Apple updated the Mac Pro today, and as my favorite computer in the universe, it caught my interest — not because I need to upgrade to it from my 1-year-old model (I definitely don’t), but because the CPU lineup and pricing changed dramatically with the switch to Intel’s Nehalem Xeon line.
The options and their pricing, along with Intel’s approximate pricing of the CPUs alone, followed by Apple’s/Intel’s price increase for that option above the previous setup:
- Quad-core 2.66: $2500 (one Xeon W3540, $575)
Quad-core 2.93: $3000 (one Xeon W3570, $1050)
(+$500 to Apple/+$475 to Intel)
8-core 2.26: $3300 (two Xeon E5520, $900 total)
(+$800/+$325 from Quad 2.66)
- 8-core 2.66: $4700 (two Xeon X5550, $2300 total)
- 8-core 2.93: $5900 (two Xeon X5570, $3300 total)
So, as usual, any complaints about the Mac Pro’s CPU-upgrade pricing should really be directed at Intel, not Apple. As you can see, Apple’s not making a killing on CPU upgrades at all, but Intel is. And given that these are brand-new top-of-the-line Xeons, these prices are understandable and common for the way this market is usually priced.
Apple will probably keep the upgrade prices the same and pocket the difference as Intel’s prices fall — but unlike consumer-market CPUs, the prices on Xeons don’t fall very quickly or very far.
The Mac Pro update is otherwise pretty uninteresting and delivered exactly what avid watchers expected (as Mac Pro updates should, and usually do). One thing I find interesting: the new RAM/CPU layout. They dropped FB-DIMMs and are using DDR3 1066MHz ECC DIMMs instead, which should be much cheaper. The 2.66/2.93 CPUs are intended to be used with 1333MHz RAM, but Apple clearly states that all new Mac Pros use 1066MHz RAM. So I’m not sure where the disconnect is there — I assume there’s a good reason for it.
Also, note that the quad-core, single-CPU model can only use 4 RAM slots instead of 8, since the CPUs are now responsible for the memory interface. And the single-CPU model uses the Xeon 3500-series, not the 5500-series, so it cannot be upgraded to dual-CPU simply by adding a second one. I’m guessing that, even if the single-CPU configuration ships with the dual-CPU motherboard, Apple will probably never make a single-to-dual upgrade kit available. So I’d recommend that any Mac Pro buyer intending to keep it long-term should eat the cost and go with an 8-core model — even the 8-core 2.26 will be much better long-term than the 4-core 2.66.