Next for Apple: Mac Pros and Xserves based on Intel Core i7

For quite a while now, the eyes of the Mac community’s high-end segment have been on Intel’s latest processor technology called Core i7.

Previously code-named Nehalem, a project which we have followed since its infancy and in fact back before Apple even confirmed the long-standing rumor of the Intel transition, Core i7 integrates key advantages of leading processor designs across the industry and solidifies gains made by Intel since the original “Core” chips (“Yonah”) first shipped, marking a firm break from previous x86 processors out of Intel that didn’t keep up with competitor AMD, nor leading third-party RISC platforms such as PowerPC, ARM, MIPS and SPARC.

Learning from its mistakes and the successes of those platforms, Nehalem is a triumph of the multi-core engineering era. Starting with four cores, each able to process two simultaneous threads thanks to Intel’s “HyperThreading” technology, the initial 2.66 and 2.93GHz Core i7 chips don’t seem particularly world-shattering in core counts or clock speeds.

It’s when you look at the rest of the specifications, then actually put these chips to the test in benchmarks and real-world usage, that the Project Nehalem awesomesauce becomes truly apparent.

A prototype Mac Pro with twin 2.93GHz Core i7 processors was made available to two of Rumors’ senior editors who streamed their experience to the home team in New England for a series of reviews and articles that will be progressively coming out from under embargo in the next few weeks.

For now, we can report on publicly known specs of the Core i7 platform and non-unique features of the hardware, which actually deviates quite a bit from Intel’s reference board for single-chip Nehalem systems.

Bridging the Core i7 design to a dual-chip system, and making all of its advantages work in that arrangement, along with nVIDIA chips intended to support Apple’s new SLI multiple-graphics-processor technology, has been brutal work and sources at Infinite Loop say that this has been their most challenging project since the Mac Pro team was the PowerMac team and they brought the seminal G5 to market with far less help from IBM than they are now getting from Intel….

Although much of our hands-on experiences are still under a very nervous embargo by the sources who continue to provide us with hands-on access, often at a great distance from Cupertino, to high-end next generation Mac hardware, we can say this — Core i7 lives up to the hype, and with the help of Intel & nVIDIA, Apple has put together a machine that will easily rank among the best Core i7 workstations on the market.

We also will have the chance soon to play with the i7-based Xserve, but for now, just the few minutes we’ve had thus far with the mid-December built Mac Pro were more than enough to give us fodder for any number of articles. To say it’s fast would be an understatement, and the improvements are remarkable.

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  • Francesco

    March!?!?! Too late for me!

  • SurgeFilter

    I always wondered if anybody has updated their original Xeon quad in their original MacPro to something faster by pulling the processors and inserting newer models e.g. pulling an original 4-core to an 8-core for example.

    Just wondering if it’ll be possible for original 4-core owners to do this with faster Core i7’s in the future (obviously after Snow Leopard is out)?

  • Setmose

    Ok, 3 weeks since this Jan 9 rumor. Any follow up from the “editors” involved?

  • admin

    Yes indeed — we’re working on exactly that as we speak, in fact!

    You can see special behind the scenes updates about such things, like what article(s) we are currently working on, simply by following our Twitter feed:

    You can also follow our founder, Ryan Meader, who posts some relevant tweets to his feed as well:

    We will have a page here on the site soon that will list relevant tweets from staff and others (readers, etc), but for now they can be found on Twitter itself.

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  • Chris

    So ‘admin’ – do you still stand by all of this? Considering new mac pro’s were released just a few days ago (early march) and have no cosmetic changes like you describe…

  • admin

    Watch for a “founder’s column” about this topic before the end of the week…..and see our team’s Twitter feeds (starting with @MacOSRumors) for somewhat more detail on that.