Hosting and bandwidth provided by MacAce.net.
If you find this page useful, please
Bookmark & Share
How much faster is the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics processor in the "Unibody" MacBook models compared to the Intel GMA X3100 and GMA 950 in earlier models? Is gaming performance improved?
Please note that the "Late 2008/Unibody" MacBook models have been discontinued. The "Unibody" MacBook was replaced by the "Mid-2009" 13-Inch MacBook Pro on June 8, 2009.
In Apple-published benchmarks, the company declares the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics processor to be a "quantum leap" that provides "up to 5x faster graphics performance" than earlier MacBook models.
Specifically, Apple reports that the MacBook "Core 2 Duo" 2.4 13" (Unibody) -- with the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M with 256 MB of memory shared with the system -- is between 2.5x and 6.2x faster than the MacBook "Core 2 Duo" 2.4 13" (Black) -- with the Intel GMA X3100 with 144 MB of memory shared with the system -- running tests in Unreal Tournament 2004, Doom 3, Quake 4, and Call of Duty 4.
Regardless of Apple's official claims, third-party tests always are necessary for greater objectivity.
Significant increase in frame rate with the NVIDIA-equipped MacBook over the Intel-[GMA X3100] based laptop. When running Call of Duty 4 at 1,280-by-800 resolution, the new 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook displayed 20 more frames per second over the previous white plastic 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook. In Doom 3 at 1,280-by-800, the improvement was 29 frames per second. The performance gains were even greater at 1,024-by-768. Testing at that same resolution, Unreal Tournament saw an improvement of 47(!) frames. . .
In general, the framerates with the 9400M are more than acceptable for most modern first-person shooters.
The aluminum MacBook performs quite nicely on older games but is merely competent at current games. . .
We tried playing EA's 2142 Battlefield, an Intel-only game released last summer. Like a number of EA's other games, it uses TransGaming's Cider technology to run a Windows game as a Mac application. Using 2140 Battlefield's high quality video preset (1024x768, full special effects), the game was attractive, but unplayable -- frame rates were visibly low, and any significant effects (such as explosions and smoke) caused gameplay to stutter. At the medium preset (800x600, effects at middle settings) the game occasionally lagged during heavy action. We found the low quality preset (800x600, minimum effects) provided acceptable visual quality while retaining full frame rates -- in other words, for a competitive head-to-head game, this is the only acceptable option.
When it comes to 3D accelerated graphics, the "Late 2008" 13" MacBook 2.4 GHz (with its integrated GeForce 9400M) is not as pathetic as the previous models of MacBook with the integrated GMA X3100 or 950. But its integrated GeForce 9400M is still no match for the dedicated GeForce 9600M GT (or 8600M GT) in the 2007 and 2008 MacBook Pros.
Ultimately, the "Unibody" MacBook models do provide substantially faster graphics performance than the systems that they replaced, but for gaming specifically, they still fall far short of spectacular. For those with modest graphics performance needs, the MacBook would be an excellent choice. Those with more demanding needs would be better served by a MacBook Pro.