It’s been 14 months since Apple introduced the 2008 Mac Pro, and the 2009 Mac Pro is a big step forward: every configuration uses quad-core Intel Xeon “Nehalem” CPUs for even more power. Each core has its own 256 KB level 2 (L2) cache, and each quad-core CPU shares an 8 GB L3 cache.
Nehalem supports hyperthreading, which means each quad-core CPU can work like an 8-core CPU, and Turbo Boost technology allows CPUs to dynamically overclock themselves when circumstances permit – such as letting the 2.93 GHz Mac Pro go as high as 3.33 GHz.
All that power doesn’t come cheap. For the first time, the least expensive Mac Pro configuration sells for $2,499 – $300 more than the previous entry-level model – which only makes the gap between the Mac mini and the Mac Pro larger.
There are two base models, a single-CPU Mac Pro that ships with 3 GB of RAM and supports up to 8 GB, and a dual-CPU Mac Pro that ships with 6 GB of RAM and supports up to 32 GB. For best performance, you should install memory in sets of three matching modules, as the Nehalem CPU can access up to 3 channels of memory at once. With two or four modules installed, it falls back to 2 channel mode, which is less efficient. The single-CPU model is available at 2.66 and 2.93 GHz, while the dual-CPU can be obtained at 2.26, 2.66, or 2.93 GHz.
Nvidia GeForce GT 120 with 512 MB of video memory is the default graphics card, and you can add up to three more video cards. ATI Radeon HD 4870 is available as a build-to-order option.
If one 18x SuperDrive (the fastest yet in a Mac) isn’t enough, put in a second one for US$100 more. And you can upgrade from Apple’s regular wired keyboard and Mighty Mouse to the wireless (Bluetooth) version.
Bluetooth2.1+EDR is standard, but 802.11n AirPort Extreme remains optional.
A headphone jack, two USB 2.0 ports, and two FireWire 800 ports are located on the front of the Mac Pro for easy access, and there are more ports on the back. There are no FireWire 400 ports; FireWire 400 devices are supported using a FireWire 800-to-400 cable or adapter.
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Intel-based Macs use a partitioning scheme known as GPT. Only Macintel models can boot from GPT hard drives. Both PowerPC and Intel Macs can boot from APM (Apple’s old partitioning scheme) hard drives, which is the format you must use to create a universal boot drive in Leopard. Power PC Macs running any version of the Mac OS prior to 10.4.2 cannot mount GPT volumes. PowerPC Macs won’t let you install OS X to a USB drive or choose it as your startup volume, although there is a work around for that.
- introduced 2009.03.03 at $2,499 with one 2.66 GHz 4-core CPU, $2,999 with one 2.93 GHz CPU, $3,299 with two 2.26 GHz CPUs, $4,699 with two 2.66 GHz CPUs, $5,899 with two 2.93 GHz CPUs (all CPUs are quad-core); one 3.33 GHz CPU BTO option added 2009.12 at $3,699. Replaced by 2010 Mac Pro.
- requires Mac OS X 10.5.6 Leopard or later
- Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard compatibility
- Grand Central Dispatch is supported.
- 64-bit operation is supported.
- OpenCL is supported.
- OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion compatibility
- AirPlay Mirroring is not supported.
- AirDrop is supported with AirPort Extreme card.
- Power Nap is not supported.
