I'm interested in purchasing the 15" model of the latest generation (Mar 2011) of Macbook Pros. They list two variants that differ $400 in price. As far as I can tell, these are the only differences between them.

  1. 2.0 GHz i7 processor ($1800 version) vs 2.2 GHz i7 processor ($2200 version)
  2. 500 GB hard drive ($1800 version) vs 750 GB hard drive ($2200 version)
  3. 6490M (with 256MB GDDR5) graphics card ($1800 version) vs 6750M (with 1GB GDDR5) graphics card ($2200 version)

Option #2 doesn't make a huge difference to me, so my question is this: for what types of applications will the difference processors have an observable effect in performance? For which types of applications will the different graphics cards have an observable effect in performance?

  • Always go for a higher speed processor, so that it can be used for future. Also please list out what types of programs you use with this new Mac, is it just email, music and movies or use any complex applications like Adobe Photoshop, Apple Aperture etc...
    – garikapati
    Mar 10, 2011 at 17:00
  • @garikapati You're asking me what type of applications I use so you can say whether the hardward makes a difference. That's not exactly what I was asking. My question is in general, for what types of applications will this hardware make an observable difference? Unlike @Split71, I don't think this is a subjective question just because I'm talking about applications in general. Mar 10, 2011 at 18:42
  • This question is 'Subjective', per AskDifferent norms are considered. But, to answer straight, high CPU and GPU intensive applications like Photoshop and Aperture or any video editing, Gaming etc.. will make sense for higher capacitive graphics card in Mac. Hope this helps.
    – garikapati
    Mar 10, 2011 at 18:51

3 Answers 3


The two processors Seem to be:



and the differences are more than just clock speed - the faster one also has faster memory bandwidth, along with plain old 'more features' such as VT-d Virtualization for directed IO, Execute disable, Quicksync video, wireless display, mywifi, 4G wimax... but what it means for those things to have built in support in the CPU, I don't know.

I'd predict that the memory bandwidth, which is about 20% higher in the faster chip, would have more of an observable effect than the 10% faster CPU, but that unless you have an intensive use planned the difference wont be worth much worrying about.

Far better to look at an SSD instead of a normal hard disk, that will provide a big shift in the feel of how responsive everything is - the hard disk is the biggest bottleneck in normal computers these days. (Where a hard disk can shift 20-40Mb/s sustained, an SSD can shift 100-200Mb/s sustained. Where a hard disk can handle 100 operations per second, an SSD can handle many hundreds or a few thousands).

For which types of applications will the different graphics cards have an observable effect in performance?

  • Graphics heavy games, racing and running around shooting, flying and the like (not cards, dice, board, web/flash games, etc).
  • Graphics heavy apps like architecture modelling, 3D scene rendering, Pixar style film rendering.
  • Currently niche apps which make use of the graphics card as a spare processor - at the moment this means things like distributed computing project SETI@Home, and PowerDirector 7 video encoding software. However, there is a push in the industry to make this more widespread, but that's probably still too far away from every day uses to bother about for another year or three.

My vote is that unless you have a particular intensive workkload or unusual use which you haven't mentioned, the 2.0Ghz will be fine, and if you can spare the money then see if you can find a machine with a good SSD to compare, and consider one as an upgrade, for an everyday snappiness boost. (Apple supplied, or aftermarket).

  • Although now I check your profile - PHD in Bioinformatics? Interests in solving problems with "large numbers of small overlapping reads" and "organizing a vast amount of information"? That sounds like just the sort of niche where the alternative use of video cards I mentioned could be beneficial - see nvidia.com/object/bio_info_life_sciences.html for example; the 6750M is from ATI, they have a similar technology - see the OpenCL section here: apple.com/macosx/technology - so give some thought to this and whether it would benefit you. Mar 11, 2011 at 5:29

This question is so subjective because there is nothing specific being asked. Let me break it down for you.

How much does the move from 2.0 GHZ to 2.2 GHZ improve performance? 200 MHz is the obvious answer here. Improve performance, depends, chances are you probably won't notice any difference in that aspect.

How about the different graphics cards?

Obvious difference being the 768MB difference in memory in the cards. Subjective because who knows what your use is going to be, i can tell you for browsing/email/office type products you'll never see the difference.

Are these improvements limited to certain types of applications?

What certain type of applications? Once again how can you answer this if you don't give anybody a specific area/application that you plan on using.

What do I need to keep in mind when comparing these specs?

Keep in mind in terms of what? Obviously you know the cost difference and some of the numerical differences, but what is it that you are actually asking here?

Sorry if this comes off harsh, but it's too vague and subjective right now to give you any type of concrete answer.


If you will use your mac for daily basis (not programming CUDA or compilers or so) then you will not feel the difference at all. Investing in better equipment especially in CPU will pay off when your mac will get older (>3yrs?). At that point it will still have a value for you.

I have 4yrs old 2.6GHz Core Duo and it still works great for me (I use it all the time). It was investment for me, because I calculated that if I save only a 30 minuts a week by faster program compilation the money are worth it (3.5k$ at that time).

I have 3yrs macbook 2.0GHz and it starts to be clumsy. It is limited by the performance of the memory subsystem.

The question therefore is if the 400$ spending now will have value for you after 2-3 years? If you think that you will replace the computer earlier then do not bother.

  • I can just add, that I solved (a bit) a problem with macbook with faster memory modules. I bought low latency CL4 memory modules. Unfortunately, they are still 677MHz and you can feel it, especially if you are using some heavy data numerics (like big matrixes in matlab). These modules already costed me extra $$ and this is only temp solution. This is also why I will upgrade my iPad1 to iPad2 (I can do that for little money).
    – name
    Mar 11, 2011 at 9:49

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