This entry-level Mac Pro is fast. Very fast. At 2.8GHz, its Intel Xeon processor might look slow compared to the 3GHz-plus chips offered by most of the current iMac range, but its clock speed belies its true performance. Like the Core-i series, Hyper-Threading allows two threads to run on each of its cores, giving this model eight virtual cores. And like the Core i5 and i7 chips, Turbo Boost shuts down unused cores and boosts those that are active to a maximum of 3.06GHz. In our Cinebench rendering test, its single-processor score was just under 3 percent down from the 3.2GHz mid-2010 iMacs, but when all processors were brought into play, it outperformed the all-in-one by an incredible 67.5 percent. The Mac Pro’s new ATI Radeon HD 5770 is up to five times faster than the standard graphics cards offered by the previous Mac Pro generation and even outperforms its speediest configure-to-order option. It ran our Doom 3 test at almost 180 frames a second, and our five-minute test movie encoded to iPod format in just 129 seconds. What’s that boil down to? Although it’s designed for professionals, there’s clearly an advantage in having a Mac Pro as a home machine.
Apple's entry-level pro desktop is a speed demon.
As well as being fast, it’s also very configurable, allowing you to change or upgrade components without professional assistance. There are four cable-free internal bays for 3.5-inch SATA hard drives, providing a potential 8TB of storage. RAID 0 and 1 are supported out of the box, and you can add a RAID card for additional configurations. This model is supplied with 3GB of SDRAM, but its four memory slots can support up to 16GB (the two-processor versions offer eight slots for up to 32GB). You can fit and swap PCI Express cards without tools, and because the Mac Pro uses a double-sized graphics slot, your graphics card won’t block an adjacent port. The graphics card itself can be upgraded, or you can add a second ATI Radeon HD 5770. With two cards fitted, you can connect up to six displays.
Once again, there are two optical drive bays, only one of which is populated. Apple still doesn’t offer us Blu-ray, but the 18x SuperDrive introduced with the 2009 refresh is very welcome. It shatters the glass ceiling that kept our iTunes encoding test stuck at around 380 seconds for most Macs, ripping our test album in a little under half that time. Yet despite its speed, it’s extremely quiet, something that’s generally true for the system as a whole.
It might be the entry-level Pro, but it’s great for pros and home users alike. A Blu-ray drive was never in the cards anyway, and although expensive, it’s not bad value for the money.
2.8GHz Quad-Core Mac Pro
REQUIREMENTS: One 2.8GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon, 3GB 1066MHz DDR3 ECC SDRAM, 8MB shared L3 cache, 1TB 7200-rpm SATA hard drive, ATI Radeon HD 5770 with 1GB of GDDR5 memory, 5 USB 2.0 ports, 4 FireWire 800 ports, 3 PCI Express 2.0 slots, two Mini DisplayPort outputs, dual-link DVI output, 802.11n AirPort Extreme, dual 10/100/1000BASE-T (Gigabit) Ethernet, optical digital/analog audio in/out, multi-channel audio via Mini DisplayPort, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, IR receiver, Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keypad, Magic Mouse
Powerful new processor. Excellent graphics card. Very configurable. Cool and quiet. Superb new SuperDrive.
Still no Blu-ray support.