HiTek Review

A tons of reviews and tips about technology product, software and hardware.

Monthly Archives: June 2009

Blog template update

Long live Google Analytics
For those how didn’t know, I use Google Analytics to keep track of the popularity of this blog but, sometime, it pay off directly to you; just like this time. When I first started this blog, I decided to use the most compatible layout possible specially when talking about screen resolution. With the help of Google Analytics, I discovered that 99% of the visits are done on a 1024+ horizontal resolution monitor. That mean that I can update the layout to use that space. So I did! This is my first post on a 904 px large text area! This benefit many post like this one which use big tables. I hope you like the new layout. I might do some change again if it better suit the audience.

MacBook Pro 15" with SSD – Benchmarks

Updated 30 June 2009 13:20

Benchmarking of the MacBook Pro 15″
Last time we talked about virtual performances. Now, it’s time to talk about the real stuff. Let’s do some real world benchmarks! I’ll start with a basic boot time comparison between the Mac Pro, the MacBook Pro 13″ with standard HDD and the MacBook Pro 15″ with SSD. I’ll then test multiple applications startup at the same time and the lunch time of some major applications like Photoshop. The specs of both every computers are supposed to be on my blog.

MacBook Pro 15″
Apple SSD
MacBook 13″ Alu
5400 RPM HDD
Mac Pro 2008
4x Seagate 7200.11 HDDs
Boot time
Fastest 30.624 sec. 48.121 sec. 73.806 sec.
Slowest 30.989 sec. 52.506 sec. 82.113 sec.
Average of 3 30.825 sec. 50.07 sec. 77.467 sec.
Application startup
Safari 4.0.1 0.678 sec. 2.231 sec. 2.124 sec.
iPhoto 8.0.3 1.864 sec. 7.238 sec. 9.877 sec.
iTunes 8.2 1.315 sec. 7.192 sec. 5.322 sec.
iMovie 8.0.3 3.391 sec. 11.538 sec. 6.394 sec.
Photoshop 10.0.1 3.732 sec. 12.372 sec. 6.64 sec.
Pages 4.0.2 1.023 sec. 9.715 sec. 3.25 sec.
All of the above
6.238 sec. 64.245 sec. 24.116 sec.

Wow! I’d like to add that the boot time is the physical boot time. It combine EFI and OS X boot time. The system was considered booted when the desktop, dock and menu bar was visible and accepting interactions. The time for the EFI to startup is about 12 seconds. It should remain the same for whatever MacBook Pro you have. On the other side, OS X 10.5.7 did boot in 18 seconds which is blazing fast! The Mac Pro EFI needed about 40 seconds to power up since the RAID card start evey disk one after the other to reduce power stress on the power supply. Even with this 28 seconds gap, the MacBook Pro surpassed the Mac Pro by 18.642 seconds.

An other interesting fact is that it take half the time to start every applications at the same time compared to starting them individually. This fact point that the mass storage device (Apple SSD in this case) is not the bottle-neck of this computer. The fact that it is exactly half the time shows us that the CPU is the one slowing everything. When I started multiple applications at once, I took advantage of it’s multi-core architecture thus executing 2x more information at the same time.

The SSD option is definitely worth it. If you want a fast, silent and tough computer, it’s the first thing to get. I can’t imagine what one of those SSDs can do in the Mac Pro. It would surely be a screamer! Let’s say that it’s defenitly in my plan to do so. I will probably post a follow up when it will happen. In the mean time, let’s wait for the videos of those benchmarks and the review of my new iPhone 3G S. See you next week.

Update 30 June 2009 11:52
Those benchmarks might appear incomplete to you so, if you are interested in a specific value that is not present in the list, just ask using whatever means of communication you’d prefer. I’m also open to suggestions about hardware comparison.

iPhone 3GS upgrade in Canada

The iPhone 3GS pricing just went live
Today, Rogers and Fido announced their pricing for the new iPhone 3GS. They will cost 199 CAD for the 16 GB version and 299 CAD for the 32 GB version. Or, are they? That’s if you’re ready to get involved in a pretty big adventure since those come not with 2 years contract but 3 years contract! Well… Ok… It’s not that bad if you really think about it since you’ll obviously be able to upgrade next year to the newer version. Well… Kinda… What they don’t tell you is that it’s not because you pay 125 CAD a month to get a basic plan that they will do you some favors.

