Mac Pro: So, how many thousands of dollars do you want to spend?

Mac Pro: So, how many thousands of dollars do you want to spend?

Summary: Apple's new flagship workstation, the Mac Pro, is out and available for pre-order. Let's see what your hard-earned dollars will buy you. But let me warn you before we begin, your wallet is going to get a beating.

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TOPICS: Hardware, Apple
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Apple's new flagship workstation, the Mac Pro, is out and available for pre-order. Let's see what your hard-earned dollars will buy you.

Mac Pro
(Image: Apple)

The Mac Pro is offered in two base options. The $2,999 comes with a 3.7GHz quad-core Intel Xeon E5 processor, 12GB 1866MHz DDR3 ECC RAM, dual AMD FirePro D300 GPUs, each with 2GB GDDR5 VRAM, and 256GB of PCIe-based flash storage. The $3,999 option features a 3.5GHz six-core Intel Xeon E5 processor, dual AMD FirePro D500 GPUs, each with 3GB GDDR5 VRAM, and 256GB of PCIe-based flash storage.

See alsoApple's new Mac Pro

But that's just the beginning.

Let's take the $3,999 six-core system as a starting point – after all, this is hardly a time to be penny-pinching – and start looking at what more dollars buys. Start off by throwing another $3,000 in the pot for a 2.7GHz 12-core processor featuring 30MB of L3 cache. While we are at it we can then throw in another $1,200 to bump up the RAM to 64GB of 1866MHz DDR3 ECC RAM.

The standard 256GB of storage will quickly start to feel cramped, so we might as well bump that up the max of 1TB, which adds another $800 to the already burgeoning total.

Feel that those dual-AMD FirePro D500 GPUs might not be enough? For an additional $600 you can upgrade them to dual-AMD FirePro D700 GPUs, each of which have 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM.

Al this takes the total price up to an eye-watering $9,599, but if you think your wallet has taken all the beating it can take, you've got another thing coming.

First off, you need a display. Here you've got the choice of a 27-inch Apple Thunderbolt display for $999 or a 31.5-inch Sharp 4K 3840 by 2160 panel for $3,595. Or why not go for both and turn the Mac Pro into a dual-display system? After all, those twin AMD FirePro D700 GPUs will be able to handle it.

With the last-minute addition of a keyboard and mouse, and AppleCare for extra piece of mind, the system is now a jaw-dropping $14,580. This is a lot of money, and there's no doubt that most people don't want or need this sort of power, but in the right hands this is a workstation that would pay for itself very quickly.

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Topics: Hardware, Apple

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74 comments
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  • A lot of this I can do now...

    I spent about $900 on my current i5 with a single Radon R9 280x and I can power dual 4K Displays... If I spend another $300 I could power 3 or 4 of them.

    My machine may only be a Quad Core i5 with 16 Gigs of RAM and an SSD for the OS but, how much more would this Mac Pro really give me beyond maybe doing things a little faster (My Dual 280s would likely smoke the base model for Graphics work as mine feature 3 Gigs of RAM and more powerful GPUs.
    slickjim
    • It will be interesting to see how it benchmarks.

      While it uses workstation class parts it's quite possible the consumer grade parts can be competitive with the lower end configurations. Possibly even beating the entry level configurations on CPU benchmarks (I'm interested to see how the Mac Pro's entry processor compares to the 4770k).

      In the end you'll either buy this system or you won't. One can argue price until the cows come home but people will buy this if it meets their needs. Some will buy it based on the cool factor alone (nothing wrong with that). In fact I would like to see Apple sell it with a clear case (I wouldn't be surprised if some third part ends up making one).
      ye
      • A clear plastic or glass case would not dissipate the heat.

        There is a reason Apple chose aluminum for the case. That metal case design heat dissipation characteristics are an integral part of the overall heat management design for this computer.

        Although artistically intriguing, I would beg to differ with your third party case conjecture. I would think it would be highly unlikely.

        I also suspect that if the case was removed entirely and the electronics exposed to direct ambient air, the Mac Pro would quickly overheat it's electronics to the point of failure.
        kenosha77a
        • Not quite

          When a CPU is directly attached to a heatsink, the metal will dissipate the heat.

          When not connected, the metal acts as an insulator and it does a better job at retaining heat than plastic. This is why my $1500 Asus G75VW gets up to 65C under load yet my almost-identical 2011 MacBook pro (17") gets up to 97C. The CPU is not the identical model, but both CPUs are quad core and the difference alone does not explain a 32C difference. The Asus is larger and has a more active cooling system, which is why it is kept cooler.

