MacBook (LaTeX speed report)


macrumors member
Original poster
Nov 12, 2006
Cambridge, UK
OK, this is going to be of minority interest! Still, there are lots of academic users of Macs, and a substantial number of us use some flavour of LaTeX as our document processor for anything serious. So: if you are using TeXShop on a large document and hit "Typeset" on a new retina MacBook, just how well does it cope?

I have a partial draft book on the go, 275 large-format typeset pages, and a lot of category theory diagrams set using Tikz which notoriously slows things down (yep, if I were starting over, I might use another diagrams package, but that's quite another story!). So, averaging a number of runs, here are some relative typesetting speeds of the source code for the book using TeXShop and the 2015 MacTeX installation:
  • MacBook Air (13" Mid 2011) 1.7 Ghz Intel Core i5: 32.5 secs
  • MacBook Pro (15" Mid 2015) 2.2 GHz Intel Core i7: 20.2 secs
  • MacBook (12" Early 2016) 1.3 Ghz Intel Core m7: 24.9 secs
So: the m7 MacBook's speed here is in sight of that of the MacBook Pro. And in more normal LaTeX use, going to and fro between a paper/chapter length source document and the typeset PDF, the MacBook seems subjectively just as fast as the MacBook Pro.

A bit of backstory here. I in fact bought an m3 twelve days ago. I didn't think to do exact timings, sorry, but I did do some side-by-side runs, and then my firm impression was that the MacBook was typesetting a long document no faster than the MacBook Air: and more generally, it was not as brisk a machine as the MBP (fair enough). So I wavered a bit but then returned it and ordered the m7 version instead (still with 256 SSD).

Now, some discussions here have implied that in "ordinary" light use (not gaming or video processing etc.), you wouldn't really notice the difference in speed, so I wasn't at all sure what to expect. Well, I can report that you will notice a significant increased snappiness if your everyday tool as a document processor is LaTeX, and you are typesetting every few minutes as you work. Up to you, of course, whether that is worth the upgrade cost -- but I'm happy to have taken the plunge.

Added: And a few days in, still happy to have made the upgrade, mainly for the LaTeX improvement -- but also e.g. I've had zero lags when web surfing on the m7 compared the occasional spinning beachballs on the m3.
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macrumors regular
Sep 30, 2014
Gosh, I really do need to learn LaTex. I'm currently struggling with Pages to get a document typed out :mad:

Last time I tried I couldn't even figure out how to properly install it, let alone begin to learn the language.


macrumors regular
Jul 29, 2013
The Netherlands/Italy
Very interesting, thank you. I just got the m3 but I'm considering a return for the m7 or the new MBP 13 in June. Even if mine is a second machine (in addition to MBPr 15 Mid 2014), it would be nice if it could last for at least 3 years.


macrumors 6502a
Mar 12, 2014
Nice to see a benchmark from a more real world application. I love AES encryption (seems to be loved for benchmarks) as much as the next guy I guess but, yeah...its a single focused process really.
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