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Mac Pro: Setup, Performance, Heat & Noise

Andy Vandervell

By Andy Vandervell

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Editors choice
Apple Mac Pro

Summary

Our Score:

10

User Score:

Apple Mac Pro: Setup

While there isn't that much to setup per se with a Mac Pro, it's here that our first criticism of the system is exposed. Support for 4K monitors is, at present, a little lacking.

A key purpose of the Mac Pro, among other things, is to act as the perfect 4K video editing PC -- it's the one thing Apple talks about most. As we'll get into in a moment, Apple's Final Cut Pro X software is specifically engineered with the Mac Pro in mind, to the point where it can handle some pretty astonishing workload levels with little in the way of inconvenience.

We hooked up Dell's 4K monitor (review coming soon) to the Mac Pro and while it works absolutely fine at native resolution, you get none of the 'HiDPI' modes available on Apple's MacBook Pro line-up.

What does this mean? It means that while the 4K resolution is fantastic for video and photo editing, UI elements are often a little small for comfort and are bound to cause eye strain for some. The only alternative at the moment is to use a scaled, lower resolution, which rather defeats the point of having a 4K monitor.

There are hacks around this problem, but none can guarantee you'll get an ideal experience that works perfectly. We suspect and hope that Apple will rectify this problem as more 4K monitors go on sale, but it's an irritating point that any early adopters will have to traverse to make the jump to 4K straight away.

Mac Pro 5

Apple Mac Pro: Performance

Such issues begin to melt away once you start actually using the Mac Pro, however. Our system is the entry-level spec, but even it is a seriously powerful PC that cuts through intensive tasks with ease.

We started our testing by running Geekbench 3. Our point of comparison for this test is our recent review of the Haswell revision of the 27-inch iMac -- a useful comparison in this case given we reviewed a top-spec config of the iMac that includes the fastest CPU and GPU option, which runs to £2,350 inc. VAT.

Geekbench 3 is predominantly a CPU benchmark, so we weren't especially surprised to discover that the iMac we tested (which had a 3.5GHz quad-core Core i7) nearly matched our Mac Pro (3.7GHz Xeon CPU) in this particular test. The Mac Pro scores 14,734 against the 14,462 of the iMac. These are both exceedingly high scores, but Geekbench 3 doesn't tap into the Mac Pro's true strength: its dual GPUs.

For that you have to fire up Final Cut Pro. The real world benefit of the power and tight integration of software is that you can work with multiple videos streams in real time and apply effects to them in real time, reducing (and in most cases eliminating) the need to spend time rendering your changes. Your mileage will vary depending on the spec you choose and the kind of work you're doing, but with a top-spec Mac Pro (as 12-core CPU and the top-end FirePro D700 graphics) Apple claims you preview 16 4K video streams and apply effects in real time.

Ultimately, though, even with the entry-level spec you can view and apply effects to several HD and 4K video streams in real time -- a lower spec simply limits the numbers you can play with. Not only will this save videographers a great deal of time and money, it ultimately means you can spend more time editing and experimenting to get the perfect result knowing you aren't constrained by the time needed to render.

This is great if you're using Final Cut Pro, but it's a reminder that you really need software support to make the most of the power inside the Mac Pro. Apple's Final Cut is the best example of a program that makes best use of the dual GPUs on-board, but you shouldn't assume that the programs you use every day will do the same. Support will improve over time, of course, but it's worth checking before you buy to decide whether it's worth waiting.

Mac Pro 13

In theory the Mac Pro ought to make an impressive (though not outstanding) gaming machine, too. This is limited, however, by the same issue mentioned above: its performance is totally dependent on the individual game addressing the two GPUs present as by default. This rules out our usual cross-platform game benchmark, the very strenuous Unigine Heaven benchmark, which only saw one card.

There is a workaround, though, because by Bootcamping and installing Windows you can rely on the universal dual GPU support offered by AMD's Crossfire drivers. Sadly we didn't have enough time before Apple snatched our review sample back to test this out, but others have and verified that it works a charm.

The final piece to consider in the Mac Pro's performance is the SSD. Like all Macs now, it uses a PCIe bus to dodge the bottleneck of the SATA interface that is now too slow to accommodate the fastest SSDs. It's easy to see why as our SSD read and write test recorded 797MB/s write speeds and 940MB/s read speeds. No bottleneck there, then.

Mac Pro 3

Apple Mac Pro: Heat & Noise

We love all this raw power, but the truly mind bending quality of the Mac Pro is how cool and quiet it remains while doing all of this. Even when you're pushing the system to its limits the most you'll hear is a soft, barely discernable whir. It's so quiet you won't hear it over the top of the air con and general background noise in any office.

To verify this fact we ran a stress test overnight. We returned the following morning to find the Mac Pro still running as stable as when we left, and was still so quiet we could only hear it by putting our ear to the top, where the air escapes. The case does get mildly warm, but in our experience never so hot to be dangerous or even uncomfortable to touch.

