Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Mac Pro shipping

The Intel-based Mac Pro desktop machines are shipping. There's a review at MacInTouch.

It sounds great, but, in my humble opinion, there are some disappointments:
  1. ...it requires special FB-DIMM memory that costs twice as much as the standard types of RAM used in the iMac Core Duo and MacBooks – and not many memory vendors carry these FB-DIMMs yet.
    [The hyperlink is mine.] And that's in the US, so I assume they're non-existent in Australia. The article seemed to suggest this was tied to Intel Xeons in particular, rather than being a design decision made by Apple.
  2. The Mac Pro's standard display card is a GeForce 7300 GT. This is an entry-level card, designed by nVidia for undemanding users of older games and basic multimedia. Walk into CompUSA or Best Buy and you can find it for about $80.
    [The hyperlink is mine.] This is almost inexplicable. (Actually, it's entirely explicable—it reduces the cost. But a $US 80 card in a machine that starts at $A 4,000?) On the Australian Apple Store site, it notes that "Selecting the ATI Radeon X1900 XT or NVIDIA Quadro FX 4500 may delay the shipment of your Mac Pro." Great!
    We're curious to see if retail, non-Mac specific ATI and nVidia video cards will work on Mac Pros with Apple's built-in Mac OS X drivers.
    I'd be curious, too. Second-tier graphics cards for PC systems usually only cost a couple of hundred dollars.
  3. On performance:
    One exception is gaming. The Mac Pro lags far behind Windows PCs, turning in Doom3 timedemo frame rates half that of PCs running the same video hardware and slower processors.
    It's not like I play many games, but I play a couple. And it's not like their graphics requirements are monumental, either, but I am hoping I can make a Mac Pro my next desktop system, and dual-boot into Windows XP for any residual Windows-bound tasks. This will include playing EVE Online.
  4. We haven't yet tested Boot Camp. Apple hasn't finished preparing all the drivers for Windows XP yet, but field reports indicate that most can be gathered on the Internet from the original suppliers and work reasonably well.
    Yikes. I think I'll sit it out until they get that sorted, then.
I had a really quick look at customising the base system at the Australian Apple Store online. With a few modest upgrades and a monitor, I quickly hit about $A 5,700. Macs: still not cheap by a long stretch. (And that was prior to reading that the base graphics card is junk—putting either of their upgrade cards in easily cracks the $6,000 barrier.)