Thunderbolt MacBook Pro: CPU benchmarks I tested the 2.2GHz 17-inch Thunderbolt MacBook Pro against two other Macs: a 2.8GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro and a two-processor, eight-core 2.93GHz Nehalem Mac Pro. The Mac Pro is architecturally closer to the new 17-inch MacBook Pro, and its results deserve consideration if you're looking at 17-inch MacBook Pro as a desktop replacement.
Note that the 2.8GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro I'm using for comparison hails from mid-2009. Apple followed this model with dual-core 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pro models, based on first-generation Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs and Nvidia GeForce GT 330M GPUs, less than a year ago. Compared to current models, these have slower RAM, half as many cores and Hyper-Threading units, smaller Level 3 cache, and less robust GPUs. However, if you bought a machine just nine months ago, you're not likely ready for an upgrade. It's far more likely that you're carrying a Core 2 Duo Mac or PC notebook, so that's my comparison target.
The SPECjbb2005 benchmark results are astonishing. It's not all about more cores. Faster memory, bigger L3 cache, and Turbo Boost help push the 17-inch Thunderbolt MacBook Pro past Mac Pro in single- and dual-threaded tests (see the table of SPECjbb2005 results). You read that right -- for some workloads, a Core i7 MacBook Pro is measurably faster than a Nehalem Mac Pro. The new notebook's lead vaporizes once the Mac Pro's second CPU, bigger L3 cache, and split memory architecture kick in (the lesson: no single-socket workstations!), but any other result would point to faulty engineering. If you read my review of that machine, you'd know that's not a problem with the Mac Pro.
The Mac Pro redeems itself in the face of its DC-powered competition, but the not-so-old guard, the 2.8GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro, along with every notebook of its generation, gets thoroughly skunked, skinned, and shamed. Apple claims the new MacBook Pro is twice as fast as Core 2 Duo, my numbers back that up, and most important, it feels that fast. You'll notice the faster architecture most keenly with tasks that run from memory or CPU cache. Second launches of an app will be lightning-quick. Wake from sleep happens almost instantly. Most apps become significantly more responsive after you drive them a bit. That's because the activity moves most-used data from relatively slow memory (and even slower disk) to much faster cache.