Primate Labs, maker of the popular multi-platform benchmarking tool Geekbench, posted a comparison of Mac benchmarks Friday, including the new 21.5-inch iMacs (the 27-inch iMac is not included in the comparison as it has not yet been released and any Geekbench results in the database cannot be confirmed). The comparison shows that Apple’s switch to the Ivy Bridge platform with the new models results in a nearly 25 percent increase over the corresponding 21.5-inch 2011 model, and a 9 percent increase over the top-end 27-inch 2011 model.
Geekbench generates an overall score from a series of calculations that test a device’s CPU and memory performance. Of note, Geekbench does not evaluate a device’s GPU or storage performance. While subject to mild criticism, the score reported by Geekbench theoretically allows for a valid comparison of overall CPU and memory performance between varied platforms, from Macs that are a decade old, to smartphones, to current generation super computers.
An examination of Geekbench results for the 2011 and 2012 iMacs reveals a noticeable performance improvement. The top-end, built-to-order 2011 21.5-inch iMac, powered by a 2.8GHz i7 Sandy Bridge CPU, scored 10,017 on the Geekbench scale. The new 2012 21.5-inch iMac, equipped with a built-to-order 3.1GHz i7 Ivy Bridge CPU, jumps to a score of 12,447, a nearly 25 percent increase.
The new 21.5-inch iMac even beats the 2011 top-end 27-inch model, which was powered by a 3.4GHz i7 Sandy Bridge CPU, by 1,037 points, or about 9 percent.
In the mid-range of the product lineup, improvements are just as noticeable. The 2012 mid-range 21.5-inch iMac, with a 2.9GHz i5 CPU, bests it 2011 counterpart by about 15 percent.
For those considering other desktop Macs in addition to the iMac, the new Mac mini also compares well to the new iMac. The top-end 21.5-inch iMac still leads the pack, but the top-end Mac mini performs only 7 percent slower even though it costs $700 less. When the Mac mini with its i7 CPU is compared to the mid-range iMac with an i5 CPU, however, the mini wins by a wide margin, thanks to the i7’s ability to use Hyper-threading.
What’s interesting here, though, is how the quad-core Core i5 iMacs perform compared to the quad-core Core i7 Mac minis. Since Core i7 has hyper-threading technology (and the Core i5 does not), it can execute more instructions at once, leading to higher performance.
Here this means that the mid-range Mac mini is faster than the mid-range iMac that’s almost twice the price. True, you do get a display and a discrete GPU with the iMac, but these Geekbench results show how powerful the new Mac mini is despite its size.
The Mac Pro, long neglected by Apple, still holds a performance lead in most configurations thanks to the sheer number of processor cores it contains. However, the new 21.5-inch iMac does now surpass low-end Mac Pro configurations both in overall performance and in a price-to-performance evaluation. While the professional Mac community anxiously waits for Tim Cook’s promised Mac Pro update, those currently using older Mac Pros at least have an option for upgrading to the less expensive all-in-one iMac without sacrificing current performance levels.
The 27-inch 2012 iMacs are set to launch later this month and Primate Labs will quickly add official Geekbench results for those configurations to its comparison chart at that time. Until then, some unconfirmed results for the 2012 27-inch iMac (“iMac13,2”) have appeared in the Geekbench database, teasing a 10 to 15 percent increase in performance over their 2011 counterparts.