In June of last year, Apple announced that it would migrate all of its systems to Intel platforms by its World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) in 2007. Earlier this week Apple announced that the transition was complete, finalized by announcing the brand new Intel based Mac Pro and Xserve systems for professional workstation and server customers respectively. A full year ahead of "schedule", very few expected to take until 2007 to complete the transition considering the x86 version of OS X had been in development in parallel with the PowerPC version for the past 6 years.

It's been a long and not always as exciting road, going from the PowerPC G4 and G5 based systems to the new Core Duo and Xeon based Macs. Externally, little has changed with the new Macs, but on the inside these things are full blown PCs running Mac OS X. The entire transition has honestly been quite impressive on Apple's part, as switching CPU architectures this seamlessly is not easy to do.

We've looked at previous Intel based Macs, the MacBook Pro and the new iMac, and generally have come away quite pleased with the move to Intel. There are still some hiccups here and there, mostly thanks to applications from companies like Adobe and Microsoft that have yet to provide Universal Binary support but for the most part the end user isn't aware that Apple's OS and software have gone through dramatic changes over the past year.

We will be bringing you full coverage of the new Mac Pro, including a complete review of the system compared to other PCs as well as its predecessors, however we found ourselves talking a lot about the specs of the new Mac Pro that we decided to put that discussion in an article before our review goes live. We're still awaiting our review sample and hope to begin testing in the coming weeks, but until then there are a number of items worth discussing about the new Mac Pro. We'll examine the price impact of Apple's choice of Xeon over Core 2 processors, fully explain FB-DIMMs and what they mean to you, as well as talk about the chipset, graphics and storage options on the new platform (while offering some cheaper alternatives to Apple's Build-to-Order upgrades).

Unlike the outgoing PowerMac G5, the Mac Pro only ships in one standard configuration with the following specs:

 
 
Apple Mac Pro

CPU

2 x Intel Xeon 5150 Processors 2.66GHz

Memory

2 x 512MB DDR2-667 ECC FB-DIMM
Graphics
NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT
Hard Drive
1 x 250GB SATA 3Gbps
Optical
1 x SuperDrive (DVD+R DL/DVD+-RW/CD-RW)
Price
$2499 ($2299 with Educational Discount)

The point of this article is to help those of you ordering today, analyze and understand the specs, as well as provide some of the necessary background information for our review that will follow in the coming weeks. Without further ado, let's talk about one of the most important aspects of the new Mac Pro: the CPUs.

CPU Analysis
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  • michael2k - Friday, August 11, 2006 - link

    fb dimms, found in Mac Pros, are fast serial ram using DDR chips. Reply
  • OddTSi - Friday, August 11, 2006 - link

    Perhaps you missed the part where I said "non-ad hoc."

    I know what FB-DIMMs are, but they're more of a band-aid fix or a hack than a ground-up design.
    Reply
  • michael2k - Friday, August 11, 2006 - link

    Maybe you misused "ad hoc". Ad hoc means unplanned and temporary. Why do you think fb-dimm is a band-aid or a hack? Because the RAM chips themselves are not serial in nature?

    I mean, are you asking "Is there any designs or plans for serial memory chips?"

    To be cost effective you either have to use existing infrastructure, or create a logical evolution/adaptation of the existing infrastructure.
    Reply
  • AdvanS13 - Thursday, August 10, 2006 - link

    does anyone know apples market segment share for dual processor workstations? Reply
  • peternelson - Thursday, August 10, 2006 - link


    1) I think a gpu swap will need drivers or firmware updating.

    2) To buy a commodity sata drive is good but it MIGHT require the apple carrier in order to fit into the chassis.

    3) You compare apple memory with commodity FBDIMM.
    In the table you quote Apple's UPGRADE (ie on top of base machine) price against the complete cost of the memory. This makes Apple's pricing appear better than it is. Even then it looks like a ripoff, but also consider they are charging you for the base memory in with the basic system price.