          And the new Mac Pro, never mind it is using Ivy Bridge than Haswell, idles in the mid-60s (C) and gets up to nearly 100C (source: Anandtech). It has no cooling mechanism worth calling home about. The power supply also underperforms, which also leads to increased heat and lowered lifespan of relevant components... and the chips throttle when the power supply is taxed. This new Mac Pro is not a power machine, but it does make for a shiny dainty paperweight.
          HypnoToad72
    • Yep,

      And a bicycle can get you from point A to point B just like a Ferrari, right?
      benched42
      • Bicycle v Ferrari

        A more realistic comparison would be a Mini versus a Ferrari. I have a work colleague who owns both Mini and Ferrari and prefers driving the Mini, so there will always be those who'll buy the most expensive regardless of whether they need it or it's easier to drive. I bought a Mac Mini a few years back, didn't like it, had several major problems and wouldn't touch another Apple computer.
        JohnOfStony
        • If you dropped Apple because of a lemon...

          What do you now use? You can not possibly have never had a PC crap out on you. I have a 4 month old Toshiba that withered and died already, the last in a long line of PCs that have failed me. You get what you pay for with Windows machines.
          Christopher Isto
          • You get what you pay for....

            "If you dropped Apple because of a lemon...What do you now use? You can not possibly have never had a PC crap out on you."

            Likely has, I know I have, as have others. Unlike the Apple ecosystem, however, if you get a lemon from one manufacturer (say, HP, Acer, Dell), you can always buy one from another (Toshiba, Asus, Lenovo) and not have to re-buy all your software or re-learn a new operating system.

            "You get what you pay for with Windows machines."

            And you pay for what you get with Apple ones. What's your point?
            daftkey
    • You're the guy with...

      ...the tiny package who claims it's not the size that matters it's how you use it.
      Christopher Isto
      • No, he's the guy who can still afford to golf...

        ..because he didn't spend all his money on a bunch of "numbers" that don't actually provide any performance benefit for his type of computing need.
        daftkey
  • A lot of this I can do now...

    I spent about $900 on my current i5 with a single Radon R9 280x and I can power dual 4K Displays... If I spend another $300 I could power 3 or 4 of them.

    My machine may only be a Quad Core i5 with 16 Gigs of RAM and an SSD for the OS but, how much more would this Mac Pro really give me beyond maybe doing things a little faster (My Dual 280s would likely smoke the base model for Graphics work as mine feature 3 Gigs of RAM and more powerful GPUs.
    slickjim
    • Seriously?

      An i5 doesn't come close to matching up with a Xeon. But as usual, the fanboys will throw up the price of some low end POS i5 garbage, and say it's every bit as good as a 12 core Xeon, without digging into the important numbers
      I hate trolls also
      • ...

        http://cpuboss.com/cpus/Intel-Xeon-E5-2620-vs-Intel-Core-i5-3570K

        Well depending on what you're doing the "POS i5" can be better than the Xeon.

        And what kind of fanboy are you talking about? They're both Intel, didn't know there were fanboys for specific product lines of the same company.
        Koopa Troopa
        • Windows fanboys

          Have been spreading half truths, and outright lies, for the last twenty plus years. I wouldn't use a low end Consumer CPU, to do the same heavy lifting, that I'd usd a Workstation processor.
          I hate trolls also
          • You may just be wasting your money then....

            "Windows fanboys have been spreading half truths, and outright lies, for the last twenty plus years."

            Of course, Apple and Apple users have never embellished anything before, hm? "Megahertz myth" ring a bell? Altivec and Photoshop benchmarks that couldn't be reproduced? Immunity to malware?

            "I wouldn't use a low end Consumer CPU, to do the same heavy lifting, that I'd usd a Workstation processor."

            That's your choice, I suppose, but without understanding the differences, you may be spending more money for less performance - that's what Koopa Troopa was basically saying.

            Xeon processors have their place, but there are areas where the cheaper "low-end consumer" processors outperform them - particularly the higher-end desktop CPUs. The majority of software - including prosumer audio/video production software such as Apple's flagship Final Cut Studio - do not multithread efficiently enough for the Xeon to actually be used to its full potential - you can buy that fancy 12-core beast all you want, and 8 of those cores are just going to sit idle while you wonder why your rendering tasks aren't going any faster than those of your friend running Avid on a "cheap" Core i7 PC.

            The only reason Apple puts a Xeon processor in their Mac Pro workstations is to having something to point at for differentiation. Plenty of people fall for that bait, because they don't really think about the real differences that make a Xeon a Xeon, or even what differentiates different lines of Xeons (you want to talk low-end, have a look at which Xeon E5's Apple is actually selling you).
            daftkey
          • Koopa Troopa's link

            Was to an apples to Oranges comparison. If you Cherry pick your statistics carefully enough, you an get any results you desire. I only look at what is relevant to the task at hand. But if you're going to compare, at least be honest about it.
            I hate trolls also
          • You haven't said what the task at hand is...

