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Apple Unveils Mighty Eight-Core Mac Pro

By Walaika Haskins MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Apr 5, 2007 1:24 PM PT

Apple on Wednesday rolled out an eight-core option for its Mac Pro family of desktops. The newly available machines can be customized with as many as two quad-core Intel Xeon 5300 series processors running up to 3.0 GHz. It is the first opportunity Mac users have had to get their hands on the combination of an eight-core system loaded with OS X.

Apple Unveils Mighty Eight-Core Mac Pro

"What this means is that Mac users now have a reason to upgrade -- although they may wait for OS X Leopard [Apple's upcoming next-generation operating system] to be released and for the price to drop over time," Benjamin Gray, an analyst at Forrester Research, told MacNewsWorld.

The eight-core and quad-core models are available in more than 33 million possible configurations, Apple said, and will cost buyers anywhere from US$2,499 for the quad-core version to $3,997 for the eight-core, or more depending on other added options. The upgraded system options came nearly eight months to the day after the company's August 7 announcement that it would begin selling Mac Pros loaded with the Dual-Core Intel Xeon processor.

Investing in the Future

Intel and its competitor AMD are busily fulfilling and extending the principles of Moore's Law, a theory put forth by Intel cofounder Gordon Moore which states that the number of transistors on a chip will double every 24 months, with each subsequent generation. Meanwhile, industry watchers have said the transition to the more powerful computers cannot begin until software developers begin creating applications able to harness the chips' capabilities.

The new built-to-order options give pro software developers a platform for creating their applications of the future, according to Lynn Fox, an Apple spokesperson. "It is really for the time when eight-core technology is more prevalent on the desktop," she said.

"We wanted to get this out there for out developers," Fox continued. "Currently, the eight-core Mac Pro gives greater performance for some processing intensive tasks like 3-D modeling, animation and scientific applications, but for the future, we wanted this [system] to get into developers hands for future applications when the eight-core is more prevalent."

CS3 Abilities

The new architecture options are aimed at professional software developers who want more storage and very fast processing speeds, Zippy Aima, a Frost & Sullivan analyst, told MacNewsWorld. "With the new eight-core technology installed on Macs, this will give an edge to the professionals who are building applications."

Of particular significance to Aima is the Mac Pro's ability to run Adobe's newly released Creative Suite 3 (Intel version) natively, "which will be yet another feature that will appeal to the professional community."

Software designers are already hard at work redeveloping applications in order to take advantage of multi-core processors, according to Gray. "So the earlier that developers can work with a multi-core machine, the earlier the applications will take advantage of the multi-thread processors."

Average computer users may view the increased power packed into the eight-core Mac Pros as unnecessary, Aima stated. However, according to Gray, the machine may also have an audience among the gaming crowd.

"The eight-core Mac Pro is targeted at software developers, video editors, graphics artists, scientific researchers and other high-end workstation users," Gray explained. "The four-core Mac Pro is targeted to those same set of users, but due to its significantly lower price, is also attractive to PC gaming enthusiasts."

The new machines will bump up the profile of the Mac Pro, both analysts said. However, Gray expects an increase in interest from the hard-core gaming segment, a traditionally PC demographic.

"The announcement of the eight-core Mac Pro will certainly turn some heads," Gray concluded. "Gaming enthusiasts haven't traditionally turned to Apple for a bleed-edge gaming machine, but now they know they can."

Technically Speaking

The new eight-core machines sport two "Clovertown" 3.0 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon 5300 series processors with 8 MB of L2 cache per processor (for a total of 16 MB with each pair of cores sharing 4 MB), 667 MHz DDR 2 ECC fully-buffered DIMM (dual in-line memory module) memory slots on two memory riser cards (four slots per card) supporting up to 16 GB of main memory, and 1.33GHz, 64-bit dual independent front side bus.

Other options for the Mac Pro include Serial ATA hard drives capable of storing up to 3 TB of data. It also offers up to two SuperDrives and provides users with four PCI Express slots and a variety of I/O options.

On the graphics side, the machines come with a double-wide, 16-lane PCI Express graphics slot. Buyers can opt for one of three installed graphics cards: Nvidia GeForce 7300 GT with 256 MB of GDDR2 SDRAM (synchronous dynamic random access memory), one single-link DVI port, and one dual-link DVI port; ATI Radeon X1900 XT with 512 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM, and two dual link DVI ports; or Nvidia Quador FX 4500 with 512 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM, two dual-link DVI ports, and one stereo 3-D port.

The system supports multiple graphics card configurations including two, three or four Nvidia GeForce 7300 GT cards. That allows users to connect as many as eight 20-inch Apple Cinema displays or 23-inch Apple Cinema HD displays, supporting digital resolutions up to 1920 by 1200 pixels. Dual-link DVI ports support up to 2560 by 1600 pixels.

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