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

Just as the new Macbooks & Macbook Pros are the greatest departure from their Powerbook G4 roots to date, the Core i7 based Mac Pro will be the first high-end Mac tower since the PowerMac G5 to begin serious evolutions of the outward appearance, and industrial design functionality, of the seminal “cheesegrater” high-airflow aluminum tower workstation.

No longer purely silver all over, black panels and a new power/sleep LED with a subtle hint of color (green in our prototype; reportedly two-tone, green and blue, in the final version if this feature makes the cut; there has been some debate over the cost of the device which creates the effect & provides other neat tricks not possible with the current, simple on/off/”breathing-fadecycle” LED controller) show everyone in the room that this ain’t yesteryear’s Mac Pro.

Sporting the aforementioned twin dual-core Core i7 processors at 2.93GHz, the new Mac Pro may “give up ground” in the form of about 266MHz against today’s 3.2GHz Core 2 Xeon based Mac Pro, but what it gains in other ways more than makes up for this.

Even if the 2.93GHz Core i7 wasn’t able to absolutely crush the 3.2GHz Xeon 5400 series CPU used in today’s workstations at the chip level, assuming a dead heat in processor capabilities, the new Mac Pro motherboard with numerous features enabled by the Nehalem architecture alone pushes performance ahead by a factor of more than four….that’s right, 4X+. Much of that in the form of huge memory bandwidth gains (three DDR3-1066 channels versus two DDR2-800 channels) paired with Intel’s new QuickPath technology that makes far better real-world use of that memory’s potential than any previous design out of the company by far.

Not only can Nehalem offer chip-level performance that’s 3-5X that of current 45-nanometer Xeons, and the new Mac Pro i7-based motherboard back it up with a total combined advantage upwards of 10X in some cases against current Mac Pros and where not bound by commonalities between the machines such as optical/hard disk storage, network bandwidth, etc….even everyday application tasks show dramatic gains against a 3.2GHz current-generation Mac Pro any time that CPU, GPU, and/or memory performance had anything whatsoever to do with the task at hand.

Not only can it offer all that performance…..but the new Mac Pro will also be the “greenest” workstation ever produced by Apple — and among the greenest designs of any company on the market today. Its power usage will be as little as 1/3 that of the 3.2GHz current-generation model in typical usage; under very heavy loads such as 3D gaming & the rendering of intensive video effects in Motion, the difference can approach double that.

Among the other advances the Core i7 chip itself brings — HT hardware multi-threading being only one of them — larger 8MB on-chip caches are used in much smarter ways to reduce the delays (latency) experienced when accessing frequently-used data, coordination and traffic between cores is completely overhauled greatly improving the efficiency of tasks spread across threads & cores…..and the dynamic scaling of each core is done in a manner that eliminates whatever lingering performance hits existed in earlier Intel Macs when they switched between clock speeds using previous versions of the SpeedStep technology.

All in all, while we told readers to hold out for the 45nm DDR2-800 based Mac Pro through two separate generations of previous professional tower workstations…..and we don’t often suggest playing the “waiting game”…..those who don’t have an immediate need for a Mac Pro will want to wait for what we can say with great confidence will be the biggest leap forward for Apple’s cutting edge hardware since the G5.

Do we want one? You bet. As soon as we’re done working on that whole putting a roof over our childrens’ heads and food on their tables thing, it’s shockingly close to the top of our to-do lists…..hey, we eat, sleep and breathe this stuff. Did you expect anything less?!

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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.