There have been concerns about the fate of the Mac Pro ever since Apple killed off the Xserve a year and a half ago. Although Apple didn’t say the Mac Pro was on the chopping block, the company did let it go without an update for quite some time. Although the Mac Pro didn’t get featured in today’s WWDC keynote like the MacBook lineup, which includes the new MacBook Pro, it did receive a long-needed update.
The biggest reaction to the Mac Pro’s update today is a sense of relief by many creative professionals and Mac-focused IT departments. The update proves that Apple isn’t signing the death warrant for its most powerful and most expandable Mac. That makes the updated specs a symbol of Apple’s commitment to high-end and high-performance systems in addition to being a major product update.
The new Mac Pro sports a range of performance boosting updates including its processor configurations and new ATI Radeon HD graphic cards. The available power in the new Mac Pro delivers performance an order of magnitude beyond what’s available in the other Mac product families. It also has a price tag to match that level of performance. While the entry-level Mac Pro will cost you $2499, maxing out its processor, memory, internal storage, and expansion cards can pump the cost up to more than $13,000.
The base model Mac Pro includes a sing 3.2GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon W3565 processor. Apple allows customers to trick out a Mac Pro with significantly more processing power – the top of the line option is a Mac Pro with two 3.06GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon processors, which delivers a powerful 12-core system, and up to 64GB of memory. As Apple notes on the Mac Pro product page, it allows a choice of four, six, or twelve cores.
The Mac Pro offers two advanced processor options from Intel. The Quad-Core Intel Xeon processor is available in a single-processor, quad-core configuration at 3.2GHz. For even greater speed and power, choose a 6-Core Intel Xeon processor. Since the Mac Pro comes with either one or two processors, you can have a 6-core Mac Pro at up to 3.33GHz, or, to max out your performance, a 12-core system at up to 3.06GHz.
The graphics capabilities also received a boost in the form of ATI’s Radeon HD 5770 with 1GB of GDDR5 memory as the standard graphics card and ATI’s Radeon HD 5870 with 1GB of GDDR5 memory as an option.
The Mac Pro also remains the most configurable Mac that Apple makes with support for two Superdrives, four internal drive bays that can accommodate hard drives or SSD storage, and three PCI Express expansion slots (a single PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot and two PCI Express 2.0 x4 slots) that can accommodate additional graphics cards, fibre channel cards for SAN systems running Apple’s Xsan, and additional wired network capabilities.
Most users – consumers or business users – don’t require anywhere near the power of a fully loaded Mac Pro for daily tasks. For design and publishing professionals, photographers, and video producers, however, that power can be essential. Video production, in particular needs all the power a Mac can deliver (along with the need to integrate high performance on-system storage and/or available SAN storage). Given that creative professionals are core Apple market, the new Mac Pro is as much a powerful system as it is a symbol that Apple still values this market.
The Mac Pro also comes in server configuration that includes Lion Server. For organizations that rely on OS X Server and need significantly more power than the Mac mini Server can deliver, the Mac Pro is a powerful system that can scale as needed to support additional users and features. It doesn’t live up to the Xserve’s server closet/data center design, but it proves that Apple realizes some companies need more powerful server hardware.