Apparently I can’t leave well enough alone. After upgrading my Mac Pro 4.1 to a 3.2GHz quad core Xeon from the originally installed 2.66GHz quad core Xeon, I read about some who had upgraded their Mac Pros to the six core W3680 Xeon CPU. I did some checking on Ebay and the time, these CPU’s were going for around five to six hundred dollars. Doing some more research, I found out about the slightly faster version of that CPU series, the Xeon W3690, a speed bumped version of the W3680. This CPU can be found on Ebay for much less, and they are clocked about 200MHz faster. So, I picked one up off of Ebay and installed it into my Mac Pro. Overall, the system seems faster, and considering its a five year old machine, it’s a good investment. I frequently use Handbrake to encode ripped Blu-Rays and it does work well for this task. Handbrake makes use of all the cores for encoding and this CPU with hyperthreading displays as 12 threads. All in all, this Mac Pro is running smoothly now, and should be usable for a few more years. I considered installing a PCI express based SSD from Macsales, but for the time being I settled on a standard Samsung SSD. Even thought the Mac Pro is limited to a 3GB/second SATA interface, it’s still much faster than a spinning platter disk.
I picked up a used Mac Pro (2009) model, (4,1) off of Ebay for fairly cheap. ($600). It’s been a good machine, and for the price, quite a bargain. The stock CPU (2.66 Ghz) has been decent. After doing some research, I found out you can replace the CPU’s quite easily. Once again, I went back to Ebay and found a 3.2Ghz Xeon that should work. Sure enough, if you have ever installed a CPU on a regular PC then you know it’s not that difficult. The only issue I had was with finding a 3mm Allen wrench that would fit down the narrow channel in the heat sink. Luckily, I have some wrenches that I purchased for working on my Mountain Bike, and it worked perfectly. You can see the gigantic heatsink placed upside down and the daughterboard that holds the CPU. Note in the background the really long Allen wrench.
Here is a screenie of MacCPU ID for the newer processor after it’s been installed. So far so good. I replaced the thermal paste with some Antec Arctic Ice. The CPU has only peaked at 40˚C.
———————— Just in case anyone is wondering, if you have an older Mac Pro, I have installed a PNY GTX 670 2GB video card and it works fine. You will need an extra 6 pin PCI Express power cable, but it works.
According to Tim Cook, there will be a replacement for the Mac Pro this year. I certainly hope so. At work I still use an aging 2008 Mac Pro, and it still works well. I have the my main drive in Raid 0 to speed things up a bit. I also upgraded the video card to a Radeon 6850 1GB card from the older Geforce 8800 GTX. I have also used an Nvidia GTC 470 in the machine, and it too worked well.
However, it is now finally feeling old. USB 3 hard disks are faster than FIrewire 800 and new Macs all have Thunderbolt for some really impressive I/O. Newer Xeon’s are now available which are much faster than the CPU’s on the most current Mac Pro’s.
But what form should the new Mac Pro take? With the advent of Thunderbolt, it must be included. Connecting external devices via Thunderbolt is a boon for those who need external storage and work with high def video. I would add that a fast PCI 3 express Video Cars is also needed. The current Nvidia cards are fast and power efficient. Many tasks in Adobe Software such as Photoshop and Premiere are now GPU acclerated.
With regards to the CPU, I’m not even sure that Xeon’s are a must. I would think a higher end Core i7 such as the 3820, 3830 and 3970 would be sufficient for most folks.
There would need to be an option for those who must have multi processing and Xeon’s do fit the bill nicely. Maybe Apple is waiting for the 22nm Haswell based chips to make their debut. I don’t know of any planned Haswell based Xeon’s but you can be sure they are coming. For storage, I would think the ability to use SATA 6 and the option to natively hold four disks (SSD or spinning platters) would be ideal.
All in all I’m locking forward to see what Apple has planned. I’m hoping the entry points are more in line with some of the old G5 towers from back in the day. They started at $1600, which would be a great starting point for people looking for something with more customization that is possible than with an iMac.