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13-Inch MacBook Benchmarks 2

Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and After Effects in Rosetta By Dave Nagel
For our second suite of benchmarks of Apple's new 13-inch MacBook, we move on to Adobe's creative applications. In this case, we're looking at the performance of Photoshop, Illustrator and After Effects. All of these, of course, run in emulation on the MacBook, since they're written for PowerPC hardware. As we saw in our benchmarks of the 2.16 GHz MacBook Pro, the results on the 2.0 GHz MacBook aren't fantastic, but they're tolerable in many cases.

The Adobe creative apps are an interesting story. What we saw previously in our MacBook Pro benchmarks were sluggish results in Mac OS X, but wildly fantastic results in Windows on the very same hardware--results that in some cases exceeded the most powerful workstations on the market. For this series of benchmarks, we're looking just at the results in Mac OS X, saving the Windows results for a separate article in the near future.

As you'd expect, non-native applications like Photoshop, Illustrator and After Effects simply can't take full advantage of the Core Duo's processing power, since they have to go through a layer of "translation" via Rosetta in order to function at all. Nevertheless, in the cases of Illustrator and Photoshop, the results aren't terrible. You'll find, in general, that these apps work at about half the speed they would on a G5 desktop (dual 2.0 GHz). But that's when you line up a whole string of actions (filters, transformations, etc.) in one long series. Individual functions, like applying a single filter in Photoshop, are almost imperceptibly slower on the MacBook than they would be on a G5. And a few things, like ImageReady droplets, might not work as expected (unless you expect them to work incorrectly). But overally, Illustrator and Photoshop are useable.

What of After Effects? Different story. We'll let the numbers speak for themselves.

For these benchmarks, we ran a 2.0 GHz 13-inch MacBook against a 2.16 GHz 15-inch MacBook Pro and a dual 2.0 GHz G5 desktop. All of the systems were equipped with 2 GB RAM. The MacBook has a 64 MB Intel graphics processing system. The MacBook Pro has a 256 MB ATI Radeon Mobility X1600. And the G5 has a 256 MB ATI Radeon 9600. The 13-inch MacBook was equipped with a stock 5,400 RPM 60 GB hard drive.

If you'd like to see our previous articles on the 13-inch MacBook, you can click on the links below.

? 13-Inch MacBook: First Impressions
? 13-Inch MacBook Benchmarks 1: Apple Final Cut Studio

Photoshop CS2
Now with Photoshop, as I mentioned, you do see a serious lag coming when you run action sequences. Most of the lag comes in the area of odd transformations (rotating a canvas by 31.2 degrees, for example), while the application of filters falls well within the bounds of tolerability. Again, remember that this is a non-Intel-native version of Photoshop, and so the results you see are the result of a lag incurred through emulation. Given that, the results are pretty impressive. But, of course, you don't necessarily want to be impressed with emulation numbers. Photoshop isn't due for an Intel-native release for Mac OS X for another year. So if you can't live with the results, you're likely better off with a PowerPC system--or with running Photoshop under Windows on the MacBook until the next Mac release comes along.

Here are the numbers. Explanations follow.

Nothing terribly unexpected here.

Test 1 involved the creation of a 4,000 x 4,000-pixel document, the application of a few filters and several transformations, including rotating layers and rotating the canvas. This test included 28 individual filters plus 19 image adjustments, transformations and various other functions. That's 47 commands applied in sequence in a single action. On the MacBook and MacBook Pro, those functions averaged out to slightly more than two seconds each.

Test 2 involved the creation of a 2,000 x 1,500-pixel document and more transformations than the first test. This was the most intensive of the tests for the MacBook, with each transformation taking a considerably more time than any other machine tested. There were 30 total commands in this test, with an average time of about nine seconds per command. In a four and a half minute test, the MacBook came in only six seconds slower than the MacBook Pro. Both Intel systems lagged horribly behind the G5.

Test 3 included the application of every single filter that ships with Photoshop CS2, with the exception of Displace. It also included a few transformations, text manipulation, selections and fills. The image size for this test was 800 x 600 pixels. There were 123 total commands in this test--averaging less than a second to complete each task. This filter-heavy test shows that the MacBook can operate at reasonable speeds in Photoshop, as long as there aren't too many complex transformations involved.

Illustrator CS2
Illustrator CS2 is a weirder story. As was the case with Photoshop, both MacBooks lagged behind the G5 in these tests. But the slower 13-inch MacBook actually beat out the 15-inch MacBook Pro in two of these tests. I have no explanation for that.

Illustrator is a bit difficult to run benchmarks on. The number of functions that you can record as actionable are limited, so these tests focused heavily on transformations, with few effects applied, and those being applied through styles.

Here are the numbers.

