Apple Mac Pro (Mid 2010) Review

by Anand Lal Shimpi on 10/6/2010 9:26 PM EST
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  • Zokudu - Wednesday, October 06, 2010 - link

    A Mac Pro has been tempting me for years. It seems like such a wonderful machine. Anand would you say getting a Mac Pro over saw a build it your own of the same caliber is worth it? I can understand if your deeply ingrained into the Apple system but for an outsider does it hold a lot of value? Reply
  • brausekopf - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    Just buy a 999$ Mac Book or maybe a used one and check it out for yourself!

    I am just using a Mac Book Pro as a development system targeting the iPhone. And after having used many Windows versions and many Unix flavors I would not put Mac OS on the top of my list. But it is usable.
    Reply
  • xype - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    Weird, after using OS X, I wouldn't even put Windows or Linux on my list. :P Reply
  • rqle - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    friend recommended i try osx. my day job is all unix, and osx annoy the shit out of me. Reply
  • Flunk - Friday, October 08, 2010 - link

    If you're used to Unix, Linux is probably the best bet for a desktop OS. Reply
  • B3an - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    No idea why anyone who is capable of building there own system would buy an over priced Mac. Theres nothing special or magical about them regardless of Apple advertising. They just use PC components. Learn to "Think Different" ... or rather think for yourself.
    You can not only get faster hardware, but also higher quality hardware for the same sort of price as a Mac Pro. Not to mention a graphics card that's actually good and a fully capable and more advanced OS.
    Reply
  • marioyohanes - Monday, October 11, 2010 - link

    Because I want everything to become simple so I can focus more on my job rather than busy fixing this and that from my computer. Simple thing should remain simple, while complex thing should be simpler than ever.

    at least that's my opinion...
    Reply
  • zero2dash - Monday, October 11, 2010 - link

    "Because I want everything to become simple so I can focus more on my job rather than busy fixing this and that from my computer. Simple thing should remain simple, while complex thing should be simpler than ever."

    Sounds like you should spend more than 10 minutes putting one together with shoddy parts or bother stress testing your overclock - then you might not have to fix anything either.

    The only computers I have to "fix" these days are prebuilts with the garbage psus that usually crap out in the 2-3 year window. Gateway, Dell, HP etc. doesn't matter, they all use crap psus. If they actually used something decent like a cheaper Antec or Seasonic, they'd run practically forever.
    Reply
  • TD912 - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    That's kind of what he means. You need to spend the time to build and test and tweak everything instead of having something that is ready to use out of the box. Reply
  • cotak - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    That's because you never opened one up right? Never owned one and used it day to day?

    If Dell, or any of the built it yourself case vendors do cases like the Mac Pro they'll charge you more then apples does for the same hardware.

    It's like saying why buy a BMW 323 over say an accord. the BMW's a basic car, doesn't have a lot of features, doesn't have a lot of power. And no it's not for everyone. But by god it rotates on corners vs feeling like the front's going to fly off. That's why my brother basically drove one for 10 minutes and decided to buy it.

    That's what apple brings to the laptop, the desktop and the smart phone.

    If you never had the money to buy one or work where they give you one, you'll never know.
    Reply
  • Nardman - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    ^^This argument becomes valid the moment a Mac Pro can pull a doughnut.

    Cotak, handling is a tangible, quantifiable characteristic...

    Apple products have sold for years based on the intangible 'worth' of them. What, exactly, makes the Mac Pro better than any other machine? That would be nothing...aside from a price tag, and marketing. Sorry, but that case is not worth $400(+)
    Reply
  • mattgmann - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    I really can't understand the premium for these workstation class systems (apple or dell). There is basically a 100% mark up or more on parts. I'm sure a large business may be able to afford to just chuck money at systems, but any small business/independent designer is freaking retarded to buy a system like this. With a little shopping and a few hours of construction you can have a FAR superior system for half the price. Aside from being able to get free performance by overclocking your CPU, you can build a storage system that is quick and redundant (i.e. raid 5). Save your money for the adobe raping you'll receive every time they release a new CSX. Reply
  • BrooksT - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    Read up on fixed costs, variable costs, and overhead.

    Short version: these workstations sell in much lower volume than mass market machines. Yet some of the fixed costs -- R&D, design, certifications, etc -- are exactly the same, or higher. They have to spread higher costs among fewer machines, resulting in higher gross margins per machine.

    Think of an extreme: if Apple (or Dell, or anyone) were going to produce just one workstation of a certain type -- only one unit made with a particular case, power supply, documentation, marketing effort, warranty service, spare parts inventory, customer support, UL certification, etc -- how much would it cost at retail, compared to the raw parts cost? A lot, right?
    Reply
  • mattgmann - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link



    How long does it take an "engineer" to compile a parts list, and a minimum wage factory worker to slap together off the shelf components that are the equivalent of adult legos. Overhead cost is greatly exaggerated in these machines and they inflate the cost solely because the customers are "professionals".

    'documentation, marketing effort, customer support etc'. These are all things that apply to every system they make and the costs are no different. I think these are more apologistic excuses rather than actual reasons.

    how much would it cost at retail, compared to the raw parts cost? A lot, right?

    -not really. If you think Dell and Apple are paying retail for the parts in those systems, you're crazy. They're making retail markup to start with, and then many times that amount for putting the system together.

    Is this wrong? no. of course not. But these types of systems are where they make large profit margins, and there is a lot of money to be saved by doing it yourself, or even paying an individual to do it for you.
    Reply
  • Swissalex - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    You are missing out on a big point, the certification for the professional application like AutoCAD and so on.

    The Dell Precision line comes with a complete support for many of these professional applications. And if this is your primary work tool you are not interested in troubleshooting and tweaking your system. Productivity and stability is more important.

    I am not Apple expert; on the Dell website they make it very clear that they support those applications. I have not found the same for Apple. Do they offer the same level of support for software?
    Reply
  • Swissalex - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    Also what is the support level on the Mac? Dell comes with a 3 year NBD service by default. There is no information on the price comparison about this one. Reply
  • Penti - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    The Mac Pros more tend to be used by the post-processing guys in Film (And TV) when it comes to high-end. Tools like Apples quicktime, and FCP becomes really important there. Together with very important third party tools. It works as well as in the Windows world, but they also has some tools that don't really exist on Windows. Where the alternative would be specialized hardware and a separate workstation that's built with custom hardware and software from a vendor in that business. Obviously Apple do and would help a vendor who's having a problem with their software, but they won't issue fixes like reverting stuff just for some app to work, but neither would Microsoft. It's up the the software vendor to support it. Like always. It's not that Dell can start doing development on the workstation graphics cards drivers.

    As for warranty the standard is 1 year limited even with the Mac Pro.

    BrooksT, if you like a more competitive price look at Apple 2P workstation.
    Reply
  • MGSsancho - Friday, October 08, 2010 - link

    Right tools for the right job. even if you use Avid you can use either system. but in practice when shops use Fiber Channel interconnects, dual 30" screens, mixing boards and professional video (SDI) and audio (XLR) interconnects, things are not so PC vs Mac. While im sure that these $30k+ workstations don't care too much for the OS they use, these things are more like appliances. In other industries as well, maybe all your software tools, scripts, plug-ins and stuff can not be easily ported. Companies spend good money setting up these workstations and they don't care what OS they use, they have the tools they like and want results. Penti you pretty much nailed it all on the head. except with Microsoft they will write patches to get things working for you as well as the Unixes, granted those with the top level up support contracts.

    Real difference is the support contracts. Apple doe not yet have business support plans. no four hour support for mission critical stuff for people who want to pay for it. In the end, we must hope that businesses will get the best tools for their jobs.
    Reply
  • rafaperez3d - Friday, October 08, 2010 - link

    It's a shame where the video and tv market is going because this company. To get the job done we need two things: reliability and performance. After a lot (a loooot) of marketing, Apple put in people heads that they got those two things, far ahead from any PC. We know that is not true (Anand proved a few pages back), and the market is supporting those silly people. Please, don't tell me about high reliability on Macs. I crash Foundrys Nuke at least 12 times a day, Final Cut every single hour, Blackmagic cards give me sync and black frames time to time, Cinema 4D crashes a lot too, coworkers restarts their machines time to time... OS X is not bad, but is not perfect too. Reply
  • Penti - Saturday, October 09, 2010 - link

    I guess you would prefer having Windows workstations, Linux workstations, OS X workstations and specialized workstations instead? In a mixture. OS X and Mac pro is a good target for the guys who ran their apps on Unix/Irix/Linux. It's good, not perfect. On Linux for example you don't have access to anything like quicktime, the film people won't start running ffmpeg, plenty in the business seems to prefer having less workstations and workstations that can do more. But for it to be working perfect? I wouldn't expect that anywhere. But you should note that I didn't make any claim for reliability, it's the same hardware as in the PC workstations, not any higher quality and not some perfect software solutions. Not from Apple neither from the third parties. Which is actually what I implied as in the support not being perfect. They do tend to support that market but not perfectly and neither does any one else. I see Apple as an OEM mainly. Reply
  • khimera2000 - Sunday, October 10, 2010 - link

    Dont forget that the reason why mac is more linux/unix friendly is becaus they bucherd the open source comunity to put out a OS that can compete rather then starting from the ground up :D check it out its out there ;) Reply
  • BrooksT - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    They use the same documentation for the Mac Pros as they do for Macbooks? Ouch. That must suck to be a service tech on a Mac Pro.

    What you're missing is that it's not the cost of making the 10,000th unit that matters. Making the *first* one is very very expensive. Sure, the gross margins are quite high -- probably 50%, compared to Apple's average of 38%.

    But for Dell, and Apple, and any other large manufacturer, there is a lot more to this than "putting the system together." That is the cheapest and easiest part of the whole process. But if assembly is the only the value you see them adding, by all means, you're better off buying parts and doing it yourself. Other people see value in a single point of contact, whole systems validated to work together, and even pretty design.
    Reply
  • xype - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    What parts of the Mac Pro internals look like random components compiled to a list by an "engineer"? Do they use an ASUS motherboard? Antec case? Artic cooling vents? Vanilla cabling? Have you actually ever looked inside a Mac Pro, much less upgraded any part of it?

    Sure, there's a big markup on those machines, but throwing either the Mac Pro or the Dell/HP workstations into the same lot as a randomly-assembled PC is making your argument look stupid. As for the money saved: people who tax-deduct their computers usually don't care. Coincidentally, they are the target audience for those machines.
    Reply
  • rafaperez3d - Friday, October 08, 2010 - link

    What is the problem with those components? ASUS making motherboards? Arctic making coolers? They are very good at they do, and usually they do that longer than Apple....

    Anyway, if you look closely, Apple basically do the chassis... I think even motherboard is from Intel...
    Reply
  • seanleeforever - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    @mattgmann
    you know, what you have done is perfectly fine but is ONLY applicable to home-brow, small scale, no regulation applications such as what you have just described.

    please don't take it personal, but a large business has set of regulation and rules that you obviously don't even be bothered with.

    for example, you said those are off the shelf components, okay, find me a off the shelf components that shapes like Mac book pro sheet metal, or M/B that fit like what Apple have? how about heat sink? see what i did here? just because the system you put together use all the COTS parts, doesn't mean everyone use COTS parts. what you did is simply putting stuff together (or like you said, just a minimum wage factory worker to slap together off the shelf components). anything new will require you to design the parts and make sure them fit. this is not a simple task by any stretch of imagination.

