Product Review: Page (1) of 1 - 07/25/07 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at MyDmn.com).print page facebook

Apple Mac Pro 3.0GHz Quad

Intel ?Woodcrest? Dual-Core Xeon processors inside By Heath McKnight

The Mac Pro 3GHz system from Apple is a remarkably fast system, packing quite a punch for video editors and graphics creators.  Its reasonably quiet compared to the old Power Mac G5 systems (the final dual-2.7GHz system, which shipped as the first Quad came out, had loud fans), and can get the job done fast.  Just one note, though, buy yourself plenty of RAM to handle high definition jobs!

The system I used had two Intel ?Woodcrest Dual-Core Xeon processors (four cores total) and 8 GB RAM, which is a system ready for HD, along with some serious graphic and animation projects.  I also recommend upgrading from the standard 250 GB drive to something larger, along with either more internal drives or FireWire drives to hold your captured video (NEVER store that on your start up disk where the OS and software apps reside).  The more space you have, the less you have to worry about them.  I like using G-Technologys FireWire drives, along with Fantoms (http://www.fantomdrives.com). You can order up to 3 TB of space and 16 GB RAM through Apples store, so take advantage!

Another must is a great graphics card, and the system I reviewed came with an incredible ATI Radeon X1900 XT.  If this is too much card for your needs, try the NVIDIA GeForce 7300GT 256 MB, or if youre doing very demanding graphics or animation projects, or youre in a University setting with computers set up to do massive tasks, go up to the NVIDIA Quadro FX 4500 512 MB, Stereo 3D card.


I also happened to use two 23-inch Apple Cinema Displays, which I highly recommend using.  And it has to be a minimum of 23 inches, so the native 1920 x 1200 support doesnt result in small images or text/fonts when working online, etc.  Other options include those that meet the minimum 23-inch and 1920 x 1200 display size from any number of companies.  But I will say, the Apple 23-inch display is an excellent monitor.

MacPro with display. Image courtesy Apple.

Once I had everything set up, I decided to do some tests, including some benchmarks in Final Cut Pro 6.  For more on FCP 6, check out my review, which includes downconverted QuickTime video samples of my SmoothCam tests.  Note: times are set up in hours, minutes and seconds (00:00:00).

1. 1. Mac Pro render of an 83 minute and 22 second HDVfilm with two levels of color balance, sound and music, all HDV 1080i50: 05:09:13.
2. Mac Pro render of same movie, minus music, and now in Photo Jpeg, quality set to 75% (YCbCr, 4:2:2), pjp 75: 4 hours, 40 minutes.  I believe with music added back in, it would have added another 3-5 minutes of audio rendering time.
3. Mac Pro export of a QuickTime Movie, pjp 75 (86 mins, 41 secs. Running time): 00:32:33 total.
4. 1 minute, 3 second HDV 1080i50 clip, SmoothCam: 13:16:24 (pjp 75); same clip in Apple ProRes 422, 23:44:45.


Results in minutes: seconds
Version of After Effects used: CS3

Apple MacPro 3GHz Quad 4GB RAM Mac OS X  10.4.1.0 ATI Radeon X1900 XT

Animation:  2 seconds 
Video Project:  14 seconds
Data Project:  33 seconds 
Gambler:  12 seconds 
Source Shapes:  1 minute 11 seconds 
Virtual Set  46 seconds 
  CineBench 9.5  www.cinebench.com 
CineBench 9.5 Single CPU    493 CB CPU
CineBench 9.5 multiple CPU:  1618 CB CPU 
Multiprocessor speedup    3.28X
C4D Graphics Benchmark   
 C4D Shading  588 CB GFX 
OpenGL
SW-L   
2293 CB GFX
 OpenGL
HW-L   
4921 CB GFX 
OpenGL Speedup   8.37x 

One small note, when you first start up the system, all the systems fans seem to start at once, so its a little loud.  After that and a few seconds go by, the familiar Apple chime is heard and the computer boots up pretty fast.  The pause between turning it on and actually hearing the chime also occurred on the Power Mac G5 Quad, so Im assuming this is common with all Quads and the 8-Core system.

Inside the MacPro. Image courtesy Apple.

For expandability, the Mac Pro features four 3Gb/s internal SATA hard drive bays, two FireWire 400 ports, two FireWire 800 ports, five USB 2.0 ports (two up front, three on the back), two USB 1.1 ports on the keyboard, a minijack, optical digital audio input and output TOSLINK ports and analog stereo line-level input and output minijacks. It also featrues two Ethernet ports but no modem port. You can also add a Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR module, and Airport Extreme card or both, which youll find on the configuration page in the store located at www.apple.com.  There are now two optical drive options, so you can have up to two 16X Super drives to burn and read DVDs or CDs.

Apple and Intel have created quite the desktop, and with the new version of OS X coming out in the fall (ver. 10.5, Leopard), things can only get better.  If youre looking for a long-term desktop investment, you cant go wrong with the Mac Pro 3 .0GHz Quad System, but make sure you get enough RAM, hard drive space, a better graphics card (if you need it) and a monitor that supports native 1920 x 1200 resolution, minimum 23 inches.  Apples LCDs  are wonderful, so check out their Cinema Displays.


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Heath McKnight is a filmmaker and author who has produced and directed several independent feature and short films, including Hellevator, 9:04 AM and December. He is currently web content manager for doddleNEWS. Heath was also a contributor to VASST's best-selling book, "The FullHD," and has written for TopTenREVIEWS and Videomaker.


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