Mac Pro

Mac Pro

 

In most of our iLife '06 tests, the Mac Pro left the Power Mac in the dust. When applying the Black & White video effect in iMovie HD, the Mac Pro was an impressive 56 percent faster than the Power Mac. In our iPhoto photo-import test, where we brought 198 high-resolution JPEGs into iPhoto, the Mac Pro was 65 percent faster than the Power Mac. The Mac Pro was 11 percent faster than the Power Mac when we performed GarageBand's Send To iTunes function. And when we converted 11 WAV files ripped from our Slammin' All-Body Band music CD to AAC format, the Mac Pro was 17 percent faster than the Power Mac. These aren't just marginal differences - these gains are significant.

 

In two of our iLife '06 tests, we found no speed difference between the two Macs. We weren't surprised that this happened in our iDVD test that creates a OneStep DVD from a movie; the SuperDrive proves to be the bottleneck in this task. The two Macs also had identical speeds when applying a Quartz Composer Sepia Tone video effect in iMovie HD. When we ran other Quartz Composer video effects in iMovie HD (Bloom, Color Monochrome, Crystallize, and Exposure Adjust), both Macs continued to finish at the same time. The reason for the identical performance: Both Macs were using the same 512MB nVidia Quadro FX 45000 video card. An Apple spokesperson told us that Quartz Composer speed is dependent on the graphics processor; we used the same card in both Macs, which explains the identical results.

 

We also tested the Mac Pro's speed with non-Universal apps to see how much of an effect Rosetta (Apple's technology that lets you run apps that don't use Intel-native code) has on performance. In earlier testing, we've found that with the iMac, Mac mini, MacBook, and MacBook Pro, an Intel-based Mac can run slower than a comparable PowerPC-equipped Mac when running a non-Universal application. As we expected, the Quad Core Power Mac was faster than the Mac Pro - 27 percent faster when performing our Photoshop CS2 Action test on a 100MB file, 23 percent faster when exporting a file in Adobe InDesign CS2 as a PDF, and 33 percent faster in our Adobe Photoshop Elements 4 Auto Smart Fix test.

 

We then took our Rosetta testing one step further. We boosted the RAM in both Macs from 2GB to 4GB to test the theory that with more RAM for Rosetta to use, the Mac Pro's Photoshop speed would improve. At 4GB, we adjusted Photoshop's memory usage (Photoshop > Preferences > Memory & Image Cache) to 1,382MB (45 percent), so that it closely matched the memory allocation we used at 2GB (1,372MB, or 70 percent). Making this adjustment ensured that the added memory was available for Rosetta to use. Boosting the memory made a small difference - the Mac Pro reduced the Power Mac's lead a measly 3 percent. You could add more RAM beyond 4GB and possibly see improved Photoshop performance, but then you start to drift into cost considerations. For example, to upgrade from 4GB to 8GB, you have to shell out an extra $1,400 to $1,600. With a Universal version of Photoshop CS3 coming out next year, you could decide to wait for the new software to arrive and just grin and bear Photoshop CS2, instead of buying a ton of RAM. Though, if Photoshop is where you make your living, then you've already considered adding more than 4GB of RAM.

 

We also used Doom 3's benchmark tool to gauge the gaming performance of the Mac Pro. Considering that the Mac Pro and the Power Mac that were used for testing had the exact same video card, the results are remarkable. The Mac Pro's average framerate was 122 frames per second, which blew away the Power Mac's 53 frames per second. What's great about this result is that it not only illustrates the power of Intel-native code on Intel processors, but also demonstrates the improvements in processing power of the Xeon CPUs.

 

The bottom line. Not only does the Mac Pro have a lot to offer now, but it has the potential to pay fat future dividends once pro applications are Intel-icized. When it came to rolling out Intel-based Macs, Apple saved the best for last.

 

Special thanks to MacAddict Contributing Editor Helmut Kolber and Maximum PC Senior Editor Gordon Mah Ung, who contributed to this review.

 

COMPANY: Apple
CONTACT: 800-692-7753 or 408-996-1010, www.apple.com
PRICE: $2,499, base model; $5,478, as tested
SPECIFICATIONS: (as tested) two 3GHz dual-core Intel Xeon processors, 4MB shared L2 cache per processor, 1.33GHz dual independent frontside buses, 2GB 667MHz DDR2 fully buffered DIMM ECC RAM, 500GB 7,200 rpm Serial ATA hard drive, 16x double-layer SuperDrive, 512MB nVidia Quadro FX 4500 video card, Bluetooth 2.0
Impressive performance with Universal applications. Elegant industrial design inside and out. Easy-to-access hard drive bays. More front panel ports.
Performance hit using nonnative apps with Rosetta. Heavy. Noticeable fan noise.

 

 

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