Prem Desai

January 30, 2014, 8:43 am

I am not Apple's biggest fan and won't be buying one of these but I can appreciate what they have done here.

The looks alone are gorgeous let alone the spec.

Good start to the year. Nice one Apple.

schriss

January 30, 2014, 9:21 am

Yea it looks good, kinda reminds me of Dyson products. I too would never buy this, I build my own, but still, this thing looks solid.

DigitalFury

January 30, 2014, 10:10 am

x

DigitalFury

January 30, 2014, 10:16 am

Too expensive for what it is, as 99.99999% of pro Mac users want something stronger than a Mini and without the fixed glossy screen of the iMac. We don't need dual AMD Pro GPUs and Xeons, but a very fast NVidia consumer part, a big and fast i7, lots of RAM (e.g. 32 Gb) and ports, and a big SSD (say 512 Gb) in the same Mac Pro enclosure. I will pay 2K € for that.

Steve

January 30, 2014, 10:17 am

Don't understand how you can write negative points but still give a product 10/10.
I do like the look of it even though it does look like a bin from some angle, silver isn't helping this.

Beaky69

January 30, 2014, 10:43 am

I think you're missing the point. The Mac Pro is a niche product; maybe not for *your* niche, but for the people it's targeted at, it's a fantastic tool. If you earn your living using Mac software which can take advantage of the hardware provided, it is, as our American cousins would say, a "no brainer".

DigitalFury

January 30, 2014, 12:07 pm

I do get the point, but you fail to understand that most PROFESSIONALS using Macs earn their living doing something else than video compression or 3D rendering. The Mini is severely underpowered, and there are screens much better than what ships with iMacs.

andyvan

January 30, 2014, 1:04 pm

I think the key point is Apple is missing a trick by not having an 'inbetween' model that isn't an iMac. That said, I'm guessing Apple feels the potential market isn't that large.

Pg

January 30, 2014, 1:58 pm

I agree. Any product is perfect for a niche group, but issues with 4K display and lack of internal storage, not to mention the price, don't sound like a 10 to me. It's not perfect for most people, there are issues even with the niche who would utilise it properly, it's not a 10.

How it looks is also a side point, not relevant to its performance. You don't buy a workstation because of how it looks, at least you shouldn't.

"..
is
means you can take your work with you and carry on where you left off
without any bottlenecks. On balance it seems an acceptable compromise
Read more at http://www.trustedreviews.com/... means you can take your work with you and carry on where you left off without any bottlenecks. On balance it seems an acceptable compromise.." Why would you buy this if you can do your work on another MAC? Why pay the extra? A compromise and it still gets a 10? I can only assume it's looks have beguiled you.

On the storage point, I'm guessing you can't do RAID with the external storage, so if your harddrive fails, you lose your work? Or you have to have two drives, one you work off, one is your backup. I'd have thought losing your work due to a harddrive failing due to not having RAID would be a negative. This here is form over function. Unless I'm wrong about the whole RAID thing...but even then, the amount of drives and cables from multiple external drives.

One question I've no idea about is how much space does 4k need? I can only assume 256gb is enough.

andyvan

January 30, 2014, 3:38 pm

We get asked this question a fair amount. For us, a 10/10 doesn't mean a product is perfect... otherwise we'd never give it. What it means is a product sets an entirely new benchmark for similar products to match. The Moto G is good example being a 'cheap' phone that's genuinely great to use.

Our scores guide goes into more depth: www.trustedreviews.com/opinion...

andyvan

January 30, 2014, 4:29 pm

All reasonable points, but a few counters.

1) 4K display issue more a small wrinkle rather than a serious deal breaker. It's a judgement call and I'm sure it'll get sorted soon. The paucity of 4K screens has a large part to play here as they're only just coming out now (not including TVs, btw)

2) Because you may have to move location, switch to a laptop or use someone else's hardware. Using external Thunderbolt storage means you can do all of these things without serious impediment to your workflow. Plug in and go, no problems.

3) You can have have RAID in external drives, no problem. Cable mess is a reasonable concern, but the key point for me is you couldn't have this efficient design with internal RAID arrays etc. And the size benefits are more than just aesthetic. Greater portability is better for optimizing office space and makes it easier to transport hardware on location etc, and the lack of noise makes it ideal for working in places where excess noise is serious issue.

4) 256GB will run out pretty quickly. If you were working with 4K you'd definitely need some external storage.

Tom Scharf

January 30, 2014, 8:06 pm

It likely wouldn't have mattered if the unit cost $20,000, the Apple Acceptance Factor would have ruled the day. The mindless praise without respect to cost only applies to one company.

