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Some days ago Apple refreshed the MacBooks pro and I'm looking for either well sourced reviews of the hardware capabilities between the models or real world experience to help me value the increased cost of the i7 (3.0 GHz) over the i5 (2.6 GHz) on the new Macbook Pro 13" with retina display (ME662LL/A which presumably will be marketed as an early 2013 model).

I've done some research on Intel's site and, by my reckoning, the CPU release dates / frequencies imply Apple is using 2 possible CPU for the new 13 inch with Retina that ships with 256 GB of storage (which like the CPU can also be upgraded for additional cost).

Can someone confirm/corroborate that the i5-3230M and i7-3540M are used so that I can rely on Intel's description of the chips or are there other factors at play with Apple hardware. It seems like the GPU of the i7 support higher frequency & the i7 has more virtualization features.

As a regular user of virtualization, does this CPU upgrade offer benefits for VM performance past the incremental change in clock speeds (Intel's VT-d feature sounds good, but I don't understand if it helps existing Mac virtualization software run better or faster)?

I realize no one can make buying decisions, but hoped to learn more about how the hardware works so we all can learn more about what goes on under the hood of this model Mac.

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Answering yes or no to this question both are equally correct answers, as the actual worth of such an upgrade is subjective or dependent on personal factors at best. – Gerry Feb 19 '13 at 12:21
You may want to rephrase your question so that it is less of shopping advice. For example, 'what effect does the VT-d feature on the i7 have on virtualizataion versus the i5 without it' - rather than 'is VT-d and other features worth $200 to me'. Just changing the title may help. – jmlumpkin Feb 19 '13 at 13:33
I agree with Gerry and JM that we totally discourage questions about "Is X worth the $YYY Apple charges over Z?" unless there is good technical merit. I see the merit here and will try to "soften" the money side - this gets at a great answer / how to measure the difference in two CPU on shipping product. It's not pie in the sky speculation, but about shipping product. – bmike Feb 19 '13 at 14:14

2 Answers 2

Apple systems do not support VT-d, except for Xserve and Mac Pro, at least to my knowledge. This is a framework typically used by hypervisor virtualization platforms. However, the Macs can generally take advantage of VT-x, and is part of why they run x64 VMs so well. There is no way to configure either system in EFI, as Apple locks this part of the firmware down pretty well.

The feature that might benefit you the most is the hyper-threading that i7 affords.

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What is your source for the information that "Apple systems do not support VT-d, except for Xserve and Mac Pro"? Clearly the CPU support is there. Is chipset support missing, or what? Thanks. – ruief Aug 17 '14 at 20:21

So there are a bunch of comments about the merit of the question which it seems you e taken the time to look at and assess. I'll jump right in to starting the discussion on upgrading.

Firstly, to be clear you're looking at a new early 2015 13" MBP (I assume you're not interested in a 15", which can support quad core processors and add a whole new layer to the discussion).

Apple's tech specs can be hard to track down, but it looks to me like you got the same processors I did. The i7 supports a turbo up to 3.1 GHz and 4 MB of cache, with the i5s boasting 2.1 and 2.7 GHz processors and 3 MB of cache. You're right in that the i7 supports VT-d, but you'll need some fairly heavy duty software to take advantage of it. The answer about VT-d is that it really depends what sort of virtualization software you're using, my guess being that unless you want to use expensive commercial software, Oracle's VirtualBox will be the first to support that (though I have no reason to expect this, or know when).

This brings us to the next level: is the i7 worth it over the i5 (will there be notable performance gains)? For you (and others with this question), probably. The increased cache, better cache coherency, and outright speed increase will be what you notice. Being that all the processors for the 13" are dual core, I was unable to find evidence that there is any significant difference between hyper threading moving up and down Intel's CPU line (unlikely, they all use the same basic core).

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This question was asked in 2013, so the OP is not talking about the early 2015 models – BudgieUK Jul 19 at 13:43
Boom! Good call (foolish on my part). I'll leave my answer as it stands, it's still relevant and none of the information has changed, to my knowledge. – agentroadkill Jul 19 at 13:45
I have been caught by that myself ... Halfway through writing something to them realise the question is 3 years old ;-) – BudgieUK Jul 19 at 13:46
* sigh * the difficulties of StachExchange on iOS – agentroadkill Jul 19 at 13:47

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