New Mac Pro sports eight cores

Written by Brett Thomas

April 6, 2007 // 7:39 a.m.

Tags: #mac #mac-pro #xeon

Companies: #apple #intel

The move to an Intel platform for Apple has been a boon on quite a few fronts for the company. First of all, no longer using proprietary hardware has dropped product costs considerably, adding to its healthy bottom line. Second, the switch (which happened just as Intel was switching to Core) allowed Apple to move to one of the most powerful CPUs available. And third, it allows the company to pull off stuff like this.

Cupertino unveiled its latest brainchild on Thursday... or maybe it should be brainchildren. The release was for the newest member of the Mac Pro family -- and it packs eight cores of power. The new system uses two Intel Xeon 5300 processors (four cores each) at up to 3GHz. If that sounds like a lot, just wait until you hear the price -- $3,997.00 USD before most options. However, it looks like this one will be better suited for the workhorses among us, particularly those doing graphic arts, 3D rendering, or video editing.

While the price may be staggering, you're getting more bang for your buck than other similar systems. You can price out an eight-core system from Dell but it crosses well over the $4,000 mark, and that's only with 2.66GHz processors. Why no 3GHz models? Well, Apple has an exclusive on them (at least for now) courtesy of Intel - the actual processor is the Xeon 5365, which is limited stock production. In that respect, the system is quite a deal.

Graphically, the machine can sport any of three options: Nvidia GeForce 7300 GT, ATI Radeon X1900 XT or an Nvidia Quadro FX 4500. Sadly, this top option of only a X1900 XT seems a bit underclassed as a gaming system, even though that's one of Apple's new target markets for the Mac Pro. If you choose Nvidia cards, the board does support up to Quad SLI -- but somehow four 7300s just doesn't sound all that appealing. Since the system undoubtedly will frown on BIOS adjustment, the DDR2-667 RAM won't be as much of a limitation as it is at least enough to match the CPU front-side bus. Apple is intending to actively market the new Mac Pro as a gaming rig, so we'll just have to see how it does...personally, I think it's better suited for its usual professional-level workstation.

For those users on Windows who think that eight cores sounds positively excessive, you may be right. However, both OSX and its software tend to function much better with Symmetric Multi-Processing (SMP) than Windows based machines. This is due to the fact that OSX is built on a derivative of Unix, which has a very strong SMP support. Because of this, most software developed for 'nix variants (particularly more work-oriented software) supports the feature. Somehow, I doubt it will need all that power just to run Google Desktop though.

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