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Surface Book i7 vs. MacBook Pro: Fight!

Gordon Mah Ung | Dec. 7, 2016
Ali vs. Frazier, Red Sox vs. Yankees, Kirk vs. Khan. And of course, Mac vs. PC.

Blender 2.78 Performance

The last “work”-related graphics test we’ll run is Blender 2.78. This a free rendering application popular in a lot of indie movies. For a test render file, I used Mike Pan’s BMW Benchmark and set Blender to ray-trace the scene on the GPU rather than the CPU. The result is, frankly, beyond ugly. The Surface Book i7 finished in about eight minutes, and the XPS 15 took another two more minutes. The MacBook Pro 15 took more than an hour to complete the task.

This doesn’t mean the MacBook Pro 15’s Radeon Pro 450 is a dog. The other benchmarks should tell you that the Apple isn’t that bad in some tasks. Still, this kind of performance disparity indicates a serious problem at the OS or driver level, or something with this compile of Blender. Unless or until that mystery is solved, you’ll want to do your Blender renders on a PC laptop.

macbook pro 15 blender 2.78a bmw gpu
Something isn’t right on the MacBook Pro 15 because while the Surface Book i7 took eight minutes to render a scene, the MacBook Pro 15 struggled for an hour. An hour.

Tomb Raider performance

The last graphics test I ran is Tomb Raider. It’s an older game available in both OSX and Windows and includes a built-in benchmark. While I could set the graphics settings the same on both platforms, I couldn’t quite sync the resolutions. Depending on the laptop, I could set the horizontal resolution at 1680-, 1650-, or 1600x1050 (the latter, for the Macs). The graphics setting on all of the laptops was Normal. 

If you can’t bear to look, don’t: The Surface Book i7 and XPS 15 soundly thrashed the MacBook Pro 15. I don’t think the Radeon Pro 460 would make a difference here, either. If you want gaming performance at any decent levels, no surprise—buy a PC.

macbook pro 15 tomb raider 16x10 normal
The GPU performance of the MacBook Pro 15 fared better in OpenGL tests. In Tomb Raider, it’s far, far behind the Surface Book i7 and XPS 15.

Battery life

The final test is for all-important battery life. I used the same 4K-resolution, open-source Tears of Steel short video, looping continuously. On the Windows laptops, I used the Movies & TV player, and on OSX Sierra, I used QuickTime. I wanted to use iTunes, as Apple does, but there appears to be no way to loop video in iTunes. 

All of the laptops had their screens set at 250 to 260 nits in brightness. All laptops had the adaptive brightness setting turned off. All were tested with Wi-Fi disabled and with earbuds plugged into the analog ports. One thing to note: The Windows laptops are left in their default power settings, which means they use their last bits of battery life to shut off unused apps and slightly dim the screen. OSX was set not to dim the display on battery—otherwise, it immediately dims the screen once unplugged. 

 

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