My new Mac Pro: Great Mac or the greatest Mac?

Some of you may not know this, but posting intermittently to MacUser doesn’t support me in the style to which I am accustomed (when I suggested Macworld pay me $10,000 per post Jason Snell laughed so hard his monocle fell into the golden bowl from which he sups on the crushed dreams of bloggers).

That’s right, kids, I have a day job, and recently that day job changed. I found myself transitioning careers of my own volition (which is saying something in this economy!) and transitioning Macs as a consequence. My previous Mac, a unibody MacBook Pro, was a great machine but it also happened to belong to my previous employer. I needed to plunk down some hard-earned cash and get a Mac of my very own (there were a few days between my old job ending and my new one beginning, so it was imperative I make sure I wasn’t Mac-less during that time). But which Mac should I get?

If I were to follow the prevailing winds, than logic dictated I get a laptop of some kind, since desktops are so five years ago. However, I’ve owned a Mac from all of Apple's current categories save one: the Mac Pro. Armed with this very flimsy excuse for a rationalization I dashed to an Apple Store posthaste (the Sagemore Apple Store to be precise) to check out the wares in person.

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I knew before going in that Apple Stores only stock two types of Mac Pro: the "low end," with dual 2.8GHz Quad-Core processors and a ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT 256MB graphics card, and the high end, with dual 3.2GHz Quad-Core processors with a NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT 512MB (which also includes dual SuperDrives for some reason). Clearly, since I spend most of my time writing text, I had no real need for a Mac Pro at all. A Mac mini would have been more than sufficient for most of my computing needs (I do have a video podcast that I film in glorious HD, so having some processor power isn’t a bad thing, but rendering overnight isn’t much of an inconvenience), so Logical Scott went into the store with every intention of buying the low-end Mac Pro, which would presumably suit my needs for many years to come. I even had the foresight to bring my lovely fiancée along with me to talk me down should I be tempted to make any crazy decisions.

The store was pretty busy, so I had to wait 15 minutes before I could speak to a sales person. We wandered around looking at all the shiny objects and ended up by the Mac Pro on display (which just so happened to be a high-end model, fancy that). As I fiddled with it—out of professional curiosity only—I came to the realization that this was the One True Mac Pro and all other Mac Pros would be insufficient for my needs. Creating blog posts with only dual quad core 2.8 GHz processors? What am I, a barbarian? This computer (well, a new one in a box exactly like it) would soon be mine. But how to convince Marisa (the fiancée) that I should spend a pretty penny more for computing power I didn’t need?

I’m not proud to admit this, but I used the oldest trick in the book. I said to her, "Hey, don’t you want an iPod touch? Because if you do, I’ll get you one." And just like that, all her prepared objections evaporated into the ether, replaced by the glee only a 16GB iPod Touch can bring. I’m a sad little man.

Soon the helpful Apple Store fellow arrived and I told him I would take one of his finest Mac Pros. He asked me if I was buying it for a business and I said, ‘Nope! It is just for me!’ He looked a little surprised and asked if I did any really intense computing to which I replied, "I do encounter Flash on the net from time to time." Oh we laughted and laughed and laughed (seriously, Abode, why does Flash on the Mac suck so much? You should really look into that before trying to get it on the iPhone).

That, my friends, is how I ended up being the proud owner of the most powerful Mac in a one-square block radius of my home (I assume). But the fun didn’t stop there. As is customary with Apple's computers, the Mac Pro was configured with a ridiculously small amount of RAM (a mere 2GB stock). Having a Mac Pro with less RAM than my old laptop wouldn’t do, so I did what any normal man in my position would: I ordered 8 2GB RAM chips and a 1TB hard-drive, just for fun.

If you’ve made it this far into this post you might be wondering to yourself, "Did Scott just write this post to show off his 16 gigs of RAM, or is there a point here?" However, there is a point to my ramblings and it is this: despite the fact that I can’t carry the Mac Pro with me from place to place (well, without a hernia) it is by far the best Mac I have ever owned. Here’s why:

  • It is more expandable than a pair of Sansabelt slacks (installing the new 1TB drive took all of three minutes, two of which where spent figuring out how to balance the Mac Pro on my desk without having it tip over and crush the life out of my frail body).
  • This puppy is fast. It used to take about 45 minutes for VisualHub to encode a 10 minute video from HD source material to video suitable for downloading over the web. It takes my Mac Pro seven minutes to encode the same footage.
  • It has two SuperDrives. I still have no idea why I would ever use this, but it is pretty cool to see two drives under the eject menu bar item (it's the simple things in life that bring the greatest pleasure, isn't it?).
  • Several ports on the front of the Mac Pro make for easy access. No longer do I need to grope for ports like I had to with my iMac. If I need to plug in some random USB device I just slap it into one of the two USB ports on the front of the Mac Pro.

What's not to like about the Mac Pro? Well, it doesn’t have a MiniDisplay port so I can’t use my fancy new Apple LED Display. And I will admit that I do, from time to time, miss being able to compute from my sofa. That said, my life has become much more pleasant now that I don’t have a Mac with me at all times. I actually pay attention to TV shows and movies instead of updating Twitter or reading email as the action on the TV unfolds. I’ve been reading more than I used to thanks to the fact that my Mac lives in my office, and thus removes me from the distraction that is the Internet (never mind that my iPhone is rarely far away).

Overall, my Mac Pro was a great purchase and I would recommend it to anyone who actually read this entire post. I would also recommend you give yourself a cookie for getting to the end: you deserve it.

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