    "'documentation, marketing effort, customer support etc'. These are all things that apply to every system they make and the costs are no different. I think these are more apologistic excuses rather than actual reasons."
    this statement is completely false in a large scale. let's assume you get hit by a car tomorrow and hospitalized. one of your machine has power problems and causing reboots. okay, do you keep a set of document for machine you built? like what CPU/Video card/HDD/RAM... if i ask you that what is your power consumption under certain load, do you have a document to show me? does your document good enough to help engineer diagnose the error? if a batch of video card is faulty, can you trace which system you build may or will be affected?

    let's move on the QA too, what is your quality assurance? is there a process in place to make sure all the unit you build will have the same quality?

    those just a few things a large business has to consider, you are not selling 200, you are selling 200k. YOU will not be able to answer all the tech calls and fix all machines. your customer will have all sort of questions cover all areas. this is a HUGE effort.
    Reply
  • erple2 - Friday, October 08, 2010 - link

    You're only seeing a small part of the overall cost. The cost of a support staff to price out, then buy, then assemble, then burn-in a machine for a company is just staggering. And it's not for the cost of the support staff. You have to also factor in the cost of the people downstream that are "waiting" for the upgraded hardware, too.

    My personal time is more or less "worthless" to me - I can easily substitute a substantial amount of my own time to crawling through newegg or other sites to part out the best bang for the buck computer that I want to use at home. However, if I was making purchasing decisions for a company/business, I'd have to factor in the delay costs of crawling through various sites looking for the best deal, compared with the time that I'm wasting from other people to be using that product. Even if I only cost 50 bucks an hour, there may be 30 other people that are also costing 50 bucks per hour. That's 1500 dollars per hour of lost productivity, just in getting parts ready to burnin and test. How many hours does it take before it no longer makes financial sense to just buy a pre-made system?

    There is a very very good reason why medium and large companies that don't have regular "the server is down" events use pre-made machines sourced from a single vendor. Support costs are astronomical, once you actually factor in the TRUE cost of ownership over the life of the parts.

    I am about 90% sure that every single person who claims that the Mac Pro is an overpriced PC have never actually done anything remotely similar to a cost analysis on the actual costs of computer ownership. If your time is free, then it doesn't matter. But nobody that runs a business, or works in a business can say that.
    Reply
  • pieterjan - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    You're an idiot if you buy Precision workstations at list price. Give Dell a call, and ask for a discount. You'll also be able to configure these systems to your likings: more parts options. This is especially true if you say them, that if you're satisfied, more purchases from Dell will follow. Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    I'm so impressed that you can call people names, and put people down who are medically and/or educationally diagnosed "retarded" at the same time. There's nothing wrong with being retarded, there is something wrong with being rude and unkind.

    Others have addressed the issue, but I'll add that it's not about how you "can't understand" the "premium", it's about you not finding out why business people are willing to pay the price - it's not just about bigger budgets and throwing money at solutions. You CAN understand if you'll make the effort to do so.

    Then, if you still really think you can provide the same product for less, you can get into business for yourself and make some money. :D
    Reply
  • mattgmann - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    I make lots of money building custom workstations for small businesses. It's a nice side job. They get systems to fit their exact needs and save a butt load of cash. I take care of all hardware warranties, and software support comes from the software manufacturer. Of about 200 systems I've built over the last few years that are floating around the city, I've made exactly 2 service calls, and spent less than an hour per system on the phone.

    The "premium" should be in a properly configured system, not in a phone number to a dell genius or apple savant to help you fix your system. Knowing how you use it is the end users job. All of this "premium" crap is overrated and a waste of money. I more than understand the decision process, and as a business owner I know that production is what matters. I'd rather spend that extra money on training for employees than waste it on meaningless support.

    Did I hurt your feelings with my words? Can't take a little sarcasm? Thanks for the heartfelt scolding; I'll try not to use anymore "offensive" words. Now go back to your desk in human resources and file some more sexual harassment complaints. This is an internet message board, not a world peace and hugs meeting.
    Reply
  • AnnonymousCoward - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    Is that $250 Obsidian case really necessary, or would an $80 work just as well? cuz that really brings up your custom price. Reply
  • mattgmann - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    I understand including a nice case, as the mac case is quality. But you're right, $250 is a bit steep. There are plenty of less expensive cases that are just as nice, and some real budget cases that would be serviceable. Reply
  • hellotyler - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    If I had the money, I'd buy one of these in a second. Apple rules. In today's world though, budget is important and PC beats out Apple heartily on the mid-powered PC market. I own both Mac and Pc (side by side, my two babies) and I love them both dearly. If I had to choose a brand new super powered computer though, I'd have to go with the Mac because of the OS. Reply
  • noiseunit - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    Maybe I'm missing something here but a quick search on newegg showed a $700 difference in the price of the graphics cards, maybe thats why the dell is so expensive? Reply
  • Stokestack - Tuesday, October 12, 2010 - link

    The Mac IS a PC. If you mean a Windows system, then say that. Reply
  • ViperV990 - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    Didn't see it mentioned in the article, so I'm assuming no, but I want to double-check: Does the Mac Pro support 3x1 Eyefinity setup?

    Also, it's a shame that they're not offering the Eyefinity 5 or 6 models as an option.
    Reply
  • Porksmuggler - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    Really appreciate the honest comparison to the custom built, but the Dell T5500 isn't exactly comparable. It's easy to say "other than the graphics card" but seriously:

    Apple's ATI Radeon HD 5770 1GB - $249 from Apple or $125 from Newegg

    Dell's ATI FirePro V8700 1GB - $860 from Newegg
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    It's a tough comparison to make if you really want to dive into it. The FirePro price premium is due largely to the driver work and it's tough to tell what equivalent driver work (if any) Apple has done in OS X. Either way, it does change things quite a bit and I've updated the text to reflect that there is an Apple tax that's just hidden by the GPU cost differential.

