Home > Features > Product Review: Apple Mac Pro 64-bit Workstation

Speed Impressions

So, our machine was finally configured as a four-core 2.0 GHz Xeon with a 160GB boot drive, two 320GB general-purpose drives, a single SuperDrive and 4GB RAM (2GB from Apple, 2GB from third party). The graphics card was left as the base GeForce 7300GT/256MB. Booting up produced the first surprise: speed. The boot sequence fairly flew by, dumping us at our desktop almost before we had had time to realize what was going on. This augured well. We'd used Apple's excellent Migration Assistant to copy over all our documents and settings from our previous dual-2GHz Power Mac G5, so we essentially had a pair of cloned machines sitting in front of us.

The first program up to the plate was Cheetah3D, an excellent, low cost 3D app, much valued by architectural visualizers for its excellent rendering engine. It is also a Universal Binary and fully multiprocessor aware. We loaded a variety of familiar scenes and set to rendering them on each machine. Bearing in mind that this is the ‘Low-End' Mac Pro, the results were little short of incredible. In many situations, the Mac Pro would be half-way through final rendering while the Power Mac was still doing Radiosity calculations. The sight of a render being split into four simultaneous chunks was also pretty satisfying. Using Cheetah's render timer we could see that the Mac Pro was achieving times easily four times as fast as the Power Mac.

So, generally the Mac Pro is around 4-5 times faster on complex rendering, although the test with Depth of Field turned on (Scene 3 graph above) showed a massive 6.4 times speed increase. Truly impressive -- and this is for the 'slowest' Mac Pro.

OpenGL Performance

We mentioned that our choice of graphics card was forced upon us by the unavailability of the ATi X1900 at the time of ordering. We were hoping that we could 'make do' with this fairly middling card until the more powerful card came along. However, we were pleasantly surprised by its performance. Using fully-textured OpenGL previews of complex models in Intel-native programs like Cheetah3D and modo 202, we were surprised at the responsiveness of this little card. Really, it handled everything we threw at it with aplomb (admittedly, there were no urban planning master schemes in there). Still, to try and quantify our experience we ran Maxon's CineBench 9.5 3D benchmarking application on both machines. Here are the results (higher numbers are better):

So what we have is a near 20% OpenGL speed-up for the Mac Pro. Odd, given that the 6800GT was the top-of-the-line offering a year ago (with a price tag $100 more than today's X1900). This could be explained by the fact that these cards are designed for games -- low-poly models with high fill rates. The needs of 3D visualisation are somewhat different: specifically, the manipulation of high poly count models is something that can actually be helped more by raw processor speed than simply having a monster OpenGL card (although we'd expect the Quadro 4500 to take things into a completely different league).

To further stress the card, we needed to test it with SketchUp -- the real OpenGL hog. However, since SketchUp isn't native on Intel Macs yet (why ever not?), the fact that it only runs under Rosetta emulation meant that we were going to be faced with a problem. However, it was a problem that presented us with an opportunity to stress our machine in another way...

Next: Boot Camp, Parallels, Windows XP and AutoCAD


next page > | 1 | 2 |3 |



Home > Features > Product Review: Apple Mac Pro 64-bit Workstation




NBC on iTunes





  | Corrections | About Architosh | Awards & Press Reaction |
| Site Map |

Privacy Notice | Contact Us | How to Advertise | Corporate Sponsorship |
Copyright © 1999 - 2008. BritasMedia Publications. All Rights Reserved.
Architosh™ and the ToshLetter™ are trademarks of BritasMedia™

Quantified - Quantcast