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How much faster are the MacBook Pro "Core 2 Duo" models compared to the "Core Duo" systems?
Please note that all systems mentioned in this Q&A have been discontinued. The "Late 2006" MacBook Pro "Core 2 Duo" models were replaced by the "Mid-2007" MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo "Santa Rosa" series on June 5, 2007.
Apple claims that the fastest MacBook Pro "Core 2 Duo" system -- the MacBook Pro "Core 2 Duo" 2.33 17-Inch -- is "up to 39% faster than its predecessor" based on the "SPECint_rate_base2000" benchmark. However, real-world performance is more modest.
Review a quick comparison of the different MacBook Pro "Core 2 Duo" system specs, and one would notice that all have 4 MB of level 2 cache, twice as much as the replaced "Core Duo" models.
In addition to 4 MB of level 2 cache, the Core 2 Duo processor design is modestly more efficient than the Core Duo processor that it replaced.
You might be interested in reading through the details of both the Core Duo and Core 2 Duo processors from Intel's website, but in particular Intel promotes that the Core 2 Duo offers "wide dynamic execution" that enables "delivery of more instructions per clock cycle to improve execution time and energy efficiency" along with "smart memory access" that optimizes "the use of the available data bandwidth" and a "more efficient cache subsystem" among other improvements.
When comparing the now low-end 15-inch 2.16 GHz MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo to its comparable Core Duo counterpart, the Speedmark improvement is the exact same 10 percent.
Of course, that 2.16GHz MacBook Pro Core Duo was the fastest 15-inch model available among Apple’s old offerings. Now, you can get a 15-inch MacBook Pro with a 2.33GHz Core 2 Duo chip; that laptop is 19 percent faster than the older model.
The MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo's advantage over the Core Duo version ranged from 9% to 75% depending on what app we ran. The faster core clock speed should provide an 8% advantage, so everything beyond that is "gravy." Most surprising were the significant gains with Aperture 1.5 and Photoshop CS2.
Ultimately, the improvement in real-world performance may not be quite as high as Apple's claims, but it is still substantial nevertheless.