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

Boot Camp, Parallels & Windows XP

Since we had a spare 320GB hard drive, we decided to install Windows XP on it using Apple's Boot Camp software, and to then use that to try and gauge the native performance of SketchUp's OpenGL engine with the 7300 card. Installation went smoothly, and after about 90 minutes we were faced with the rather odd sight of the Windows XP desktop spread across our two monitors. We downloaded Google SketchUp for Windows, loaded a complex model into it and set to orbiting. So what did we discover?

It was the fastest OpenGL performance we've ever seen from SketchUp. A subjective impression, yes, but models that would have forced the previous Power Mac to turn to wireframe, or even bounding-box mode, were rotated fully-shaded in real time. Often effects like transparency and shadows were preserved as well. We have to temper our delight with the fact that driver differences across platforms will necessarily affect the performance, but it still bodes well for the performance of a Mac Universal version of SketchUp on the Mac Pro, whenever Google is able to release such a version. Let's hope soon!

03 - Mac Pro running latest version of Autodesk AutoCAD in virtual Windows XP under Parallels software, alongside common Mac OS X applications (click for larger image).

So, what about AutoCAD, we hear you ask. Yes, we can report that we downloaded the trial version and installed it under Windows XP, where it ran without a hitch, so if you really need to do cross-platform work this solution could save you a lot of frustration. We also decided to check out Parallels desktop for Mac (www.parallels.com) to see if this would offer an alternative to the start-up / shut-down cycle of using Boot Camp, and we're happy to report that it did. Problems with using this virtual machine solution on the Mac Pro have been largely ironed out (there are still problems configuring a Wacom tablet under XP, for example), but it's an extremely usable solution, with both Windows, SketchUp and AutoCAD running under XP in their own window alongside Mac OS X, at about 90% their full speed (which probably substantially faster than your current Pentium-class P4 or Power Mac G5 workhorse).

Again, this gives another insight into the OpenGL speed question -- Parallels doesn't even support 3D acceleration yet, but view manipulation performance with Windows version of SketchUp under Parallels was faster than our Power Mac G5 with the previous top-of-the-line GeForce 6800GT -- at least if shadows are off. This increase in OpenGL performance can only be attributed to the faster processor speed.


As fantastic a machine as this is, there are a few drawbacks: one is the lack of certain key applications in Mac Universal versions (those apps built natively for the Intel architecture under OS X). If you do a lot of entourage work in Photoshop, you may want to wait for Adobe to produce the Universal CS3 in the first half of next year. And if you are a heavy SketchUp user -- well, your guess is as good as ours on that one. Google is being remarkably tight-lipped on their plans. The second drawback is the current high price of the FB-DIMM memory. We can only hope that this comes down in the future. Were it not for these two temporal issues, things that will resolve themselves in the fullness of time, the Mac Pro would have scored a perfect five.

Still, the Mac Pro scores on so many levels: it's beautiful, it's quiet, it's easily expandable, it's upgradable, and above that, it offers excellent value for money. Your $2,499 USD for the 2.66GHz standard model buys you an awful lot of computer. By bumping down the processor speed and the Hard disk size, ours came in at $2,124 (before the RAM upgrade). At the time this article was written these prices are wiping the floor with anything that Dell has to offer.

In the past, anyone doing architecture on the Macintosh may have felt a little sidelined. The non-availability of applications from Autodesk and Bentley Systems sometimes engendered a 'ghetto' perception of the Mac's role in the world of architecture. Well, not anymore. As well as being the best machine Apple has ever produced, it's also the best PC out there. --- TIM DANAHER, Associate Editor.

For more information on the Apple Mac Pro go to:

Published: 6 Nov 2006


pages | 1 | 2 | 3 |


About Tim Danaher

Tim Danaher trained as an architect at the Architecture schools of Bath and Oxford, United Kingdom. Currently resident between London and South Wales, he specializes in visualization using SketchUp and a number of rendering programs including Cheetah3D and modo 202. Since leaving architecture school he has also written extensively for the UK press, including MacUser(UK) magazine and the Architect's Journal and has also been a visiting lecturer at the University of the Arts, London and London City University.


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