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How Much Can You Spend on a Mac Pro?

This much:

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That’s for the Mac Pro itself, with the maximum amount of RAM and storage, and the fastest CPU and video cards. And I added a trackpad and keyboard. (Related: Apple, are you really that cheap that you can’t include input devices with a computer at this price?)

If I add a 4K display and AppleCare, I get this:

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Ouch!

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Apple’s New Mac Pro; Do You Need One? Probably Not. Do You Want One? Hell Yeah!

mac_pro_new.jpgNothing epitomizes tech lust like Apple’s new Mac Pro. This sleek new computer stands as the culmination of all of Apple’s design chops of recent years. It’s got a distinctive look, and inside it’s fast, furious, and well laid out. Gone is the cheese grater look of the previous Mac Pro (and Power Mac G5 before it; a design first used in 2003, and only recently retired); the new Mac Pro is round, smooth, subtly sexy, and features all the latest technologies in a small package.

As its predecessor, it is certainly “the fastest Mac ever,” but aren’t they all? Each new model of the high-end Mac gets that description, and the all only stay that way for a couple of years. So there’s no point raving about performance; sure, it’ll beat other Macs when rendering videos, but only a handful of users want it for that.

Admit it: if you’re a Mac fan, you probably want one for the cool factor. It’s the kind of Mac you want to show off. Where you may have had the old Mac Pro under your desk, because of its size, this one will sit on your desk.[1] It’s small and unobtrusive, and Apple claims that it’s really quiet.

I bought a Mac Pro back in 2006, when the first model came out. I didn’t need it then, but it was useful. It allowed me to have four hard drives in one computer – so I didn’t need wired external drives and power supplies – and I put a second optical drive in it, a faster one for ripping CDs. It was a good computer for a while, but it was hot, and, while it was quiet in the beginning, the noise became noticeable (but not annoying) when I had four hard drives in it.

I kept that Mac Pro for about two and a half years, then traded it in for an iMac, which I kept for a short period of time, when I bought a Mac mini, which is my current desktop Mac.[2] As a writer, I don’t need more than that; any Mac laptop would do the trick, as long as I connect a large display to it. But the new Mac Pro may find a place on my desk. While I don’t need the speed, it would be nice to have this cool new Mac; just because.

If you’re planning on getting one, think carefully about whether you need the base model ($3000) or one of the models with faster CPUs and more cores. Marco Arment wrote an article about Turbo Boost and the New Mac Pro’s CPUs explaining why you almost definitely do not need a CPU upgrade.

So, stay tuned to this channel for more Mac Pro news. I’ll be deciding soon whether I take the plunge. What about you? Who’s planning on getting a new Mac Pro?

Update: when I wrote this post an hour ago, the Apple Store was showing a ship date of December 30 for the Mac Pro (to meet Tim Cook’s promise, early this year, of shipping it before the end of the year). It nows shows a ship date of “January,” so early orders have depleted the initial stock.


  1. I’m expecting to see the new Mac Pro on desks in many movies and TV shows.

  2. I wonder if Apple has plans for a similarly designed Mac mini in the future. It’s due for an upgrade, notably with new Haswell processors. However, the Mac mini is used widely as a server, so making something that looks like the Mac Pro is unlikely; it’s more efficient as a small, easily stackable computer.

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Mac Pro Take 4: Bluetooth Mighty Mouse is a No-Go – Now it Works!

A bit more than a month ago, I wrote a positive review of Apple’s wireless Mighty Mouse. At the time, I was using it with an iMac G5. Since then, having replaced my iMac by a new Mac Pro, I’ve had nothing but trouble with the Mighty Mouse. It stutters and skips, with the mouse about 3 feet away from the Mac Pro. (The Mac Pro is on the floor to the left of my desk; I’m right handed, so the mouse is on the right side of my keyboard, on my desk.) I have no other Bluetooth devices, so there is nothing that interferes with the transmission. It’s clearly a Mac Pro problem, not a mouse problem, since the erratic behavior occurs even when the mouse is in line-of-sight with the Mac Pro at more than 3 or 4 feet.
AppleCare is sending a technician next week to change the Bluetooth module and antenna. But threads such as this one on Apple’s discussion boards, and in other forums, suggest that this problem is not merely anecdotal. Apparently, aluminum is a very efficient shield, and the Bluetooth antenna, it seems, is at the bottom of the Mac Pro. To be honest, seeing the results of these repairs on other problematic Mac Pros, I have little hope that mine will work any better.

