An Intel-based replacement for the Power Mac G5 had long been expected prior to the release of the Mac Pro. The iMac, Mac mini, MacBook and MacBook Pro had moved to an Intel-based architecture starting in January 2006, leaving the Power Mac G5 as the only machine in the Mac lineup still based on the PowerPC. Speculation about the G5’s eventual replacement was common.
Rumors initially expected the machine to differ physically from the existing G5 and considered a number of different possible internal configurations based on different chipsets. But the coincidence of Intel releasing a new Core 2-based Xeon workstation platform just prior to the 2006 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) made it fairly obvious that the resulting machine would be based on it. Even the naming was “obvious”; Apple had dropped the term “Power” from the other machines in their lineup, and started using “Pro” on their higher-end laptop offerings. As such, the name “Mac Pro” was widely used before the machine was announced.
The Mac Pro is a high-end computer, similar to higher end Optiplexes and Unix workstations from vendors such as SGI or Sun Microsystems. Although the high-end technical market has not traditionally been an area of strength for Apple, the company has been positioning itself as a leader in non-linear digital editing for high-definition video, which demands storage and memory far in excess of a general desktop machine. Additionally, the codecs used in these applications are generally processor intensive and highly threadable, speeding up almost linearly with additional processor cores. Apple’s previous machine aimed at this market, the Power Mac G5, had up to four processors, but lacked the storage expansion capabilities of the newer design. In order to serve this market, Apple sells a variety of standardized bundles combining a Mac Pro with fairly high-end components; for instance, all available setups can support the 30″ Cinema Display.
In general, the Mac Pro has been well received in the press. The combination of high performance, reasonable expandability, very quiet operation and superb mechanical design makes it routinely appear as the comparison system against which other systems are measured. The Xeon platform is, however, Intel’s “high end” system and not aimed at more general purpose use. Nevertheless, current-generation Xeons are priced competitively with their high-end desktop platforms, allowing Apple to sell a very powerful system at price points that are considered quite competitive, even by reviewers that do not normally review Apple systems.
Original marketing materials for the Mac Pro generally referred to the middle-of-the-line model with 2 x dual-core 2.66 GHz processors. Previously, Apple featured the base model with the words “starting at” or “from” when describing the pricing, but the online Apple Store listed the “Mac Pro at $2499”, the price for the mid-range model. The base model could be configured at US$2200, much more comparable with the former base-model dual-core G5 at US$1999, although offering considerably more processing power. Post revision, the default configuration for the Mac Pro includes two quad-core 2.8 GHz Xeon “Harpertown” processors.
There is an extremely large price and performance gap between the Mac Pro and Apple’s most powerful consumer machine, the iMac. A particular sore point for many is that the Mac Pro is the only machine in Apple’s lineup that allows the end user to change the graphics card or otherwise install internal upgrades beyond RAM. Other machines in the lineup use integrated graphics and higher cost laptop parts, while the Mac Pro uses the industry standard PCIe slots. The iMac series use graphics cards and processors that are technically replaceable by a user, though the case design restricts access and the iMac’s MXM graphics have been crippled as an upgrade standard by rampant noncompliance. Buying a workstation platform just to allow for upgradable graphics is something many people and reviewers have complained about. This has led to calls for a smaller, mid range machine with more limited expansion capabilities but retaining additional PCIe slots, similar to many models of Power Macintosh
|Processor(s):||2x 2.4GHz 4-core Intel Xeon WestmereBuilt To Order (BTO): 2x 2.66GHz 6-core or 2x 2.93 6-core|
|Memory:||6GB DDR3 ECC 1066MHz std 32GB max;1333MHz for 2.66GHz and 2.93GHz. 8 slots total.|
|Storage:||1x 1TB, 7.2K, SATA-IIBTO: RAID Card2TB 7.2K SATA II512GB SSDDual Channel FC Card 4Gbp or Quad Channel FC 4GbpUp to 2 more SATA ports available in optical bay|
|Graphics:||ATI Radeon HD 5770 1GB2x Mini DP out, plus one dual-link DVISupports 3 displays per card.BTO: 2nd ATI Radeon HD 5770, or ATI Radeon HD 5870 1GB|
|Ports:||5x USB 2.04x FW 8002x 10/100/1000 EthernetBTO: Wi-Fi (802.11n)|
|Media||1x 18x SuperDriveBTO: 2nd 18x SuperDrive|
|Other:||3 full-length PCI Express slots (One x16 and two x4)- 300W max combined.|
|Audio:||TOSLINK, analog stereo line in/out|
So I had an iMac, and also a Macbook Pro. I’ve always absolutely loved the G5 and Mac Pro – ever since they came out. I almost got a G5 years ago, but I opted for a similarly priced PC at the time. I’ve always wanted to know what it is like on the other side!
So finally, recently I bought a 2006 Mac Pro – 2.66ghz CPU used. I love it, and I did a few things that really helped it out – and for anyone considering this machine, as can also be found from searching the forum, these things do work great:
1.) I put in an OCZ Vertex 2 SSD drive. Big difference, it’s much faster loading applications and starting up. I used the OCZ adapter mounted to the adjacent drive to hold the SSD drive in place, works great. Booted right up.
2.) I changed the ATI 1900XT for an ATI 5770, took 2 minutes to do and booted right up, performance is much better in games.
3.) RAM! Ram is so easy to add. I had 5 gigs, and am now up to 9 and want to go to 12 or 16.
4.) Bluetooth and Magic Mouse: My Magic Mouse was giving me tracking problems, so after a few searches, apparently the wires on the bluetooth/airport modules are switched. So I popped open my case, and switched the wires to the recommended positions, and all of my bluetooth problems were solved!
I have the magic track pad too, and while I like it, I still feel the mouse is more accurate when pointing in precise documents or entering stuff like music notation.
Overall I am happy! These machines are still very capable and fast, plus the expandability is amazing.
Review from Rondocap at Mac Rumors