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

  • FunBunny2 - Tuesday, December 31, 2013 - link

    Has everybody forgotten? This is just a Cube with one round corner. I suppose Tim will claim that's been patented too. Reply
  • newrigel - Wednesday, March 1, 2017 - link

    Right.... with a unified core in it he he.... Mac's rule Reply
  • Y0ssar1an22 - Tuesday, December 31, 2013 - link

    Off the Mac Pro topic but how come the 2013 13" rMBP scores significantly lower than the 2012 and various MBAs in the Cinebench 11.5? I'm personally interested as I have one on order :-) It scores better in later tests (so presumably not a typo?) Cinebench caught my eye as the first cross-benchmark in the review.

    Thanks for this review, and looking forward to the rMBPs in depth!

  • iwod - Tuesday, December 31, 2013 - link

    1. What are the likely chances of a Mac that does Desktop Class Gfx card with 2 x8 PCI-E and uses Desktop Haswell instead. Unless i miss anything surely this is a simple change in production line.
    2. SSD speed is slow, for a Peak rate of 2GB/s, it seems Apple firmware or Samsung Controller not capable of feeling up the peak bandwidth? So which is likely the cause?
    3. GFx ECC Ram. How much of a problem is it? For Professional market? And why Apple decide to ditch this since the price difference are minor for the price of Mac Pro.
  • dwade123 - Tuesday, December 31, 2013 - link

    Who the **** put a trashcan here!? Reply
  • e375ued - Wednesday, January 1, 2014 - link

    Is there some convenient reason Anand let the Mac Pro off easy by using Prime95 instead of Intel Burn Test or linpack? Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Wednesday, January 1, 2014 - link

    It was my suggestion to try maxing out the Mac Pro, just to see if it would throttle (and if so, by how much). I picked Prime95 because it's good enough; not that there's anything wrong with IBT or Linpack, but all 3 of those are close enough that it shouldn't matter (and P95 is easy to use). Reply
  • jrs77 - Wednesday, January 1, 2014 - link

    Good test that shows that the thermal core design works like a charm, even when applying very heavy and rather unrealistic loads to the system.

    Most people will run these new Mac Pros with only having a scene rendered or a video-filter applied etc and in this case the system is basically dead-silent and street-noise totally drowns the noise of the fan anyways.

    Just a tad too expensive for me tho.
  • Kevin G - Wednesday, January 1, 2014 - link

    The ‘mid range’ config is a far better value on the 2012 model since it is a 12 core model. The $200 savings can be put toward a better GPU.

    With regard to Cinebench, does it use AVX under OS X? I suspect that it does and that is where the majority of the single threaded CPU performance increase comes from. I strongly suspect that the single threaded performance advantage is far narrower in legacy code that doesn’t take advantage of AVX.

    I’m glad the 2012 model was tested with a Radeon 7950. The ability to upgrade GPU’s matters and it’ll keep the 2012 model competitive for awhile. The system will support future video cards that come in from the PC side of things. With UEFI on video cards now, there is little difference between a Mac and PC version. For what it is worth, I have stuck an EVGA GTX 770 into a 2012 Mac Pro without issue and no modification on the video card or OS X drivers. It just works.

    A bit of a random note is that the GPU connector used in the Mac Pro isn’t new to Apple: they used it for the G4 class daughter cards form 15 years back.

    The PLX chip doesn’t have to do any port switching as a single GPU can drive up to 6 surfaces. That would imply the six DP signals from one GPU are routed in pairs to each of the Falcon Ridge controllers for encapsulation.

    One shocking thing is that wall power draw exceeds that of the PSU’s DC rating. That is worrying as the system itself has only a 450W rated power supply. Due to the AC to DC conversion, there is an efficiency factor but the system has to be running close to its DC limit. Performing several file transfers over powered Thunderbolt devices could put the power draw beyond the rated DC limit. I wonder if Apple has implemented throttling based upon raw power consumption of the system as a whole in addition to temperature and power consumption of individual parts. Perhaps testing the system on a 240V AC circuit would alter things here as it is more efficient power delivery?

    One aspect not accounted for is memory expansion. The 2009/2010/2012 Mac Pro’s will work with registered ECC memory which brings their maximum capacity up to 128 GB. Memory bandwidth too is superior in the dual socket 2010/2012 models: six channels of 1333 Mhz memory does have more bandwidth than four channels at 1866 Mhz. Going multi-socket does carry some overhead but still a bit of a disappointment that the theoretical number didn’t improve.
  • Bill Thompson - Wednesday, January 1, 2014 - link

    My guess is the nVidia-based iMac is faster with After Effects and Premiere because of CUDA.

    Davinci Resolve has been updated for OpenCL, but I don't think Octane or Adobe apps have.

    BTW, FCP X 10.1 displays multiple 4K streams in real time without rendering. It's a serious app.

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