    Reply
  • aliasfox - Friday, August 11, 2006 - link

    As far as I've read, the Mac Pros come with carriers in all four bays - carriers that don't need cables (ribbon or round). Didn't know the backs of SATA drives were similar enough that they could just be plugged in. Reply
  • JeffDM - Saturday, August 12, 2006 - link

    It's not stated in the Anand article, but all drive carriers are included. Apple's Tech Specs page says it, although it could have been more clearly stated. For what it's worth, I think it is worth downgrading the stock drive to 160GB and spending that difference toward additional drives. Going from 250GB to 160GB saves $75, that price difference would buy you a 250GB SATAII drive. Reply
  • JAS - Thursday, August 10, 2006 - link

    It appears that some people managed to receive their Mac Pro quickly.

    http://www.macworld.com/weblogs/macword/2006/08/ma...">http://www.macworld.com/weblogs/macword/2006/08/ma...
    Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Wednesday, August 09, 2006 - link

    http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/2006/06/26/xeon_wood...">http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/2006/06/2...odcrest_...

    Check out the memory bandwidth benchmark. Quad channel is needed to match Core 2 systems' memory bandwidth using only dual channel. Dual channel on Xeon 5100 drops to approximately 68% of the quad channel bandwidth. That in numbers is 3.8GB/sec. Not to mention Xeon 5100 series has 25% higher memory FSB. It needs 25% higher FSB and 2x memory channels to achieve the same memory bandwidth numbers the desktop Core 2's can. According to memory latency benchmarks, the latency is also significantly higher on the Woodcrest than Conroe's platform.

    The chipset on the Xeon 5100 is worse in performance than the chipset on the Core 2. It will NOT beat Core 2 because of the 25% higher FSB, it will rather be SLOWER. Not to mention FB-DIMM makes it even slower.

    SpecFP benchmarks also support this:
    Xeon 5160(3GHz/1333MHz FSB/4MB L2/8x1024MB FB-DIMM DDR2-667): 2775
    Core 2 Extreme X6800(2.93GHz/1066MHz FSB/4MB L2/2x1024MB DDR2-800 5-5-5-15): 3046

    Core 2 Extreme gets almost 10% higher in the memory substem portion of the SpecCPU 2K. benchmark, even though it has 2.2% less clock speed than the Xeon 5160.

    Look here: http://www.anandtech.com/IT/showdoc.aspx?i=2772&am...">http://www.anandtech.com/IT/showdoc.aspx?i=2772&am...

    "ScienceMark didn't agree completely and reported about 65-70 ns latency on the Opteron system and 70-76 ns (230 cycles) on the Woodcrest system. We have reason to believe that Woodcrest's latency is closer to what LMBench reports: the excellent prefetchers are hiding the true latency numbers from Sciencemark. It must also be said that the measurements for the Opteron on the Opteron are only for the local memory, not the remote memory."

    Xeon 5160 got 70-76ns in ScienceMark, what did Core 2 get?? It got 36.75. Xeon 5160's ScienceMark latency is higher than Pentium Extreme Edition 965's latency, and twice the latency of Core 2.

    Everest shows the same thing: http://pc.watch.impress.co.jp/docs/2006/0801/graph...">http://pc.watch.impress.co.jp/docs/2006/0801/graph...

    Xeon 5160: 99.1
    Opteron 285: 57.7(seems higher than FX-62 results but this system uses Registered DDR DIMM, you can see in AT's results that AM2 further lowers latency)

    Core 2 Extreme: 59.8
    http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?...">http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?...

    Reply
  • dcalfine - Wednesday, August 09, 2006 - link

    Overall, I think this is a very well-designed system, and in price comparisons with Dell, the Mac Pro came out over a thousand dollars cheaper for a similar system. I may be a fanboy, but I can admit that Apple still has some work to do here. As good as the Mac Pro is, I think Apple needs to start having better video options. For starters, the X500 chipset is used, which means that there's only one 16X PCIe lane. Also, Apple should get closer with Nvidia and start working in SLI, as well as FX4500X2 and FX5500. A Vanilla FX4500 just doesn't make the cut anymore. Also, the X500 chipset supports one 133X PCIX slot, which, I think, Apple should have incorporated, since not every expansion card has moved to the PCIe format.

    I'd like to see some speed comparisons between the mac pro and some pcs. I imagine that in most (if not all) test the Mac Pro will come out slightly slower than the PC due to the bells and whistles of Mac OS X, but I'd like to see just how much slower it runs, and how it runs in Boot Camp running Windows/Linux.

    But, yeah. Good goin', Apple!
    And AnandTech, get your hans on one of these ASAP!
    Reply

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