2017 13", nTB i7 or TB i7 ?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by profH, Jun 16, 2017.

  1. profH macrumors newbie

    Jun 16, 2017
    Pasadena, CA
    Struggling with which of these two models to purchase and could some advice (either would be upgraded to 16GB RAM):

    NTB i7: Intel Core i7-7660U @ 2.5 GHz (2 cores): Single core ~ 4800, Multi-code ~ 9800

    TB i7: Intel Core i7-7667U @ 3.5 GHz (2 cores): Single core ~ 4900, Multi-code ~ 9900

    On benchmarks the machines look effectively identical, which pushes me toward the nTB thanks to the greater battery life (abysmal on the TB I've been testing) and absence of useless touchbar. But reading around a bit suggests that the benchmark comparison is misleading because the TB has a more powerful 28W CPU vs. a 15W CPU in the nTB. The right answer thus appears to depends on the specifics of how I use the machine.

    My main use is for office work / scientific computing. MSOffice work (often graphics-heavy powerpoint presentations that tax my 2015 MBA), some specialized but light software in VMWare+Windows XP, and mathematical/statistical programs like Mathematica/Stata/Etc.

    My priorities are:
    - Snappy performance in basic office tasks (both in direct use and hooked up to single 2560 x 1440 desktop monitor/peripherals)
    - Speeding up complex Mathematica/Stata calculations when plugged in; these occasionally need to run for many hours (these programs do not appear to be optimized to use more than 4 threads, which is why I dumped the 15-inch-quad-core-with-unnecessarily-large-trackpad I tested)
    - Battery life when on the go

    Things that are *not* a priority are:
    - Touchbar (except maybe getting rid of it!)
    - Video or photo editing
    - Taxing the CPU and GPU simultaneously (I only tax the GPU for recreation)
    - Cost

    The main thing I am struggling to figure out is whether with this sort of usage I will benefit from the 28W chip enough for the battery life sacrifices.
  2. New_Mac_Smell macrumors 68000


    Oct 17, 2016
    The TB model is the better computer. Battery life isn't that much difference. The lower wattage CPU cannot maintain higher clock rates as long as the other. Either will be beyond suitable for basic office tasks. Generally speaking if you're taxing the GPU the CPU will also be working hard. Touchbar is what it is, has some nice features but doesn't take anything away. VM would benefit from more cores/RAM/higher clock rate.

    However, either computer is more than adequate for your needs. So just get whichever you like.
  3. Mefisto macrumors 6502a


    Mar 9, 2015
    The North
    Also, the TB model has two extra USB-C -ports, if you're into that sort of thing. I like the option of plugging f. ex. the charger cable on either side depending on my current surroundings.
  4. Wowereit macrumors 6502a

    Feb 1, 2016
    When not stressing the GPU too much, CPU is holding boost clock pretty much indefinitely.

    If you ask me, the 13" TB is the weird in-betweener.
    It delivers a very minor performance bump, which mostly applies during simultaneous and prolonged use of CPU and GPU. If you are really putting CPU and GPU under permanent load, the few % difference give or take between nTB and TB won't help you much and you should get the 15" instead, which delivers a huge boost in performance.
  5. HiRez macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2004
    Western US
    I agree with this. Even if it's true that Mathematica isn't optimized for more than 4 threads, that does not mean it won't be at some point in the future. Additionally, if it is in fact only utilizing 2 cores (2 threads each), that means that on a 4-core 15-inch you could comfortably use the machine for other things (like Safari or other apps, but also background tasks such as Time Machine, iCloud Drive/Google Drive/Dropbox, syncing, etc.) while it's performing those long-running tasks without significantly negatively affecting performance anywhere.

