Mac Musings

The 8-core Mac Pro Value Equation

Daniel Knight - 2007.04.04

Power hungry users, are you dissatisfied with Apple's 3.0 GHz quad-core Mac Pro? Render jobs and video conversion taking too long? Well, the solution is at hand.

This morning Apple quietly added an 8-core option to the Mac Pro, which turns the $3,299 3 GHz quad-core Mac Pro into a $3,999 machine with two quad-core CPUs. With the right workload and software, it can double the performance and cut some project time by 50%.

As always, Low End Mac wonders about the value of Apple's fastest ever computer. Does going from four cores to eight justify a $700 premium?

It All Depends

If you're the kind of person who buys a Mac Pro to begin with, you're probably running a lot of very demanding software that's been ported to the Intel architecture and takes advantage of multiple processors. And if that's not the case, you can stop reading right here. The Mac Pro is overkill for you.

For those who need more power, who push as much work through their Macs as possible, who can never seem to have enough speed, the 8-core Mac Pro should give it to you in spades.

When Apple introduced the Mac Pro last year, we questioned whether going from 2.66 GHz at US$2,499 to 3.0 GHz at $3,299 made any economic sense at all. For 32% more money, you only gained 12.5% more speed (We likewise questioned the value of the 2.0 GHz Mac Pro at a mere $300 less than the faster 2.66 GHz model. That's 25% less power while reducing the price by only 14%.)

The Value Equation

Assuming your software takes advantage of eight cores and that you run tasks that push the CPU regularly, we're looking at roughly doubling the power of the quad-core Mac Pro with a minimal price premium. Comparing the two 3.0 GHz models, the 8-core Mac Pro costs 21% more and potentially provides 100% more raw power.

It's a no brainer, and we expect sales of the 3.0 GHz quad-core Mac Pro to flatline.

The real value question: How does the 8-core Mac Pro compare with the value-leader 2.66 GHz Mac Pro? You can buy two 2.66 GHz ones for US$4,998 and still have less pure power than a US$3,999 8-core Mac Pro offers. There are few types of work where you'd be more productive with two Macs than with a single one.

In short, the 8-core Mac Pro offers more computing power for your dollar than any computer Apple has ever offered. If you need more than the 2.66 GHz Mac Pro (the previous value leader) offers and don't balk at the $1,500 price premium, the 8-core Mac Pro is the way to go.

We look forward to seeing the first benchmarks, especially with the forthcoming Intel-native version of Photoshop.