In an unusual move, Apple has preempted itself at next week’s Macworld Expo in San Francisco by announcing updates to its most powerful computer offerings: the top-of-the-line Mac Pro desktop, and its rack-based Xserve servers. And for folks who appreciate raw power, the new machines do not disappoint, offering eight processor cores on two Intel Xeon 5400 series CPUs running at up to 3.2 GHz, and a new architecture designed to offer up to twice the performance of their predecessors.
"The new Mac Pro is the fastest Mac we’ve ever made," said Apple’s senior VP of product marketing Philip Schiller, in a statement. "With 3.2 GHz 8-core Xeon processing, a 1600 MHz front side bus and 800 MHz memory, the new Mac Pro uses the fastest Intel Xeon architecture on the market."
The new Mac Pro’s also feature an ATI Radeon 2600 XT graphics card with 256 MB of video memory, and a new PCI Express 2.0 graphics slot that can support heftier cards like the Nvidia GeForce 8800GT or Quadro FX 5600. In total, the systems can support up to four graphics cards and drive up to eight 30-inch displays…which ought to be enough pixels for even the fussiest video editors. The systems also feature four internal drive bays (SATA) with optional 15,000 rpm drives available and support for RAID configurations. The systems offer 5 USB 2.0 ports, two FireWire 400 ports, two FireWire 800 ports, and dual gigabit Ethernet. The systems ship with 2 GB of RAM, but can be configured with up to 32 GB; of course, the systems ship with 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless networking. Prices on the new Mac Pros start at $2,799, but escalate quickly: just configuring a system with the 3.2 GHz processors rather than the default 2.8 GHz CPUs bumps customers to $4,399, although a single-processor (four core) version is also offered for $2,299.
Apple also revved up its Xserve rack-based server line, jumping to eight processor cores with two 3 GHz Intel Xeon CPUs, two PCI Express expansion slots (for supporting things like 10Gb Ethernet and multichannel fibre), and support for up to 3 TB of internal storage. The Xserves also now include integrated graphics to support up to a 23-inch display, and include a front-facing USB port so administrators don’t have to crawl behind the machine to attach a keyboard or USB storage. A build-to-order option that will be welcome to many administrators is a 750 Watt redundant power supply. Prices start at $2,999.
Of course, Apple’s decision to announce these machines before Macworld Expo is drawing lots of commentary. Overall, the decision probably boils down to sexiness: while these machines pack a lot of punch, they’re the kinds of things that make consumers’ eyes glaze over when trotted out in front of a worldwide audience during Steve Jobs’ Expo keynote. Apple would rather use that spotlight to highlight appealing, consumer-friendly new products and services—now that these boring old computers. After all, it’s not "Apple Computer" anymore, it’s just Apple.
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