a developer. Let's look at two other lines that made the move to Haswell processors over the last year:
  • The iMac, from late 2012 (3542) to late 2013 (3935), saw an 11% improvement.
  • The MacBook Air, from mid-2012 (2863) to mid-2013 (3143), saw a 10% improvement. 
I'll predicate my prediction on the MacBook Pro Retina seeing a similar relative improvement. The MacBook Pro Retina from early 2013 scored 3395, so I predict the new "late 2013" MacBook Pro Retina will score at about 3393*1.1 = 3732.

This would make the iMac only just over 5% faster than the MacBook Pro Retina, which would make it hard to for me to choose between the latest MacBook Pro Retina and latest iMac.

Update (2013-10-22): The most high-end CPU we can get on the MacBook Pro like is described as a 2.6GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7 with Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz, which according to Wikipedia is a i7-4960HQ with  6 MB on-chip L3 cache. The high-end late-2013 iMac comes with a i7-4771, still according to Wikipedia. Based on the specs, the iMac CPU more cache (8 MB vs. 6 MB) but the memory bandwidth MacBook Pro CPU is higher (76.8 GB/s vs. 25.6 GB/s). However, at this point we don't yet have published performance scores for the i7-4960HQ on Geekbench.

Update (2013-10-23): CPU World has a useful comparison of the MacBook Pro's i7-4960HQ (left) with the iMac's i7-4771 (right). Of interest, this comparison mentioned the F16C additional instructions of the iMac's i7-4771, which provide support for doing half-precision to and from single-precision floating-point conversions, but it isn't clear that the availability of those instructions would improve the performance of tasks typically performed by developers.

Also, a few 32-bit scores for the i7-4960HQ started showing up. There are too few to draw any conclusion, and we'd like to look at 64-bit scores, but taking a value of 3405 for the 32-bit MacBook Pro's i7-4960HQ scores and of 3584 for the 32-bit i7-4771 scores, the iMac would indeed be just 5% faster.