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February Mac BYTE Benchmarks

BYTE Senior Tech Editor at Large

According to preliminary BYTE low-level benchmarks, the new Macs introduced 10-Feb-93 are performance winners. Internally, they indicate interesting directions that Apple is taking. I'll avoid some technical details, since you've probably read numerous articles on these machines already.

The Color Classic's 16 MHz 68030, 10 MB RAM ceiling, and built-in 512- by 384-pixel display sounds suspiciously like the feature set of the Mac LC II. This happens to be the case: according to developer notes, the Color Classic places most of the LC II's components into a compact Mac chassis. The low-level benchmarks confirm this: the Color Classic's performance is virtually identical to a Mac LC II. The exception is that, unlike the Mac LC II, the Color Classic can have a 68882 FPU installed.

The Mac LC III posts nearly the same performance as a Mac IIci. Note that the system we tested lacked an FPU. This is decent amount of horsepower to pack into the LC's small frame, and it should continue as one of the top sellers in Apple's product line. I've talked to several LC/LC II owners who plan to purchase the LC III upgrade when they can.

Now we get into interesting territory. Compare the test results of the Centris 610 to that of the Mac IIfx. As you can see, the 20 MHz 68040-based Centris 610 easily outguns the 40 MHz, 68030-based Mac IIfx. The floating point performance is very good, especially since the Centris 610 I tested had an FPU-less 68LC040 processor. (However, the IIfx lacked the boost of Omega SANE in its floating-point calculations.) This computer is definitely the answer to the "I can buy a killer 486 system for around two grand" argument.

The 25 MHz Centris 650 just edges ahead of the 25 MHz Quadra 700. Several design changes help. First, Apple finally cleaned up the memory sub-system, making it more efficient. They did this using an interleaved memory design in which data occupies adjacent memory banks, and on memory reads the hardware steps through these banks rapidly. The result is that burst reads eliminate two clock cycles on each initial address setup and for each successive read. Apple claims a 10 to 15 percent performance boost with interleaved memory, and on the average, that's what the BYTE CPU benchmarks saw (about 13 percent between the Centris 650 and the Quadra 700). Also, the I/O bus on the Quadra 700/900/950 has gone away: it's been folded into a custom ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit) called the IOSB. The IOSB is clocked at CPU speeds, so on the Quadra 800 most I/O functions operate at 33 MHz. (An exception is Ethernet, since these transceivers are clocked at 16 MHz.) Finally, the engineers eliminated one wait state from the built-in video's VRAM frame buffer, speeding that subsystem up. The result is Quadra performance in a IIvx frame.

The Quadra 800 has all the design advantages of the Centris 650. Its performance is a tad faster than the Quadra 950's. The smaller mini-tower form factor allows you to park it under the desk or on a desktop.

The PowerBook 165c is nearly equal to the PowerBook 180 in performance. However, the display performance is much slower. The reason is that while earlier PowerBooks used dual-ported VRAM for display frame buffers, the PowerBook 165c uses DRAM. The display speed slows when the display controller and CPU contend for access to this DRAM. Note that the PowerBook 165c QuickDraw test, which uses QuickDraw heavily, ran nearly as fast as the PowerBook 180. Since most Mac applications make heavy use of QuickDraw, the PowerBook 165c's screen drawing shouldn't appear as slow as the tests indicate. For example, BYTE's Slow test algorithmically fills successive circles using a seed fill, rather than a QuickDraw region fill, so the effects of DRAM on the video subsystem are emphasized. If you think a PowerBook 165c is part of your future, check out the display quality and speed before buying.

This latest crop of Macs also indicates interesting design trends. First, many of the Macs provide (typically with a VRAM upgrade) 16-bit video. The PowerBook 165c is the exception. I call these Macs "video-ready," in that to adequately represent a frame-grabbed image or QuickTime movie made from an NTSC signal, a Mac must have a 16-bit display. In this sense Apple is incorporating multimedia support across its desktop product line. Also, with the phasing out of the 68000-based Classic, a grand unification of Mac application software can begin. Until now, a developer had to contend with supporting both old QuickDraw (the 68000-based version, which knows nothing of color) and the current 68020/68030-based QuickDraw, which knows of color, GWorlds, and pixels of various sizes. Now the Color Classic uses the same "universal code" found in all Mac ROMs since the IIci up to the Quadras. This universal code consists of 68030-based object code that implements 32-bit QuickDraw and some virtual memory mechanisms.

