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Mac Pro

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The Mac Pro is a workstation manufactured by Apple Inc., the most powerful desktop computers in their Macintosh lineup. The machines are based on Intel Xeon microprocessors and a PCI Express architecture, which, along with the new Xeon-based Xserves, completed Apple's transition from the PowerPC to x86 architecture.

Apple introduced the Mac Pro on August 7, 2006 at the Worldwide Developers Conference, to replace the Power Mac G5. On April 4, 2007 Apple unveiled the first 3.0 GHz, 8-core Intel Xeon-based Mac Pro.


[edit] Overview

The Mac Pro uses either two Xeon 5100 "Woodcrest" 64-bit CPUs for a total of four processor cores or two Xeon 5300 "Clovertown" 64-bit CPUs for a total of eight processor cores. Each CPU chip has 4 MiB (Quad-Core) or 8 MiB (8-Core) of on-chip cache shared among its processor cores and a dual 64-bit 1.33 GHz front side bus.

The computer's main memory uses 667 MHz FB-DIMMs installed in pairs, one each on two riser cards. The cards have 4 DIMM slots each, allowing a total of 16 GiB of memory (8 x 2 GiB). Notably, due to its FB-DIMM architecture, installing more RAM in the Mac Pro will improve its memory bandwidth, but may also increase its memory latency. The Mac Pro makes particular demands on the cooling capabilities of the DIMMs, which initially led to some minor problems with 3rd party RAM, but has since been addressed.

For internal expansion the Mac Pro has four PCI Express (PCIe) expansion slots. The first slot is intended to hold the main video card; the slots are arranged with an empty area the width of a normal card beside the video card in order to leave room for the large coolers modern cards often use. In most machines, one slot would be blocked by the cooler. The three slots can be configured individually to give more bandwidth to devices that require it, although the total throughput is actually slightly less than the late model Power Mac G5's. The PCI slots use captive screws and are designed for "no-tool" installation of cards. When running Mac OS X, the Mac Pro currently does not support SLI or CrossFire, limiting its ability to use the latest "high-end gaming" video card products; however, individuals have reported success with SLI installations when running Windows XP. The PCI-Express slots are also not backwards compatible with earlier PCI slot specifications and hardware, such as PCI-X.

The Mac Pro also has room for four internal hard drives, each with its own SATA-300 port. The hard drives use a sliding drive bracket with captive screws, for easy "no-tool" installation. There are no cables to be attached, the SATA and power connectors are firmly attached to the case, and the drive is connected to them simply by pushing it in. The Mac Pro lacks built-in hardware RAID circuitry, but RAID protocols 0 and 1 are supported over all four drives through included software. Two optical drive bays are available, each with a SATA-300 port and an ATA-100 for each of the two bays. Many optical drives still use the older ATA ports, including those currently being shipped with the machines.

For external connectivity the system includes five USB 2.0 and four FireWire ports, two of the latter being FireWire 800. Networking is supported with two built-in Gigabit Ethernet ports, while 802.11 a/b/g/draft-n WiFi is supported via an optional AirPort Extreme card. Bluetooth is also a build-to-order option. Unlike other recent Mac products, the Mac Pro does not include the infrared receiver needed to use the Apple Remote. Curiously, Front Row was found to be installed on some Mac Pros, but was not accessible using the normal Cmd-Esc key combination.

The exterior of the aluminum case is similar to that of the Power Mac G5, with the exception of an additional optical drive bay, and a new arrangement of I/O ports on both the front and the back. The case is somewhat larger than a typical PC of the same generation, at 20 x 18½ x 8 inches, compared to a typical desktop PC (the Dell Dimension 9100) at 17½ x 17½ x 6½ inches. Some of the difference in height is due to the "handles" on the top and bottom of the case.

The Xeon processors generate much less heat than the previous dual-core G5s, so the size of the internal cooling devices has been reduced significantly. This allowed the interior to be re-arranged, leaving more room at the top of the case and thereby allowing the drives to double in number. Less heat also means less air to move out of the case for cooling during normal operations; the Mac Pro is very quiet in normal operation, quieter than the already-quiet Power Mac G5, and proved difficult to measure using common decibel meters.