- CPUs: single CPU models use Intel “Nehalem” Xeon 3500, dual CPU models use Xeon 5500
- Bus: 1.6 GHz
- Performance: not yet benchmarked
- RAM, single CPU: 3 GB, expandable to 8 GB using 1066 MHz DDR32 ECC SDRAM in 4 slots
- RAM, dual CPU: 6 GB, expandable to 32 GB using 1066 MHz DDR32 ECC SDRAM in 8 slots
- L2 cache: 256 KB per core
- L3 cache: 8 MB per CPU
- Video: Nvidia GeForce GT 120 with 512 MB RAM (ATI Radeon HD 4870 optional)
- Hard drive bus: 3 Gbps SATA II
- Hard drive: 640 GB Serial ATA 7200 rpm standard; 1 TB optional
- Optical drive bus: SATA
- 18x dual-layer SuperDrive writes DVD-R at up to 18x, DVD+R DL at 8x, reads DVDs at 18x; writes CD-R and CD-RW at up to 32x, reads at 32x
- PCI Express: 3 open full-length slots – one x16 slot, two x4 slots
- SATA: 4 independent buses
- optional external 56k v.92 USB modem
- Microphone: standard 3.5mm minijack, compatible with line-level input, not compatible with Apple’s PlainTalk microphone
- FireWire 400: none
- FireWire 800: 4 ports (2 on front, 2 on rear)
- USB: 5 USB 2.0 ports (2 on front, 3 on rear)
- Ethernet: 2 independent 10/100/gigabit ports
- WiFi: optional 802.11n AirPort Extreme
- Bluetooth: 2.0 with Enhanced Data Rate
- size (HxWxD): 20.1″ x 8.1″ x 18.7″ (51.1 x 20.6 x 47.5 cm)
- weight, single CPU: 39.9 lb. (18.1 kg)
- weight, dual CPU: 41.2 lb. (18.7 kg)
- Gestalt ID: n/a
- PRAM battery: 3.6V half-AA
- Part no.: MB871 (single CPU), MB535 (dual CPU)
Accelerators & Upgrades
- none likely
- Best Mac Pro deals.
- Best Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Deals. Best online prices for Snow Leopard.
- Best Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard Deals. Best online prices for Leopard.
- The 2009 Mac Pro value equation, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2009.03.04. In terms of sheer power, the Nehalem-based Mac Pro is designed for heavy listing. But how much power do you really need?
- 27″ iMac issues, Windows 7 drives users to Apple, Flash support ending for G3 Macs, and more, Mac News Review, 2009.12.18. Also Macs again #1 in reliability, cleaning and disinfecting your Mac, OWC adds 32 GB upgrades for 2009 Mac Pro, MoFi 3G network router to go, and more.
- Danish cops use Macs, Mac Pro hits 3.33 GHz, data on problematic Late 2009 iMacs, and more, Mac News Review, 2009.12.11. Also Intel i3 specs leaked, dedicated keypad for Gmail users, HK’s crystal speaker system, California may side with Apple on smoker’s warranties, and more.
- The 64-bitness of Mac OS X 10.6 ‘Snow Leopard’, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2009.08.19. Although Apple is promoting ‘Snow Leopard’ as a fully 64-bit operating system, it defaults to running in 32-bit mode.
- The Road Ahead: 64-bit Computing, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2009.08.19. Personal computers started with 8-bit CPUs, Macs started out with a 24-bit operating system, and 32-bit computing is starting to give way to 64 bits.
- OS X 10.6 requirements, why Apple owns the high end, when to upgrade your Mac, and more, Mac News Review, 2009.08.14. Also Microsoft Word patent infringement, BackPack shelf for iMac and Cinema Displays, two updated Bible study programs, and more.
- OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard for $29, run Windows on your Mac for Free, Update Breaks Office 2008, and more, Mac News Review, 2009.08.07. Also getting your Mac ready for Snow Leopard, Time Capsule doubles capacity, Picasa 3 for Mac, Bodega Mac app store, and more.
- SSD in Mac Pro, Mac cloner opens store, Ubuntu vs. OS X, new Nvidia drivers, and more, Mac News Review, 2009.07.17. Also Classilla brings Firefox to OS 9, slow networking in OS X, iMac vs. Mac Pro, URL shortening software, Quicken update finally coming in 2010, and more.
- Apple tops in satisfaction again, slim profits on Mac mini, ultimate photo setup, and more, Mac News Review, 2009.07.02. Also tips for cloning hard drives and moving files from old Macs, Clickfree Transformer turns USB drive into a backup drive, maximum Mac Pro RAM, and more.
