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MacBook Pro Benchmarks: Final Cut Studio 5.1

Native performance beats dual-proc G5
Compressor 2
The tests in Compressor, however, were quite different from those of Final Cut Pro and Motion. In some cases, the MacBook matched or exceeded the G5. But in ttwo tests, it was trounced by the G5. The trouncings involved H.264 encoding. All tests using Compressor were based on presets supplied with the program.

Test 1 encoded SD footage to MPEG-2 using a two-pass VBR with an average bitrate of 6.2 Mbps. The systems were fairly even.

Test 2 took a 720p source file and encoded it as HD MPEG-2 (23.98 fps) at 19.0 Mbps (maximum 27.0 Mbps) with a two-pass VBR using "Best" motion estimation. Again the MacBook came out just a little bit ahead of the G5.

For the third test, though, we see a dramatic difference in encoding time. This was an H.264 HD encode involving 720p footage with a frame rate of 59.94 and an average bitrate of 10.25 Mbps (maximum of 23.0 Mbps). Both systems took considerably longer to encode H.264 than HD MPEG-2, but the G5 did the job in about 57 percent the time it took the MacBook Pro.

For the fourth test, we returned to an MPEG-2 SD encode, this time using a one-pass VBR at an encode rate of 6.2 Mbps. Both rendered more than three seconds of footage per second of encode time, and the results were once again close.

The fifth test, though, showed once again that Compressor's H.264 encoding is more finely tuned on the G5 than on the Intel Core Duo processor. This time we took some standard-definition footage and encoded it in H.264 for iPod video at 320 x 240 with a frame rate of 29.97 and a bitrate of 600 Kbps. The G5 did the job in about 67 percent the time it took the MacBook Pro.

For the final test, we ran another MPEG2 (SD) encode test, once again using a two-pass VBR, this time at 5. Mbps. Motion Estimation, once again, was set to "best" The MacBook Pro again won this contest, coming in at about 83 percent the encode time of the G5.

All results in minutes:seconds. Lower is better.
Compressor 2.1 Encoding
 
Test 1
Test 2
Test 3
Test 4
Test 5
Test 6
Dual 2 GHz G5
0:15
0:44
5:27
0:03
0:18
1:57
Dual-Core 2.16 GHzMacBook Pro
0:14
0:39
9:38
0:04
0:27
1:37




Conclusions
When I set off to benchmark the MacBook Pro, the question I wanted answered was how close the MacBook Pro could come to matching the performance of a common G5 tower. That it matched or exceeded the performance of the G5 in the vast majority of tests was quite surprising to me. Even though the MacBook is rated slightly higher in GHz than the G5, it does use a mobile chip, which you wouldn't expect to match the chip in a desktop system. Plus FInal Cut Studio has been in development on the PowerPC platform for five generations, whereas the Universal Binary release is just in its first incarnation.

For Motion 2 users, the results are obviously fantastic. At worst, the MacBook rendered in 65 percent the time it took the G5 system to render. And at best, it performed the same tasks in 60 percent of the time it took the G5. For Final Cut Pro users, the news isn't nearly as dramatic, but the MacBook certainly held its own, surpassing the performance of the G5 in three out of four tests. That easily qualifies the MacBook Pro as a workhorse editing system. And, finally, for those of you doing DVD authoring and encoding in Compressor, the news is mostly good. For the most common encoding tasks--MPEG-2 standard-definition encodes--the MacBook Pro exceeded the performance of the G5. For HD and iPod H.264 encoding, the MacBook lagged considerably behind the G5. But that's something DVD authors don't need to worry about at the moment anyway.

So for those of you working primarily in Final Cut Studio, the MacBook Pro is clearly a viable system--certainly on par with the common dual 2 GHz G5 machines out there.

Next time around: tests in Rosetta. After that, we'll test some other aspects of the MacBook's performance, including running WIndows applications natively. We'll also be posting formal reviews of the MacBook Pro and Final Cut Studio 5.1 in the near future. If you have any questions in the meantime, be sure to drop me a line or visit me at one of the forums listed below.


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