JANUARY 4, 2010

Hands-On Review: Mac OS X 10.6.2--3D graphics speed increase?

I played a few rounds of the vintage game Halo (v2.0.3) over the weekend and noted that it seemed a bit faster than I had remembered. In my review of Mac OS X 10.6, I noted that my biggest disappointment in Snow Leopard was the apparently reduced speed of the graphics drivers for the hot EVGA GeForce 285 GTX graphics card for the Mac. So following its release, I tested 10.6.1 but there was no change. Apple released Mac OS X 10.6.2 in early November with an even newer set of graphics drivers (1.6.6 vs 1.6.2) but I had not yet speed-tested them. Could it be that the performance of the GeForce 285 GTX had at least increased to the level achieved under Leopard 10.5.7?

Here are the results of the graphics re-tests (see how) under 10.6.2:

Mac OS X 10.6.2 Graphics Speed Tests (Higher is faster)
10.6.2 10.6.1 10.6 10.5.7
Cinebench 10 Rendering (8x)
18434 18470 18516 18768
- OpenGL Hardware Lighting
5978 5979 6018 5961
Xbench 1.3
- Quartz Graphics
227 227 227 239
- OpenGL Graphics
97 94 93 177
- User Interface Graphics
340 341 352 406
Quake III Arena (frames/sec)
918 913 903 970
Halo 2.0.3 (frames/sec)
165 123 122 124
Red is fastest.

The OpenGL scores increased slightly in Xbench and a little more in Quake III Arena but the scores are still much lower than under Leopard. However, the score for Halo increased over 34 percent to the fastest level I have tested at these settings. Apparently, Apple engineers found and fixed a significant bottleneck in OpenGL performance that affected Halo and, perhaps, other 3D games. [Bill Fox]

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