- Optimized Software Builds Bring Out the Best in Your Mac, Dan Knight, Low End Mac’s Online Tech Journal, 2009.06.30. Applications compiled for your Mac’s CPU can load more quickly and run faster than ones compiled for universal use.
- Snow Leopard Up-to-Date, 13 Mac browsers, run Windows 7 on your Intel Mac for free, and more, Mac News Review, 2009.06.19. Also Mac sales steady in May, Apple vs. low-bandwidth users, Opera Unite turns browser into a personal server, and more.
- Low cost doesn’t equal value, OS X market share over 10%, 2009 Mac Pro ‘insanely fast’, and more, Mac News Review, 2009.04.03. Also Safari and Firefox gain market share, WWDC dates announced, 2 TB My Book Mac Edition hard drive, free Car Art calendar, and more.
- Macs lose top reliability rating, eSATA doomed by USB 3, Mac mini Bluetooth and audio problems, and more, Mac News Review, 2009.03.27. Also an abandoned iMac in New York City, 17″ iMac still available to education, IT pros are demanding Macs, and more.
- New Mac mini and iMac benchmarked, FireWire 400-to-800 solutions, dual-band AirPort Extreme, and more, Mac News Review, 2009.03.06. Also new iMac and Mac mini dissected, OS X share still above 10%, fastest SATA boot drives for the Mac Pro, iMac keyboard loses numeric keypad, and more.
- Mac Pro beats HP and Dell at their own game: Price, Frank Fox, Stop the Noiz, 2008.05.16. Whether comparing the top-end or low-end of Mac Pro options, comparable models from Dell and HP cost more.
- Ubuntu Linux and Boot camp make it easy to create a triple boot Mac, Alan Zisman, Mac2Windows, 2008.12.24. Boot Camp makes it easy to install Windows on Intel Macs, and Ubuntu now makes it easy to install Linux to a virtual Windows drive.
- The ‘Better Safe Than Sorry’ Guide to Installing Mac OS X Updates, Charles Moore, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2008.12.16. Most users encounter no problems using Software Update, but some preflight work and using the Combo updater means far less chance of trouble.
- Why You Should Partition Your Mac’s Hard Drive, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2008.12.11. “At the very least, it makes sense to have a second partition with a bootable version of the Mac OS, so if you have problems with your work partition, you can boot from the ’emergency’ partition to run Disk Utility and other diagnostics.”
- The Long Term Value of a High End Mac, Andrew J Fishkin, Best Tools for the Job, 2008.11.21. Low-end Macs are more affordable up front, but the flexibility and upgrade options of a top-end Mac can make it the better value in the long run.
- Virtualization shootout: VMWare Fusion 2 vs. Parallels Desktop 4, Kev Kitchens, Kitchens Sync, 2008.11.20. Both programs do the same thing, but one runs Windows XP smoothly alongside Mac apps, while the other bogs down everything but Windows.
- Anticipating Macworld: Nehalem, Snow Leopard, and updated desktops, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2008.11.18. Intel’s Core i7 CPU has to make it way into the next Mac Pro, Nvidia GeForce graphics will drive the iMac and Mac mini, and ‘Snow Leopard’ will unleash the animal within.
- Debunking the Apple Tax, Frank Fox, Stop the Noiz, 2008.10.31. “…no one else is offering the quality of computer construction that Apple offers in the same price range.”
- One OS to rule them all, Frank Fox, Stop the Noiz, 2008.10.29. With Fusion or Parallels letting you run Windows at full speed, Mac OS X gives you the best of both worlds.
- Economic crunch may slow Mac sales, a recycled Cube, ToCA Race Driver 3 for Mac, and more, Mac News Review, 2008.10.10. Also don’t buy RAM from Apple, customize your Mac’s appearance, MacTribe expanding into print, My Apple Space social networking, and more.
