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The Long-Awaited Mac Pro Arrives
Professional Mac users join the "powered by Intel" party

By Jim Fisher

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Creative professionals have been anxiously anticipating The Mac Pro since last year when Apple announced their computers would be transitioning to Intel processors. Much grumbling has been heard over the past months as folks sat back and watched Apple roll out a myriad of Intel-based notebooks and consumer desktop models, like the iMac and Mac mini, leaving editors, photographers and other power-hungry pros wondering "what about us?"

Steve Jobs answered that question at the recent World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco. The Apple CEO used his keynote address to announce two new computers; the Intel-powered Xserve rackmount server and the Mac Pro. While the new Xserve won't be available until later this year, Jobs assured the clearly salivating crowd that the Mac Pro would be available to ship immediately.

The Mac Pro is, of course, the new Power Mac. At first glance the Mac Pro doesn't look that different from the Power Mac G5 that it replaces. A closer look shows that the Mac Pro has added input and output ports for peripheral connections and two independent Gigabit Ethernet connections compared to the G5's single Ethernet port.

The real story however is what the new system delivers under the hood. In every configuration the Mac Pro is powered by two dual-core Intel Xeon "Woodcrest" processors. This Quad-Core configuration makes the Mac Pro the fastest computer Apple has ever released. The system is available in 2.0 GHz, 2.66 GHz and 3.0 GHz configurations, giving you the ability to choose the amount of power that will best suit your needs as well as offering some price flexibility. The standard configuration features 1 GB of system memory, but 8 DIMM slots allow you to configure the system with an astonishing 16 GB of memory.

In addition to the two optical drive bays, the Mac Pro has four internal drive bays that support 3Gbs Serial ATA hard drives allowing you to install up to 2 terabytes of internal storage with full support for RAID 0 and RAID 1 configuration. PCI Express graphics are powered by an nVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT video card in the standard configuration. Professionals will be happy to know that the Apple also offers the ATI Radeon X1900 and nVIDIA Quadro FX 4500 as options for users who demand more performance.

While all this technical information is sure to pique the interest of anyone who can understand it, for many it boils down to one simple question: "How much faster is it than my current system?"

Even if you currently own the Quad-Core G5 the benchmarks that MacWorld has compiled show that it's a lot faster. The 2.66 GHz Mac Pro outperformed the fastest G5 in almost every category when working with native Universal Binary applications. This is great news for anyone who works primarily within a native Intel application such as Final Cut Studio, Shake, Aperture or Logic Pro.

If, on the other hand, you work more often in Adobe's Creative Suite be aware that currently CS2 must run on Intel Macs via the Rosetta emulation technology. This emulation is seamless, but CS2 users moving from the fastest G5 to the Mac Pro may actually notice a decrease in performance. Adobe plans to add native Intel support for all of its Macintosh applications when new versions are released.

This doesn't take away much from the overall spectacular performance delivered by the Mac Pro. Creative professionals use Macs because they simply work; this unit is no exception.

B&H offers a variety of configurations of ready-to-ship Mac Pros. Also check out our comprehensive Apple Store which features accessories and upgrade options that you won't find anywhere else -- even from Apple -- and Mac Turnkey solutions that give you an out-of-the-box pro solution with preinstalled software.

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