    Thanks for the comment :)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • Porksmuggler - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the update, it truly is a tough comparison.

    I think an even greater concern with both the Dell and Apple tax is that both are using what might be considered as "commodity components"; Apple certainly would be using Foxconn, and I do not know of Dell's core supplier. The point being, these components do not have the same reputation of quality and performance as those used in the custom built.

    The extent of the tax goes even further...
    Reply
  • Sunburn74 - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    Not sure how you managed to reach the $324 number you published in the edit in the article. The cheapest fireprov8700 I can find costs 600 flat (ebay buy it now). The difference is at least $500 once you deduct the street costs of the packaged gpu. Reply
  • jecs - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    To me the "why a Mac Pro" is I have been afraid to build myself a solid dual socket PC workstation class machine for Pro 3D modeling, rendering and compositing with Maya and Final Cut Pro. But now I am very used to some pro Apple and none Apple software and happy. So in my case my current 2.8 octacore has been very, very reliable. For graphic design I agree it gets more difficult every time to justify a dual socket machine like a Mac Pro. Why 8-12 core for illustrator or even Photoshop?, Get the fastest quadcore PC for this. But also is a matter of personal preference.

    The Mac Pro is not the fastest machine out there but not either the most expensive or exotic hardware as there are usually faster PC hardware and more specific software options and features. But, if you like me are using specific multithreaded Pro software with decent performance and like OSX, then the Mac Pro is very solid. No Mac Pro has died on me yet, they are easy to upgrade for the most common features, work very well out of the box, is reliable, offers dual socket options and no Apple tax on comparable Dell or similar workstations.

    On the other hand, even I use the Mac Pro all day long I builded a SFF quad core PC and this is the machine I am going to upgrade this year. The PC is "my back up" machine but the one that goes outside with me when I need performance, and also one very useful rendering machine.

    By the way Anand, very good article! I enjoyed very much reading through the lines, not defensive at all, not too long and I learned on some features and coments. At least to my experience as a Mac Pro user from the beginning and even from the days of the G5s.
    Reply
  • Stas - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    No need for 750W PSU in the custom build. 500W would do just fine.
    $250 for a case... only Fortress 2, otherwise, GTFO. $150 LianLi would do just fine (oh, look, brushed aluminum, too O.O lol).
    I say, you could build the custom for $1600 WITH the OS (especially if you shop around for MIR, coupons, etc.).
    Nonetheless, very useful article. As a PC builder, I will forward this to my customers :D
    Reply
  • DaveGirard - Friday, October 08, 2010 - link

    If you actually put some newer GPUs in that machine and used them for rendering, you'd be cutting it too close at 500W. Reply
  • beammeup - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    So what Mac only workstation software is now out there that isnt available on a PC?

    Just wondering what the incentive is in a business environment to pay extra unless there are real tangible benefits to be had.

    Also there is more price difference than just the GFX. The Dell comes with a 3 year warranty including on site support where as the Mac only comes with 1 year (its an extra $249 to upgrade that to 3 years)
    Reply
  • xype - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    OS X? Apple Final Cut and Logic suites? Reply
  • mattgmann - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    nothing too special. Final Cut is the one everyone sites, but the fact is that premiere pro is just as, if not more capable. People just don't like (to learn) the interface.

    OSX is a cop-out excuse. It's just an operating system and doesn't increase productivity. In fact, it's horrific storage tools make file management a pain.
    Reply
  • Stuka87 - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    The MacPro (And MacBook Pro) is used heavily in audio work as well. Take a step into most recording studios and you will see a Mac being used to edit and mix the tracks.

    Final Cut is used heavily in the movie industry, as is Aperture (photos are taken of the set, colors are adjusted, and once approved, the video is adjusted to match the colors in the photo).
    Reply
  • DaveGirard - Friday, October 08, 2010 - link

    No one uses Premiere in the professional world anymore. And it would just be a test of CUDA. Reply
  • seanleeforever - Friday, October 08, 2010 - link

    final cut is pretty nice, but aperture is not a killer software. Reply
  • jags - Friday, October 08, 2010 - link

    you really cannot argue with mac fanboys! they are pretty blind in their unwavering worship of apple. logic is NOT going to win here my friend. Reply
  • jags - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    Sorry this is a little out of context here and I apologize.
    This is a pretty good website and I come here frequently to check out new stuff. But is Anand a little obsessed with Apple or what? It seems Apple's the "only" thing he considers worth reviewing these days (for the most part). Come on, is everything else so low for you now? I know this is "anandtech" and you can write what you care about, but I am just asking.
    Reply
  • Stuka87 - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    Uhm, this is the first Apple System they have reviewed in quite some time. If you click under systems up top, you will see pages of PC's, along with a review for the current gen Mac Mini last spring, and a MacBook Pro review. And there is an iPhone 4 review and AppleTV review. But these are pieces of tech that people like. Just like the 500 PC reviews and other misc. hardware. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    Apple gets equal treatment along with the rest of the stuff we review around here. In fact, the Mac Pro review got pushed back for months to accommodate more pressing things like the Sandy Bridge performance piece, the associated architecture article and testing for the next SSD piece.

    There have been a lot of Apple related articles lately but that's simply because Apple recently announced a lot. This clears out the last of the backlog. Next on the list are SSDs, HDDs and some other unmentionables... :-P

    I appreciate you visiting frequently :)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • shambla - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    I am considering picking up an entry level Mac Pro, but I am a little concerned about future upgrade options. I understand that the daughter board in the uniprocessor model is different from that in the DP models, but is the main logic board identical to that in the dual processor Mac Pro models?