Yes, you can find a Dell or HP that costs as much, but you have to try hard, and you can get 90% of the performance for 1/2 the cost in different configurations. To pay this much and not have the option for multiple processors is an oversight, as single threaded applications actually run faster on the iMac. Those with mutli-thread necessity get stomped by multi-procesor configurations. So it's the not best of neither world. But hey, let's not get into details here, it is back and shiny and has an Apple logo.

The iMac is great because it reduces cables to almost nothing, the Mac Pro is great because it makes you cable up everything with no internal expansion. Yeah, I get it. I think. It's not like anyone every upgraded their video card in professional applications, right?

Well, we will deduct two points from our base score of 12 for Apple and ding them down to a 10.

Tom Scharf

January 30, 2014, 9:04 pm

You are aware there are internal raid systems, right? That's what all those disk slots are for in EVERY OTHER workstation. The 4 year old Mac Pro could implement them. 4 years ago internal raid support was likely a deal breaker for you, this year making it mandatory they be external is now a feature, right? Mindless praise != Critical thinking.

I'm having a hard time understanding how not having internal raid capability and inability to upgrade video processors is a "benefit" to workstation users. These are limitations with with very little payback.

andyvan

January 30, 2014, 9:24 pm

Of course I'm aware. Read the review.

ROBERT DUNFORD

January 31, 2014, 11:43 am

I have a feeling that if the new MP is a good seller and I think it will sell not only to old MP users, but new users. Then I'd wager Apple will bring out three sizes, Mini, Regular and Max. Mini has say E3 Xeon and just one GPU, the Max has space for dual CPU and dual GPU. The MacMini will disappear.

Pg

January 31, 2014, 2:28 pm

1) Yeah, not a huge issue as it will be sorted at some stage but if, as you say, apple are using 4k as a selling point for this machine, I feel apple have made it an issue.

2) My problem with this one is that it's nothing new, USB has been around ages, unless I'm missing something? I just can't understand what work you'd be moving with you that internet/network doesn't already handle? Sounds like spinning no internal storage expansion into a positive thing.

I'd asume all 4k stuff is rather large would always be moved via external storage, but external storage isn't new.

3) External RAID...nice. I guess this is linked to 2 for me - portability. Do people really lug pros around? This some sort of movie editing on location type of thing? In which case internal storage is more appealing as less external devices makes for easier transport. Quietness is close to my heart, but for a beast of a machine I wouldn't complain if it's not almost silent. Design just doesn't come into it - but that's just me.

I understand perfection isn't possible and that you want to give
outstanding products a high score. I just feel there are enough
negatives here to lower the score (to 9 1/2 rather than 9). But that's the beauty of opinion.

Thanks for the reply, in fact thanks for all the replies in this thread. It's great to see feedback and defending your position/opinion, as well as answering some of the questions I had.

Mark Lindsey

January 31, 2014, 3:56 pm

Its FAST, RELIABLE OS, Better options within the software, and won't be bogged down with layers of 3rd party fixes for the security and OS problems that other platform has. Its a Professional workstation for creative pros, not a fix and reload weekly PC sort of thing.

Mark Lindsey

January 31, 2014, 3:59 pm

You also don't have to put the Mac Pro on the floor to collect dust inside. You can hide it and the cables BEHIND those 27" monitors.

DigitalFury

February 1, 2014, 6:22 pm

I think they realise it would just cannibalise a lot of iMac 27" sales, as the price would have to be lower, and they must make a good margin off that display panel. I am actually looking at either buying a maxed out 27" and shoving it under my desk, or getting a entry level Mac Pro. 1st option would allow me to do some occasional gaming here and there to relax. 2nd option to have a status symbol on my desk; and enjoy extra Thunderbolt ports (I have a lot of TB devices).

PJ Matthews

February 2, 2014, 12:15 pm

Its amazing how success brings such hatred. I remember being a dedicated 14 year old AMIGA user with a hatred for Microsoft which was of course unfounded.

Some of you should re-read what is a well written review as you have obviously glossed over most of the key parts.

Lets remember this Mac Pro isn't aimed at most of us. This is for high end home enthusiasts and professionals. Apple has ruled the 'creative' market for many years where people will pay top dollar for performance which this has in bucket loads. For the rest of us there is the iMac.

Its a great design, its innovative and not a boring box.

andyvan

February 4, 2014, 9:12 am

Interesting idea.

Baz

April 3, 2014, 9:36 am

Better options with the software? Are you mad? The software choice for Windows PC's is far superior to any Mac - Pro or not.

WSAY

October 22, 2014, 1:24 am

Haters have to hate. Apple is a great, successful, American company. Of course losers hate them. But let's be honest here. The reason people who claim to hate Apple hang around Apple articles is because they want to see the future.

James G

June 1, 2016, 2:09 pm

Do you know how much dual FirePros and a Xeon costs? Those in themselves are worth far more than the base price of $3,000.

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