So this raises the question: didn’t Apple test this? Bluetooth is supposed to work at a distance of about 10 meters or 30 feet; if a wireless mouse can’t function with the Mac Pro at 3-4 feet, there’s a serious design problem. While I originally used the wireless Mighty Mouse with an iMac, which was on my desk, it works fine at a distance from the iMac, so it’s not the Bluetooth technology that is ineffective. It’s truly a design problem with the Mac Pro, or with the placement of the antenna.

I’ll wait and see what happens when the technician “fixes” the Mac Pro, but I’m pretty much resolved that this simply won’t work. Are any of you using a Bluetooth Mighty Mouse with the Mac Pro successfully? If so, how far is it from your Mac Pro?

Follow up on September 25. I followed the advice given in this Apple discussion thread, while having the technician walk me through it over the phone (telling me where the cables are, etc.). It works fine.

To sum up, somehow Apple’s assemblers have inverted the labelling of two of the cables, the BT one and the one that is unlabeled. This is a serious problem, not so much because of usability, but because of what this foolish mistake is costing them. Some people have said that Apple exchanged their Mac Pros, others that they changed the BT module and/or antenna. The fix is simply one of correcting human error.


See previous installments:

Mac Pro: Take 1 – The Quietest Desktop Mac Ever

Mac Pro: Take 2 – The Power of Spotlight

Mac Pro: Take 3 – The Weird USB Extension Cord

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Mac Pro: Take 3 – The Weird USB Extension Cord

The Mac Pro doesn’t come with many extras: a keyboard and mouse, of course, a DVI-VGA adapter, so you can connect an older monitor, and installation DVDs, a small user’s guide, and some other papers. And two white Apple stickers.

But it also comes with a weird USB extension cord (see the above photo). This cord is weird because it is designed to work only with Apple keyboards. As you can see in the photo, the female end of the cord has a nib in it, which corresponds to a groove on the male end of the keyboard’s USB plug. Why does Apple include a USB extension cord that you cannot use for anything but the Apple keyboard? Seriously, this is stupid. It means that, if have a different keyboard, you can’t use the extension cord. Or if you simply want to use it for something else–such as your mouse–you can’t!

This is the first time I’ve ever seen a proprietary USB extension cord, and I certainly hope it’s the last. Since I’m not using the Apple keyboard (I prefer Microsoft’s ergonomic keyboards) I won’t be using it. What a waste.

I’d love to know which nitwit at Apple came up with this idea. (Steve, tell me it wasn’t you…)


Check out the Mac Pro. It’s a great, quiet, fast machine. And, if you buy from Amazon.com, you can take advantage of a $150 rebate. What a machine…

Coming installments of this series will discuss the computer’s speed, its innards, and much more.

See previous installments:

Mac Pro: Take 1 – The Quietest Desktop Mac Ever

Mac Pro: Take 2 – The Power of Spotlight

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Mac Pro: Take 2 – The Power of Spotlight

When Apple introduced Spotlight, the powerful search technology which is part of Mac OS X 10.4, Tiger, this was the first real-world application of instant searches of files, their content and their metadata. It was also the first consumer application of real-time searches of this data; except that, on most Macs, it wasn’t quite real-time. Many users lamented the time it took to run Spotlight searches, and it’s true that on slower Macs, the time necessary is excessive. On my previous Mac, an iMac G5, some searches would take several seconds, and searches that resulted in thousands of hits (kind:music, for example) could take a couple dozen seconds.