Marketing materials for the Mac Pro generally refer to the middle-of-the-line model with 2 × dual-core 2.66 GHz processors. In the past Apple has featured the base model with the words "starting at" or "from" when describing the pricing, but the online Apple Store lists the "Mac Pro at $2499", the price for the mid-range model. The base model can 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.

[edit] Specifications

  • Processors: Two dual-core Xeon 5100 Series ("Woodcrest" Core microarchitecture with EM64T instruction set) processors at 2.0, 2.66 or 3.0 GHz, or two quad-core Xeon 5300 Series ("Clovertown") processors at 3.0 GHz processors.
  • Memory: Minimum 1 GiB 667 MHz DDR2 buffered ECC RAM (upgradeable to 16 GiB), in eight FB-DIMM slots
  • Graphics: nVidia GeForce 7300 GT 256 MiB (up to four total), ATI X1900 XT 512 MiB (requires use of the x16 PCI-Express slot) or nVidia Quadro FX 4500 512 MiB (also requires use of the ×16 PCI-Express slot)
  • Storage: Four drive bays for Serial ATA hard disks: included disks have 8 MiB cache (16 MiB on each 750 GB hard drive) and run at 7200 RPM (total storage with four 750 GB hard drives, 3 TB)
  • Optical Drive: 16× SuperDrive (multiple DVD write formats) (Pioneer DVR-111D or Sony DW-D150A), optional second drive. Optical bays support ATA/100 and SATA.
  • Networking: two Gigabit Ethernet ports, optional AirPort Extreme 802.11 a/b/g/pre-n, optional Bluetooth
  • I/O: five USB 2.0 (two on front), two FireWire 400 (one on front), two FireWire 800 (one on front), optical audio input and output, 3.5 mm stereo audio input and output (one output on front)
  • Software: Mac OS X v10.4 Tiger, iLife '06, Comic Life, OmniOutliner, various trial software.

[edit] Operating systems

The Mac Pro comes with the BIOS successor EFI 1.1 and handles booting differently from the more common BIOS-based PC.

With Apple's Boot Camp (current version beta 1.2) a backwards-BIOS-compatibility can be added, so that these operating systems can be installed and booted:

  • Mac OS X 10.4.6 and later (native, OS supports BIOS and EFI)
  • MS Windows XP and Vista (hardware drivers are included in Boot Camp) (only supports BIOS)
  • Linux (most late 2006 or 2007 distributions, including Fedora Core 6 and Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn) (kernel parameters apply) (supports both BIOS and EFI)

It has been reported that dual and triple boot configurations can be achieved.

[edit] Compatibility

[edit] Software

  • Software (PPC Emulation) - PPC-Native Applications: Note that many high-end PPC-native applications will need to be modified specifically to take advantage of the new Intel-based processor architecture in order to maximize on the Mac Pro's processor strengths, and PPC-native applications (such as Adobe Photoshop CS2 and earlier) may successfully run through emulation software called Rosetta, which adds overhead and reduces actual software execution speed for those applications as it translates PPC-native instructions to Intel-native code. Speeds for some of these PPC-native applications may be lower on the Mac Pro than on the G5 models it replaces, and Rosetta does not support G5-processor-specific emulation.
  • Software (Classic Emulation) - Classic (Mac OS 9.x and earlier): Intel-based Macs do not support Classic software, although third-party emulators such as SheepShaver may allow these applications to run.
  • OS Minimums - The lowest version of the operating system that will support the Mac Pro is Mac OS X version 10.4.7. Earlier versions will not boot the computer.

[edit] Hardware

  • PCI-Express slots are not backwards compatible with prior versions of PCI hardware, such as PCI/33, PCI/66 or PCI-X.
  • Apple recommends an Apple-specified heat sink on each memory DIMM for cooling, and the required on-chip thermal manager may shut down memory, or increase fan speed, if it starts to overheat. At least one company,, has released self-installable, Apple-specified heat sinks for use with third-party memory, and a number of companies now sell DIMMs with heat sinks matching Apple's specifications.

[edit] External links

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