Monday, September 28, 2015

Mac vs Mac

Looking for a computer you can take with you? Here are your two basic choices…
Macbook vs MacBook Pro


Apple’s new MacBook is designed for portability over everything else. It’s just 13mm thick, weighs under 1kg and manages to pack a 12-inch Retina display and full-size keyboard into a smaller frame than the 11-inch MacBook Air. Its battery lasted 7.5 hours in our extensive tests, and due to the fanless design, it’s exceptionally quiet too. It even sports a Force Touch trackpad for even more control when you click.

There are compromises – a less-capable processor, but you won’t notice it in everyday use because the flash storage and 8GB RAM mean OS X and apps like Pages and your web browser work quickly and flawlessly. However, it will struggle with more demanding tasks, and does occasionally stutter in surprising places, such as using Google Maps in Safari.

If you’re looking for more power from a thin and light notebook, then the MacBook is outclassed by its Air sibling, but if you want something feathery light that will run basic tasks all day while unplugged from the mains, this is it.


Capacities 256/512GB (SSD)
Display 12” (2304x1440, Retina)
Other 1.1-1.3GHz dual-core Intel Core M, 8GB RAM, Intel HD Graphics 5300

MacBook Pro

The MacBook Pro sees Apple successfully square the circle of portability and performance. While its 13-inch models with Retina display step things up from the less capable MacBook, cast your glance at the recently refreshed 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display if you want the power of a desktop on the move; its quad-core processor may be an older generation (Haswell), but it still delivers comparable performance to the 5K iMac.

The MacBook Pro’s flash storage is exceptionally quick, and graphics performance is also decent, with the top-end model sporting an AMD Radeon R9 M370X chip with 2GB discrete memory.

Apple’s even managed to eke more life from the battery at the same time as boosting performance – in our real-life tests, the 15-inch model lasted for over six hours, which isn’t far short of the 13-inch MacBook Pro. And while it’s twice the weight of the entry-level MacBook, the 15-inch MacBook Pro is still svelte enough that you’ll be able to carry it around.


Capacities 256GB-1TB (SSD)
Display 13” (2560x1600, Retina) or 15” (2880x1800, Retina)
Other 8-16GB RAM, 2.7-3.1GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 and Iris Graphics 6100 (13” models), 2.2-2.8GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 and Iris Pro or AMD Radeon graphics (15” models)

MacBook benchmarks

Handbrake video encoding test

Batman: Arkham City @1080p

Battery life test

If you’re looking for a desktop with real grunt, one of these Macs will fit the bill

iMac with 5K Retina display

Need a more complete package? When it comes to a desktop – including a gob-smacking Retina 5K display – then choose this iMac. Although the new entry-level 3.3GHz model squeezes the price down to £1,599, there are too many compromises – a hard drive by default, and a less powerful graphics chip – so the 3.5GHz model remains the one to look at; it ships with a Fusion Drive as standard, while the AMD Radeon R9 M290X graphics ensure it’s great for games.

The 5K iMac also has an access panel in the back for upgrading the RAM, so while it only ships with 8GB as standard, you’ll save money by upgrading the memory yourself – you can get 32GB of it from Crucial for £20 less than the price Apple will charge you for 16GB.

The large, 5K Retina display opens up a wealth of possibilities – run multiple apps side-by-side, for example, or compare lots of photos at once – and thanks to the powerful spec, you’ll get a long-lasting machine.


Capacities 1-3TB (hard drive or Fusion Drive), 256GB-1TB (SSD)
Display 27” (5120x2880, Retina 5K)
Other 3.3-3.5GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 or 4.0GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, 8-32GB RAM

Mac Pro

The Mac Pro is not for the average, everyday user. Despite its new cut-down chassis (it’s just 25.1cm high and weighs 5kg) the Mac Pro is packed full of cutting-edge components designed to deliver astonishing performance. It’s aimed firmly at creative professionals who need to crunch a serious amount of numbers as part of their craft.

To this end, the Mac Pro is more than qualified – Xeon processors, dual AMD graphics cards and support for up to 64GB RAM ensure it delivers on all fronts, and the PCIe-based flash storage keeps it running smoothly. You supply your own monitor, and the Mac Pro supports up to three 4K displays.

There’s no longer room for expansion cards in this model, but six Thunderbolt and four USB 3.0 ports handle external add-ons. However, it’s here we hit the Mac Pro’s biggest issue: it’s sorely overdue for an update. With Thunderbolt 3.0 just around the corner, we strongly recommend you hold off until Apple finally unveils the next-generation model.


Capacities 256GB-1TB (PCIe-based SSD)
Display N/A
Other Quad-core 3.7GHz, 6-core 3.5GHz, 8-core 3.0GHz or 12-core 2.7GHz Intel Xeon processor; 12-64GB RAM; 2x AMD FirePro D300 GPUs with 2GB VRAM or 2x D500 GPUs with 3GB VRAM, or 2x FirePro D700 GPUs with 6GB VRAM

Mac benchmarks

Mac Handbrake video encoding test

Mac Batman: Arkham City @1080p

Geekbench 3 (multicore)

By Nick Peers

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