This is the exact situation I am with my iPhone 3G right now. I have a plan that I consider basic when compared to our USA counterpart (details follow) and they are asking me to pay the full price to get a 3GS! What does that tell? Well it make me feel just as someone who didn’t gave them just about 1 500 bucks during the last and want an iPhone. That’s it! I have to pay the same price as someone who want an iPhone 3GS without any plan, no 3 years engagement, ANYTHING!

This is just outrageous!
Why the heck would I have to pay 800 CAD for an iPhone 3GS where you can get the same damn thing for 500 USD just 200 km south! It just doesn’t make sense. And on top of that, Canadian buyers need to endure a three year contract with a company that will do anything to suck up you money. We already have to pay close to 3 times more than in the US to get a plan that is close to interesting. This is just outrageous!

My iPhone 3G
This is my actual situation. I’m stuck in a 3 year engagement (about 1 year done) and paying roughly 124.67 CAD each month for this plan :

Call time (day) 300 minutes 45.00 $
Call time (evening) unlimited
Call time (weekend) unlimited
Call time (incoming) unlimited
Call time (waiting) 2 000 minutes
Data Plan 6 GB* 30.00 $
Visual Voicemail yes 8.00 $
SMS 2 500 20.00 $
Show called ID yes
MMS none 1.50 $ per messages
Network Access fee yes 6.95 $

*: This plan was only available for 3 month after the release of the iPhone 3G.

What do you think?
Do you think, just like me, than Rogers and Fido should not have to right to do this kind of thing? That what they are doing is just like big gas companies? I want to hear you opinion and even more if you think you might have a solution to this plague we are suffering.

Update 2009-06-17 20:43
I just talked to a fido representative and she said that even if Fido’s offer look final, it is not. They still haven decided on an upgrade pricing so they prefer to do not talk about it right now. She also said to ask an other time next week for further information.

Update 2009-06-27 14:21
Well, Rogers are offering them at the same price I stated earlier but Fido stuck with a very uninteresting pricing. They give us a 100 CAD rebate which is nice but still pretty low. Anyway, I decided to get my hand on an iPhone 3G S 32GB for review on this blog. It should get here in about 1-2 weeks.

CSS3, the Internet Explorer way

I just finished reading a very nice blog post about features that can give CSS3 to a web site and I stumbled upon a never ending bunch of comment about how Internet Explorer was forcing web developers to stick with the old CSS2.1. I couldn’t resist and I made a post about it myself. But where the majority of people would only yell at IE, I proposed a possible solution that would unfortunately not solve but help solving the issue. I find it important for people tho know about this so I decided to post it on my blog :

It seems many people hate Internet Explorer and this is good but, why is there so much hate and so less changes? Believe it or not, this is all caused by Windows Vista! Let me explain : Can any one tell me what is the version of IE shipped with Windows XP? Yes! IE 6.

Many people used the “Vista is slow” excuse to not upgrade because they where not able to get a good working copy of it on p2p networks. So they’ve kept their good old cracked XP. Then, here’s the problem. Microsoft prohibit the use of Windows update AND Microsoft update for non genuine WINDOWS users. As a result, these users can’t even install IE 7. Ho yes, they could install an other browser but the fact is that most of them don’t even know what is a web browser, they just use The Internet Explorer.

See? A mix of file sharing, security protections and lack of knowlege cause this masive user base of Internet Explorer. I propose two solutions :

First, forcing Microsoft to remove Internet Explorer from Windows. This is probably not a very good solution. It would indeed force people to learn what is a web browser but then, how would they get one? You can’t just open IE and then go to the Firefox/Apple/Google/Opera/etc. website since you don’t have a web browser. The only solution would be to provide users with an in-store CD version of the browser that would cost a fortune to produce. Removing IE form Windows would also require an extensive rewrite of the OS since it is using IE’s engine about everywhere. And worse, to keep the market fair, Apple who’s shipping Safari with is OS would have to remove it and the same with Linux/Firefox too!

Second, removing the need for a genuine version of Windows to upgrade to newer version of Internet Explorer, forcing the browser to look for update each week and installing those silently without anyway to abort the installation. This solution is much more simpler, doesn’t require a big bunch a money and would help killing old web browser like IE 6.

Since many companie still require IE 6 (like every medical facility in the Quebec province that, beileve it or not, still use Windows XP SP0!) there sould be a way using Group Policy to disable or limit the updating process to let’s say version x and less.

Now you’re thinking : “Why provide a bypass solution when you just said that there souldn’t have anyway to abord the process? Instead, souldn’t we force those company to upgrade their web-software?” NO! The idea is to provide the big majority of people with no way to bypass the update process and provide a way to the IT administrators, who know what they are doing, to keep things working in their Intranet if needed.

