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

    OpenGL drivers are also better and actually up to date compared to OSX, you keep to omit that.
    Back in 2011(your link is a test from 2008) there are Win7 ultrabooks(that come to mind) that offer at least comparable battery life with the most recent Air. Anand should use desktop Flash browsing in his browsing tests so as to provide more realistic battery life patterns.
  • KoolAidMan1 - Sunday, November 20, 2011 - link

    Are you really being this nitpicky? When I talk about video drivers being more up to date in Windows, I figure that both DX and OpenGL can be inferred. The only reason I wasn't as specific is because nothing (not even Carmack's RAGE) uses OpenGL in Windows these days. I didn't think it was even worth mentioning given that DirectX is the standard, so much so that even he threw in the towel.

    If you can't infer that then maybe I need to spell everything out for you from now on. Either way it doesn't change my core criticisms that video drivers from GPU manufacturers are more up to date than the ones that Apple puts out much less frequently on their own.

    As for recent Win7 ultrabooks, I expect that the battery life results would be similar with the same hardware as the Air given that Windows 7 and Vista are still roughly in line with each other. Win7 is actually marginally worse in terms of battery life if I'm not mistaken.

    Either way, the test is from 2008 but I don't expect the results to be any different on similar hardware given that Win7 hasn't yielded any improvements in that area.

    Regarding tests with and without Flash, he's always very clear when he's having it off or on. In the case of the 2008 test it wasn't mentioned, so I have to assume that Flash was used in both tests.

    You seem to be desperately looking for excuses.
  • ananduser - Sunday, November 20, 2011 - link

    I was under the malevolent influence of your nick :).

    The Verge's and Engadget's recent ultrabook reviews yielded similar battery life across the board. One exception is that of Sammy's Series 9, but that is a significantly older part. Toshiba's Protege actually has the highest battery life out of the pack(Air included). So NO, things have changed since 2008, and your axiom is wrong.

    Why would I care so much to look for excuses ?
  • Death666Angel - Friday, November 18, 2011 - link

    "it would have to wait until Haswell, where integrated graphics performance is supposed to be much better."

    I still hope that AMD can deliver good CPU performance within the next year or two. Do you think Apple will ever bother with AMD, even if they become competitive again?
  • Vepsa - Friday, November 18, 2011 - link

    I really want one of these. However, I want to know what you guys do with your review machines too. If you don't have to send this one back, I'll take it ;) Reply
  • TheGeoff - Friday, November 18, 2011 - link

    Cool. Glad to hear they addressed that. Reply
  • MobiusStrip - Friday, November 18, 2011 - link

    At least you can now GET the matte screen on the 15" (for an extra $150, or $50 more than the optional higher-res screen), although it's still inexplicably not available on the machines that are most likely to leave the house: the 13" MBP and the Airs.

    After many, many hours working with matte and glossy screens under all lighting conditions, you'll realize: glossy screens suck. This asinine fad is the biggest regression in computing since... what?

    It's time that reviews call this out instead of and make it a marketing liability that Apple and others can't ignore, instead of (yes, here it comes) GLOSSING OVER IT.
  • tzhu07 - Monday, November 21, 2011 - link

    Yes, totally. I don't understand the glossy trend. When I was in the market for a 2560 monitor, I had to immediately eliminate the Apple 27" display because of the glossy screen. They lost $1,000 from a customer by default.

    NEC ended up with my money for the PA271W.
  • MadMacMan - Friday, November 18, 2011 - link

    Wait for Haswell? What the hell? You might as well never get any notebook or computer of any kind for that matter, as something better is always on the horizon. Even Ivy Bridge is 6-8 months too far into the future as far as I'm concerned.

    I just discovered this site and spent four hours reading reviews and benchies last night. lol...It works so well for me because Anand thinks like me when it comes to wanting your cake and eating it, too, with using a 15" or 17" MacBook Pro along with a 27" ThunderBolt / (LED) Cinema Display. Right down to using the Magic Trackpad instead of a mouse. haha...that's awesome!

    Well, this setup has really only been possible on a more serious level since Sandy Bridge and ThunderBolt. It is about to get even sweeter once there are ThunderBolt adapters and devices coming out, such as the Sonnet TB --> ExpressCard/34 adapter and PCIe expansion enclosures that will allow multiple full-length PCIe cards to be added to a *laptop*, something that still requires a Mac Pro today.

    Finally, I actually wanted to add something to this review that wasn't mentioned and that has been a thorn in my eye with the 2011 (Early as well as Late). The 15" and 17" MBP's SATA III implementation STILL doesn't work in the optical drive bay! I have two OWC Mercury EXTREME Pro SATA III (6Gbps) SSD's that I used to get upwards of 900MB/s (and over 100,000 IOPS) in a Mac mini server before I switched (back) to this (laptop+display) model. Even more infuriating is the fact that the 13" MBP works just fine with SATA III SSD's in *both* bays! Grrr! Yes, I realize that Apple not only didn't advertise the fact that SATA III drives can be used since its Early-2011 MBP models, but they haven't even so much as mentioned it in any of its marketing materials. Whatever...I'm back down to 550MB/s using just one of my solid state drives. (P.S.: Yes, I know, first world problem...)
  • umesh - Saturday, November 19, 2011 - link

    Has anyone noticed that the second table above reads "Apple 15-inch Late 2011 MacBook Pro CPU Comparison", whereas the listed processors all belong to the EARLY 2011 MBP models? Reply

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