First Look: Benchmarks: 3GHz Mac Pro

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Macworld Lab’s 3GHz Mac Pro arrived at our offices, and, as expected, the desktop equipped with the fastest Xeon currently available to Mac users outpaced the 2.66GHz Mac Pro.

If you remember, that standard offering of Apple’s new desktop tallied the best score ever in our Speedmark test. That record didn’t stand for long, as the 3GHz machine posted a score of 313, setting a new standard for our system performance test suite.

When Apple added Intel-built Xeon processors to its line of professional desktops, the company offered only one standard configuration featuring two dual core Xeons running at 2.66GHz, a 250GB hard drive, an NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT graphics card with 256MB of video memory, 1GB of fully buffered DDR2 system memory, and a 16x dual-layer capable Superdrive. Of course, with an impressive list of available options, custom configurations number in the millions. We ordered a few custom models and the first two—standard configurations powered by two 2GHz and 3GHz chips, respectively—arrived just hours after our Mac Pro review was posted.

Because processors represent just one piece of the performance puzzle, we found that the 3GHz machine posted an improvement over the 2.66GHz Mac Pro of about 5 to 6 percent on most tests, even though the 3GHz chips have a 13 percent faster clock speed. With all of our Mac Pro systems sporting the same drives, bus speeds, memory size, and graphics cards, only CPU-intensive tests like our Cinema 4D render times approached that 13 percent improvement. The 3GHz beat the 2.66GHz model in all tests, but usually just by a few seconds. That’s an important consideration for users contemplating paying the extra $800 above the 2.66GHz Mac Pro’s $2,499 asking price.

As we’ve come to expect, applications like Photoshop not running natively on Intel Macs run slower than on systems with G5 processors.

3GHz and 2GHz Mac Pros Tested

Speedmark 4.5 Adobe Photoshop CS2 Cinema 4D XL 9.5.21 Compressor 2.1 iMovie 6.0.1 iTunes 6.0.4 Unreal Tournament 2004 Finder
Mac Pro/3GHz 313 1:16 0:24 1:42 0:36 0:45 93.0 1:54
Mac Pro/2GHz 254 1:50 0:37 1:57 0:48 0:59 73.4 2:32
Mac Pro/2.66GHz (Standard) 299 1:25 0:28 1:47 0:38 0:48 91.3 2:01
Power Mac G5/2.5GHz Quad-core 262 0:45 0:30 1:52 0:39 0:43 62.2 2:22
Power Mac G5/2.7GHz Dual-Processor 267 0:48 0:52 2:17 0:43 0:46 44.3 2:15
Power Mac G4/ 1.42GHz Dual -processor 155 1:24 2:23 4:43 1:24 1:35 26.5 3:16
20-inch iMac Core Duo/2GHz 210 2:31 1:11 3:21 1:03 1:26 54.1 2:34
>Better <Better <Better <Better <Better <Better >Better <Better

Best results in bold. Reference system in italics .

Speedmark 4.5 scores are relative to those of a 1.25GHz Mac mini, which is assigned a score of 100. Adobe Photoshop, Cinema 4D XL, iMovie, iTunes, and Finder scores are in minutes:seconds. All systems were running Mac OS X 10.4.7 with 1GB of RAM, with processor performance set to Highest in the Energy Saver preference pane when applicable. The Photoshop Suite test is a set of 14 scripted tasks using a 50MB file. Photoshop’s memory was set to 70 percent and History was set to Minimum. We recorded how long it took to render a scene in Cinema 4D XL. We used Compressor to encode a 6minute:26second DV file using the DVD: Fastest Encode 120 minutes - 4:3 setting. In iMovie, we applied the Aged video effect to a 1-minute movie. We converted 45 minutes of AAC audio files to MP3 using iTunes’ High Quality setting. We used Unreal Tournament 2004’s Antalus Botmatch average-frames-per-second score; we tested at a resolution of 1,024 by 768 pixels at the Maximum setting with both audio and graphics enabled. We created a Zip archive in the Finder from a 1GB folder.—Macworld Lab testing by James Galbraith and Jerry Jung

The 2GHz model performed as well as expected, with results reflecting the fact that its processors have a 25 percent slower clock speed. And again, with so many similarities between systems, the performance difference when running Speedmark was actually closer to 15 percent. With twice the number of processing cores, the 2GHz Mac Pro did beat the 2GHz iMac Core Duo in all tests, but again, only the Cinema 4D test showed the full effect of doubling the processors.

As mentioned earlier, these results are from our first round of testing with these Mac Pros. Check back soon for many more results, including tests involving increased RAM, multiple hard drives, different applications, and graphics cards.

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