Mac Pro vs. Consumer Macs

For my final set of CPU performance charts I put the new Mac Pro through the same set of tests I do all new Macs. There are definitely multithreaded components to these tests (some are indeed highly threaded), but the suite also values good single threaded performance. Here we'll get an idea of how the new Mac Pro, in its most expensive configuration, fares as a normal Mac.

I've already gone through Cinebench 11.5 results, but the following graphs should put in perspective the Mac Pro's performance relative to all consumer Macs:

3D Rendering - Cinebench 11.5 (1 thread)

If there's one graph that tells the story of why Intel's workstation roadmap is ridiculous, it's this one. The Mac Pro follows Intel's workstation roadmap, which ends up being cut down versions of Intel's server silicon, which happens to be a generation behind what you can get on the desktop. So while the latest iMac and MacBook Pro ship with Intel's latest Haswell cores, the Mac Pro uses what those machines had a year ago: Ivy Bridge. Granted everything else around the CPU cores is beefed up (there's more cache, many more PCIe lanes, etc...), but single threaded performance does suffer as a result.

Now part of this is exaggerated by the fact that I'm reviewing the 2.7GHz 12-core Mac Pro configuration. Single core turbo tops out at 3.5GHz vs. 3.9GHz for the rest of the parts. I suspect if you had one of the 8-core models you'd see peak single threaded performance similar to what the 2012 27-inch iMac delivers. The 2013 27-inch iMac with its fastest CPU should still be quicker though. We're not talking about huge margins of victory here, a matter of a handful of percent, but as a much more expensive machine it's frustrating to not see huge performance leadership in all areas.

The Mac Pro is designed to offer competitive single threaded performance, but really deliver for everyone who depends on great multithreaded performance:

3D Rendering - Cinebench 11.5 (multithreaded)

If you need more cores, the Mac Pro is literally the only solution Apple offers that can deliver. We're talking about multiple times the performance offered by anything else in Apple's lineup with a Pro suffix.

I'm slowly but surely amassing Cinebench 15 results. The story doesn't really change here, I just thought I'd publish the numbers in case anyone wants data using this new test:

3D Rendering - Cinebench 15 (1 thread)

3D Rendering - Cinebench 15 (multithreaded)

The latest versions of iPhoto and iMovie break comparisons to my older benchmarks so I've had to drop them here. I still have our Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 3 tests though:

Adobe Photoshop Performance

As I mentioned earlier, threading seems to have improved on newer versions of Photoshop. In CS5 our benchmark looks more like a lightly threaded test by comparison. Out of curiosity I ran the test under Photoshop CS6 and came away with a completion time of around 6 seconds.

Adobe Lightroom Export Performance

Our Lightroom 3 export test tells a very similar story. Anyone with lighter workloads looking for a huge performance increase thanks to the Mac Pro will have to look elsewhere. The Mac Pro is at least performance competitive, but in these lightly threaded workloads you won't see a huge uplift.

Putting Mac Pro Performance in Perspective: Professional Apps The PCIe Layout


View All Comments

  • ananduser - Wednesday, January 1, 2014 - link

    There are pro laptops that take care of the size compromise.

    There is also the brilliantly designed HP Z1. The first AIO workstation, both compact and powerful *and* designed for(not against) user accessibility.

    Apple has neither.
  • pr1mal0ne - Tuesday, December 31, 2013 - link

    Any details of the PSU? those seem missing. All i can do is scrape for clues in context. Where is the PSU located? how does it handle pushing 400W for an extended period of time (temp wise)? How much more load does it pull when you are pushing lots of data through the thunderbolt and WiFi channels? Reply
  • japtor - Tuesday, December 31, 2013 - link

    For location at least, if you check out iFixit's teardown it's located between the Xeon's board and the I/O board on the back. Reply
  • mdopp - Tuesday, December 31, 2013 - link

    Intel's SRP for the E5-1680 V2 is $1723
  • Goff - Tuesday, December 31, 2013 - link

    I'm curious if one of these Mac Pros could be recommended for programming. Specifically iOS, OSX and Unity 3D programming. I've spent all of my Apple and mobile programming years on either Mac Mini's or MacBook Pro's.
    Would a 4 or 6 core Mac Pro be of any benefit above and beyond an i7 iMac or a 15" MBPr? It seems a much clearer choice for the video, rendering, photo pros, than for the developer set.
    Any developers out there see a benefit to running Xcode on a Mac Pro?
  • madmilk - Tuesday, December 31, 2013 - link

    Seems pretty pointless if you ask me. I guess compilation will be quicker on the 8 and 12-core configs, but on the 4/6 cores it won't be a big difference. As for GPU, the FirePros are not a whole lot faster than the GPUs in the iMacs. I guess if you like lots of monitors the Mac Pro has ports for six 2560x1600 monitors, but the rMBP allows three 2560x1600 which is already a vast amount of space. Reply
  • MichalT - Wednesday, January 1, 2014 - link

    You can get XCode to use the extra cores by typing in something like this:

    defaults write IDEBuildOperationMaxNumberOfConcurrentCompileTasks 8

    It speeds unity builds a bit for me, but it seems that between Unity and XCode they are not parallelizing enough tasks.

    GCC, however, uses the extra cores nicely and compilation speed increases nearly linearly with the number of cores; linking is still single threaded. I build using make, and I type in something like make debug -j9 (for my 8 core system this provided the best compilation time).
  • whyso - Tuesday, December 31, 2013 - link

    Are the D series gpus actually firepro? Or are they simply consumer level gpus that apple has paid for a firepro name? What I mean is under 3d rendering apps (maya, 3ds max, solidworks, etc) do they perform like a firepro W series gpu or an underclocked 7970? Reply
  • Kevin G - Wednesday, January 1, 2014 - link

    Well considering that FirePro's on the PC side are the same consumer level chips with different drivers and features enabled, the difference is likely academic. On the OS X side, the consumer GPU's in Apple's Mac Pro have used the same OS X driver as the workstation counterparts. (Though this historically has applied only to nVidia. This is the first time a Fire Pro has gotten an official OS X release.) Reply
  • Gigaplex - Wednesday, January 1, 2014 - link

    The FirePros usually have ECC RAM which these cards don't. Reply

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