The gap has definitely closed between the 'mid range' Mac Pro versus the 'high-end' iMac and MacBook Pro when it comes to pro apps -- thanks to quad-core i7 "Sandy Bridge" processors with hyperthreading and turbo-boost. The gap varies depending on the app and the specific function within the app. And if you are comparing a new 'high-end' iMac or Macbook Pro to a 2006-2008 Mac Pro, you will be impressed.
The Macs that do get smoked running pro apps are the dual-core models. If you are trying to replace your Mac Pro with an iMac or MacBook Pro, I suggest you go with the quad-core i7 models. Notice we included the Mac mini quad-core i7 Server in the PhotoZoom and After Effects graphs. It's definitely a contender for use with pro-apps. I only wish it had a faster core frequency -- like around 2.5GHz.
There are advantages that the Mac Pro offers that are not apparent in our performance graphs. I'm thinking of four internal drive bays, four PCie slots, and two optical bays. Then again, there are some advantages that the iMac and MacBook Pro have over the Mac Pro. I'm thinking of Thunderbolt ports and 6Gb/s rated internal drive interfaces.
I will be watching with great interest to see what happens next with the Mac Pro line. I would like to see the Mac Pro updated to include two Thunderbolt ports (like the iMac). It would be nice if the controller for the four internal drive bays was upgraded to 6Gb/s (like the iMac and MacBook Pro) to handle the full speed potential of 6Gb/s SSDs. And I would not be upset if support for jumpering multiple GPUs (CrossFire and SLI) was added -- a feature supported on Windows PCs for years.
COST versus SPEED
Using Adobe After Effects to represent the extreme pro app and a "pro" configuration of each model of Mac (16G of RAM, one SSD, one HDD, and a 27" Apple display), we concocted an equation to determine best bang for the buck. The iMac came out on top with the Mac Pro hex-core in second and the mini Quad-Core i7 Server in third.
MORE TO COME
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