    More importantly, will the daughter board in the 2.8GHz Nehalem uniprocessor model allow me to upgrade to ANY of the uniprocessor variant Westmere CPUs sometime down the line, or am I restricted to Nehalem Xeons? Could I for example put in a single W3680 3.33GHz 6-core Westmere CPU in a year or two? I know that Apple offer this CPU as a build-to-order option for the uniprocessor Mac Pro, but does this require them to use a different daughter board?
    Reply
  • Nadav2010MP - Friday, October 08, 2010 - link

    Hello Shambla,

    In answer to your question, the main logic board(backplane board) has only one firmware version for both single and dual set ups. The firmware for the 2010 is: MP51.007F.B00 and the SMC firmware is 1.39/f11 for both the logic board and processor boards(single and dual), so yes the main backplane board's firmware is for both the single and dual.

    As far as being able to upgrade to any westmere cpu, the answer is YES. For instance, when I did my upgrade by removing the 09 parts from my 09 mac pro and replacing them with 2010, the processor board already has the B1 stepping support built in, along with the D0 nehalem stepping so that you can upgrade the w3530 2.8 to a w3680... The same can be said for me.. I have a w3580 3.33 4-core DO Nehalem processor, and I can easily use the Westmere 6-core w3680 as a drop in replacement - the board's firmware accepts both Nehalem and Westmere cpus.

    There is only one part number for the single-processor board. It wouldn't make sense for Apple do deny customers the right to upgrade to the w3680 later on, since the firmware supports both D0 AND B1.. Here are the part numbers:

    Single-processor board: 661-5707
    Backplane board: 661-5706
    Dual-processor board: 661-5708

    ***THE DUAL WOULDN'T MAKE ANY SENSE AND I WILL TELL YOU WHY. Unlike the single-quad core which you would have, the same heatsink also works on the 6-core w3680(that same heatsink also is the same on the 2009 mac pro).. Why the dual option doesn't work is because not only do you have to get the dual board, but you also have to BUY the dual cpu heatsinks which alone would cost close to 400.00. Then the processors themselves are EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE..

    The single-quad upgrade makes sense as the processors aren't too bad.. For me, who had a 2009 originally, for 300 dollars I was able to buy just the backplane board and processor board - while using my existing 09 parts(fans, case, heatsink etc..). In essence, my w3580 works great in the 661-5707 board and rightfully so because it doesn't make sense to just limit the firmware to support only 2.8,3.2 and 3.33 6-core... rather, the firmware supports all, and I MEAN ALL D0 and B1 stepping processors.. Here is my system profiler:

    Model Name: Mac Pro
    Model Identifier: MacPro5,1
    Processor Name: Quad-Core Intel Xeon
    Processor Speed: 3,33 GHz
    Number Of Processors: 1
    Total Number Of Cores: 4
    L2 Cache (per core): 256 KB
    L3 Cache: 8 MB
    Memory: 6 GB
    Processor Interconnect Speed: 6.4 GT/s
    Boot ROM Version: MP51.007F.B00
    SMC Version (system): 1.39f11
    SMC Version (processor tray): 1.39f11

    As you can see, the changes in firmware are visible here.. MP51.007F.B00 and SMC 1.39F11 for both backplane and processor board.. and originally my parts were 09 parts.. And yes, I am using the w3580 processor - the 2009 lineup's top of the line in the 2010 processor board, and as you can see it fully works as if it were a 2009... But, I also have the capability to use 1333 mhz memory with it since the w3580 supports 1333 along with its other brother the w3680.
    Reply
  • shambla - Sunday, October 10, 2010 - link

    Many thanks for the thorough reply - I assumed I would be fine to just drop a single 4 or 6 core Westmere into the standard uniprocessor daughterboard, since as you said, it makes no sense for Apple to use 2 parts when one is sufficient and I assumed that the Nehalem and Westmere CPUs would be similar enough that there would be no technical reason why this would not be possible. I completely agree that trying to upgrade the uniprocessor model to a dual processor system would be prohibitively expensive, given the additional parts I would require, hence my interest in using one of the 6-core Westmere CPUs instead. Thanks again for the help Reply
  • Highjnx - Thursday, December 16, 2010 - link

    Out of curiosity where are you able to find the backplane and processor boards for the 2010 at $300. I'm not finding either one for less than $450 = $900 US Dollars.

    Also I've got half a dozen X5670 chips in hand and would be curious to know if one of those would work on the single board in place of the W3680.

    Any input is appreciated.
    Reply
  • DominionSeraph - Sunday, October 10, 2010 - link

    Why would you get the base Mac Pro? You can get a 980X with 24GB and SLI'd 1GB GTX 460's for ~$100 less than the Mac Pro's quad core, 3GB, and 5770. Reply
  • shambla - Sunday, October 10, 2010 - link

    Well for a start I get educational discount which knocks something like 15% off the list price straight away. I can get the base model for just over £1600 or get it upgraded to 6GB plus swap the 5770 for the 5870 for just under £2000. I have priced up broadly similar systems using both i7 and Xeon CPUs, but in the UK, last time I checked the 980X CPU alone would cost me around £750, the pair of 460s would be around £350 and 24Gb of tri-channel RAM would be around £450. That's £1550 before I have added a suitable motherboard, PSU, case, storage etc. Plus I like OS X, it's as simple as that. Finally, if I want to free up some cash a couple of years down the line, a Mac Pro, like most other Apple systems, maintains value like no other system you can buy or build yourself. Reply
  • pr0nstar69 - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    Somebody already mentioned this in passing, but there is another horrible mistake in the price comparison: the Dell comes with a 3 Year warranty and support, as well as NBD exchanges, whereas the basic price for the Mac Pro only includes one year of warranty and support, as well as the pleasure of carrying your Mac Pro to an Apple Store.

