Hardware specialists over at Bare Feats ran a series of interesting Final Cut Pro X benchmarks pitting the latest Sandy Bridge-equipped iMac and MacBook Pro against the last year’s Mac Pro. The iMac system rocked a 3.4GHz quad-core Core i7 processor with 16GB of DDR3 1333MHz RAM and AMD Radeon HD 6970M graphics with 2GB of GDDR5 video memory. The MacBook Pro was a 2.3GHz quad-core Core i7 system with 8G of DDR3 1333MHz RAM and AMD Radeon HD 6750M graphics with 1G of GDDR5 video memory. The 2010 Mac Pro desktop had a 3.33GHz six-core Westmere processor with 24GB of ECC DDR3 1333MHz RAM and AMD Radeon HD 5870 graphics with 1G of GDDR5 video memory.
Summing up, in two out of four benchmarks involving blur sharpen and blur directional effects the iMac came in first and the MacBook Pro outperformed or matched the Mac Pro. It is in the remaining two GPU-intensive tests – exporting a Final Cut Pro X project in H.264 (transcoding) and encoding a Blu-Ray stream in Compressor 4 – that the Mac Pro shined. Although the benchmarks are far from conclusive, they give away the false impression of Apple favoring the newer Sandy Bridge architecture.
Such a notion is certainly strengthened by all the talk about Apple abandoning the high-end pro market with Final Cut Pro X in favor of pro-sumers. (many video editors after all call Final Cut Pro X a glorified iMovie). This doesn’t mean that the engine of Final Cut Pro X favors Sandy Bridge systems. According to a previous Bare Feats benchmark, the flagship 27-inch 2011 iMac runs games like Portal 2 just 28 percent slower than a 70 percent pricier 2010 six-core Mac Pro equipped with the AMD Radeon HD 5870 graphics. The key thing to consider here is mobile AMD graphics in 2011 iMacs and MacBook Pros which is regarded as being slower than Nvidia’s flagship mobile chip, let alone desktop AMD graphics powering 2010 Mac Pros. Because exporting video in Final Cut Pro X and encoding a Blu-Ray stream in Compressor 4 are both GPU-intensive tasks, it’s not surprising at all that the Mac Pro beat the iMac in those tests while falling behind in the other two CPU-intensive benchmarks.