Apple’s Mac Pro Finally Sees the Light of Day

Today’s World Wide Developers Conference keynote address was conducted, as always, by Steve Jobs.  There was a lot to talk about.  Most notably was the completion of Apple’s transition to Intel based systems.  Confirming a great deal of speculation, Apple has finally released the Mac Pro system.  Rather than a line of systems with differing specs, Apple has made a single system available.  Every component is simply available for custom configuration.

Apple’s stock version of the Mac Pro contains a pair of dual core 2.66GHz 64-bit processors (that’s right, 4 cores total).  Each processor is a Dual-Core Intel Xeon Woodcrest chipset with 4MB of L2 cache.  1GB of 667MHz DDR2 fully-buffered ECC RAM is standard, though the machine supports up to 16GB in total.  A single 250GB SATA drive is also standard, though the system supports up to 4 drives, or 2TB of storage.  And, one of the most welcome additions to the mix is the second optical drive bay.  The standard configuration ships with a  single 16x double-layer SuperDrive, but there is finally room for a second mechanism.  For video, Apple provides the NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT graphics card with 256MB of memory. An ATI Radeon X1900 XT 512MB card is also a customizable option, as are as many as four NVIDIA GeForce 7300GT cards.

Apple is using Intel’s newest Woodcrest processors.  They range in speed from 2.0GHz to 3.0GHz, once again, all dual-core, dual processor.  This makes the new Mac Pro up to 2.1x faster than the quad processor G5 that it replaces.

Though externally the case resembles the previous G5 system (with the exception of the second optical bay), the cases insides have been completely revamped.  The case now sports 4 internal hard drive bays.  Each bay is designed to allow users to add drives without the need for so much as a screwdriver.  The hard drives literally snap into drive carriers and the carriers simply latches into the drive bay.  There are 3 full-length PCI Express card slots in addition to 1 double wide PCI Express graphics card slot.

All in all, Apple has provided the machine that its professional users have been waiting for.  The machine might look like the previous generation of G5’s, but inside it’s an entirely different creature.  The new Mac Pro has the power and expandability that Mac power-users have been waiting for.  Check out Apple’s site for more information and custom configurable options.


Update: 8/7/06 3:45PM
One reader pointed out that Apple’s use of ECC memory is not without some catches.  Most importantly, each memory module will use its own proprietary heat sink.  This aids in the case’s overall cooling design.  It’s likely that Apple will be the only source of this part, at least for the time being.  Additionally, ECC memory is priced at a premium, so goosing a Mac Pro with multiple Gigabytes of memory will be a costly undertaking.

Apple found a way to encourage Apple direct sales by making every Mac Pro option built-to-order.  This makes it much more difficult for Apple resellers to offer anything but the Mac Pro’s base configuration.  The addition of individual memory heat sinks seems another effort from Apple to force customers to buy Apple’s memory.  Though we can expect third party memory in the not so distant future, it remains to be seen whether the new machines will run well (or at all) without the memory heat sinks.

Another user pointed out that Apple has apparently not included for a Front Row compatible remote control.  This seems especially odd, given Jobs’ reports that Front Row will be a key feature of the upcoming OS X 10.5!


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