- How to clone Mac OS X to a new hard drive, Simon Royal, Tech Spectrum, 2008.10.07. Whether you want to put a bigger, faster drive in your Mac or clone OS X for use in another Mac, here’s the simple process.
- The cost of moving to Small Business Server vs. moving to Leopard Server, Andrew J Fishkin, Best Tools for the Job, 2008.10.06. Upgrading the existing SBS 2003 Server would cost less, the the server will run up against hardware limitations long before a Mac Pro does
- OS X and Safari shares grow in September, toxic Mac Pro?, green hard drives, and more, Mac News Review, 2008.10.03. Also Vista terrible as Mac market grows, CrossOver Mac Pro reviewed, SimpleTech Pro Drives, and a new toolkit for working on computers.
- CodeWeavers brings Google’s Chrome browser to Intel Macs, Alan Zisman, Zis Mac, 2008.10.02. Google’s new Chrome browser uses separate processes for each tab and brings other changes to Windows users. Now Mac fans can try it as well.
- Apple Trumps Microsoft in Making the 64-bit Transition Transparent to Users, Frank Fox, Stop the Noiz, 2008.09.18. To use more than 4 GB of RAM under Windows, you need a 64-bit PC and the 64-bit version of Windows. On the Mac, OS X 10.4 and later already support it.
- SATA, SATA II, SATA 600, and Product Confusion Fatigue, Frank Fox, Stop the Noiz, 2008.09.08. In addition to the original SATA specification and the current 3 Gb/s specification, SATA revision 3.0 is just around the corner.
- Does running OS X system maintenance routines really do any good?, Charles Moore, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2008.08.26. Mac OS X is designed to run certain maintenance routines daily, weekly, and monthly – but can’t if your Mac is off or asleep.
- Simple Mac security in the age of malware, Kev Kitchens, Kitchens Sync, 2008.08.13. Unlike Windows PCs, at this point Macs can’t become infected simply from being on the Internet, but you still need to be careful about your downloads.
- Free VirtualBox for Mac now a virtual contender, Alan Zisman, Mac2Windows, 2008.07.21. A year ago, the Mac version of VirtualBox lacked some essential features. Over the past year, it’s grown into a very useful tool.
- Mac Pro overclocking, Windependence with Darwine, Blu-ray for Macs, and more, Mac News Review, 2008.07.04. Also more on running Leopard on non-Apple hardware, Ubuntu on a Mac mini, the first autofocus webcam with Zeiss optics for Macs, and more.
- Win the depreciation game by buying on the low end, Charles Moore, ‘Book Value, 2008.06.24. The worst depreciation afflicts high-end models. By buying a less powerful version, choosing certified refurbished, or picking up a used computer, you’ll come out ahead.
- Mac sales up 50% in May, OS X on any PC with USB dongle?, share up to 5 USB devices, and more, Mac News Review, 2008.06.20. Also intimidating people with a Mac, CherryPal’s inexpensive green ‘cloud’ computer, quad-core G5 YDP PowerStation, Radeon HD 3870 announced, and Nolobe Iris claims to be ‘the ultimate image editor for OS X’.
- 5 business essentials for ‘The Switch’, Jason Packer, Macs in the Enterprise, 2008.06.06. If you’re planning a migration from Windows to Macs, these five steps will help you succeed in making the switch.
- 5 reasons Macs are right for business, 10.5.3 improves GeForce 8800 performance, and more, Mac News Review, 2008.06.06. Also 3.06 GHz iMac ‘packs a wallop’, convertible keyboard for Macs, free open source virtualization software, hard drive rescue software, and more.
- Why Dell and HP do (or don’t) beat Mac Pro pricing, Frank Fox, Stop the Noiz, 2008.05.23. Readers weigh in on why the Mac Pro is an even better value – or a worse one.