Some of my colleagues have railed against not only Spotlight but the lack of simple Finder searches, such as were available in previous versions of Mac OS X. You can no longer simply “find files” from the Finder; you have to use the Finder search bar, which is simply a different interface for Spotlight. The complaints are the same: this can be very, very slow.Not with the new Mac Pro, however. In fact, it seems that Spotlight was developed with computers of this speed in mind. If I search for “and” in the Spotlight menu, it takes just a couple of seconds to return 18,000 hits. Searching for “the” in the Finder takes two seconds to return 20,000 hits. And to find my 36,000 music files, searching for “kind:music” in the Spotlight menu, takes only three seconds.

This means that not only are “simple” Spotlight searches faster and more practical (ie, searches from the Spotlight menu), but also that more complex condition-based searches from Finder windows are finally useful. (However, there are still some quirks; searching for Kind > Music, and Created > This Week in the Finder did not find music files from a half-dozen CDs I ripped yesterday…)

What does all this mean? First, Apple needs to follow one of the golden rules of software design: always test your software on the slowest machine that users will have, rather than the latest, greatest model. Second, don’t design tomorrow’s software today. Many users have sworn off of Spotlight because it was too slow; with today’s Mac Pros, they can use this technology fully. But only with today’s Macs (I’m sure the speed gains are similar across the Intel Mac line, at least with the other core-duo models). Spotlight works very well–and I’ve been a fan since the beginning, using it to discover hidden files containing content that I need to find–but now it works as it really should.

Check out the Mac Pro. It’s a great, quiet, fast machine. And, if you buy from Amazon.com, you can take advantage of a $150 rebate. What a machine…

Coming installments of this series will discuss the computer’s speed, its innards, and much more.

See previous installments:

Mac Pro: Take 1 – The Quietest Desktop Mac Ever

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Mac Pro: Take 1 – The Quietest Desktop Mac Ever

Today I received my new Mac Pro. I ordered it about a week ago, and opted for the 2 x 2.66 GHz model, with 2 GB RAM and Bluetooth. I didn’t need any additional hard drives (anyway, they’re cheaper from third-party vendors) or optical drives (I have an old IDE DVD drive that I might add). I’m not the kind who usually goes for either top-of-the-line Macs, or for desktop Macs, preferring, in recent years, the iMacs and iBooks. But this time, I wanted to get something fast, and something that might last more than the usual 18 months (I’ve changed Macs about every year-and-a-half for a while). I wanted an Intel Mac, for a variety of reasons (both speed and the need to update one or more of my books for Leopard, which will entail talking about running Windows on the Mac).

So this is the first of a series of articles I’ll be posting about the Mac Pro. Each one will be short, and focus one one specific aspect of the computer and its performance. Today’s installment: the Mac Pro’s noise level.First, I’m someone who has always searched for quiet Macs. Even since I suffered the noise of a Performa 6400 (I actually built a cork-lined enclosure to try and cut down the decibels on that one) I’ve opted for the quietest possible Macs. The early iMacs, with no fans, were perfect for me. So were iBooks: I had a G3 and still have a G4 iBook, which, other than when their fans go on (which is rare) make no noise at all. My last Mac, an iMac G5, was more noisy, but I accepted it for the quality of its screen and the overall performance of the computer.

So when friends and colleagues were at the WWDC, the first thing I asked was, “How noisy is it?” Given that they were only able to check out the machines in rooms with people milling about, their “Very quiet” answers were to be taken with a grain of salt. But reading some users’ comments, saying that it is “whisper quiet” or that they “only hear the hard disk”, I was convinced that it was time to take a chance. (I live in the country, so can’t go to any store and try out a Mac.)

Well, I’m certainly stunned by the lack of noise that comes from the Mac Pro. It is whisper quiet; and you can only hear the hard disk (a noise that, oddly enough, doesn’t bother me). It is, without doubt, the quietest computer I have ever used (aside from those laptops, when their fans aren’t running). I have it right next to my desk, and can barely hear it; with music on, it is as though the computer is not even there.

So, if you want a quiet Mac, the new Mac Pro is for you. And, if you buy from Amazon.com, you can take advantage of a $150 rebate. What a machine…

Coming installments of this series will discuss the computer’s speed, its innards, and much more.

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