Apple debuts Mac Pro with brand-new Intel 'Nehalem' Xeon chips

Apple has introduced the new Mac Pro, which use Intel's brand new 'Nehalem' Xeon processors that aren't due to be officially announced for other workstation vendors til the end of the month.

The 'Nehalem' architecture behind the Intel Xeon 3500 and 5500 series processors used by the Mac Pro is the same as the chip-maker's Core i7 chips for single processor PC workstations and gaming rigs. This redesigns the system architecture, replacing the front-side bus the much faster QPI (Quick Path Interconnect), and creating a three-channel pathway between each processor and the RAM that will see the norm being RAM modules used in threes rather than two.

The 'Nehalem' architecture also reintroduces Hyper-Threading (aka SMT), which uses some nifty tricks to make each core appear as two to the Windows to crank every last bit of power from them. Hyper-Threading was retired when quad-core chips were first introduced – it seemed redundant – but with many creative applications capable of tapping to eight cores, its reintroduction seems timely.

The chips also feature Turbo Mode, which boosts the speed of individual cores when the computer detects that only one or two are being used – which is largely irrelevant to high-end creatives, but will make your next Far Cry 2 session run better.

The new Mac Pro includes Intel Xeon processors running at speeds up to 2.93 GHz, each with an integrated memory controller with three channels of 1066 MHz DDR3 ECC memory that delivers up to 2.4 times the memory bandwidth while cutting memory latency up to 40 per cent, according to Apple.

Every Mac Pro comes standard with the nVidia GeForce GT 120 graphics card with 512MB of GDDR3 memory, a high-performance graphics card that Apple says offers nearly three times greater performance when compared to the previous generation system. An optional ATI Radeon HD 4870 is available for even more performance.

With both a Mini DisplayPort and DVI port, the new Mac Pro provides out-of-the-box support for the 24-inch Apple LED Cinema Display, the 30-inch Apple Cinema HD Display, or other DVI based displays.

An updated interior provides easy access to all components within the Mac Pro for hassle free expansion. The Mac Pro includes four direct-attach cable-free hard drive carriers for installing up to 4TB of internal storage when using 1TB 7200-rpm Serial ATA drives. An optional cable-free Mac Pro RAID card delivers performance up to 550MBps and allows the four internal drive bays to be set up in RAID 0, 1, 5, or 0+1 configurations for improved disk performance and redundant data protection.

The Mac Pro ships with the Mac OS X 10.5 ('Leopard') operating system, the iLife ’09 suite of applications for managing photos, making movies and creating and learning to play music.

The new Mac Pro will be available next week. The base level Quad-core Mac Pro costs £1,650 plus VAT and includes one 2.66 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon 3500 series processor with 8MB of L3 cache; and 3GB of 1066 MHz DDR3 ECC SDRAM memory. The base 8-core Mac Pro costs £2,175 plus VAT and has two 2.26 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon 5500 series processors with 8MB of shared L3 cache; 6GB of 1066 MHz DDR3 ECC SDRAM memory, expandable up to 32GB.

Both include an nVidia GeForce GT 120 graphics card with 512MB of GDDR3 memory; a 640GB Serial ATA hard drive running at 7,200 rpm; 18x SuperDrive with double-layer support; Mini DisplayPort and DVI (dual-link) for video output; four PCI Express 2.0 slots; five USB 2.0 ports and four FireWire® 800 ports; Bluetooth 2.1+EDR; and ships with Apple Keyboard with numerical keypad and Mighty Mouse.

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