When choosing a computer, you don’t just rely on the looks — performance comes first (or at least it should in most cases). Reading a spec sheet gives you a general understanding of what the machine should be capable of, but how do you really check the way hardware & software work together?
Speed tests and benchmarks are the way to go. Granted, the results should be taken with a grain of salt as they don’t fully reflect how the computer performs in real world. Nevertheless, it allows to see how various systems stack up against one another.
Before getting into the “how” question, let’s first figure out the “why”. Say, you’ve got yourself a camera that films 4k video and want to get into video editing using your 2011 iMac. It’s got a quad-core CPU, a dedicated GPU, decent RAM — everything looks good on paper. However, before getting your hopes up and dumping all your crispy high res footage onto your computer, you should check whether your 2011 hard drive can take it. So you run a speed test and… — looks like it’s time to cash out for an SSD. Speed tests exist not just for the sake of bragging rights (but that too) and determining who’s got a faster, more powerful hardware — analyzing speed test results helps making the right hardware investment choices. Without any further ado, here is how you measure your Mac’s speed.
Measuring your hard drive or SSD write & read speeds requires a dedicated app. Luckily, there is a superb free tool for the job — Blackmagic Disk Speed Test. Blackmagic is available for a free download on the App Store. It comes with an intuitive interface that fits well with the OS X design and has pretty much everything you could want in a disk speed app. When testing your disk drive (tested a 2014 Mac Mini hard drive), you will quickly notice that Blackmagic’s tool is geared towards video professionals. It gives an extensive information on the video resolution, frame rate, and format support. The results of the test become evident in, practically, real-time. All that combined makes for a great free utility to test your disk speed.
If you are looking to test your internet connection speed, you must have already heard about speedtest.net. It is an internet speed test website by Ookla, that lets you easily check your network speed with a single push of a button.
For what it’s worth, it provides fairly accurate results, however, if you want to gather reliable data, make sure to set aside any other internet activities or downloads. With the Wi-Fi speed test results, for example, you can see whether you’re getting your money’s worth from the internet package you signed up for.
In case you feel like Speedtest.net is not for you or you need to confirm the results, here are a few other great internet speed test options for you to check out:
Speedtest is honestly quite good as it is, but Ookla also has a free app on the App Store available for download. The app enables internet speed testing right from the Mac menu bar! Normally that wouldn’t be exciting, right? Yet if you are trying to setup a reliable connection across your home and plan on running multiple tests — this thing’s a charm! Your test results history is saved too.
Internet speeds and SSDs is all good, but what most are really interested in is CPU and computing power. These values are measured with the help of benchmark apps. Geekbench 4 is among the top options for benchmarking your Mac performance. With Geekbench you can test your CPU, computing power, and even do that from a portable drive thanks to Primate Lab’s implementation of Geekbench Pro Standalone Mode.
Once you’re done benchmarking your Mac, you will see the results for single-core and multi-core performance as well as how good your computer is compared to what’s available on the market.
Naturally, test results don’t precisely represent the real world use, yet they should suffice, if you’re looking to find the weak link in your system. Geekbench 4 is available for free on Primate Labs website as a tryout version. Unlocking OS X license will cost $9.99.
Running performance tests of your Mac’s hardware lets you understand the capabilities of your Apple computer better. Benchmarking also gives you statistical numbers which you should base off of to make changes to your Mac (on both software and hardware side of things). Drawing on the results you can configure your Mac, and make better investment choices when purchasing hardware upgrades or a new system. Best thing about all of these tests? — you can get them done without spending a penny.