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…