The Mac Pro is a beautiful machine - inside and out.
By Columnist
updated 8/29/2006 12:44:13 PM ET 2006-08-29T16:44:13

The new Mac Pro desktop is a thing of beauty.  Inside and out this box looks like it is the ultimate desktop computer on the market today.

With two, 64-bit, dual-core Intel Xeon “Woodcrest” processors and it's sleek design, the Mac Pro is the computer equivalent of a Ferrari, Maserati or Porsche. And like a super sports car — you can pay a lot for the ultimate level of high-end performance.

The Mac Pro is encased in real metal rather than cheap pressboard or molded plastic that looks like metal.

Up front, there are two optical drive slots. You can put two 16x SuperDrives (CD-DVD, R/W) in there or one CD and one DVD drive. The coolest thing about the drives is that you can read from one or write to the other — or write to both drives simultaneously.

Towards the bottom, beneath the power button there’s a headphone mini-jack, a USB 2.0 port, plus a Firewire 400 and a Firewire 800 port.

On the back panel, from top to bottom there’s the AC cord port, the new double-wide PCI Express graphics slot. Beneath that, another expansion slot and a card that lets you plug in two monitors — including two of Apple’s giant 30-inch beauties at the same time.

To the left of those slots there’s a latch that not only locks the side door but also locks everything inside (memory cards, expansion slots and the hard drives) into place. That’s good because all that stuff inside is designed to slide in and out easily for quick changes.

Completing the back panel there are 3 USBs, a Firewire 400 and a Firewire 800, both optical audio and analog audio in and out and dual Gigabit Ethernet ports.

Standing tall.

Inside, the Mac Pro has two dual-core processors. That’s the equivalent of having four 64-bit processors. And, you have a choice of dual 2GHz, 2.66GHz or 3GHz chips.

There are four slide in/out hard drive slots with each slot able to take as much as a 500GB drive. That means the Mac Pro can hold up to a mind-numbing 2 terabytes of storage.

Beneath the hard drives sits slots where you can fit your wireless connection modules. You can install an AirPort Extreme and/or a Bluetooth 2.0+EDR. Next to the wireless section is the PCI expansion card section. Notable here is that your cards can now be secured by hand with thumbscrews rather than struggling with screws that disappear into the case.

Last but not least, there is the memory expansion section. There are 8 DIMM slots on two risers. That means you can easily install as much as 16GB of 667MHz, DDR-2 memory. The memory architecture — how much memory the computer can actually handle with each cycle — also has been upgraded. Now it’s 256-bit wide or twice that of Apple’s last behemoth, the Power Mac G5.

This baby is fast!  How fast? Apple tested the Mac Pro's processing speed while running software by Logic Pro 7.2.2., Soundtrack Pro 1.1 and Final Cut Pro to Xcode 2.3, PyMOL 0.99 and Mathematica 5.2.2 and they said the Mac Pro runs 1.4 to 1.8 times faster than their previous G5 speedster.

The Mac Pro comes with Mac OS 10.4 Tiger installed. I also saw a demonstration of Apple’s next operating system, Leopard (OS 10.5) running on the Pro and it looked great.

The retail price for one of Apple's minimum recommended desktop configurations is $2,499. For that price you get Apple’s recommended base configuration of two 2.66GHz dual core processors, 1GB of memory, one 250GB hard drive, NVIDIA GeForce 7300GT graphics card (256MB), one 16x SuperDrive and an Apple keyboard and Mighty Mouse.

There are nearly 5 million possible configurations for the Mac Pro and you can add quite bit to add to its performance, so I decided to figure out what a totally souped up Mac Pro might cost.  With all the memory, hard drives and goodies you could stuff inside — the Apple Store Web site came back with a total of more $12K. Remember, we’re talking a maxed-out desktop/server. 

But boy — would that baby fly.

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