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2008 Mac Pro Review

Apple introduced their next-generation Pro desktop system at WWDC 2006 in August. The Mac Pro is an Intel-based system using two 2.66GHz Dual-Core Intel Xeon "Woodcrest" processors and offers 4MB shared L2 cache per processor, 1.33GHz dual independent frontside buses, 1GB memory (667MHz DDR2 fully-buffered DIMM ECC), NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT graphics with 256MB memory, 250GB Serial ATA 3Gb/s 7200-rpm hard drive, and a 16x double-layer SuperDrive. Apple claims the new system architecture delivers up to twice the performance of the foregoing Power Mac G5 Quad. It's available today at The Apple Store for $2499. The Mac Pro is available with configure-to-order options including a choice of 2GHz, 2.66GHz, or 3GHz processors, up to 16GB of RAM, 2TB of storage, dual optical drives, and multiple graphics cards.

Mac Pro Model Chart:

2.66GHz Mac Pro

Two 2.66GHz Dual-Core Intel Xeon "Woodcrest" processors
4MB shared L2 cache per processor
1.33GHz dual independent frontside buses
1GB memory (667MHz DDR2 fully-buffered DIMM ECC)
NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT graphics with 256MB memory
250GB Serial ATA 3Gb/s 7200-rpm hard drive
16x double-layer SuperDrive (DVD+R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)

Configuration Options

Processors up to 3.0GHz
Memory up to 16GB
Upgraded graphics cards
Up to 3TB (in four 750 GB hard drives)
Up to two SuperDrives
AirPort Extreme
Bluetooth 2.0+EDR
Many more options available

sku MA356LL/A


Mac Pro

by Charles W. Moore

Apple's professional models in desktop tower configurations date back to the Motorola 25 MHz 68040 powered Macintosh Quadra 700 introduces way back in October, 1991 (along with the original PowerBooks), and there have been professional Mac towers available continuously since then. Apple's current top-of-the-line professional desktop computer is only available in one nominal single model - a tower form factor with two Dual-Core Intel Xeon "Woodcrest" processors clocked at 2GHz, 2.66GHz, or 3GHz starting at $2,199.00. However, any apparent paucity of choice is illusory, since Apple claims that there are more than a mind-boggling 4.9 million possible configurations for the Mac Pro.

Even the base configuration of these big tower machines is an awesome powerhouse, the expandability can take you into the stratosphere (eg: up to two 3.0 GHz dual-core Xeon CPUs, 16 GB of RAM, up to 35 TB of internal storage in four 750 GB hard drives, four video cards, two SuperDrives, Xserve support, RAID, hot swappable drives, and remote management while running Mac OSX Server).

As Apple did with all of their first generation Intel machines, save for the MacBook which replaced the five year old dual USB iBook, they chose to stick with essentially the form factor of the preceding Power PC model. While the Mac Pro case design carried over from the Power Mac G5s with a few minor changes (ie: a second optical slot in the front, a FireWire 800 connector, only one fan in the back of the Mac Pro, vs. two in the G5 Power Mac) is handsome enough, a more distinctive makeover in form factor might have been in order, but would have caused a longer delay in getting the big MacIntels out. On the other hand, the "if it ain't broke; don't fix it" maxim can be applied.

The Mac Pro features Intel's Dual-Core Intel Xeon 5100 series processor based on Core microarchitecture, with two Dual-Core Intel Xeon processors running up to 3.0 GHz, each with 4MB of shared L2 cache and independent 1.33 GHz front-side buses. With 667 MHz DDR2 fully-buffered memory, the Mac Pro also boasts a 256-bit wide memory architecture.

Other Mac Pro features include a new, direct attach storage solution for cable free, snap in installation of up to four 750GB Serial ATA hard drives for a total of 3TB of internal storage - a new storage high-water-mark for Macs - and support for two optical drives to simultaneously read and/or write to CDs and DVDs.

Also included are three full-length PCI Express expansion slots and one double-wide PCI Express graphics slot to support double-wide graphics cards without clogging up multiple slots.

These Mac Pros come standard with the NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT graphics processing unit (GPU) with 256MB of video memory, providing built-in support for dual-displays and Apple's 30-inch Cinema HD Display. The ATI Radeon X1900 XT and the NVIDIA Quadro FX 4500 GPUs both with 512MB of video memory, are available as build to order options and provide built-in support for up to two 30-inch Apple Cinema HD Displays. The Quadro FX 4500 also includes a stereo 3D port to connect goggles for stereo-in-a-window applications and is ideal for the most demanding animation, special effects, and scientific visualization applications. If you need the power, the Mac Pro supports up to four PCI Express graphics cards to drive up to eight displays at once for advanced visualization and large display walls.

The Mac Pro front panel sports convenient access to a FireWire 800 port, a FireWire 400 port, and two USB 2.0 ports with additional FireWire 800, FireWire 400, and three USB 2.0 ports on the back panel. The port array also includes two Gigabit Ethernet ports, optical digital input and output, analog audio input and output, with built-in support for AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth 2.0+EDR optional. Sadly, there is no internal modem offered.

Quick and convenient access to internals has been a signature feature in professional tower Macs since the Blue & White Power Macintosh G3/300-450 tower was introduced at Macworld Expo San Francisco in 1999. The Mac Pro continues the tradition, with one whole side of the tower case removable, plus a newly designed bracket for tool-less installation and removal of expansion cards.

The Mac Pro is the most powerful, expandable computer Apple has ever offered, and if raw computing performance and versatile expandability in a Mac OS machine is what you need, look no further. The main criticism is that at an entry-level $2,199 (the 2.0 GHz processor configuration is actually a delete option from Apple's "recommended" $2,499 2.66 MHz dual Xeon configuration), Mac Pro is a bit pricey compared with some of the PC competition (although it's a lot cheaper than that first Quadra 700 that sold for $6,000 without a keyboard), and if mail I receive is any measure, there would be a ready market for a somewhat less capable, less expensive professional desktop Mac offering more versatility and expansion than the high-end iMacs and selling for $1,699 or so.

Mac Pro At a Glance

The Mac Pro, with a suggested retail price of $2,199 (US), includes:
two 2.0 GHz Dual-Core Intel Xeon processors;
1GB of 667 MHz DDR2 fully-buffered ECC memory expandable up to 16GB;
NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT with 256MB of GDDR2 SDRAM;
250GB Serial ATA (3Gb/s) hard drive running at 7200 rpm;
16x SuperDrive with double-layer support (DVD+R DL/DVDRW/CD-RW);
Four PCI Express slots: one double-wide graphics slot and three full-length expansion slots
Ships with Mighty Mouse and Apple Keyboard.

In addition to the base configuration, the Mac Pro offers more than 4.9 million build-to-order options including: two 2.66 GHz or 3.0 GHz Dual-Core Intel Xeon processors; up to 16GB of 667 MHz DDR2 fully-buffered ECC memory; up to four 500GB Serial ATA hard drives running at 7200 rpm; up to two 16x SuperDrives with double-layer support; ATI Radeon X1900 XT and NVIDIA Quadro FX 4500 graphics cards, both with 512MB of GDDR3 SDRAM; AirPort Extreme module, Bluetooth 2.0+EDR module; Apple USB Modem; Apple Wireless Keyboard and Apple wireless Mighty Mouse; Mac OS X Server Tiger; Apple Xsan; and Apple Fibre Channel PCI Express Card. Complete build-to-order options and pricing are available at: