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How much faster are the MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo "Santa Rosa" models compared to the "Core 2 Duo" models that they replaced?
Please note that all systems mentioned in this Q&A have been discontinued. The MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo "Mid-2007/Santa Rosa" models were replaced by the MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo "Early 2008/Penryn" series on February 26, 2008.
In Apple-published benchmarks, the company shows that the "Santa Rosa" 2.4 GHz MacBook Pro "Core 2 Duo" models are "up to 55%" faster than the MacBook Pro "Core Duo" 1.83 15-Inch. However, this comparison could be misleading as it compares the "Santa Rosa" models to the original MacBook Pro models, rather than to the "Core 2 Duo" models that the "Santa Rosa" systems replaced.
However, review a quick comparison of the differences between the "Santa Rosa" MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo line and the original "Core 2 Duo" models and one would notice that the "Santa Rosa" systems have marginally faster processors -- 2.2 GHz and 2.4 GHz compared to 2.16 GHz and 2.33 GHz, respectively -- but also use a more advanced architecture with a faster frontside bus (800 MHz compared to 667 MHz) and have a faster graphics processor (NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT instead of the ATI Mobility Radeon X1600).
The processors alone are merely 2%-3% faster, so one could assume that the "Santa Rosa" models are at least 2% faster, but with the architecture changes, only real-world tests are particularly relevant.
The 2.4 GHz model [beat] out the older 2.33 GHz MacBook Pro in just about every test, including Cinema4D and Compressor.
Then there’s that puzzling result, which came in our 3D game tests with Unreal Tournament 2004. The 2.4 GHz MacBook Pro, powered by the Nvidia graphics chip, posted 28-percent slower frame rates than the 2.33GHz model with ATI graphics. Further testing involving other games indicated that Unreal Tournament was the exception to the rule -- the new 2.4 GHz MacBook Pro beat out the 2.33 GHz model by 28 percent in our Doom tests and 33 percent in Quake 4 frame rates.
The new 17-inch configuration edged out the similarly equipped 15-inch model in our Photoshop tests suite. The 17-inch model was also a couple of seconds faster at some of the Finder tests that we don’t report, like startup times, file duplicate, file unzip, and so forth. Overall, these saved seconds helped the 17-inch model turn in a Speedmark score that was about 2-percent higher than the 15-inch 2.4GHz MacBook Pro. Both 2.4GHz models beat out the older, 2.33GHz MacBook Pro by a second or two in most tests, with the exceptions being the aforementioned Unreal Tournament score and our Photoshop test suite.
In an in-depth series of tests of the MacBook Pro "Core 2 Duo" 2.4 17" (Santa Rosa), the superb ArsTechnica generally found the "Santa Rosa" system to be faster, but also found peculiarities with the graphics processor:
The 2.4 GHz Santa Rosa MacBook Pro is uniformly faster by anywhere from 5 to 7 percent, with the exception of the Lens Flare filter, where the newer machine spanked the two-month old laptop. The Santa Rosa MacBook Pro's performance in Photoshop is a bit better than the 2.9 percent difference in clock speed would lead one to expect, but it has a significantly faster FSB, too.
Xbench 1.3 was much the same story. With the exception of the OpenGL graphics test, the Santa Rosa MacBook Pro was faster than its predecessor. . . Overall, the 2.4GHz machine was a bit more than 6 percent faster than its predecessor on Xbench.
The consistently poor OpenGL scores on the graphics benchmarks leads me to wonder if NVIDIA's drivers are not as well-optimized as ATI's. The 2.33 GHz MacBook Pro sports an ATI Mobility X1600 GPU, while the new MacBook Pros all have NVIDIA GPUs. If the drivers are indeed the culprit, that could be the problem -- one that should be addressed as the drivers mature.
Ultimately, the improvement in real-world performance probably is not enough to justify upgrading if one already owns a model from the replaced series, but it is still substantial nevertheless.