It's fair to say that most Apple products are met with unfairly high expectations. We expect top-level industrial design, world-class performance and, of course, a giddy price.
The core specification of the newest Mac Pro did nothing to dampen our hopes. At its heart lies a quad-core Intel Xeon W3520 running at 2.67GHz, helped by 3GB of 1066MHz DDR3 RAM. The 45nm processor boasts all the features of the new Core i7 CPUs, such as Turbo Boost, and it has an integrated memory controller, which cuts the time it takes for the CPU to access system RAM.
Not surprisingly, it made light work of our benchmarks, producing an overall score of 1.88. The Mac Pro packs a punch when it comes to multitasking: you could use Adobe Premiere Pro in the foreground while rendering a project in the background and still have spare horsepower.
The rest of the Mac Pro is just as uncompromising. The 640GB hard disk provides more than enough space for a full install of Adobe's Creative Suite 4. And, with a spin speed of 7200rpm and 16MB cache, data bottlenecks should be kept to a minimum.
There are a few disappointments. The lack of Blu-ray is strange considering it appears on some sub-$3000 laptops, and the Mac Pro is powerful enough to edit HD video.
|The Mac Pro is made from beautifully machined recyclable aluminium, and is modular. It's wire-free, tool-free, and virtually impossible to put back incorrectly.
The other peculiarity is the graphics card: the Nvidia GeForce GT 120 is fairly humble, and the proof was in our Crysis benchmark. It's odd to see a PC for close to $5000 score just 25fps at our medium settings.
On the plus side, it's possible to specify up to four GT 120s in the system, for $900, giving you the potential to run eight 30in LCDs from a single Mac Pro. Or those looking for gaming potential can opt for the 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4870, available as a $400 option.
As impressive as the core spec is, Apple's most impressive work is the design. The Mac Pro is made from beautifully machined recyclable aluminium, and is modular. The processors and RAM are on a daughterboard, which connects to the motherboard via a sliding tray. It's wire-free, tool-free, and virtually impossible to put back incorrectly.
|It's possible to specify up to four GT 120s in the system, for $900, giving you the potential to run eight 30in LCDs from a single Mac Pro
Up to four hard disks live horizontally near the top of the chassis, each in its own metal housing, and the SATA connectors are attached to the motherboard. Apple claims to have eliminated 6ft of cabling compared to the previous Mac Pro.
The front of the chassis is featureless, with just a pair of USB and FireWire 800 ports to accompany the obligatory power button and headphone jack. Things are similarly sparse on the back, with a pair of Gigabit Ethernet ports, two 3.5mm audio ports for audio in and out, and optical S/PDIF in and out. There are two more FireWire 800 ports, making this the first Mac Pro not to have a single FireWire 400 port. This means those with 400-based hardware will have to buy adapters.
The only other disappointment is the USB ports - three on the back makes a total of five, meaning anyone with a healthy complement of external hardware might swap ports a few times a day. On the plus side, the slim but solid keyboard has a pair of USB ports built in.
The real let-down, inevitably, is the price. The Mac Pro costs $4499, and for that it's fair to expect a PC to do anything. This Mac Pro, though, doesn't even include a screen, and it has limited capacity for gaming and HD.
However, price isn't the top-line consideration when it comes to workstations. Ease of maintenance, after-sales support and computational capacity all trump initial price. If your IT department can find the budget to put a new Mac Pro on your desktop, you're lucky indeed.