It’s all about making money here and I think the second solution is the best to expect.

You might have recognize the first solution. It’s what the European Union expected from Microsoft to do with the release of Windows 7. as you can see, they obviously didn’t took the time to think about the repercussions before putting their demands on the public place.

I hope my solution could solve this problem in a more simple way. In the mean time, I’ll use a little custom, very clever, solution to make people upgrade to the latest version of Internet Explorer. My goal is not to make you switch on an other web browser. It’s just to make you realize how much stuck in the past some of you can be. From now on, any one who’s going to any one of my website will see a little popup “à la active-x plugin installer” at the top of the screen if they are not using the latest version of Internet Explorer. More information can be found here.

The original blog post

MacBook Pro 15" with SSD

Comming back
I finaly get the time to write this review. For those how might want to know, all my exams went very well and I have only one session left to do. Anyway, enough small talk and let’s get started! I’m sure can’t can’t stand the wait.

CPU for Pro needs
If it’s games, converting a bunch of video files or running VMware, you’ll find the T9550 very responsive. It should not be a very big bottle neck in that system. I often run many softwares at the same time (including Windows in a VM) and it generally don’t go over 80%.

I would not recommend the 2.4 in anycase. There is good chances that you’ll find the 2.4 MacBook Pro barelly enough for what you need. After all, we are in the Pro line here. Those are designed to do hard work. If you want a MacBook, the 2.4 model is probably the one that will give you the most for your money.

I’d say that the 2.93 gHz might be a bit overkill for this kind of computer. Even if you’re working with videos, You will proably lack of memory way before you’ll need a bigger processor.

Forgetting the lack of memory
The basic configuration come with 2 GB of blazing fast DDR3 memory which is nice but barelly enough to see how OS X can work at peek efficiency. If you get the small model, at least, take the 4 GB of memory option; Specialy if you plan on running VMs on your computer. On the other side, if you are very… hardcore at multi-tasking, you’ll want 8 GB of ram.

Many people will stop at the Apple website and take the 17″ just for that. WRONG! Never, absolutely never trust Apple specs! The 2.4 gHz is limitted to 4 GB of memory but the 2.66 does support 8 GB. You will find the memory kit on third parties websites and it generally cost 640 CAD. See? Always double check; Never trust Apple specs.

SSD for Super Storage Device
The MacBook Pro come with a 250 GB or 320 GB depending of your configuration choise. But as every Mac, there is a way to suck up evey bit of power you can get from the machine and replace it by an SSD. If the majority of people is still not convinced by SSD’s life time or prices, I am. It’s this kind of thing you don’t know how you manage to live whitout it before have one in your hands.

Apple use Samsung SSD’s which are in the world fastest and more robust ones. You have the choice between two options: the 128 GB and the 256 GB. For the first one, even if it look small, you will find it more than enough as long as you don’t intend to use boot camp. If you do, you should take the 256 GB one.

There is an other reason why you should try to priorise the 256 GB SSD. Here’s a rumor many people have heard: SSD do not slow down even if they are full. That’s not true. Well, at least, not completely true. Yes, read speed will never go down even if there is 1 byte of free space lest on the drive. Write speed, on the contrary will be affected. To prevent SSD’s from fast degradation, every sector is written on a random place in the drive. The more used sector there is, the more time it will take to find a free spot. SSD’s seek time are less than a tenth of a mili-second when empty but this process can make it go as slow as an HDD when full.

The best balance of used/free space would be about 1:1. That means that if you care about your write speed, you’ll need to keep about 55 GB free on the 128 GB SSD and 110 GB free on the 256 GB model. If you need more, you should check on what is really important and but the rest of you data on an external hard drive.

Two graphic cards?
Yes, many people think the second graphic processor is optional but it’s not the case. NVidia developped a technology called hybrid SLI which was designed to boost battery life on laptop that use powerfull GPU. It work by switching from one GPU to an other when needed. In the MacBook Pro’s case, it can give you 2 hours more of battery when doing casual work. Unfortunatly, because of software limitations in OS X, you need to do the change manually and to logoff after that. But rest assured, the 9400M is strong enough to handle most of your HD video playback and small games. Since I bought it, I didn’t needed to switch to the 9600M more than two times (one to be sure that it work, a second one to do the benchmakrs).

Our config
Do you like specs? Everybody like specs! Let’s have specs!

CPU Intel T9550
Frequency 2.66 gHz
FSB 1066 mHz
Cache 6 MB
Memory 4 GB
Storage 128 GB Solid State Drive
Graphics (1) NVidia 9400M with 256 MB of shared system memory
Graphics (2) NVidia 9600M with 512 MB of dedicated GDDR3 memory

Here come a little surprise. As I didn’t have any old MacBook Pro close to me, I had to find a replacement. I knew that this MacBook Pro was a killer but… I have to say… I didn’t even see that one coming. Here we are, MacBook Pro vs Mac Pro. Yes, you didn’t hallucinated, I did say that I will compare this little laptop to a monster and I have to say, they fit pretty well with the other.

Here are the links of the official benchmarks:
Mac Pro (early 2008)
MacBook Pro 15″ (early 2009) using the 9400M GPU
MacBook Aluminum 13″ (early 2009)

Here’s a resume of the results with a little explanation from myself. I will take the result from the 9400M since they are more accurate.

Component MacBook Pro Mac Pro Details
CPU 179.47 188.34 This one is a bit tricky. It doesn’t test the real computational power of the processor. It test how it handle it in a single threaded environment. It gives a pretty good way to show how architecture difference can influence the result.
Thread 317.13 831.36 This test look at how much power it can get from a multi-threaded environment. Here, you can see the big difference between the two computers. I never saw a benchmark that give valid result on the first shot. Here, the results should be much higher on the Mac Pro side since the xBench is limited to 4 thread.
Memory 186.12 202.00 The result is a direct comparison of DDR3 dual channel vs DDR2 quad channel. You can see that the DDR3 at 1066 gHz is a very good gain over the old MacBook Pro’s that used about the same memory as the Mac Pro but with only two channels. In fact, you can see that the new MacBook Pro’s memory is close to twice as fast.
Graphic suite
– Quartz 219.06 278.33 This test is about the same as a Direct2D test. It represent how the graphic card will render basic images, text and shape on the screen. The results are just as expected. The 8800 GT and the 9800 GT have the same overall performance so there’s nothing strange at seeing a 9400M GT under a 8000 GT.
– Open GL 174.20 181.60 This is an other strange result. How come a little 9400M GT is running as fast as a 8800 GT. I really have no clue. There is no reason for this result to be so close on both sides.
Storage suite Ah! The interesting part.
– Sequential 73.80 275.81 As I say earlier, SSD’s benchmarks are very tricky to read. Here, we see that the Sequential read/write of the disk is way slower than the one from the Mac Pro. Here’s the little surprise. The Mac Pro use a Caldigit RAID card with 4 Seagate 7200.11 500 GB HDD in a RAID 5 setup. It can read an write about 270 MB/s but remember there is FOUR HDD here not just one. The details of this test show that in average, the MacBook Pro SSD is about the same speed as one Seagate 7200.11 HDD.
– Random 108.05 40.95 That’s where we can really the SSD shine. See? Not even 4 of the faster HDD’s in the world (actually in the top 10) can come close to one single SSD. The read and write speed are up to 16x faster than only one of the HDD.

There is no way a simple laptop cpu could compare to the dual Xeon on the Mac Pro so what went wrong? In fact it seams xBench has a little trouble with newer computer. This little guy could not even peek both machine CPU’s for a tenth of a second. I don’t know how it test CPU speed but it’s probably not a good way and there might be some serious issues in the other tests too. So How do you have to interpret those results. Just say that everywhere you could do more if you do it more time simultaneously, the result will double on the Mac Pro’s side but should stay quite the same on the MacBook Pro.

Now let’s talk a bit more about the storage test suites. The Apple SSD is as fast as one of the best HDD in sequential access and is up to 16x faster than the same HDD in random access. An other important detail, the default 320 GB HDD in the MacBook Pro has about half the speed than the other HDD’s used in this test. That means that by adding a little $300 to your budget, you’ll get a 32x speed boost in your every day use. You should then choose this option over 8 GB of ram or a faster processor since it has a better value.

If you plan on getting a MacBook Pro, take the SSD. This is final. It’s not even a choice, it’s a necessity. Next week, I’ll add some other benchmarks in this review. They are real life example so they take more time to plan and process than any other benchmarks. Those tests will include a boot time comparison with the Mac Pro and it’s monstrous RAID array and a laptop that use a HDD from the same series as the standard MacBook Pro.

Update 30 June 2009 11:47
I finally posted some benchmark results. If you are interested in a specific value that is not present in the list, just ask using whatever means of communication you’d prefer. I’m also open to suggestions about hardware comparison.

See you next week