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8-core Mac Pro

Originally posted April 5th, 2007 by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist
Updated April 9th, 2007.

On April 4th, 2007, Apple added an 8-core (dual quad-core) model to their Mac Pro lineup. This has been anticipated since January when the "Clovertown" Xeon 5300 series of CPUs became available to manufacturers. What's the big deal? Multi-processor (MP) aware operations like DVD encoding, QuickTime conversion, Aperture lifting and stamping, Cinema 4D rendering, and Photoshop "effecting" will now have eight instead of four cores to do their crunching.

We ordered our 8-core Mac Pro immediately so we can run our suite of MP aware real world tests and report on our findings. (It arrived Monday, April 9th, 2007 -- see our Early Results compared to the 4-core Mac Pro). Our primary testing goal will be to see if all eight cores are "cranking" and how much total speed is gained compared to the four core model running at the same 3GHz.

As best as we can tell, nothing else has changed inside the Mac Pro chassis. Too bad the dual frontside bus was not bumped up to 1.5GHz. You will still be limited to a total of 26 lanes in the PCIe bus. And there's still no support for bridging graphics cards to create multi-processing GPUs (aka SLI or CrossFire).

Speaking of graphics cards, the choices are still the same (GeForce 7300, Radeon X1900 XT, and Quadro FX 4500). We still recommend the Radeon X1900 XT option unless you really need the features that only the Quadro can offer (like the 3D stereo-in-a-window). The X1900 XT actually has a higher memory bandwidth and vertice rate. And the fill rate of the Quadro is only 13% faster while the price is six times higher.

Furthermore, the Quadro FX 4500 messes up in Maya 8.5. FYI, According to the Alias/Autodesk engineering support "qualified hardware" page, the FX 4500 (and GeForce 7300 GT) fails to render shadows properly in the Hardware Renderer and in the High Quality Viewport. However, there are no problems with the Radeon X1900 XT. That's ironic when you consider that Apple promotes the FX 4500 as the "ideal choice for high-end scientific visualization."

Nevertheless, we ordered our "Octo-Core" with the pricey Quadro FX 4500 so we can do some comparison testing against the Radeon X1900 XT and GeForce 7300 which we already have in the lab. Yet another sacrifice for mad science.

We were hoping a Blu-ray optical drive would be offered as an option. Nada. But you can always order one from MCE to install in the second optical bay. Or you can order an external Blu-ray unit from OWC. We will be reporting on both of these Blu-ray options in a few days.

Since we posted this analysis, we have done the following performance tests comparing the 8-core Mac Pro to the 4-core Mac Pro:

CPU Crunching (Cinebench 9.5, Geekbench 2, Photoshop CS3, Aperture 1.5, and "QuickTime Player x 6")

3D Gaming (Quake 4, Doom 3, Unreal Tournament 2004, Halo, World of Warcraft, Prey) using three different graphics cards

Multi-Processing (Simultaneous rendering by Final Cut Pro, Motion, iDVD, and Photoshop CS3)

No changes in the Cinema displays except the lowered price -- which is welcome. They still don't come with a built-in iSight camera. Plus you can no longer buy an iSight camera from Apple to attach to your display. That's frustrating to those Mac tower owners who didn't buy an iSight when they were available. You might try snagging a FireWire iSight off of eBay. (We bought two that way.)

Another seemingly "no-brainer" would be a backlit "pro" keyboard for desktop computers. Am I the only one who likes to work at my Mac Pro in the dark?

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We recommend the Radeon X1900 XT for 99.9% of Mac Pro buyers.
Only those who are doing 3D Stereo-in-a-window should pop for the FX 4500.

We have tested the memory from the following companies in our 8-core Mac Pro and can recommend them to you....

We have tested both 2GB and 1GB modules from Other World Computing in our 8-core Mac Pro. They offer a "Trade In Your Factory Memory" REBATE program. designed their own heat sinks with 6 cooling fins on each side (versus 4 on the Apple factory modules) using a special aluminum alloy. We have tested their 1GB and 2GB and 4GB modules in our 8-core Mac Pro.

We have tested MaxUpgrades' memory in our 4-core. They assured us that they have tested their memory on their 8-core Mac Pro without any errors and crashes. They also sell their heat sinks separately as well as a memory cooling kit called "max_flo."

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1995 - 2007 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
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