Skip to main content

Apple MacBook Review: Part 1

Motherboard And CPU

There’s not much to say about the Intel Core 2 Duo other than the fact that the switch to Intel was the best move Apple ever made. The combination of Intel’s Haifa design team and international manufacturing prowess has helped produce some of the best CPUs in the history of computing. The Penryn core found in the Core 2 Duo is made possible with the use of 45nm manufacturing technology and the use of hafnium rather than silicon. While Dell allows entry-level laptops to ship with Pentium Dual Core CPUs or older generation Merom-based Core 2 Duo processors, Apple sticks with the Penryn architecture for their entire product line, relying on the 3MB L2 cache models for the MacBook and giving the option of 6MB L2 for the MacBook Pro.

Our entry-level MacBook features an Intel Core 2 Duo P7350 running at 2GHz.

GeForce 9400M

The motherboard is considerably more exciting as it is the first implementation of Nvidia’s GeForce 9400M G, which integrates the GeForce 9400M and MCP71 chipset into a single package. Like any modern chipset, the GeForce 9400M has a full complement of support for SATA 3 Gb/s, Gigabit Ethernet, and dual-channel DDR-3 support.

Power consumption of the GeForce 9400M line is on par with Intel’s Centrino 2 architecture at idle, an impressive feat in itself given Intel’s renowned expertise in chipset design. Under heavy load, the GeForce 9400M actually consumes less power than the Intel G45 chipset and from a pure chipset perspective, the GeForce 9400M is a solid choice over the Intel design.

The real magic happens with the graphics. While gaming enthusiasts will still want to invest in the faster GPU than what the MacBook Pro includes, the GeForce 9400M is a veritable GPU, adding considerable benefits to the system. From a pure gaming standpoint, the GPU is about half the performance of the GeForce 9600 GT. In practice, traditional GPU-intensive games such as Call of Duty 4 will run at ~30 frames per second at resolutions of 1024x768 at high quality settings. With the exception of games such as Crysis, it appears that the 9400M is capable of running most modern games at medium or high image quality settings at 30 fps or greater, making it perfectly suitable for casual gaming. For more information on the performance of Nvidia's desktop GeForce 9300 chipset, check out that review

Importantly, the GeForce 9400M has the same quality capabilities as its faster discrete counterparts. It’s just slower. That means that the GeForce 9400M is perfectly suited for the GPU accelerated capabilities of Adobe Photoshop CS4, including anti-aliased text, smooth zoom, rotation, and brush resizing. The integrated Intel X4500, in contrast, lacks all of the OpenGL features required for the full complement of GPU accelerated features in Adobe Photoshop CS4, such as rotation. In the Windows environment, GPU-accelerated H.264 encoding for the iPhone target resolution is about 50% faster than a quad-core CPU.

The GeForce 9400M also features Nvidia’s third-generation PureVideo technology. This means full HD Codec offload support for H.264, VC-1, and MPEG-2 including support for Blu-ray’s Picture-in-Picture capabilities as well as Nvidia's excellent image quality and advanced cadence detection and superb region-based deinterlacing.

When Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard is released, we anticipate seeing more Mac applications taking advantage of the computing-on-GPU capabilities.