            ..only that whatever it is you "wouldn't use a low end Consumer CPU" to do it.. So who's doing the cherry-picking, exactly?
            daftkey
          • Windows "fanboy" chiming in...

            This is why knowing what you're getting and your usage scenario are important in workstation PCs. For example, the dual firepros may be virtually wasted on someone who spends most of their time coding and compiling large projects, but here the 12 core xeon (an E5-2697 v2 I believe?) is going to run circles around your typical i7 desktop CPUs. Whether or not the CPU upgrade is worth the cost will obviously depend on how much time you spend waiting for things to build, so know your usage scenario. My only real complaint here is that if you need a CPU with 12 cores, but don't need high GPU power, the D500's seem overpriced for what they offer compared to the trivial cost of upgrading to the D700's. It would've been nice to see the CPU/GPU options not restricted in this way.

            For someone doing work that actually benefits from the workstation GPUs, they may be worth the cost in time saved over cheaper consumer-grade hardware, but most consumers have zero need for that kind of OpenCL computing power. If they know they don't have high CPU requirements, or use applications that benefit more from single-core or low multithreaded performance, they can save money and get better performance by going with one of the higher clocked Xeons with fewer cores.

            As for why throw a Xeon in here, I'd say it's pretty obvious. The machine is a workstation, and there are plenty of cases where you simply want more power than a standard desktop CPU offers. This means going with an LGA2011 setup to use the higher end Xeons. The entry Xeon listed here is virtually identical to the entry level i7 in LGA-2011, in both cost and specs. Sure, the 1150 top end i7 is similar performance to the 2011 entry level i7 for less money, but you rule out the higher performance options by going with that, so 2011 it is. Since the only upside of the i7 is overclocking potential, while the Xeon also offers Trusted Execution and the F16C instruction set, it's a no-brainer for Apple to use the Xeon. For some usage scenarios, there's no desktop CPU available that will keep up with that 12 core Xeon, and if you'll notice, other companies frequently offer workstations with Xeon options for this same reason - some businesses benefit from them. By not offering high-end workstations, Apple loses sales to companies that do offer them.

            A decked out Mac Pro isn't meant for your average every-day user, it's very much a workstation product. If you were going to buy something comparable using off the shelf workstation components, the pricing isn't unreasonable at all (seriously, go price workstation cards, 1tb pcie SSDs, 64gb ECC ram, etc).

            With that said, I'm not the kind of user that needs ANY of this, and they certainly don't have my business. The work I do would benefit from more power than consumer hardware provides, but the cost of workstation hardware is simply too high to justify in my scenario. I'll be sticking with my average desktop, and continue to do my OSX work in hackintosh mode or through VMware, as I've done for the last several years.
            bakageta
          • or this version

            "Apple's flagship Final Cut Studio - do not multithread efficiently enough for the Xeon to actually be used to its full potential - you can buy that fancy 12-core beast all you want, and 8 of those cores are just going to sit idle while you wonder why your rendering tasks aren't going any faster than those of your friend running Avid on a "cheap" Core i7 PC."

            I have seen demo'ed FCPX at 4K running 18 FCPX effects and not dropping a frame.
            Rob Dunford
          • Re: Final Cut Studio - do not multithread efficiently enough for Xeon

            You’ve missed the point of the Mac Pro.

            The reason it has two GPUs and a Xeon is because most of the number crunching is done on one GPU: the Xeon and the second display GPU form what amounts to a heavy-duty harnesses for the compute GPU.

            This heavy reliance on OpenCL parallelism is why Final Cut Pro has been updated from v10 to v10.1. The benchmarks at http://bit.ly/1deYMV5 show that Apple made a pretty solid design decision, provided your software can exploit this sort of parallelism.

            Provided your software has a small number of threads, it may well be true that a cheaper consumer CPU (with a similar number of cores and clock speed) will run as fast as a Mac Pro.

            However, if the software is matched to the Mac Pro’s hardware, as with Final Cut Pro v10.1, the results will blow away the consumer competition.

            Really, the Mac Pro is a hardware/OS/software bundle that is all engineered to work in concert. The resulting benchmarks, for suitable software, are very impressive and can only be matched with a Hackintosh.

            But the price! Again, Anandtech priced comparable Lenovo and HP systems and found that the entry-level Mac Pro was cheaper than than the competition.

            Even a beige-box DIY i7-based Hackintosh only saves you 10% - and if you run Windows on it, you’ll be wasting your money.
            StandardPerson