- Both Mac Pro systems come loaded with a single 640GB SATA hard drive with three open HDD slots; we asked Apple why there was no option for SSD storage (or even a Fusion-io ioDrive), and it simply stated that users with a need for more speed should consider the $700 Mac Pro RAID card, which can utilize 15,000RPM SAS hard drives. The lack of optional flash-based storage isn't a deal breaker, but we can't understand why Apple would pass up the opportunity to give well-endowed speed freaks the option to indulge in PCI-based SSD RAID storage.
So, let's talk about performance, shall we? Bootup was predictably snappy, though we didn't notice any significant speed increases in app launching compared to our 2.4GHz / 4GB / 320GB 7,200RPM MacBook Pro. Was it a hair faster at basic tasks like firing up Firefox and opening up new tabs in Safari? Sure, but not amazingly so. Without running the numbers and proving in milliseconds how much faster PhotoShop batching was, we can definitely say that we expected a bigger speed boost than what we got (compared to the aforesaid MacBook Pro). We'll let the benchmarks below do the talking, but the takeaway is that this machine won't make those everyday, menial tasks seem that much faster. Unless you're engaging in some serious data crunching (hence the whole "workstation" moniker), you'll probably wonder why you paid this much for this tiny an increase in speed.
: It should be pointed out that XBench, while an excellent gauge of overall performance in a generic sense, doesn't perfectly demonstrate the potential of these CPUs. The tool doesn't yet test multi-threading, and given that these processors are so new, it'll probably take awhile for it to be re-coded to take advantage. That said, we can
tell you from real world use that these fancy new slabs of silicon aren't worth their asking price for menial tasks; you'll only truly appreciate 'em when using true professional applications. You can tell by Apple's own selection of benchmarks -- seen here
-- that this machine is tailor made to perform best when working with pro software. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but consumers in general should definitely be aware before expecting the wrong thing.
All in all, we've come to realize that this is a pro-level machine for a reason. It's just marginally faster than much cheaper consumer-level rigs at doing consumer-level things, and it's downright lousy at gaming. In fact, we had to force the resolution to 1,600 x 1,200 and turn anti-aliasing off entirely to get Call of Duty 4
to become playable. The newest Mac Pro has proven once again that it serves a clearly defined niche, and unless you'll be firing up Aperture, Final Cut Pro or similar on a regular basis, you should probably pass. 'Course, you could also slap that ATI card in here along with four 2TB HDDs to create a powerhouse that can't be replicated in any other current Mac form, but we'd propose that it's just not worth the cost. If you're looking to game, there are far cheaper ways to do it. If you're looking to handle web surfing and typical Office tasks, the same is true here. If you're a pro looking to cut down those render times and give yourself lots of room for expansion, this might be your machine. We'd stop by an Apple store to give it a whirl first, though.