My mid 2009 15" MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo was chugging along just fine and I was not thinking about an upgrade. That quickly changed when I upgraded to Adobe Lightroom 4 to process my Canon 5D Mark III raw files. Suddenly I was getting tons of hangups and rendering previews and exporting files were taking forever. The worst was the develop module of Lightroom 4 which was nearly unusable. Any brush or clone edits would grind my MacBook Pro to a halt. So it was time for a new machine. I was tempted by the Apple's new Retina Macbook Pro but the I couldn’t justify the higher price. At first glance, they are priced $400 over the non-retina counterparts but after outfitting it to my needs with more RAM and a larger flash drive or portable external drive, the price quickly soars. So the next generation MacBook Pro will have to wait until next time when flash drives are larger and more affordable. I wrote about the Retina MacBook Pro previously.
I opted for the base model 15" 2.3ghz because I didn’t think there is a big performance gap between 2.3ghz and 2.6ghz. MacWorld has some good speed comparisons.
I ran some benchmark test between the two machines, namely 1:1 preview rendering and exporting jpegs. Here’s how I set it up if you want to compare. Reboot the Mac. Make a new clean Lightroom catalog. Import 100 raw files. No develop setting are applied. Select all, then go to Library>;Previews>;Discard 1:1 previews, just in case Lightroom has built any previews. Then, select all, Library>;Render 1:1 Previews. Start timing. At the top you can see the progress bar. Stop timer when text underneath progress bar says Task Completed.
For the exports, select 100 images. Export to internal hard drive. No file renaming. File setting are jpegs at 100 quality, sRGB color space, no image resizing, 300 dpi, no output sharpening. Click export and begin timing. Stop timer when complete. (You’ll hear a pop sound if you have not changed general preferences.) Repeat to check your results. Here are the results for Canon 5D Mark III as well as the original Canon 5D. Version Lightroom 4.1. The older machine is a mid 2009 15" MacBook Pro 2.66ghz Core 2 Duo, 8GB RAM, 5400rpm Hard drive. The newer Mac is a 15" quad-core 2.3ghz i7, 4GB RAM, 5400rpm hard drive.
A three years difference in models gains about 2.5 times increase in performance. Note that the new machine has only 4GB RAM while the older Mac has 8GB. When I upgrade the RAM in the new Mac, I’ll add those comparisons to see any differences.
One thing this chart does not indicate is how the develop module performs. I said earlier my main gripe of my old machine was dealing with Lightroom 4’s sluggish develop module. I couldn’t figure out a way to benchmark the develop module. I can tell you that I haven’t seen any spinning beach balls and everything is moving along quickly.
One surprise of the data was that previews and exporting times for the larger Mark III files compared to the original 5D files are only 20% slower. I was expecting a bigger difference since the Mark III files are twice the size.
In the near future I will test the speed difference between Lightroom 3 and 4.