The GPU: Faster

The GPU was the main recipient of Apple's attention for this upgrade. The old entry level model shipped with a pretty disappointing AMD Radeon HD 6490M. Apple has since upgraded the entry level 15-inch model to the Radeon HD 6750M, more than doubling its compute horsepower and memory bandwidth. Memory capacity has doubled as well to 512MB. I don't believe 512MB is ideal if you're going to be driving an external 27-inch panel, but for use on the notebook's screen alone (even at high res) you should be fine.

Discrete GPU Options
  AMD Radeon HD 6750M AMD Radeon HD 6770M
Manufacturing Process 40nm 40nm
SPs 480 480
Texture Units 24 24
ROPs 8 8
Core Clock 600MHz 725MHz
Memory Bus Width 128-bit 128-bit
Memory Clock 900MHz 900MHz?
Frame Buffer 512MB GDDR5 1024MB GDDR5

The upgraded configuration now comes with a Radeon HD 6770M. The 6770M increases shader clock but not the number of processors on the GPU. Memory bandwidth may be improved, it depends on what memory clock Apple decided on - by default the memory interface is no faster than the 6750M. The bigger difference for non-gamers will be the 1GB framebuffer that comes with the 6770M. If you're going to be using a 27-inch display, you'll want this GPU.

I tested the 6750M in the $1799 model and found it generally comparable to the 6750M in the old upgraded setup. The old 6490M is much slower and thankfully, out of the picture:

Half Life 2: Episode 2 (Mac OS X)

Half Life 2: Episode 2 (Mac OS X)

Starcraft II - AT GPU Bench (Mac OS X)

Starcraft II - AT GPU Bench (Mac OS X)

Starcraft II - AT CPU Bench (Mac OS X)

Starcraft II - AT CPU Bench (Mac OS X)

Silicon Updates Display Quality & Peripherals
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  • Omid.M - Monday, November 21, 2011 - link

    Is 22W TDP? I thought I saw 35W or the same as current platform, at least on some chart a few months back.

    And wouldn't the power/heat savings of a 22W TDP be negated by going to a slimmer design, if that's the next move for the rumored model update in Summer 2012?


    Good thoughts about the optical drive not being the sole factor in making the chassis thinner.

    Correction (?)

    Given that there are no reasonable performing HDDs in a smaller form factor, one would assume that if and when Apple removes the optical drive from the MacBook Pro, it will also remove the hard drive.

    --it will also move way from the 2.5" form factor HDDs


  • Omid.M - Monday, November 21, 2011 - link

    What do you recommend for photo work?

    Quad core MBP 15 + ACD or iMac 27 (quad core) ?

  • KoolAidMan1 - Monday, November 21, 2011 - link

    Here is a benchmark with recent machines, but unfortunately they are only video apps:

    Here are Aperture benchmarks from August, so tweaks your expectations accordingly:

    Performance is excellent both ways, so ask yourself what your usage is. Does your powerhouse workstation need to be portable? Do you need a laptop? If so, get the MBP+TB display. Otherwise save your money and get an iMac instead, much much cheaper than the laptop+TB display.
  • spamcops - Tuesday, November 22, 2011 - link

    I just registered because of this article suggesting Intel SSD 510 disk with this macbook pro model. Actually I was testing this disk with Macbook Pro 13' early 2011 and its horrible. There are lockups in IO intensive reads (for example spotlight indexing, lock lasting like 30s - basicaly you sea only beachball). Result are messages about corrupted filesystem in system.log. Probably its same issue with late 2011 model. EFI firmware update 2.3 didnt helped.

    It looks like there is issue with sata cable or something with macbook pro and all 6gbit SSD disks (not only intel).

    Then I tested Intel SSD 320 model and it was fine - very good performance without problems, even if negotiated speed was only 3Gbit (SATA2).

  • MadMacMan - Thursday, November 24, 2011 - link

    Are you talking about the optical drive bay or the main HDD bay? SATA III 6Gbps works just fine in the main hard drive bay and on 13" MBP's (as opposed to 15" and 17" models, both Early and Late 2011), you can even RAID 2 SATA III SSD's for sequential speeds north of 900MB/s. I'm not sure why you have the experience that you do, but that's not the case on a widespread basis. I've tried this on one Early-2011 15" MBP and two Late-2011 17" MBP's.
  • CalaverasGrande - Tuesday, November 22, 2011 - link

    still maxes at 8gb! I know that may seem like plenty of ram, but those of us using VM's can easily exploit all of the ram that is available. Not to mention that many Mac users will hang on to their Macs for 4-5 years. I am confident 16gb will be the new 4gb by then!
  • MadMacMan - Saturday, December 10, 2011 - link

    Agreed. I have 8GB in my Late-2011 MBP and I'm using it all and it's just about the perfect amount for Safari and Chrome and 40+ tabs open at the same time between the two. So it'll happen that I have Flash plug-in's running on both and Netflix uses Silverlight, and while I do realize that I could cut that in half with a little bit of discipline, I simply don't care to. I didn't buy a Quad Core i7 system to save on...anything really. I'm still peeved that the optical drive bay won't work well with my 2nd of two SATA III SSD's in RAID mode, as I had my previous Mac configured.

    Having said that, there are 8GB modules available from OWC for quite a steep fee, but it's technically not correct that the MacBook Pro is limited to 8GB of RAM. If you get two of those babies, you'll have a full 16GB, which I had at one time but in an iMac, so it was 4x4GB and tons cheaper, of course. With that setup, I was able to run a VM with Windows 7 in it, so dedicating 8GB to the VM and having both OS X and Windows running on all cylinders and totally stably was not a problem.

    UPDATE: Wait a minute. Prices have plummeted to "only" $395 for the full 16GB! Wow! So if you have 2x4GB, you can get one 8GB chip for $200, sell the one 4GB stick to offset the cost and you'll end up with 12GB for the difference.
  • flomt - Saturday, December 24, 2011 - link

    Does Apple ship you a product to test, knowing who you are, or do you go to a store and buy one?
    I have a macbook pro 13 mid 2010 and out of the box only got half the battery life you seen to have.
    After visiting with Apple about my "poor" battery life, they said I was normal.
    Visiting with some friends, nobody came come close to your battery times.
    Why the big differences?
  • bob33 - Saturday, March 24, 2012 - link

    So, as gradjoh mentioned, in layman's terms is the "early 2011" 2.3 GHz 4Gb RAM model better than the "late 2011" 2.4 GHz 4Gb RAM model, in terms of speed/performance, etc.?

  • MiddletonBanks - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - link

    If you are looking for a macbook to run memory hungry games or to do a lot of photo editing and won't be looking to carry it about everyday then the macbook pro 15 is the one for you. You can buy it here for only £1,240 including VAT and delivery.

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