I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

Ode to the Mac Pro

I’ve said so before, but my computer makes me incredibly happy that I have it every time I use it. Yes, it was expensive, but I don’t feel that a penny was wasted.

It’s fast. Ridiculously fast. All the time. I’ve never thought any other Mac felt truly fast even most of the time. It doesn’t break a sweat doing nearly anything I throw at it, and even when under the rare heavy load, it stays perfectly responsive and I don’t hear any fan noise. Every computer shows its bottlenecks sometimes, but it’s laughable how rarely I hit this one’s — especially since I used only laptops for 4 years before I got this, during which I was hitting disk-performance limits every 5 minutes. Laptop performance always drives me crazy, and that’s not likely to change until SSDs are large and cheap.

If I get the itch to make the Mac Pro faster, I can do so very easily and very cheaply. If I want more RAM, I can add another 4 GB for just over $100. If I need more storage or want faster disk I/O, I can upgrade my software-RAID array to insanely fast new disks for $140 per 1TB drive. And when good SSDs and Blu-Ray burners become worthwhile, I can add those, too. With 4 internal hard drive bays, 2 opticals, and a 32 GB/8-slot RAM capacity, I have a lot of headroom for future upgrades. And I can’t even come up with a good use for the three unused PCI-Express slots yet (unless I want to have 8 monitors) or most of the ports on the front and back.

The only parts that I can’t upgrade very far (or cheaply, or easily) are the CPUs, but at 2.8 GHz and 8 cores, that’s the part that I stress the least. It’s going to be a long time before I need more CPU power.

But the most telling advantage of the Mac Pro is its longevity. This is how I know that I really made the right choice. Intel just released its Nehalem CPU, and while I’m not following it closely this time, I bet the Mac Pro will be updated again in January with them. (Mac Pro releases coincide with major updates to Intel’s Xeon line.)

If it were any other computer, I’d be envious when the new models came out. I’d want to upgrade because the new models would improve whatever bottleneck was frustrating me with my current one.

But that won’t happen this time. It’s been almost 1 year since I bought it, but it’s still absolutely perfect for me. My friend bought the first Mac Pro just over 2 years ago, and he feels the same way (I’d still be happy with his, too). It was a big initial purchase, but I probably won’t need to replace it until it’s at least 3 years old — most likely longer. That’s a very impressive main-computer lifespan for a geek like me. I’m perfectly fine to spend $3000 every 3-5 years and be very happy every day instead of spending $1500 every 2 years and being moderately satisfied most of the time.