- SheepShaver brings Classic Mac OS to Intel Macs and Leopard, Alan Zisman, Mac2Windows, 2008.05.20. Mac OS X 10.5 doesn’t support Classic Mode. Neither does Leopard. But SheepShaver lets you emulate a PowerPC Mac and run the Classic Mac OS.
- Windows on Macs: Three paths for integration, Jason Packer, Macs in the Enterprise, 2008.05.14. Mac users have three routes for running Windows apps: Run Windows using Boot Camp or virtualization, or use a compatibility layer such as WINE.
- Prosumer Mac suggestions, bring back the 12″ ‘Book, Pismo displays, and more, Dan Knight, Low End Mac Mailbag, 2008.05.06. Readers offer more thoughts on a midrange Mac, the need for a new 12″ ‘Book, using F-keys as F-keys in OS X, and lid closed video mode for Pismo.
- 50% Mac sales growth is only the beginning, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2008.05.02. Apple has a great line of computers and an awesome operating system, but a prosumer model could make last quarter’s growth seem normal.
- Overpriced Macs, 4-core Mac Pro value, USB for G3 PowerBooks, and more, Dan Knight, Low End Mac Mailbag, 2008.04.24. Also reader feedback on running a keyboard through the dishwasher, tips for using external DVD drives, and 8 GB partition issues with the Classic Mac OS on the beige G3.
- Safari 3.1 fastest browser?, Macs smash sales record, Mac Pro reviews, and more, Mac News Review, 2008.03.21. Also should Mac users run antivirus software?, AirPort Express gets 802.11n, one-touch TV for Macs and iPods, security update for Tiger and Leopard, and more.
- Mac users are snobs, Mac freeware, 5x the range with AirPort Extreme, and more, Mac News Review, 2008.02.22. Also make room for 4 more drives in the 2008 Mac Pro, basic ethernet for PCI Express, MacSpeech Dictate software shipping, problems installing Leopard when SideTrack is present, and more.
- Safari 3.1 will be ‘crazy fast’, OS X 10.5.2 update, 20x SuperDrive from $35, and more, Mac News Review, 2008.02.15. Also Security Update for Tiger, Graphics Update for Leopard, Mac mini “as powerful as a larger desktop”, TechTool Deluxe update, and more.
- Mac’s record market share expected to double, Safari ‘solid third’ in browsers, and more, Mac News Review, 2008.02.08. Also the future is “Apple, open source, and green”, the fastest Mac ever, and SuperDuper upgraded for Leopard support.
- Leopard on a PC without hacking, KDE comes to OS X, new Mac Pro benchmarked, and more, Mac News Review, 2008.02.01. Also saying good-bye to .mac, a review of Apple’s aluminum keyboard, and how to disinfect your keyboard, mouse, and trackpad.
- New Mac Pro benchmarked, OS X killing Linux?, a hardened Mac mini, and more, Mac News Review, 2008.01.18. New Mac Pro architecture reduces memory bottleneck for better performance, Mac Pro Developer Note posted, and NewerTech’s USB 2.0 Universal Drive Adapter.
- Most powerful Mac Pro and Xserve ever, dishwashers great for cleaning keyboards, and more, Mac News Review, 2008.01.11. Also a look at the new video cards for the Mac Pro, running Classic on Intel Macs, AppleCare costs more in Canada, New User’s Guide to the Mac, and more.
- The gaping hole in Apple’s desktop line, Tommy Thomas, Welcome to Macintosh, 2007.07.13. $599 for a Mac mini with very limited expadability, $999 for an iMac with limited expadability, or $2,200 for a the very expandable Mac Pro.
- Pre-2006 software: The big reason you shouldn’t buy an Intel Mac today, Ted Hodges, Vintage Mac Living, 2006.11.09. If you work with software that predates the Intel transition, you may be better off sticking with PowerPC Macs. And if you use classic apps, you definitely want to avoid Intel.
- Mac Pro (Early 2009) – Technical Specifications, Apple