Mac Pro 6-core review

James Galbraith
27 February, 2014
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Mac Pro 6-core

Apple, store.apple.com/au

Pros 

impressive multi-core performance; dual workstation-class GPUs; fast internal storage; plenty of external-expansion options; compact, attractive design; quiet and relatively cool; many internal components upgradeable

Cons 

single-core performance not substantially better (and sometimes worse) than that of other current Macs; no internal expansion options, Higher-end configurations quickly get expensive

$5299

Reviews

It took some time, but Macworld Lab finally got a stock configuration Mac Pro. This new Mac Pro has a single 6-core Xeon processor running at 3.5GHz, with 256GB of flash memory, 16GB of RAM, and dual AMD D500 graphics. With a $5299 price tag, it’s less than our previously tested custom Mac Pro, and this stock model held up well in our benchmarks.

Standing just under 10in tall and weighing 4.99kg, the Mac Pro’s design, beautiful as it may be, completely redefines Apple’s ultimate Pro machine. It comes with the same amount of internal flash storage as a laptop and no available PCI slots for video capture cards, RAID cards, or the like.

The new Mac Pro is really meant to be configured at the time of purchase, with any additional storage or cards added externally through the six Thunderbolt 2 ports or four USB 3.0 ports. The new Mac Pro also comes with dual gigabit ethernet ports and 802.11AC wireless networking.

In terms of overall performance, the 6-core Mac Pro was an impressive 65 percent faster that the previous high-end stock Mac Pro, the 2012 12-core Mac Pro with two 6-core Intel Xeon processors running at 2.4GHz. The new Mac Pro was faster in every test except the Cinebench CPU test, which was 10 percent faster on the 12-core system. Our file copy test was more than four times as fast on the new Mac Pro’s PCI-connected flash storage than on the 12-core system’s 7200 rpm drives.

PCMark Office tests were twice as fast on the new stock Mac Pro and graphics tests showed the dual AMD FirePro D500 GPUs in the new Mac Pro pushing twice as many frames per second in the Heaven graphics benchmark at 1280 by 720 resolutions than the 12-core Mac Pro with its Radeon HD 5770 graphics. Cranking the resolution to 2560 by 1600, the new Mac Pro was able to display 10 times as many frames per second as the 2012 Mac Pro.

As one would expect, the stock 6-core Mac Pro couldn’t quite keep up with the new custom 8-core Mac Pro, which was eight percent faster overall than the stock 6-core Mac Pro. MathematicaMark was 41 percent faster on the CTO Mac Pro. Many tests showed less than five percent difference between the systems, including Photoshop, iTunes, Aperture, File copy, file Zip and Unzip, and PCMark Office suite running on a Parallels virtual machine.

Mac Pro

Photo: Michael Homnick

CPU tests showed the custom Mac Pro’s 8-core advantage, posting an 18 percent higher Cinebench CPU score, 17 percent faster Final Cut Pro render result, and a 41 percent higher MathematicaMark score. The custom Mac Pro’s D700 graphics helped the CTO Mac Pro post frame rates 22 to 29 percent higher in the Heaven and Valley benchmarks at higher resolutions.

As we’ve seen before, the Mac Pro is not for everyone. In many tasks, a consumer-oriented system like the iMac might perform better. The new 6-core Mac Pro had an overall Speedmark 9 score almost identical to a US$2699 CTO 27-inch iMac that was our Speedmark 9 champ before testing the new CTO Mac Pro. But while the scores averaged out to be similar overall, individual results show some major differences.

The iMac was faster at iTunes, zipping and unzipping files, PCMark Office suite tests and even 3D game tests. The Mac Pro was much faster at at Phoshop, especially the OpenCL action script, Final Cut Pro import and render tests, as well as MathematicaMark and Cinebench CPU tests.

Bottom line

The new Mac Pro redefines Apple’s highest-end system. Lacking the internal expansion that once drew advanced hobbyists to the line, the new Mac Pro is truly a workstation-class computer designed to shave minutes and hours off projects that video, audio and programming pros run day-in and day-out.

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