    If you want to compare apples with apples, you have to at the very least add AppleCare to the Mac Pro, $249 extra. So the total "Apple tax" is more like $574, when warranty and the graphics card are taken into account.

    I don't think that falls into "minimal". Especially because you'd have to be an idiot to buy a Dell workstation at the list price on the Dell website. One call to sales or to your own Dell representative should give you at the very least a few percent off, and for companies that buy Dell equipment regularly more like tens of percent.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    Very true, I've updated the cost comparison to equalize along warranty as well.

    Both Apple and Dell can offer significant discounts if you have a relationship with them. Going through Apple's Business representatives can easily save 3 - 10% off pretty much anything. I've kept discounts out of the equation simply because they are hard to track and do vary based on a number of factors.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • jasperjones - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    OS X hasn't supported NUMA for the longest time. imo it's of some importance on a dual-socket system with 8 or 12 cores. So, question: has Apple finally got around to make it work with the Mac Pro '10? If not, I assume that similarly-configured Dell and HP systems which run Linux or Windows will perform better in some scenarios. Reply
  • metaungulate - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    The KVR1333D3K3/3GR is Unbuffered. This won't work. Reply
  • Ben90 - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    Xeons support ECC not require it. Reply
  • Stuka87 - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    Buffered and ECC are different, and should not be confused with each other. Older Xeon's did use FBDIMM's, but current Xeons use standard DDR in either Non-ECC, ECC, or Buffered ECC unless the chipset used specifically calls for one or the other. Reply
  • metaungulate - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    Thank you for the clarification. However, these are the current prices on newegg.com:

    Intel Xeon E5620 Westmere 2.4GHz 12MB L3 Cache LGA 1366 80W Quad-Core Server Processor BX80614E5620: $384.99 x 2
    Kingston ValueRAM 3GB (3 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Triple Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model KVR1333D3K3/3GR: $60.99 x 2
    SAPPHIRE 100283-3L Radeon HD 5770 1GB 128-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card: $139.99
    Western Digital Caviar Black WD1001FALS 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive: $79.99
    LG Black 24X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 16X DVD+R DL 24X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 12X DVD-RAM 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-R 32X CD-RW 48X CD-ROM SATA DVD Burner - Bulk LightScribe Support - OEM: $20.99
    Corsair Obsidian Series 700D CC700D Black Aluminum / Steel ATX Full Tower Computer Case: $249.99
    Antec TruePower New TP-750 750W Continuous Power ATX12V V2.3 / EPS12V V2.91 SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC: $109.99
    ASUS Z8NA-D6C Dual LGA 1366 Intel 5500 ATX Dual Intel Xeon 5500 and 5600 Series Server/Workstation Motherboard: $259.99

    On what planet is this: $1612.91?

    The actual cost is: $1,752.90.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    That's the issue with non-realtime pricing, it changes. I've updated to the latest numbers :) Reply
  • kevin2i - Sunday, October 31, 2010 - link

    The article is still wrong -- pricing does not include an OS.

    1752 Parts
    199 Windows 7 Professional

    Didn't see wifi/bluetooth, firewire, mouse, keyboard either.
    iLife suite? - The user may or may not find it useful. Although I have Final Cut, I typically use iMovie for simple tasks.
    Home box: No real warranty, no resale value -

    The apple tax is looking more like a refund compared to a home built system.
    Reply
  • zorxd - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    The Apple tax is clearly there. Only, there is also a Dell tax this time.
    Also, the Apple tax would look even worse if you compared the single socket system, since you could get a Core i7 (or maybe even i5) instead of the Xeon for the same (or better) performance with a much cheaper motherboard and CPU.
    Reply
  • metaungulate - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    Yeah, don't get me wrong, I still think that the build is the way to go at $1752.90. Just pointing out that if Anandtech wants to be such a trusted technical resource it would help if the writers knew how to use a calculator. :) Reply
  • Nadav2010MP - Friday, October 08, 2010 - link

    But, for those like me who have a 2009 mac pro, all I had to do was spend 300 dollars for the two main parts to make my 09 a 2010.. The backplane board 661-5706 was only 250.00 from an on-line site.. and the processor board only cost me 46.00 - so, for 300.00, using the w3580, my 8GB 1066 mhz memory and 5770 - I was able to remove the original 09 parts and replace them with 2010 parts.. The heatsink from the 09 is the EXACTLY same as the 2010... rather the other way.. the 2010 uses the same 09 parts, some are marked with different part numbers to distinguish them, but for the most part.. all fans, case components work on the 2010 backplane board, as this board is the same exact board as in the 09 except Apple flashed it with the firmware to support westmere and 1333 mhz memory.

    Dual is a totally different story... it wouldn't be cost effective to move from a single to a dual because you lack the heatsinks(those two alone would be near 400 dollars), while the dual processor board would only be 76 dollars(macpartsonline.com), you still need the dual processors and THOSE ALONE would cost more than the machine or come close to the cost of a new 2010 already.

    The upgrade from 09 single to 2010 single can be done for 300.00 and thats it.. you are done. But the dual would cost far more.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    Sigh...For something aimed at content creation professionals, for something with up to 12 cores of epic performance...Apple sure likes to skimp on video memory. For instance, Mudbox will give you warnings and also slow to a crawl on the amount of video memory Apple provides, and your upgrade options are limited. 1GB is an improvement over last gen, but only squeaks by for high end graphics work. To make things worse, there are no build to order graphics options over 1GB.

    I guess people in that situation who don't need (or can't afford) a workstation class card will have to wait for a third party Mac graphics card with 2GB or more video memory.
    Reply
  • AnnonymousCoward - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    Anand, I think you have a future in fashion show photography. Reply
  • chemist1 - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    Anand writes, in addressing one possible way in which this Mac might soon be obsoleted, "With the arrival of Sandy Bridge imminent, you might ask - why buy a Mac Pro today? And I might answer, Sandy Bridge isn't imminent for everybody."