Definitely surprising.

For the first set of actions, I created a simple rectangle then filled it with a gradient. The object was then duplicated and transformed a number of times; then all the duplicates were copied and pasted and transformed as a whole, over and over. This was the best test of the three for the MacBook, coming in not all that far behind the G5 (all things considered) and actually ahead of the MacBook Pro by 12 seconds. Go figure.

The second test involved 3D objects with complex shading. The objects were duplicated, aligned, rotated and further duplicated. This process was a bit painful to watch on all the machines owing to the terribly slow screen redraw. Again, in this test, the MacBook beat out the MacBook Pro, this time by a slimmer margin. It was way behind the G5.

And, for the final test, I created and duplicated more simple objects, then aligned and transformed them several times, rasterized them and finally applied some filters (Photoshop filters, not live effects). The MacBook came in just behind the MacBook Pro, offering about half the performance of the dual G5.

After Effects 6.5 and 7.0
The results in our After Effects benchmarks were a bit more depressing. In Photoshop and Illustrator, you're dealing with just one process at a time--a filter here, a transformation there, so the emulation lag really doesn't have an opportunity to insinuate itself into your mind. You only see the lag as a cumulative effect when you run a whole bunch of operations at once in a single action. But with After Effects, everything is cumulative. You have a bunch of effects and layers all working to hamper your progress simultaneously. And so the emulation lag is far more apparent at the surface.

For these tests, we ran After Effects 6.5 and 7.0. AE 6.5 is much faster than 7.0 in most cases. But it's worth noting that I actually had a lot of trouble installing version 7 on the MacBook. The installer itself froze with every single attempt, bringing down the whole system with it for whatever reason. I didn't experience this trouble installing AE on the MacBook Pro, and I have no idea why this sort of trouble would be encountered with an installer. In this case, I was forced to go in and extract components from the AE installer packages and slap together a cohesive program manually. You might not want to go through that trouble; then again, maybe you won't experience that trouble at all. But I certainly did.

Here are the numbers for AE 6.5 and 7.0. Explanations follow.

Test 1 was a simple cel-style animation that involves a PICT file and tracing paths. This is a fairly simple test, and the MacBook didn't lag far behind.

Test 2 was a composite using a variety of effects. (Note that the second test could not be rendered in After Effects 7 without modification, so it was left out here.) Here we see a bit more of a lag on the MacBook, coming in 24 seconds behind the MB Pro and 47 seconds behind the G5.

Test 3 involved the animation of layers from Photoshop and Illustrator documents with 3D effects and random sequencing of numbers across the screen. The 13-inch MacBook was again demolished by the other systems.

Test 4 is a 2D composite originating in Adobe Illustrator and rendered out at 720 x 486. The MacBook came in only six seconds behind the MB Pro, but took more than twice the time to render as the G5.

Test 5 involved moving shapes around in 3D space. Again, sluggishness in emulation all around. The G5 soundly trounced the Intel-based systems running in emulation.

Test 6 involved rendering out a 3D environment created entirely in After Effects from 2D images. Again we see intolerable lag.

And Test 7 was a composition called Nighflight, which is a test that Apple has referred to in the past to demonstrate the superiority of the G5 processor--one that involved a 3D layer, moving cameras and lights and an adjustment layer with a Levels filter applied to it. Here the MacBook came in way behind both the G5 and the MB Pro. This is a bizarre little test that is finely tuned to G5 processors and designed to throw Intel and AMD processors for a loop. As the G5 is phased out, we'll likely drop this test from our benchmarks.

As we saw in our earlier MacBook Pro benchmarks, Apple's switch to the Intel platform has its positives and negatives. For software written natively for the Intel processors, the advantage of the Core Duo's power is overwhelming. The same is true of the 13-inch MacBook. When a consumer-level notebook can outpace a desktop system, there's something amazing going on under the hood. But, on the down side, for many of us this power is still just potential. You can't reasonably expect to run After Effects in emulation with anything approaching the speed of a desktop system in which the software runs natively. With Photoshop and Illustrator, the lag isn't so painful. But it's still there. And so we have to wait for Adobe to get around to porting its software to the Intel platform for Mac OS X.

But, again, on the positive side these Mac systems can also run Windows, and so there is that as a stopgap measure until Adobe can come out with native software. We know Photoshop and Illustrator won't be available natively until spring 2007 (unless the pressure on Adobe becomes overwhelming, which it should). AE is kind of up in the air as far as a port goes. We'll just have to wait to see.

Next time around, we'll look at 3D animation software on the MacBook. We'll follow that up with a look at Windows apps running natively on this little machine. In the meantime, if you have any questions, be sure to drop me a line or visit me in one of the forums listed below.

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