Mac Pro in the House

About 2 months ago my primary workstation died. The machine was behaving very flaky, not posting from time to time and requiring my to jumper the Clear-CMOS on a routine basis. After a couple of times doing that it gave up the ghost and refused to post ever again. I’m fixing it, but it broke my back on home brew machines. I’m just not the kinda guy that wants to open my machines case on a regular basis. Particularly my primary machines that I depend on for a variety of applications and uses. It was time to ditch this thing and move on.

A faithful reader of my website would know that I’ve been on a string of Mac purchases lately. The most recent computers I got were a MacBook and before that an iMac G5. Why break the trend? I decided to get a Mac Pro.

It all started very benign. I just started looking for a new box and scoured Dell and a variety of other sites. I wanted something with serious power, lots of memory, big graphics and growth for the future. Regardless of how you feel about Apple, if you are looking for a great machine at the high-end you need to examine the Mac Pro.

Mac Pro

I placed the order and got the machine on Halloween. I ordered it with the 2.66Ghz CPUs, the upgraded ATI Radeon X1900 XT video card and the Bluetooth option so I could go wireless on keyboard, mouse and eventually headset for Skype. I got it with 1G of RAM installed (2 512MB FB DIMMs) and ordered another 2G of memory, totaling 3G.

The hardware is very impressive. Taking the side panel off (which is ridiculously easy, yet stable) shows a very well designed machine. The drive bays are elegantly arranged with no cable messes. I dropped 3 additional SATA drives in it to fill it up. The 16 (!!!) memory slots are on a daughter card that easily slides out for adding memory.

I powered the machine on and it is very quiet. The 10,000 RPM boot drive I have in it is the loudest thing in the machine. This is a machine that was completely thought through in all aspects. Two, big thumbs up.

I’m particularly pleased that I’m pretty future proof. I can take memory to 32G if I wanted to and it’s possible to upgrade the dual-core Xeon’s to quad-core and go 8-way with the existing motherboard. Yeah!

Cinema Display

I’d picked out my new machine and I already had the dual Dell 2005FPW monitors from the previous machine. I could have used them, but I had to admit that I wasn’t that happy with them. I found the vertical height (1050 pixels) to be confining. When using these monitors I always felt like a 6’ man standing in a room with 5’ 6” ceilings. If I was going to get completely happy with my home workstation a new monitor was in order.

An Apple Cinema Display was needed, and I decided to go all out with the 30” version (2,560 x 1,600 pixels). The real-estate on this thing is massive. Acreage! This is the largest monitor I’ve worked with and I really like having that much contiguous space. There is something to be said for having multiple monitors, I think it’s a necessity at work where Outlook lives permanently camped on one. At home however the ability to launch Lightroom or Final Cut Express on a huge single display is just amazing. I can view my digital photos at near 1:1 with this display.


When I ordered the machine I was thinking I’d probably just Boot Camp it and run Windows Vista full time. I’m changing my mind. I’ve been enjoying Mac OS X a lot on my MacBook and while I’ve got a lot of software hurdles to get over, I’m going to give it a try full-time. Many applications I have will work in both, but I’ve had to rethink a lot of thins. There are also some applications that are either absent or notably better on Windows (Garmin Mapsource, Quicken) and I’ll either run those in Parallels or Boot Camp. I am going to put Boot Camp on it and Windows Vista just to have it for the occasional times.

I’m immensely happy with everything about this workstation. I recommend everyone, not just casual folks, check out these new workstations from Apple. As I take inventory in the house now, excluding the servers, Macs now outnumber Wintel boxes by 3 to 2. Pretty amazing.

Jamie Thingelstad @jthingelstad

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