No AES-NI Support in OS X?

One of the features of Arrandale (and all other Westmere derived architectures) is support for AES-NI. The six instructions that fall under the AES-NI umbrella can accelerate encryption and decryption operations.

Microsoft's full disk encryption feature in Windows 7, BitLocker, is AES-NI accelerated. Simply upgrading to a supported Core i5 or i7 processor gives you better disk performance with BitLocker turned on.

While I'm still waiting for Apple to get back to me on a number of questions, I decided to see if FileVault, OS X's encryption system was AES-NI accelerated as well.

I ran XBench's disk tests on an encrypted home directory and then again on a completely unencrypted portion of the drive. If Apple takes advantage of the Core i5's AES-NI I should see a smaller drop in performance on the new MacBook Pro compared to the old one:

FileVault Disk Performance Comparison
  Sequential Read (256KB) Sequential Write (256KB) Random Read (4KB) Random Write (4KB)
Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro - FV Off 172.5 MB/s 127.1 MB/s 10.9 MB/s 134.1 MB/s
Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro - FV On 79.5 MB/s 61.9 MB/s 6.8 MB/s 67.8 MB/s
Core i5 MacBook Pro - FV Off 175.1 MB/s 160.0 MB/s 21.5 MB/s 112.7 MB/s
Core i5 MacBook Pro - FV On 80.5 MB/s 66.6 MB/s 13.2 MB/s 61.0 MB/s

And it looks like we have no AES-NI support in FileVault at least. It's not terribly surprising. Apple usually takes a while to implement new features enabled by hardware changes. Remember how long it took Apple to get GPU accelerated video decoding?

These numbers do tell us something else entirely though: the new MacBook Pro appears to offer better SATA performance.

Not too long ago I published a quick look at 6Gbps SATA controller performance and concluded, among other things, that Intel's SATA controllers are quite good. The numbers above support that theory as disk performance has gone up considerably compared to last year's NVIDIA based MacBook Pro. While random write speed dropped a bit, random read and sequential write performance jumped up significantly.

This is quite noticeable with a SSD but less of a problem with a hard drive. Needless to say Apple's return to Intel is a good thing, especially because we didn't have to give up NVIDIA's graphics.

They’re Actually Faster Apple's GPU Switching Technology
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  • san1s - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    This or one of the new Sony Vaio Z series? Reply
  • rowcroft - Thursday, April 15, 2010 - link

    I chose the Sony Z- love the size and was able to get it with the i5 and a SSD for around $1,900. 3.5lbs and 1600x900 13" was too much for me to resist (and I do like OS X). Reply
  • androticus - Friday, April 16, 2010 - link

    I just tried out a Z at the Sony Store -- sweet! The 15" MBP is huge and heavy by comparison. I really feel that Apple is not offering a compelling upgrade this time -- and even upping the base model price by $100! Reply
  • SandmanWN - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    Steep price for only 5400 rpm drives!
    All that room and can't add a number pad to the keyboard.
    The plug on the power brick has got to be annoying sometimes.

    Nice resolution on the screens.

    Overall for the price the attention to detail is kind of disappointing. Not to mention the styling feels sooooooo old now.
    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    Honestly, I'm really confused why they're shipping 5400 RPM drives as well. Ordering online, the 7200 RPM drives are a whole $50 more, which, in the big perspective of things is change next to the MacBook price.

    It seems like the volume discount from shipping exclusively 7200 RPM drives on a "pro" machine would've made more sense than a bunch of default configurations with 5400 RPM drives destined to sit in stores.

    -Brian
    Reply
  • randfee - Thursday, April 15, 2010 - link

    styling = old? Kidding me?

    The Style is rather new, just one and a half years now, isn't it? The prior design lasted for 6 years and my mid 2007 MBP still looks stunning, a timeless design and the aluminum surface is VERY durable. Comparing my almost three year old one to a most other brands with the same age makes people say mine looks like new.
    Reply
  • ltcommanderdata - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    I'm still curious why Apple chose the nVidia GT330M with it's 23W TDP. ATI's Mobility HD5650 is supposed to have a TDP between 15-19W, while still being faster so would seem like the ideal choice if performance/watt is the major concern. Hopefully, Apple developing their on dynamic GPU switching implementation was motivated by trying to make a GPU agnostic method to not be tied to say nVidia and Optimus. Presumably, the GT330M drivers are more mature in OS X due to similarity with existing nVidia GPUs and that combined with price and bundling offers with the 320M cause Apple to choose nVidia in this round, but hopefully ATI isn't permanently locked out of Apple notebooks.

    It's also interesting to note that the GT330M is underclocked at 500MHz core versus up to 575MHz and 1100MHz shaders versus up to 1265MHz being supported by nVidia. Apple's clocks actually match the GT230M. If this was done to reduce power consumption and thermals, that's another reason the HD5650 would have been a better choice.
    Reply
  • jimhsu - Thursday, April 15, 2010 - link

    Or simply opting for 335M (50% more shader cores) would boost graphics performance even more. Though with the heat comments, maybe that isn't such as good idea. I'm reminded with the quite unsatisfactory heat performance (i.e. OMG WTF THIS IS BOILING) of my first gen Macbook Pro (early 2006) with some of the comments in this article. Worrisome. Care to post some temps? Reply
  • redbone75 - Thursday, April 15, 2010 - link

    I would guess it's because Nvidia, not ATI, is their partner and they have to honor that relationship. Think of how p/o'd Intel was when Apple ditched them in favor of Nvidia's chipsets. Reply
  • MySchizoBuddy - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    based on the table Core i5 540M looks better than Core i7 620M Reply

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