I’ve owned PCs and Macs for well over two decades. Which is faster? Mac or PC? There was a time when your PC was measured by how fast the CPU was.
There were Mac vs. PC megahertz wars, then gigahertz wars. Faster was better. And more expensive. Today, Macs run the same CPU’s as high end PCs. Does speed matter? Why not?
That implies, since Apple uses Intel chips inside, that speed is no longer much of an issue for the average personal computer buyer or user (assuming it ever was; users and media pundits and geeks being different creatures).
Just how fast is your Mac today? If you’re running an older PowerPC model, even the high powered G5 models, well, slower—at least, slower than most Macs running Intel chips.
Assuming you bought your Mac in the past couple of years and it’s got Intel inside, then your Mac probably runs quite well, certainly not the dog that was inherent in the Freescale PPC chips in the original Mac mini and Mac notebooks.
How do you know if your Mac is fast enough to do the job you want? If you’re not complaining about it, then it’s probably fast enough. Macs run Windows at least as fast as PCs running Windows, so how fast a computer is today is just not much of a consideration for buyers.
Every now and then Macworld runs a benchmark test of a new Mac, if anything, just to let us know that newer models are faster than older models.
The geekier among us pay attention to Mac sites such as Bare Feats which always has a new Mac or graphics card or hard drive to test, running a number of benchmark tests to determine what’s slow and what’s fast.
There was a time, which ended about two years ago, with the advent of Intel’s Core 2 Duo CPU’s in even the low end Mac mini and MacBook, that I ran various benchmark tests to determine how fast my Mac actually was compared to other Macs.
The Mac has three major benchmarking utilities which test various components on your Mac. Through the years I’ve used Cinebench, Xbench, and iBench to see how fast my newest Mac was compared to older Macs.
These benchmark utilities are full of little tests which measure CPU performance, hard drive copy and read write capability, the speed of your Mac’s RAM, your Mac’s graphic performance, and so on.
The problem with these benchmark utilities is three fold. First, they often vary the results even on similar hardware, resulting in modest but consistent inconsistency.
Second, the benchmarking seldom has anything to do with what Mac users actually do with their Macs. If you’re into Photoshop files with a hundred layers of filters then raw processing speed is important. Otherwise, Safari and Mail and iWork run pretty much the same on a $599 Mac mini as they do on a $4,000 octo core MacPro.
Third, it doesn’t matter because most of us cannot tell much difference between the various Mac models and CPUs. iTunes may import music faster on a MacPro than a Mac mini, but both are much faster than models of the past. Much faster.
Compressing or converting a video clip in iMovie may be faster in the high end iMac than the low end MacBook, but again, the differences are measured in a few seconds, not bathroom break minutes.
Our geeky Mac friends will point out that games on a MacPro are much faster than games on a MacBook, and rightly so given the price differential, and the total CPU core comparison. The question most Mac users would ask is, “Does it matter?”
That’s the point. Most of us use our Macs for the following: Email, Browsing, Word Processing, Spreadsheets, iPhoto and iTunes for photos and music, some iMovie movies, and maybe even some graphics work in Photoshop Elements.
After that, most of what we use our Macs for are applications and utilities specific to a particular purpose or need we have, and have little to do with raw processing power.
A year ago, Tonio Loewald in MacApper stated, “It’s Time for a Decent Mac Benchmark.” He discusses some of the inherent problems in the various benchmark utilities, but doesn’t ask or answer the overriding question, “Does it matter?”
Except for the very few who have a penchant for statistics or a specialized need for speed, how fast your Mac is today is no longer an issue. They’re fast enough. There are enough Mac models that those with the need for speed can be satisfied.
The rest of us get affordable Macs that do music, movies, photos, iChat, Skype, and graphics with ease, not to mention the daily chores of email, browsing, writing, and whatever else makes owning a Mac a pleasure.
Benchmarks only matter to those who require benchmarks, not to the average Mac user who is far more concerned about communication and managing, storing, saving, sharing files.