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Apple's Nehalem-based Mac Pro 'fastest Mac ever'

Dan Turner | April 6, 2009
The release of Mac OS X 10.6 this summer should boost speeds even more

Also note that the Mac Pro does not ship with Wi-Fi capabilities by default. An internal AirPort Extreme card is a $50 option; most pros would rather take advantage of the high bandwidth and security of the Gigabit Ethernet ports. But it seems odd that this is the only Mac without wireless connectivity by default.

Greenpeace will be pleased

After Greenpeace pointedly hit Apple over environmental concerns in 2007, the company has made great strides toward eliminating toxins and maximizing recyclable materials in its hardware. (It also will take in defunct computers at Apple stores for recycling). Apple bills this as the "greenest Mac Pro ever" -- though, of course, no splash of color defiles the cool aluminum casing.

As part of that boast, Apple claims that it has reduced idle power consumption by 15%, met EnergyStar 4.0 and the upcoming 5.0 standards, eliminated the use of PVC and BFR, and considered recycling issues when designing its hardware. I can vouch that the Mac Pro is a lot quieter, whether at idle or under load, than a dual-G5 Power Mac, though video card fans can be a large part of the noise production.

I mentioned multithreaded applications earlier, and the new Mac Pros' advantage in this arena will most likely become even more pronounced in the future, as Apple pushes the Grand Central technology slated to debut with Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. This not only makes the coming Mac OS X multicore-aware, but the technology includes tools for developers to add multicore threading to existing and future applications. In other words, the more cores you have, the more boost you'll see in future OS X releases. This makes the $800 price for the dual-Xeon Mac Pro -- which sports 16 cores! -- the cost of future-proofing.

And while it's too early to tell, the Radeon HD option might also add some future-proofing to your workstation investment (and at this price range, the Mac Pro is definitely more a workstation than a personal computer, and it's certainly an investment). Another piece of tasty tech promised for Snow Leopard -- OpenCL -- is designed to allow applications to offload some general computing tasks from the CPU, no matter how many dozens of cores there are, to the GPU, which lies relatively idle for most tasks. This isn't automatic, as developers would have to introduce this code into their applications. But even if this doesn't pan out as planned, opting for the Radeon video card seems to be a worthwhile upgrade.

Final thoughts

The updated Mac Pro is an appropriate refresh ahead of the anticipated release of Snow Leopard. Both the hardware and software look familiar superficially but hold within them the promise of significant advances when they team up later this year.


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