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13-Inch MacBook Benchmarks 4

Photoshop, Illustrator and After Effects performance in Windows XP By Dave Nagel
It's pretty incredible the kind of power packed into Apple's 13-inch MacBook. We've seen, though, that applications can take a significant performance hit when they're not written natively for Intel hardware--particularly Adobe applications and various 3D apps. So what happens when you run those same applications natively in Windows XP on the MacBook?

Something amazing. Keeping in mind that the 13-inch MacBook is just a $1,300 "consumer-level" notebook, you wouldn't expect it to be able to compete against desktops and serious workstations when running creative applications. Nevertheless, it can compete--and in some cases even match or surpass quad-processor machines, whether they're powered by IBM, Intel or AMD processors.

For this, our fourth battery of benchmark tests for the 13-inch MacBook, we put this little notebook up against some of the powerhouse media machines--G5s, quad Opterons and dual Xeons--to see how it fares against them in our benchmark tests involving Adobe After Effects, Photoshop CS2 and Illustrator CS2.

You already seen the results of running Adobe applications in Mac OS X, where they have to go through a layer of emulation and therefore suffer a pretty heavy performance penalty. This time around, we run them in Windows XP on the same MacBook hardware. In Windows XP, of course, these applicvations do run natively, so they can take advantage of the MacBook's dual-core 2.0 GHz Intel Core Duo chips. The MacBook is equipped with 2 GB RAM, as were all of the other machines tested. And, for these tests, the MacBook is using a Hitachi Travelstar 7,200 RPM SATA drive. Some of the machines in these tests (the Dell, HP and Alienware workstations) were equipped with striped RAIDs.

Before we get started with the numbers, you might be interested in our previous benchmark tests on the 13-inch MacBook. You'll find them at the links below.

Adobe Photoshop CS2 in Windows XP
Now, when we previously tested Photoshop on the 13-inch MacBook, we ran it in Mac OS X under the translation of Apple's Rosetta technology. This allows software written for PowerPC hardware to run on Intel-based Macs. The problem is, of course, that the emulation saps a ton of the Mac hardware's processing power, and so our benchmark results showed pretty terrible performance.

But this time around, Photoshop is running natively, and the results are stunning. In two of the three tests, the MacBook beat out the Dell Precision 470, which is powered by dual 3.6 GHz Xeon processors. And it tied the Xeon machine in the remaining test. It even beat the quad-processor Alienware MJ-12, which was loaded up with 2.21 GHz Opteron processors.

Here are the results.

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. Here the MacBook tied the dual Xeon and beat the dual G5.

Test 2 involved the creation of a 2,000 x 1,500-pixel document and more transformations than the first test. This was the MacBook's best tests, beating every machine except the G5 Quad. For whatever reason, it also beat out the MacBook Pro, which had a slightly faster 2.16 GHz Core Duo processor. (I have no explanation for that. Conditions for these tests were identical.)

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. Here the 13-inch MacBook tied the MacBook Pro and beat the rest of the systems except for the G5 Quad and the Alienware MJ-12.

Adobe Illustrator CS2 in Windows XP
As I always point out, Illustrator CS2 is a bit more tricky to benchmark. There's a limited range of functions that can be recorded and played back properly as action sequences. So these tests are limited primarily to transformations and the application of various graphics styles. We had fewer machines involved in these tests. The only desktop system involved was a dual 2.0 GHz G5 (AGP graphics), and the MacBook beat that machine handily in every test.

Here are the numbers.

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.

The second test involved 3D objects with complex shading. The objects were duplicated, aligned, rotated and further duplicated. Most of the time involved in this test falls into the category of screen redraw. Wirth so many objects to draw over and over, it's a slow, painful process to watch.

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). For whatever reason, the MacBook beat even the MacBook Pro in this test.

After Effects 7 in Windows XP
And finally we come to After Effects. As with our Photoshop tests, these benchmarks had previously been conducted on the MacBook in Rosetta under Mac OS X, and the results were terrible. But running After Effects in Windows XP natively is a completely different story.

In these tests, the MacBook came out looking fantastic. It didn't necessarily beat the ultra-high-end workstations in many tests, but at least it kept pace with them, and that's saying something for any notebook, let alone a consumer notebook like the 13-inch MacBook. It did beat the dual Xeon in three tests; it tied the Alienware quad Opteron in one test and beat it in one other; And, though it didn't beat the HP quad Opteron system in any tests, it did tie it in one and came in respectably behind it in others.

Here are the numbers. 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 tied or beat every system except the HP quad Opteron workstation.

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.)

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 beat the dual G5 and dual Xeons but came in slightly behind the quad systems.

Test 4 is a 2D composite originating in Adobe Illustrator and rendered out at 720 x 486. Here the MacBook beat or tied all of the systems tested.

Test 5 involved moving shapes around in 3D space. Again, sluggishness in emulation all around. Again the MacBook beat the dual-processor desktops but couldn't match the quads.

Test 6 involved rendering out a 3D environment created entirely in After Effects from 2D images. Note that the MacBook here rendered this scene in half the time it took the dual G5, though it lagged behind the rest of the machines.

Some of the results of these tests will be as shocking to you as they were to me. Again, we're comparing here a consumer-level notebook against workstation-class machines, and the notebook is keeping pace or even exceeding (in a few cases) the workstations--even some quad-processor systems.

Next time around, we'll take a look at 3D applications running in Windows XP on the MacBook, and we'll follow that up with a formal review of this system. 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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Related Keywords:apple macbook, benchmarks, 13 inch macbook, photoshop, after effects, illustrator, adobe

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