    But isn't there a way in which the new Mac Pro is already obsoleted: the lack of onboard SATA III (6Gb/s) support? Given the importance of I/O for overall system performance, given that SSD cards are already capable of saturating SATA II connections, given that SSD cards should continue to increase rapidly in performance, capacity, and affordability, wouldn't one want to hold off buying a Mac Pro until it offers SATA III support (or something comparable to SATA III)—particularly also given that these desktops should have relatively long lifetimes?

    Given Anand's sophistication about SSDs, I'm surprised no mention of this issue was made in the review—or am I missing something?
    Reply
  • Nadav2010MP - Friday, October 08, 2010 - link

    Sandy Bridge won't be out in XEON until if we are lucky... end of 2011- beginning 2012.. Sandy Bridge for consumer is on its way to being out now, but the server line of sandy bridge won't be until at least Q4 2011 to early Q1 2012. By then the mac pro might even be EOL, as it seems that Apple really is moving away from the pro-market and into an IPHONE/IPAD type of company. Reply
  • chemist1 - Friday, October 08, 2010 - link

    Nadav2010MP: Unless there's some necessary connection between Sandy Bridge and Sata III (and I don't believe that SATA III is explicitly part of the Sandy Bridge specifications, but please correct me if I'm wrong), I think you've misunderstood my question. I wasn't asking about Sandy Bridge. Rather, I was just using Sandy Bridge as an example to ask: why mention only Sandy Bridge in discussing future potential obsolescence, when there appears to be a significantly a bigger obsolescence issue--the lack of SATA III? Reply
  • inzane - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    Any reason a similar configured PC running Windows 7 64bit was not included in the Photoshop CS4 test? Would like to see if there is a difference between Mac CS4 32bit vs Windows 7 CS4 64bit . Would the Win7 version benefit form the extra Ram, since a 32bit program only see 4 gigs? Reply
  • Nadav2010MP - Friday, October 08, 2010 - link

    Dear Anandtech,

    Thank you for posting a review of the 2010 Mac Pro.. By now you have guessed that the 2010 mac pro is nothing more than a 2009 just with a updated firmware using the same logic board and same fans, and case design.. The GPUS also bring a difference, but not by much as the new GPUS work in all the Mac Pros 2010- down to 2006 :) But, this isn't the reason for my post.. I am about to tell you how I upgraded to the 2010 without having to shell out 4000.00 for a 6-core.. FIRST and foremost a minute or two about the CPUS...

    The 2010 Mac Pro uses the following CPUS for its single-quad/6-core:

    w3530 - 2.8/1066
    w3565 - 3.2/1066
    w3680 - 3.33/1333 - WE CAN ALSO ADD THAT according to Intel, the w3680 can use the following memory: 800 mhz DDR3/1066 mhz DDR3, and 1333 mhz DDR3..

    However, here is where it gets interesting.. The following bloomfield processors allow for 1333 mhz memory:

    w3570
    w3580 - This is the processor I currently have with my 2010 set up. And yes, it supports 800/1066/1333 I will post a pic of my w3580 supporting 1333 mhz using a screen shot of a test 1GB 1333 chip under the new 2010 parts..

    Now for the great news: You don't have to spend 4000.00 to enjoy a 6-core 2010 mac pro... in fact, you don't have to spend much at all.. Here is what I did.. Given now that Foxconn makes all the components for Apple instead of Intel(2006,2007,2008 mac pro logic boards), the backplane logic board that the 09 and 10 use are IDENTICAL to each other.. where one doesn't support westmere and 1333 mhz memory, the other does.. but they are virtually IDENTICAL in every detail.

    Anyway, for 250.00(pricing varies by 50 at most) you can get the 2010 Backplane logic board and simply remove the 09's backplane. Also, you will need the processor board in order for the 2010 to work its magic, as both SMC's have to match for this to work. This board can be had for as little as: 46 DOLLARS!!!!!!!!!! and even 76 dollars(macpartsonline.com).. I have seen the processor board go for 249.00 and never higher than that.. There is also some good news:

    Since the 09 uses the same parts as the 10, the HEATSINK for the single-quads from the 09 is identical to the one used on the 2010 :) More money saved!

    So here were my specs for my original mac pro:

    Mac Pro 4,1 with 8GB ddr3 1066 memory, w3580 processor, radeon 5770(sold my 4870 HD as this is not fully compatible due to a high sensor reading - others told me its because I had the 1st revision of the card, while a 2nd one does exist which fixed this problem.. but nonetheless, I got rid of my 4870 HD for 235.00 and it paid for the 5770 :)

    Once I got the backplane and processor board, I immediately went to work creating my 2010 mac pro.. and it only cost me 300.00(250 - backplane 46 for processor board).. With this in mind, I used my existing processor, memory, hard drives, everything... here is the results: THIS IS FROM SYSTEM PROFILER:

    Model Name: Mac Pro
    Model Identifier: MacPro5,1
    Processor Name: Quad-Core Intel Xeon
    Processor Speed: 3,33 GHz
    Number Of Processors: 1
    Total Number Of Cores: 4
    L2 Cache (per core): 256 KB
    L3 Cache: 8 MB
    Memory: 6 GB
    Processor Interconnect Speed: 6.4 GT/s
    Boot ROM Version: MP51.007F.B00
    SMC Version (system): 1.39f11
    SMC Version (processor tray): 1.39f11

    How can you tell this is a 2010? Easy... SMC FIRMWARE: 1.39/F11(2009 was 1.39/F5). Bootrom is: MP51.007F.B00 where as the 09's was: MP41.0081.B08.

