Review: Apple's new Mac Pro is a speed demon

The upgraded Mac Pro pushes apps to the limit

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Speaking of Leopard, the fastest hardware in the world isn't going to help you much if the operating system controlling the computer isn't up to the task. Here, Leopard excels. Everything is snappy and instantaneous, and with this much screen real estate, I could even see logic behind the original implementation of Stacks, Apple's new Dock feature. (Of course, not everyone uses two 30-in. displays.)

Leopard was designed for just this kind of machine because it takes advantage of multiple cores -- which is the latest industry trend after years of pushing ever-higher processor frequencies. Leopard's task scheduler is extremely efficient at allocating tasks among all of the Mac Pro's cores.

This is a feature that actually extends throughout Apple's product lines, because Leopard's thread manager scales to match the hardware on which it's running. That yields more efficient distribution of threads, more cores being fed, less waiting for a task to complete and more efficient recovery in case of system hangs -- all of it automatic and invisible to the user. All you see is pure on-screen snappiness. After a month, I can say I've never had to wait less for any application to launch or process to complete.

This system is beyond the sum of its parts. It's the technological equivalent of a well-played symphony: Each individual piece is solid in its own right, but everything is amplified once they're put together in concert.

It's a hard-knock life

Just how solid is the Mac Pro? After nearly a month of extensive testing, dragging it through Photoshop tests and Final Cut Pro editing, multiple iPhoto databases taking up dozens of gigabytes, and tons of video converting, not once did I have to restart this computer -- a flawless uptime. When time is money, uptime is mandatory. The combination of Mac Pro hardware, Leopard operating and the Mac apps screams efficiency.

I've been a big fan of the Mac Pro enclosure, which -- while getting a little long in the tooth -- continues to offer easy access to the technology innards. But I'm not sure about the cheese-grater grill look these days, especially in comparison with Apple's other designs. I understand the decision to keep the look during the company's successful Intel transition two years ago, but it's probably time the Mac Pro got a little sleeker, maybe with carrying handles that don't cut so much into your hands when you pick up the unit.

Across the top are the four bays for hard drives; just below them in the opening is the graphics card.

Click to view larger image.

And since this is a high-end machine geared to pros, the Mac Pro could use more connectivity, especially in terms of media card readers. No doubt, when designing its hardware, Apple must balance ports and features against the needs and wants of their target audience. But I can't imagine a better audience for media card readers.

Users who work with Final Cut Pro, Photoshop, Aperture, Maya, After Effects, DVD Studio Pro or any other high-end app are the same people who would probably find built-in media card slots for accessing video and digital photos convenient. Doing so might upset Apple's penchant for minimalism, but users would appreciate it.

Also, at a time when Apple is pushing wireless connectivity, the Mac Pro doesn't come with Wi-Fi as part of its standard configuration. If you want to connect to a Wi-Fi network, you have to pony up another $50 for an 802.11n card. I know that this machine's main purpose is to move as much data as quickly as possible, so I'm not exactly surprised. Connecting this machine to a gigabit network makes much more sense for transferring data than wireless, but considering the price of Mac Pro hardware, Wi-Fi should be a part of the deal, not an add-on.

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