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Fact or fiction: What does (and doesn't) actually speed up your Mac

James Galbraith | Feb. 7, 2014
You hear about ways you can make your Mac faster, but do they really work? Macworld Lab puts these to the test.

Many other tests, however, were unaffected by the addition of RAM. These tests included Cinebench CPU and Open GL tests, HandBrake, iMovie, Heaven and Valley graphics benchmarks, and PCMark 8's Office application tests. Some tests actually ran slower with more RAM. Our iPhoto import test took 112 seconds with 4GB of RAM, 117 seconds with 8GB of RAM, and 138 seconds with 16GB of RAM. Similarly, our Aperture import and process test showed the 4GB configuration taking just over 121 seconds to complete, 8GB took an extra 10 seconds and the 16GB configuration added another twenty seconds to the time. Copy, zip and unzip tests were also slower with 8GB and even slower with 16GB of RAM installed.

From our tests, 8GB would probably be the sweet spot for most users. It offers a performance boost in applications like Photoshop, but with fewer performance penalties in apps like iPhoto and Aperture.

6.Faster graphics cards only improve gaming performance.'
While faster graphics cards certainly can pump up 3D gaming frame rates, more and more applications are using OpenCL to take advantage of those powerful GPUs. Two such applications are Photoshop and Final Cut Pro X. Much of time, the GPU acceleration makes for a smoother interface, faster previewing and other UI enhancements. Photoshop has a handful of effects, filters, and manipulations that are GPU accelerated.

We took a 2012 Mac Pro—the most recent Mac to offer easy swapping of graphics cards—and ran a Photoshop action script made up of these GPU accelerated tasks on the stock AMD Radeon HD 5770 with 1GB of VRAM and a Sapphire HD 7950 with 3GB of VRAM. The Sapphire finished the test in 239 seconds, 5 percent faster than the stock card.

In the Heaven and Valley graphics benchmarks, the biggest differences showed up in high 2560 by 1600 resolution tests, where the Sapphire was able to push 14.2 frames per second in the Heaven benchmark versus the 5770's unplayable 1.15 frames per second. Valley results at that high resolution were similar, with the Sapphire achieving 18.3 fps versus the Radeon's 1.25fps.


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