The Updated Mac Pro: Great Value With Four Cores!

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With all the talk about the updated Mac Pros coming with 8 cores standard, I think one thing has been understated: There’s still a 4-core version.

What struck me most when looking at the new standard Mac Pro configuration was that, at $2,799 it was $300 more than the old standard configuration. It’s very unusual for Apple to do this. Updated models usually offer more while being the same price or less. To be sure, there are so many improvements the extra $300 is well spent, but still it seemed strange.

Comparing the old 4 to the new 4

But when you look at the configurable options, you’ll see there’s a 4-core model for $500 less. And this isn’t just the older 4-core machine, but a new one with all the updates of the 8-core models sans one Xeon processor. So this is the machine to compare with the previous standard configuration to get a feeling for the kind of bang for the buck Apple is now providing.

When comparing this new $2,299 model to the old standard, the value Apple just added to their Pro line is put sharply in focus:

  • A 2.8 GHz 45nm Xeon 4-core CPU vs. Two 2.66 Dual-core CPUs
  • Faster front-side bus (1.66 vs. 1.33)
  • Faster memory access
  • 320 GB hard drive vs. 250
  • ATI HD 2600 XT vs. Nvidia 7300 GT
  • 2 GB RAM vs. 1
  • Built-in Bluetooth

And while the processor speed may seem minor, keep in mind the new cores are Intel’s latest processor; increased performance is not just a function of clock speed.

You get all the above for $200 less than the old standard configuration! Clearly, Apple added a ton of value to the Mac Pro this week.

Widening the iMac and Pro gap.

What I also like about these Mac Pros is that the “base” models lead even Apple’s best iMac (the Extreme 24-inch). I may never need a Mac Pro, and love my iMac, but it always puzzled me that Apple didn’t widen the gap a little bit between the iMac high-end and the Pro low-end. Until the new Mac Pros were announced:

  • iMac 24 came initially with the same graphics card as the Pro (Nvidia 7300), and since August a much better one (HD 2600 Pro)
  • iMac 24 and Mac Pros came with 1MB RAM
  • iMac 24 since August was available in a faster clock speed (2.8 GHz)

Apple has corrected this: The base Pro’s HD 2600 XT graphics card is an improved version of the 2600 Pro; The Pros now come with 2MB RAM standard; The slowest Pro clock speed is now 2.8 GHz. These may seem like small things, but a Mac Pro buyer now knows that even when buying the lowest model it still has better graphics, more RAM, and more processing power than even the best iMac available. If I was a Pro buyer I would think that’s important.

The fact is the latest 2.8 GHz Core 2 Duo Extreme iMac faired pretty well — maybe too well — against the old standard Mac Pro (i.e., the Quad 2.66 configuration). That will no longer be the case, and I think it’s an important distinction for Apple’s Pro line.

Bridging the iMac and Pro gap.

Veering off topic, this is where I’d write about Apple bridging the iMac/Pro lines with some kind of mini-tower. Wouldn’t have to be a traditional “tower”, just a headless Mac with expandability. But I’ve been wanting them to do this since 1999 so I won’t hold my breath…

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9 thoughts on “The Updated Mac Pro: Great Value With Four Cores!

  1. I, too, have waited for a mid-range headless Mac. The only way for this to happen might be to combine Apple TV, mini, and a potential home/business server. A small box with two drive bays for server and backup options, two memory slots, a video card slot with options, an open slot for optional configurations or networking technologies. Standard Wi-Fi and Bluetooth would be combined with optional software for functional options along with two chip options for low to hi price ranges. Apple could configure it for small business server needs, a home server, an entertainment center, a “mini” low cost variant, and a personal graphics or gamer’s computer.

    Only this way could such a nonPro box become possible at the old $1.7K price.

  2. David,

    Protools isn’t a great program … but it would take a decade to get all the plugin support / where digidesign really excells. Go to ANY high end music shop and look at the included software – its proTools LE because Digidesign will help your company write plugins – problem is that they usually leave you in the dark because they’ve made the exact same deal with 10000 other companies. Digidesign is WAY too small to support their product properly. Apple is too big to dedicate 200+ employees to it. Trust me though, Apple is trying hard to push an open standard amongst manufacturers and digital instrument creators. People are noticing and its turning into the same slow defection Quark noticed to Adobe INDesign. See, with INdesign it took a little longer because the printer and press support that Quark had was proprietary (like proTools has) – when those printers and presses started getting replaced, Quark no longer had their stranglehold. Also as new people have become exposed to Macs they’ve heard from their formers “Try not to use Quark”. Trust me it’s happening, albeit slower than I or my musical clients would like.

  3. At the time I checked it out, Protools was the most archaic application I have ever seen in my life. Tired, ugly and not updated significantly in a very long time. It also has the most uncooperative and expensive support I have ever seen in my life.

    And yet musicians seem to be wedded to it for some reason.

    I have some music that was developed by me and an ex-partner and I can’t open it because I have no ProTools rig.

    Why doesn’t Apple do a Protools to Logic import and kill off DigiDesign? I’d love to get Logic and I really don’t want to have to buy Protools.

    Or is there a solution I don’t know about?

    D

  4. Yes, Amen, Tom. I’ve been waiting for this upgrade for quite a while. I bought my niece a 24″ iMac and it blows my five year old G5 out of the water.

  5. Tom,

    Thanks for the catch. Yes, 1 meant GB, a MB wouldn’t get you past the startup screen.

    Rus,

    Excellent point. Apple’s Pro apps are ready; I think most of Adobe’s are as well, but I’m not sure what other industrial apps besides Pro Tools may not yet be Leopard-ready.

  6. I, like you Tom, really want and think that Apple needs to have a mid-range, headless, iMac tower; Apple needs to give it’s consumers the option of being able to upgrade their Mac in more ways than just in the RAM department.

    I have heard rumors that Apple will eventually bring out a mid-range tower, but like you, I’m not holding my breath either.

  7. One small note on the new Mac Pros …Tom

    These are the first Macs that REQUIRE Leopard … so if you have apps that are not yet suited for Leopard – take note. The apps not ready list includes Pro Tools.

  8. “By 1MB and 2MB standards, do you mean 1GB and 2GB of main ram?”

    Yes. If you are interested in video RAM, head over to the Apple Store, pretend to configure a Mac Pro, and click Details on the video cards. You can have up to 4 cards each with 2 ports, so the machine will drive 8 30″ displays.

    I started complaining to my wife a year ago that my dual 1 GHZ G4, vintage 2002, was really holding me up – friends new iMacs could render video much faster than my PowerMac! The plan was to replace it six-ish months ago, but then the rumors of a new Mac Pro started. So I held off, but nothing was apparent on the horizon, so I made myself an ultimatum – I would buy a Mac Pro 1 minute after the Steve-note 🙂

    Imaging my surprise on Tuesday morning when I noticed the Apple Store down … then I read the announcement. And is Tom right-on, the new beasts are a great value. Mine shipped last night, I expect it next week …

  9. By 1MB and 2MB standards, do you mean 1GB and 2GB of main ram?

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