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Why is a MacBook Pro Retina Faster for Photography than a 12-Core Mac Pro?

It’s not faster for everything, but it’s highly competitive.

Reader Pavel R writes:

Last year I used for processing Mac Pro last revision 12 core 24 Mb memory with striped fast raid (two SSDs).

But not so long ago I bought MacBook Pro with retina display( actually for trips) plus 1ssd but more faster then previous. And now I can't see any different.

Only my old 30'' display is more comfortable and able to calibrate.

And MacBook is half cheaper then Mac Pro...(2.7 i7 16 GB 512SSD) So I don't understand how can 12core system have the same results... Maybe OS is suited for multitasking more then for single application?

MPG: See Monitoring CPU and CPU Core Usage and CPU Cores Explained.

Apple OS X is quite efficient for multi-core; the operating system is NOT the issue; the issue is the code quality of the application, quality here meaning efficient use of CPU cores for tasks that naturally ought to be able to use all CPU cores.

So many applications fritter away CPU power, leaving most CPU cores idle.

Some applications are crippled in performance by stupidly inefficient design for tasks that could be made highly parallel: serialized file-by-file or item-by-item operations, disk I/O serialized with computation, single-threaded computation on inherently multi-threadable tasks, etcetera. It’s maddening for a software developer like me.

See diglloydTools IntegrityChecker for an example of a expertly written program making full use of CPU cores up to the available I/O bandwidth to feed the engine.

Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom do a marginal job on most everything: Photoshop typically uses 2 to 4 CPU cores (less than 2 on some common operations, up to 8 or so with certain obscure commands). Adobe Lightroom does better (3-6 cores, highly variable, serialized I/O and file handling egads), but neither gets anywhere near using 12 cores, certainly nothing close to that for any common operations.

It’s indefensible that here well into 2013, Adobe Photoshop CS6 is still slower with 12 cores than with 6 cores. At the least, Adobe could allow the user to instruct Photoshop to “use no more than __ cores” (a preference), this alone would help by reducing threading overhead. But Adobe has taken no action to fix this silliness.

Net result—

A modern highly efficient 4-core processor like the Intel Core i7 is very fast. With only 2-4 CPU cores being used by an application, that fast 4-core CPU can match or beat the fastest 12-core Mac Pro, since 8 to 10 of those CPU cores go unused. See the review of the MacBook Pro Retina for various comparisons.

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