Apple Mac Pro Inverness
Apple Mac Pro
It's just over a year since Apple began switching its Mac computers over to Intel processors. The Mac Pro, its professional desktop machine, was the last to make the transition, but in terms of price and sheer performance, it's very much the jewel in the company's crown.
The first thing you notice once you've unpacked the Mac Pro is its size. It's a big beast and heavy, too. We were grateful for the carrying handles moulded into the case on each corner, but to be honest, this is the kind of computer that despite its obvious aesthetic charms, you'll want to keep under your desk, rather than on top of it.
Inside the case are a pair of dual-core Intel Xeon 5160 2.66GHz processors, eight RAM slots, four hard drive bays, three full-length PCI-Express slots and another double-width PCI-Express 16x slot for the graphics card - our test machine was equipped with an nVidia GeForce 7300 GT. Apple also decked out our Mac with 3GB of DDR RAM, despite the fact that it doesn't offer 3GB as a build-to-order option - the price we've quoted here is for a 2GB Mac Pro. Doubling that to 4GB using four 1GB modules will set you back an additional Â£500 if you buy it from Apple. However, the 2GB Mac Pro has four free RAM slots, so you would be better off buying RAM from a third party like Crucial and upgrading it yourself.
The 250GB SATA drive in our test machine sits in one of the Mac Pro's four drive bays, each of which could be fitted with a 750GB drive if you need the space. Specifying this when you buy from Apple will cost you an additional Â£1,500, but again it's quite easy to upgrade it, so you can always upgrade a bay at a time as you need the capacity. There are also two 5.25in optical drive bays, one of which comes fitted with a 16x dual-layer DVD-RW drive.
The Mac Pro is equally well-served by its other ports: 5x USB2, 2x FireWire 400, 2x FireWire 800 and Gigabit Ethernet. However, neither Bluetooth nor Wi-Fi modules are fitted as standard, so you'll have to pay extra for those. And as with the Mac mini, there's no monitor included in the price.
Nowadays, of course, buying a Mac doesn't necessarily mean having to run Mac OS X. Thanks to Apple's Boot Camp and Parallels Desktop, you can run Windows XP, too. In fact, buying an Intel Mac is a good idea if you want to continue running Windows, but fancy trying out Mac OS X. Remember to budget for a copy of Windows XP, though.
We downloaded and installed the latest beta version of Boot Camp from Apple's website and installed it, along with a copy of Windows XP. The process is remarkably straightforward and easy to do. The Boot Camp software lets you decide exactly how large you want your Windows partition to be and then prompts you to insert a blank CD so it can fill it with Windows drivers for all the Mac Pro's hardware. Then it's a simple case of rebooting the Mac and running through the usual Windows installation process.
Running our standard benchmark tests showed the Mac Pro to be a very capable performer. Although it didn't quite match the fastest quad-core Core 2 PC we've tested, the Mesh Extreme QX G80 CB, it came very close. Its overall score was 218%, compared to 230% for the Mesh. Given that the Mac is running a pre-release version of Boot Camp, that's very good indeed. Add in the fact that it is effectively two very fast computers, a Mac and a PC in one, and it's excellent value for money too.
If you're in the market for a high-powered quad-core PC, then the Mac Pro is a compelling alternative. Its build quality puts most PCs to shame and the flexibility to run Mac OS X and Windows XP on one PC is a real boon. Remember to budget for buying a monitor separately, though.
Author: Kenny Hemphill