    I plan to upload actual LIVE screen shots of my system profiler and also to put away the fact that the w3580 DOES INDEED support 1333 mhz memory.. I need someone to how me how to upload pics of this.. I really want to get this info out to EVERYONE who has a single 09 quad-core and wishing to move up to westmere... Now, should I decide to get the w3680, I can now do so since I have the parts in my 09 case.. 300.00 is all it takes to get the 09 to a 2010 :)

    CONCLUSION:

    I know a lot of you will have questions to ask me regarding about how to go ahead with this upgrade.. as I mentioned, anyone with a single-quad core from 09 series can easily do this.. Its not rocket science - the 2010 mac pro is nothing more than the 2009 just with a updated logic board to support 1333 mhz memory/westmere B1 stepping processors.. And yes, ALL D0 Bloomfield w35xx series processors work in the processor board of the 2010.

    For the cost of 4000.00, I didn't feel the need to spend that much for a machine which is really a 2009 but with such updated firmware.. for this reason alone, for 300.00 I found the upgrade very enticing and I did it.
    Reply
  • MeStinkBAD - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    The following statement bothers me...

    "Update: Dell doesn't offer a Radeon HD 5770, instead you get a much more expensive FirePro V8700 graphics card. If deduct the street price for the graphics card from each machine, the Mac Pro ends up being $324 more expensive than the Dell. The Apple tax is there, but masked by the cheaper GPU."

    You are basing this comparison on the cost of a component that is limited to the dell. And you state that they don't offer a 5770. Well if you choose to add a 5770, the price would increase on the Dell, the price of the Pro. It goes both ways. Doesn't matter if the Dell offers a higher price card. You may not need it. Does the Dell include the option to ship w/o a GPU? If so, that could be a valid comparison since you can not get the MacPro w/o a GPU. Even you don't need one.

    The warrenty statement is also questionable. I have not had much experience w/ Dell's technical support. They used to basically tell you to send it away, they'd fix it, then return it. This costs nothing until the warrenty expired. Then they would charge you regardless of the problem, Apple on the other hand does indeed ask you to take it too the AppleStore.

    But they won't charge you anything to take a look at it, regardless of the Warrenty. And if it's a simple software problem, they'll fix it and you can walk out without paying anything. The warrenty only refers to more complicated problems (almost always hardware related). Then you will be charged if the warrenty has expired.

    I'm trying to be really fair here. Could someone correct me on this?
    Reply
  • mlcatl - Sunday, October 31, 2010 - link

    I can and have built many, many computers. But I don't keep spare parts around for a workstation like this (e.g. spare motherboard, etc.). Furthermore, I don't have the time to mess with it. I have deadlines and customers and I need my computer to work,

    With the Dell next business day warranty (which is extra), someone comes to your home or office and they have all the parts and they fix it without me having to drive somewhere. And they are professionals. No disrespect to the Apple Store Genius folks, they have gotten MUCH better in the last 4 years, but they still fall short of a enterprise maintenance solution.

    My experience with the Apple Store, even with the Apple Care and an appointment. Lots of waiting, hauling my MacPro through the mall, etc.

    I've had both Dells and Macs fail (motherboards, videocards, power supplies). Getting my macpro motherboard fixed (as it had intermittent failures) was a nightmare.

    I've now moved into a job where I'm going to be windows only at work, so I'm getting rid of my OS X stuff and switching to a windows platform. I'm going to have to buy my own computer and the roll your own solution is very tempting. (yes I know about boot camp, but my Mac Pro 1,1 2006 requires hacking to run windows 7 64 bit. (

    Ive loved my macpro and if I didn't need to run a lot of industrial strength stuff on windows, I would definitely be keeping it.
    Reply
  • MeStinkBAD - Monday, November 01, 2010 - link

    What the... you require a hacked version of Win7 to run on your 2006 MacPro? Are you serious? What did you do to it? Are you sure it's a MacPro? Not a hackintosh?

    Your experience is unlike any I've ever heard of... I mean if you we're having a motherboard failure they would have swapped the entire machine... and simply moved the hardware from the old machine to the new one. This is far more economical than actually replacing the motherboard, power supply, etc. Your previous machine would be sent back to Apple...
    Reply
  • Macdesign - Thursday, November 04, 2010 - link

    The motherboard of the 2006 is only 32bit and only the processor is 64bit. The 2008 and 2009 Models are full 64bit on both motherboard and processor so W7 can run on them. Reply
  • standar29 - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    Seems like people want to consider the other aspects of business costs so we might as well add in the fact that VOLUME DISCOUNTS on hardware weren't mentioned in this article and probably more than take care of all of these additional costs. Apple's profit margin is well known. Reply
  • Chuck_Darwin - Monday, January 31, 2011 - link

    Anand, before I bought my Mac Pro last fall I priced an equivalent system on Newegg. I was reluctant to rely on any manufacturer after 10 years of building my own. I found Newegg's prices to be within $300 of Apple, except for one thing: you really can't buy an equivalent case at Newegg. That $249 Antec you used to compare isn't even close to the same class as Apple's. You can find one on Amazon, though, and it runs around $400. Similarly, the Dell uses shoddy parts, like the case, to hit that price point. Wish you would've posted every component you used to compare so we can judge for ourselves. Reply
  • Conniesimmons - Wednesday, November 02, 2011 - link

    Thanks for the comparison. I have a MAc Pro 2,1 dual quad core 3 GHz with a new 480 SSD boot up drive in my optical bay, 4 750 TB internal drives, and 16 Ggs of memory. I am an editor using HD footage, but I don't do a lot of 3-D work. I keep looking at the new 12 core machines, but based on your review it still seems like I wouldn't see a really huge difference in FCP, compression programs, that would justify buying a new machine now instead of later. Any other improvements you might suggest?

    Do you have a consulting business?

    Best, Connie
    Reply

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