In my continued quest to determine the best value in Apple’s latest laptop lineup, I spent another afternoon at my local Apple Store running software compiles on various models. I picked the Selenium 2/WebDriver open source Java project as my test; it is fairly big and it’s build script handles external dependencies well. (details on how I ran this at bottom of this article)

Only the Retina and Air machines had SSD’s so I set up a RAM disk on the other machines to try to emulate it’s speed. As you’ll see in the results, build in a RAM disk nearly identically as fast as the SSD, indicating to me that the only IO limitation was in the filesystem buffering, not the SATA interface.

Without further ado here’s the results: CPU Benchmarks Chart

Times in seconds (shorter is better)

Obviously, the 2.7Ghz machine was the fastest, I’m sure a similarly equipped Retina model would have matched it’s speed but they did not have any on the floor to test that. I found it curious, however, that the Mac Pro tower actually turned in the slowest score of the group and it’s RAM disk performance was even slower than it’s 7200 RPM SATA drive! Not sure if that is because of the newer i7 chip vs the XEON, or if I’m just not doing something right with that RAM Disk config, but interesting non-the-less.

The last 2 bars are my current, old 17” MacBook Pro, late 2006 model (model id: MacBookPro2,1) running Snow Leopard using both RAM Disk and the internal 1TB drive (using a 700GB partition that is about 55% full) for comparison.

I would love to see the folks at OWC run this test on their dual SSD RAID machine. (I’ve asked them to do so in their blog comments, but who knows if they’ll do it.)

In conclusion:

  1. Faster CPU = faster compile time, same CPU on both 15” machines turned in nearly identical times.
  2. Flash storage is as fast as a RAM Disk (at least using the config’s I did)
  3. Scaled screen on Retina didn’t decrease time appreciably (this backed up by ArsTechnica’s recent review)
  4. My old machine is, well… old and I really need to get of my duff and upgrade!

How I ran the tests:

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24 June 2012


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