It's here, it's quiet and it's fast; we got our Mac Pro on Friday and spent every day since taking it apart, using it and benchmarking it. There's far too much to include in one review, so we're breaking it up into three parts. We've already published the first part of our coverage last week, where we discussed the specifications of the new system as well as inadvertently turned the article into a primer on the implications of the FB-DIMMs that the Mac Pro uses. So if you want a brief two-page technical overview of FB-DIMMs, you'll want to consult that article.

Part two is what you're reading today; here we're going to be looking at the Mac Pro as a Mac (mostly) and compare the performance of two speed grades (2.0GHz and 2.66GHz) to the outgoing PowerMac G5. We'll also take the thing apart and give you a nice tour in pictures of the new chassis.


PowerMac G5 (left), Mac Pro box (guess where)

The third and final part will have two focuses - DIY upgrades (e.g. swapping CPUs and sticking in your own FB-DIMMs) as well as performance under Windows XP. Apple just released an updated version of Boot Camp with support for the Mac Pro that should hopefully address some of the serious performance issues we ran into while running Windows XP on our machine. Give us a week and you'll have part 3 to peruse at your leisure.

With our plan of attack laid out, it's time to dive into the Mac Pro and we'll start where very few Mac users like to: at its price. In the past we've generally shied away from getting too caught up in the price debate, because honestly if you're buying a Mac, you're doing so because of the OS and assigning value to that is difficult. Some users are content with other OSes and see no value in OS X, and to them the value in a Mac is simply the total cost of the components that make up the machine. At the same time there are other users who prefer OS X and thus find additional value in a system that is able to run that OS. Regardless of which camp you fall into, the Mac Pro is competitively priced. We'll let the table below do the talking:

Apple Mac Pro

Dell Precision Workstation 490

Home Built Config

CPU

2 x Xeon 5150 (2.66GHz)

2 x Xeon 5150 (2.66GHz)

2 x Xeon 5150 (2.66GHz)

Memory

2x 512MB DDR2-667 FB-DIMMs

2x 512MB DDR2-667 FB-DIMMs

2x 512MB DDR2-667 FB-DIMMs

Graphics

GeForce 7300 GT

Quadro NVS 285

GeForce 7300 GT

Hard Drive

250GB SATA 3Gbps

250GB SATA 3Gbps

Seagate 7200.9 250GB 3Gbps

Optical

SuperDrive (DVD+R DL/DVD+-RW/CD-RW)

16X DVD+-RW

Lite-On 16X DVD+-R DL

Notes

Free 17" LCD, had to add sound card, mouse and 1394a card

Includes Supermicro X7DAE motherboard priced at $474; does not include price of OS, case or power supply

Price

$2499 ($2299 with educational discount)

$3110

$2390

The Dell is clearly more expensive, although you can knock off $100 - $200 thanks to the bundled LCD (unfortunately Dell gives you $0 credit if you remove the monitor from your order). We're able to come close with our own configuration by shopping at Newegg and other vendors through our shopping partner, but note that the $2390 total does not include an OS, case or power supply.

If you're in the market for a dual socket dual core Xeon workstation, Apple's Mac Pro is definitely a bargain. The only real issue here is that not everyone needs or can adequately use a dual socket Xeon workstation, in which case you can argue that there's better value in a cheaper single socket Core 2 system. Unfortunately Apple does not offer any such system, which leads us to believe that we'll either eventually see the introduction of a cheaper single socket Mac Pro or maybe even a new product line simply called the "Mac" that uses desktop Core 2 processors instead of their Xeon counterparts.


Click to Enlarge

Bottom line? The default configuration of the Mac Pro is priced very competitively for what you get; whether or not you need what you get is a different discussion entirely.


Click to Enlarge

Mac Pro vs. PowerMac G5
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  • DigitalFreak - Wednesday, August 16, 2006 - link

    Is there a 64bit version of OS X for the Intel platform? I didn't think there was, considering that until now all of the Intel Macs have only had 32bit processors. Reply
  • kelmon - Thursday, August 17, 2006 - link

    Depends on what you mean by 64-bit. OS X has, I believe, had a 64-bit UNIX layer since 10.3 (I don't think it was introduced with 10.4) but the only applications that can take advantage of this are command-line tools. Leopard will introduce 64-bit everywhere but I'm still struggling to find a reason why that will impact me in a good way. That said, the new Mac will have a 64-bit processor so that I can feel future-proof. Reply
  • Pirks - Wednesday, August 16, 2006 - link

    quote:

    Is there a 64bit version of OS X for the Intel platform?
    Good question. I don't know, maybe OS X on those Mac Pros is patched to 64-bit or something.. if not than I should shut up and wait till Leopard.
    Reply
  • Snuffalufagus - Wednesday, August 16, 2006 - link

    it should factor in at least a 25% - 35% discount code on the Dell :).

    I have never bought anything off the Dell site without getting a substantial discount from a current promotion.
    Reply
  • trivik12 - Wednesday, August 16, 2006 - link

    Does Dell offer 25-35% off for Dell Precision Workstation? Reply
  • MrPIppy - Wednesday, August 16, 2006 - link

    The last generation of Power Mac G5s also had dual GigE ports: http://www.apple.com/powermac/specs.html">Apple's G5 specs page

    One difference though, the G5s (and the GigE G4s before them) used Broadcom 57xx chips for Ethernet, while the Mac Pro now uses an Intel 8254x chip.
    Reply
  • Josh7289 - Wednesday, August 16, 2006 - link

    But what is so good about Macs? Why would I want a Mac instead of a PC? What can a Mac offer me that a PC can't? I don't like trolling, but I seriously am asking these questions and want to know what the answers are. Reply
  • phaxmohdem - Wednesday, August 16, 2006 - link

    I used to be a mac hater because All the macs I've ever used truely were Pieces of $h!t. Old single cpu G4 towers with no Hard Drive Space or RAM, and way too much student crap spread on them. HOWEVER recently I had the pleasure of using a REAL mac (Quad G5) for a video project, and it made me think of macs a little differently. Plenty fast, and stable. My biggest problems were learning all the new Mac hot keys and keyboard shortcuts.. but once you master those you'll fly on the mac. (Some of Macs shortcuts still seem pretty stupid and complex to me though).

    However I serioualy don't understand the keyboard and mouse that Apple gives their cusotomers... The new mighty mouse is an improvement, but still an uncomfortable POS to me. Ditto for the mushy fugly keyboard that is standard. I've found that a proper Logitech (or similar) Kybd/Mouse combo makes the mac experience feel 10x better. (One more side-gripe... OS X does not have adjustments for mouse acceleration, and for me the stock acceleration speeds are wretched and piss me off... Hopefully this is something to be updated in the next release of the OS)

    So, moral of my story is... if you're going to Mac it up, do it right with proper input devices and some decent specs, and you'll have an enjoyable experience under OS X. I personally still choose Windows for its versatility w/ software and hardware... but to each his own.
    Reply
  • Maury Markowitz - Thursday, August 17, 2006 - link

    Agree. I find it somewhat ironic that the only MS products I really like are their keyboards, mice, and joysticks. What's particularily maddening is that Apple used to, years ago, make the best keyboard money could buy. Seriously, solid as a rock and typing feel you'd kill for. Now they peddle crap that looks nice. Not good. Reply
  • timelag - Thursday, August 17, 2006 - link

    Apple used to, years ago, make the best keyboard money could buy.

    Ah yes, the extended keyboard II. Better even than the famous IBM and Sun keyboards of yore. If it weren't for my Kinesis (the One True ergo keyboard), I'd be using mine through an ADB to USB connector.
    Reply

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