    The sad thing is, if you could run these tasks on an iPad Pro (A10X Fusion), they would probably come close to the performance of a new MBP (2-core), at a fraction of the price ($650 vs ~$1500-$2000+). It can't be long before Apple releases an A-series (ARM) powered laptop, because this is a ~4W TDP part that is challenging raw compute performance of 15W and 28W Intel chips, and Apple can design and farm out production of the chips themselves instead of waiting on Intel's schedule. Intel is steadily but slowly increasing performance and efficiency, but Apple's A-series designs are on that crazy, accelerated hockey-stick curve of improvements to both, not to mention GPUs which are also increasing at a faster rate. I suspect they are already testing these in their labs, indications are the A10X is already fast enough to drive some version of macOS in an Apple laptop (probably starting with the MacBook).
  6. profH thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 16, 2017
    Pasadena, CA

    Sounds like my gut feeling that the nTB is the way to go between the two is about right. Really it all comes down to whether this claim is true -- "When not stressing the GPU too much, CPU is holding boost clock pretty much indefinitely."

    Also makes sense that there will still be benefits of a quad-core machine at least with multitasking while running Mathematica calculations in the background, so I am settling on the choice being between a 15" 2.9Ghz i7 and the 13" nTB i7. (Playing around with the former now and seeing if I can get used to the absurd trackpad. Had to turn off tap-to-click).
  7. Jamalogo10 macrumors member


    Jun 13, 2017
    I am in the exact same dilemma. I placed an order for the 2017 nTB i7 with 512, 16. But the cost is gonna run me around $2200 for another $400ish (education discount) I could pull the trigger on the 15in MBP which seems very enticing.
    I want this computer to last me 4-5 years.
    The gap in performance seems huge between the nTB and the 15in but I'd prefer a computer with the normal function keys and the smaller size. Can anyone further my new desire to pull the trigger on the 15in?
  8. jgbr, Jun 21, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2017

    jgbr macrumors 6502

    Sep 14, 2007
    GHZ is still king when getting a job done. Remember getting a job done quickly is better than getting it done at a lower wattage. Your battery will be hit less by a quick burst for 3 seconds then 16 seconds of speed step.

    Strangle, look at the NTB stats for the i7:https://browser.primatelabs.com/v4/cpu/search?q=7287U


    the i7 in the TB:https://browser.geekbench.com/v4/cpu/search?utf8=✓&q=7567U

    So this could be an issue of its bursting to 4GHZ before throttling is kicking and then due to the one fan design hasn't back off yet. Obviously the TB version can maintain 4GHZ for longer.
  9. profH thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 16, 2017
    Pasadena, CA

    After buying a 2.9 15", a specced out 3.1 13" TB, and placing an order (but never receiving) the i7 nTB I suddenly decided at 2AM one night to send it all back and buy the specced out 3.1 15" (which was hard to get my hands on, but I eventually managed). I never ended up trying the i7 nTB.

    Honestly, I loved the form factor of the 13", which is what tempted me way from the 15" to begin with. Its proportions feel "right" in a way that the 15 doesn't. The size and weight are just incredibly convenient. But at the end of the day I just didn't need it. I have a great 2015 MBA for travel that works just fine as a portable powerful-enough machine, and it also has superior battery life to any MBP. What I needed a desktop replacement that could stay snappy under heavy use with a lot of apps running, and also crank through complex Mathematica calculations lasting a day or more without overheating. So that's what I got.

    (A side note: although IMO the 15" lacks the elegance and "right" feeling of the 13", the oversized trackpad became considerably more tolerable once I turned off tap-to-click. And the difference key travel, while minuscule on paper, makes for a small but noticeably more comfortable typing experience).
  10. Sterkenburg macrumors 6502

    Oct 27, 2016
    Great choice, imho. If scientific computing is one of your main priorities, you will not regret going 15". For a heavy-duty usage, the slight loss in portability is far outweighed by the tremendous gain in CPU and GPU raw power.

    As other people have pointed out, even if you will be using only a few threads a quad-core processor should allow you to comfortably use the machine for other tasks while it's crunching numbers, an important factor if your computations tend to last many hours.

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