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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  • ananduser - Sunday, November 20, 2011 - link

    MBP's combination is good but not the best. Some traits could be better. Across the board it is a reasonable machine, no one denies that. And it better be considering the asking price. But that still does not make it the best combination as people are subjective and your best combination might be different from another one's best combination.
  • KoolAidMan1 - Monday, November 21, 2011 - link

    Absolutely, if you want a better GPU then it means a larger laptop with less battery life. Laptops should be evaluated based on their usage.

    That said, many people want light laptops with lots of battery life. The fact that such a light laptop has enough horsepower to run most games I play (SC2, TF2, DOTA2, LoL) perfectly is great.

    Outside of balance, there are very few with displays and trackpads as good, and that's something I really wish more PC laptops would tackle in a meaningful way. Most outside of some custom Lenovos and $$$ Elitebooks don't come anywhere close.

    One of the Asus gaming laptops with a better screen and better multitouch trackpad would be AMAZING.
  • Beenthere - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    It turns out that this Mac Air was suppose to have an AMD APU but GloFo let AMD and Apple customers down. I would have definitely considered a Mac Air with an AMD APU.
  • dave_the_nerd - Sunday, November 20, 2011 - link

    Considering that the Air got an i7 instead... I'm glad the deal fell through.

  • MacTheSpoon - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    Any chance of adding speaker tests to your Mac laptop (and every laptop) reviews? I am leery of getting a new Mac laptop ever since dealing with my 2007 MBP and it would be nice to know how the maximum volume compares to other laptops now--whether they've improved at all. My particular model is so quiet that many people had to buy Audio Hijack Pro in order to boost their applications' volumes to acceptable levels--a workaround that sadly now fails with most browsers, as the browsers changed their architecture with current versions (some sort of sandboxing thing, I think).
  • iSayuSay - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    I don't know what's wrong with Mac review, there will always fanboys fighting over them.

    On one side, people called Apple fanboys defend it so rigorously and blindly.

    On the other side, Apple hater .. or actually PC FANBOYS bash Apple and making fun of it.

    Moral of the story: One way or another, we're all just a bunch of fanboys. Why feeling so right about yourself?

    What's wrong with: "My money, my business!" thing?
    I have PC, I have iMac, I have Macbook Air .. so what's the point here?

    You're not willing to spend money to buy a Mac?Fine
    You're too poor to shell out cash for a Mac? Fine

    I'm a Mac user, and when necessary .. I don't want to be nitpicky and compromise with quality. I love Mac quality, it's like buying a built up sports car, looks nice and fast too

    I like Pc too .. just like buying a modded out Japanese car and of course it could be faster than Mac, if you know how to do it. But it aint exactly cheaper too. It could be in fact, more expensive than Mac itself for the same performance AND quality. Not all 6990 cards created equally either.

    So, I think it's just between people who care about performance, quality and appearance (the one who can appreciate Mac and also hi end PC for what it is) .. and people who only care about number, spec sheet and considering a PC just a tool (Strong apple hater, and since you don't care about appearance, Hyundai will get you in place just like Aston Martin, it's just a tool, remember?)
  • ananduser - Friday, November 18, 2011 - link

    Reasonable words, only that it would be an insult for Aston Martin to associate it with a mainstream MBP. If you were talking about the superlative VaioZ, that would be more like it.
  • KoolAidMan1 - Friday, November 18, 2011 - link

    You'd think that people can be reasonable. I also use both PCs and Macs, and the fanboys are ridiculous. None are as shrill as the PC fanboys at the moment though, they've gotten really bad over the last two years.
  • ananduser - Friday, November 18, 2011 - link

    Historically speaking it is the other way around. The PC fanbois appeared as a reaction to constant naggin' on the early interwebs by the Apple fanbois. Now that Apple is much more mainstream, and in light of iphone's stellar success, Apple fanbois are even more open and brazen in their flaming. The fact that Apple gear ownership is pretty much a cultural thing in the States certainly "helps" them.
  • KoolAidMan1 - Friday, November 18, 2011 - link

    I completely disagree. Go so any gaming forum, the moment someone playing TF2 or SC2 asking for help lets out that they play it on an iMac gets responses like "lol get a real computer". I play on a PC but I also know that the response is obnoxious.

    Garry of Garry's Mod put it best:

    "Garry's Mod launched on the Mac last month. Mac users are creating stuff as well, though Garry isn't spotting any differences between Mac and Windows users' creativity. "If there's someone in the server on a Mac they're indistinguishable from PC players," he says. "Which is the way it's got to stay since PC gamers are assholes to Mac gamers for some reason.""

    Perhaps the Mac userbase used to be more obnoxious. That hasn't been the case for two or three years now, the anti-fanboys are way more annoying these days.

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