Macworld Buying Guides: Apple’s Mac lineup

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Configurations: There’s just one standard configuration—a $2,799 system (Get Best Current Price) featuring two 2.8GHz quad-core Xeon processors, ATI Radeon 2600 XT graphics, a 320GB, 7,200-rpm hard drive, 16X SuperDrive, and support for up t0 32GB of RAM.

Oh, but the build-to-order options—Mac Pro users can opt for two 3.0 or 3.2GHz quad-core processors or they can downgrade to a single 2.8GHz quad-core ship. The Mac Pro offers a multitude of graphics options, including the ability to install up to four ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT graphics cards. You can opt for anywhere from 500GB to 1TB of storage in each of the Mac Pro’s four hard-drive bays. And if one SuperDrive isn’t enough, you could always ask Apple to install a second one. (The Mac Pro tech specs page at Apple.com has an extensive list of the many build-to-order options at your disposal.)

These options will drive up the price tag. One system we tested featured two 3.2GHz quad-core processors, 8GB of RAM, an upgraded Nvidia GeForce 8800GT graphics card, and four SAS drives in a RAID 0 configuration. Total cost: $9,949.

How it performs: In our initial tests of the standard Mac Pro configuration, we found that it was notably faster than the four-core 2.6GHz model it replaced and nearly as fast as a previous-generation eight-core 3GHz Mac Pro. We also tested several build-to-order Mac Pros with tests to show how memory, hard drive, and graphics upgrades affected Mac Pro performance.

What we think: If you simply want the fastest Mac you’ve ever used, the base-model Mac Pro Eight-Core 2.8GHz won’t disappoint. If you’re a content-creating professional who needs your video, audio, and or imaging workstation to fulfill its true potential, you may also opt to spend the extra cash to upgrade your new Mac Pro’s processor speed, storage and RAM. Read our complete   review of the Mac Pro.

[Philip Michaels is the executive editor of Macworld.com.]

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