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BARE FEATS LAB - real world Mac speed tests

GAMING SHOOTOUT:
2011 iMacs vs others

Posted Thursday, May 12th, 2011, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

With the help of the Other World Computing Test Lab, we are able to compare four 'early 2011' iMacs running one of hottest new games, Portal 2. It's the highly rated action/adventure sequel to Portal. We threw in some Mac Pros and a MacBook Pro for perspective.

Steam Portal 2 was run at 1920x1080, the native resolution of the 21.5" iMac screens the entry level models. Think of it as the "lowest common denominator." Advanced Video settings used were: 4x MSAA, Anisotropic 8x, Vertical Sync DISABLED, Multicore Rendering ENABLED, Shader Detail VERY HIGH, Effect Detail HIGH, Model/Texture Detail HIGH. (RED bar indicates the fastest Mac.)

GRAPH LEGEND
Mac Pro 3.3 R5870 = 'mid 2010' Mac Pro 3.33GHz 6-Core Westmere with Radeon HD 5870 (1G)
Mac Pro 2.9 R5870 = 'early 2009' Mac Pro 2.93GHz 8-core Nehalem with Radeon HD 5870 (1G)
iMac 3.4 R6970 = 'mid 2011' iMac 3.4GHz Core i7 with Radeon HD 6970M (2G)
iMac 3.1 R6970 = 'mid 2011' iMac 3.1GHz Core i5 with Radeon HD 6970M (1G)
iMac 2.9
R5750 = 'mid 2010' iMac 2.93GHz Core i7 with Radeon HD 5750 (1G)
iMac 2.7 R6770 = 'mid 2011' iMac 2.7GHz Core i5 with Radeon HD 6770M (512M)
iMac 2.5 R6750 = 'mid 2011' iMac 2.5GHz Core i5 with Radeon HD 6750M (512M)
Mac Pro 2.9 R5770 = 'early 2009' Mac Pro 2.93GHz 8-core Nehalem with Radeon HD 5770 (1G)
Mac Pro 2.9 R4870 = 'early 2009' Mac Pro 2.93GHz 8-core Nehalem with Radeon HD 4870 (512M)
MBP 2.3 R6750 = 'early 2011' MacBook Pro 2.3GHz Core i7 with Radeon HD 6750M (1G)

For the iMacs with a 27" screen, we ran Steam Portal 2 at 2560x1440. Advanced Video settings used were: MSAA 4x, Anisotropic 8x, Vertical Sync DISABLED, Multicore Rendering ENABLED, Shader Detail VERY HIGH, Effect Detail HIGH, Model/Texture Detail HIGH. ( RED bar indicates the fastest Mac.)

OTHER GAMES IN OTHER WAYS
I wish I could show you results for all the games we use for testing. Maybe with the help of "remote mad scientists," we can provide that in the near future. Meanwhile, we shifted gears and ran our the rest of our current game testing suite at 2560x1440 on the top 2011 iMac versus the top 2010 iMac. And for perspective, I included the 2010 and 2009 Mac Pros running the Radeon HD 5870 GPU. Serious gamers want to know if they need a Mac Pro to "play fast" or whether the newest iMac can get the job done.

Another Steam title is Left 4 Dead 2. Advanced Video Settings included: MSAA 4x, Anisotropic 8x, Vertical Sync DISABLED, Shader Detail VERY HIGH, Effect Detail HIGH, Model/Texture Detail HIGH.

Feral Interactive Borderlands has a built-in timedemo sequence. The settings were: Anisotropic 4x, Dynamic Shadows OFF, Bullet Decals ON, Foliage Quality HIGH, Texture Quality HIGH, Game Details HIGH, Ambient Occlusion OFF, Bloom OFF, Depth of Field ON, Flare Outs OFF.

Blizzard Starcraft 2 was tested using a replay of a Roundabout War multiplayer session. We found by setting the viewport to the center square with the pools of water and statue, not only were our frame rates steady but the GPUs were pushed harder than when we observed game activity in the perimeters. For settings, we used "High" presets for texture and graphics quality.

Blizzard World of Warcraft Cataclysm was tested Full Screen, 1x Multisampling, and "High" Quality preset. Our "Narache Village Totem to Tree to Totem Sprint" emphasizes GPU over CPU.

INSIGHTS
The 2011 iMac deserves consideration if you are looking for an affordable Mac that runs games well. For one thing, the Mac Pro 6-core with the 5870 costs $1600 (or 70%) more than the top 2011 iMac we tested while providing an average of 28% gain in gaming speed. I have to say that the 2011 iMac is
a "best buy" for gamers.

You don't even need the Core i7 version of the 2011 iMac to run games well. The 3.1GHz Core i5 iMac has the same Radeon HD 6970 as the 3.4GHz Core i7 model -- and it runs games just as fast.

On the other hand, if you already own a Mac Pro, for a $449 (or a fraction of the cost of an iMac) you can supercharge your gaming machine.

MORE TO COME
If you have full versions of Left 4 Dead 2, Borderlands, Starcraft 2 or WoW -- and you own a 2011 iMac, we welcome your help to fill out our comparison graphs. We are also working on some pro app tests (After Effects, Final Cut Pro, etc.). To be notified of additional 2011 iMac test results, subscribe to our RSS feed or follow us on Twitter@barefeats. If you have a question, comment, or want to volunteer as a mad scientist,
.

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STORAGE ENHANCEMENT KITS FOR THE IMAC
MaxUpgrades has a kit for replacing the optical drive with an SSD or HDD.

Other World Computing has a turnkey upgrade program to install SSDs inside and/or add an external eSATA port.

IF YOU NEED MEMORY FOR YOUR iMAC, try...

LOOKING FOR ADOBE SOFTWARE?
Order your copy of Adobe Photoshop (or the Creative Suite) direct from Adobe USA. Or click these links to Adobe France, Adobe Germany, Adobe Sweden, or Adobe UK. (Clicking our links helps us earn a commission.)

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copyright 2011 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
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