Apple's Mac Pro - A True PowerMac Successorby Anand Lal Shimpi on August 16, 2006 12:27 PM EST
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The Mac Pro is pretty much everything the PowerMac G5 should have been. It's cooler, quieter, faster, has more expansion and it gives you more for your value than the older systems ever could.
If you were happy with your PowerMac G5, then you'll definitely be happy with the Mac Pro. And if you're a heavy multitasker, you will quickly be spoiled by the four very high performance cores that have found their way into the familiar looking chassis.
We did want a little more out of the system; for a company that usually embraces up and coming standards we wanted to see things like eSATA or CrossFire/SLI supported, but that's mostly for the geek in us that just likes playing around with interesting technologies. We would've also appreciated a more upgrade friendly setup; while we do appreciate how easy it is to install new drives and memory, replacing your CPUs is much more time intensive. Seeing as how you can now buy CPUs for your Mac from Newegg thanks to Apple using regular Intel processors, we'd assume that CPU upgrades will be done a bit more frequently especially as time goes on and prices drop.
From a performance standpoint, running OS X, the Mac Pro is truly Apple's fastest system by a long shot. Some of the performance advantages over the PowerMac G5 aren't enormous, but then you look at situations like iPhoto, Xcode or Final Cut Pro where the G5 is just put to shame. Rosetta performance is just about as good as it gets, the only real solution to that problem is for Adobe and Microsoft to hurry up and release updated software. Unfortunately since Apple isn't really a favorite of either company, it's not like greater than usual amounts of resources are being thrown at releasing new products specifically for the Mac platform.
Would we suggest staying away from the Mac Pro until all applications are available as Universal Binaries? No. But make sure you know what you're getting yourself into before you buy anything: emulated performance is bearable, but it's by no means fast.
One of our biggest concern about the Mac Pro is that users who don't need 8 memory slots or four cores would be better off if Apple released a single socket Core 2 based Mac tower. The memory performance of FBD on the Intel 5000X chipset is absolutely horrid and there's nothing you can do about it unless you switch entirely to an all serial interface or go back to using regular DDR2 memory.
The memory performance of the Mac Pro is noticeably better than the PowerMac G5 and competitive with other products in the Mac lineup (for now), but it's still significantly lower than where it could be. Intel seems married to its FBD strategy for now, which unfortunately means that as long as Apple wants two sockets for the Mac Pro, you'll need to deal with FBD. Our recommendation to Apple? Give us a Core 2 based tower. Our recommendation to Intel? Give us an alternative to FBD.