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Those Mac Pros are going to be expensive

Here’s AnandTech’s reported price list of the Xeon E5-2600 V2 CPUs that the new Mac Pro will use.

What’s interesting about the high-end models is that Intel is clearly hitting huge thermal-efficiency walls. As the number of cores goes up, the highest clock speed goes down to keep within a usable TDP (the CPU’s highest sustained amount of power drawn and heat generated under maximum load).

Many applications still only max out one or two cores effectively, so for most usage, a higher clock speed is better than more cores if you can’t have both. But for highly parallelizable tasks, such as video processing, 3D rendering, and scientific research, it’s interesting how little difference there is in the “total” raw GHz (cores × GHz) available in these high-end CPUs.

CoresClock“Total” GHzEst. Price$/GHz
83.3 GHz26.4$2,321$88
813.4 GHz27.2$2,414$89
1022.8 GHz28.0$1,944$69
103.0 GHz30.0$2,356$79
122.7 GHz32.4$2,950$91

(Granted, “total” GHz is a terrible metric to use for most usage, and there are other factors that complicate performance of multicore systems beyond a simple sum of all cores’ speeds. This is merely a quick way to estimate the performance under heavy parallel loads before we can actually benchmark these CPUs.)

And for all of those applications that don’t parallelize well (hi, Adobe and LAME!), the higher-core, lower-clocked, more-expensive CPUs will probably perform worse than the cheaper, fewer-core, higher-clocked ones.

How much Turbo Boost makes a difference remains to be seen. While it can be a big jump on consumer CPUs, high-end Xeons typically haven’t seen a huge gain from it because they’re already running so close to TDP walls.

But no matter which CPU you choose, these new Mac Pros are looking like they’re going to be pretty expensive if you want a good amount of CPU power. Typically, the outgoing Mac Pro has been priced at about $2000 plus the CPU cost (or more), with the entry CPU being a few hundred bucks (and really not worth buying), and that’s without the dual high-powered workstation GPUs that the new Mac Pro will apparently have standard.

But the new Xeon E5 V2 line hardly has any low-cost options. Even a relatively weak (by Mac Pro standards) 6-core, 2.4 GHz CPU is $701, and anything faster is over $1,000.

I’d be very surprised to see the new Mac Pro’s entry price below $3,500, and for a CPU that makes the Mac Pro barrier worth crossing, I think we’re talking $5,000 and up.

  1. The E5-2687W V2’s TDP is 150W. It may not be worth accommodating the possibility of this thermal load in the new Mac Pro since all of the other high-end CPUs are 130W, so I don’t expect this CPU to be available in the Mac Pro. (But if it is, it might end up being the fastest option for most applications.) ↩︎

  2. The E5-2680 V2’s TDP is only 115W, which might mean less fan noise under load in the Mac Pro. And it looks like it’s going to be a solid performer at a lower price than the other chart-toppers. But it’s still nearly $2,000. ↩︎