Certainly there are still millions of 68000-based Macs to support, but over time we can expect the developer's life to get easier because of this unified environment. Furthermore, at some point developers can compile applications exclusively to 68030 code, producing faster applications.

Last but not least, if anything moves Macs, it's the computer stores eliminating old inventory. I heard of amazing fire-sale prices on the Mac IIci ($1500 for the Mac, keyboard, and monitor) and the IIsi.

 BYTE Low-level Macintosh v2.0 benchmark results (preliminary)
    (all figures in seconds, other than the Indexes):
 Table 1
               Clr Classic  LC II  LC III   IIci    C610
     Matrix         18.7    18.6    10.5    10.2     4.3
     8-bit move     94.1    94      51.6    49.1    29.8
     16-bit move    53.9    53.8    27      24.6    16.6
     32-bit move    40.6    40.5    14.7    12.3    10.3
     Sieve           9       9       5.2     5.1     2.7
     Sort           11.4    11.4     6.2     5.8     2.5
     Math           60.2   186.9   105.6    70      37.9
     Sin(x)         17.8    95.6    54      34      19.7
     e^x            18.1   102.9    58.3    45.8    20.9
     TextEdit        3.4     3.6     1.9     1.8     1
     DrawString      1.7     1.8     1       1.1     0.5
     Slow Graphics  27.6    27.1    14.3    10       4.4
     QuickDraw       0.3     0.4     0.2     0.2     0.1
     CPU Index       1.04    1.04    2.03    2.18    3.86
     FPU Index       4.72    1.04    1.83    2.66    5.07
     Disk Index      1.24    1.01    1.48    1.06    2.12
     Video Index     1.08    1.03    1.95    2.17    4.37
     Dhrystone       2000    2083    5000    5555    16666
 Table 2
                   IIfx    C650   Q700   PB180  PB165c  Q950  Q800
     Matrix         6.1     3.5    3.5    8.2    8.9    2.6    2.6
     8-bit move    32.5    22.8   25.7   39.6   40.3   19.3   17.9
     16-bit move   16.7    12.6   15.5   21     21.9   11.7   10.2
     32-bit move    8.8     7.5   10.6   11.7   12.5    8.1    6.5
     Sieve          3.2     2.2    2.3    4.1    4.3    1.7    1.6
     Sort           3.7     2      2      4.9    5.2    1.5    1.5
     Math          45.8     6.1    6.1   25.7   27.4    4.6    4.6
     Sin(x)        21.8     2.8    2.7    8      8.4    2.1    2.1
     e^x           29.5     2.8    6      8.2    8.6    4.7    2.1
     TextEdit       1.7     0.8    1.3    2     14.3    0.8    0.7
     DrawString     1.2     0.4    0.8    1.2   13.2    0.4    0.3
     Slow Graphics  6.2     3.6    3.7   12     21.2    3.6    2.8
     QuickDraw      0.1     0.1    0.1    0.2    0.2    0.1    0.1
     CPU Index      3.36    4.98   4.4    2.6    2.47   5.85   6.36
     FPU Index      4.1    35.25  27.52  10.68  10.07  35.8   46.71
     Disk Index     1.77    3.1    1.83   1.72   1.51   3.35   3.12
     Video Index    2.68    5.29   3.93   2      0.52   5.89   7.02
     Dhrystone      10000  16666  16666  5555   5000   25000  25000
     Mac Classic II has an index = 1.
     Mac IIsi equipped with FPU and Apple video board.
     Mac IIci equipped with Apple cache board and used Thunder/24
       display board without acceleration.
     All systems ran System 7.1 with AppleTalk off and
       extensions disabled.
     Mac LC III lacked FPU.
     Centris 610 lacked FPU.
     Color Classic equipped with FPU.
     Disk tests removed for brevity.


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