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My New Mac Pro: First Impressions
29 January 2014
 
 
Last week I was overjoyed to announce that my new Mac Pro baby was delivered! Now that I've had the computer for some days, what are my first impressions? First, it is very small. Second, it is very quiet. Third, it is very fast.
Very Small
When thinking of the size and shape of the new Mac Pro, a traditional can of Quaker oats came to mind, so I picked one up at Freddy's yesterday. As you can see from the photo to the right, which I took later the same day, a can of oats and a gallon of milk are both almost exactly the same height as the 10-inch Mac Pro. My old Mac Pro, twice as high at 20 inches, literally towers above everything else!

To continue the food comparisons, the oats can is 5.25 inches in diameter, the milk jug is 6.0 inches in diameter, while the new Mac Pro is 6.5 inches in diameter. The oats weigh 2.6 pounds, the milk weighs 8.75 pounds, while the new Mac Pro weighs 11 pounds — 6 ounces less than the milk and oats together! After dragging the old Mac Pro to the bathroom scale, I found that it weighs a hefty 40 pounds — almost four times as much as the new Mac Pro!

Now for Goliath! Besides being 20 inches tall, my old Mac Pro is 8 inches wide and 18.75 inches deep. Computing and comparing the volume which each machine occupies in space, the old Mac Pro comes to 3000 cubic inches (or 1.74 cubic feet), while the new Mac Pro comes to 332 cubic inches (or 0.19 cubic feet) — an amazing reduction of 89 percent! In other words, you can fit NINE new Mac Pro computers in the same space that was occupied by a single old Mac Pro!

Of course, that's not the entire story. Numerous components which used to fit inside the old Mac Pro — like additional hard drives, optical drives, and PCI cards — have to be connected to the new Mac Pro externally, which adds to its weight and bulk, and actually increases desktop clutter. But still, the initial impression remains: this is one very small and light desktop computer!
Very Quiet
From my home-office desk, I can hear the activity of my family downstairs. I can hear the wind blowing outside. I can hear the dog barking down the street. I can hear the neighbor kids playing basketball next door. I can even hear the spin of the external hard drive sitting on my desk. But there is one thing which is very hard — and almost impossible — to hear: any sound of life or activity from my new Mac Pro! Is it even turned on?

Without any operating noise, and without any operating lights — except the glowing power button on the back of the unit, which I can't normally see — there is nothing to indicate that the new Mac Pro is turned on, besides the fact that I'm sitting here using it to type this article. Gone is the decades-old, familiar noise of hard disk access. Gone is the noise of multiple, small spinning fans at high RPMs. When I put my hand over the top of this computer, all I feel is a faint waft of warm air tickling my skin — that gives a new meaning to baby breath!

For the past few years I have had to keep the large side panel off my old Mac Pro, because with all of the rapidly-spinning drives and fans, the computer would make a very irritating, loud buzzing sound when the door was on. Then it started making a similar noise even with the door off! Therefore I installed a fan control app so I could reduce or eliminate the buzz by adjusting the speed of the built-in case fans. I'm sure glad those days are finally over!
Very Fast
Tighten your seatbelts and batten down the hatches! This baby is FAST! Of course the newer, higher-performance quad-core Intel Xeon E5 processor ought to be faster, or else I want my money back! But processor speed is not the primary factor when it comes to the overall operating speed of a computer — other components play a vital role as well.

A couple of years ago I removed the two stock Nvidia GeForce GT 120 graphics cards from my old Mac Pro and replaced them with a higher-performance ATI Radeon HD 5770 graphics card. The new Mac Pro takes a huge leap forward in graphics performance with its dual AMD FirePro D300 graphics cards — a custom version of either the AMD FirePro W7000 with half the memory and ports (see The Mac Pro: So what's a D300, D500 and D700 anyway? and then scroll down to the D300 section) or else the AMD FirePro W5000.

One of the cheapest and easiest ways to speed up your computer is by installing more RAM. My old Mac Pro had 8GB, so this time around I upgraded from the new Mac Pro's stock 12GB to 16GB of RAM — the additional $100 is well worth the price. Doubling my RAM makes a huge difference by allowing more programs and data to stay in top-speed RAM rather than being relegated to much-slower virtual memory on the hard drive. Which leads us to the third vital component....

When I first started hearing about solid-state drives (SSD) two or three years ago, in my ignorance I dismissed them as overpriced luxuries which I need not even consider. If I had had a choice, I would have settled for a traditional hard drive in my new Mac Pro. Because I didn't have that choice, and because the standard, paltry SSD capacity of 256GB seems like a return to the stone age (the primary HD in my old Mac Pro was 2TB), I decided to splurge a little bit and pay an extra $300 to upgrade to a 512GB (half terabyte) SSD. I would have loved to go for the 1TB SSD, but the extra $800 seemed pretty steep.

After a few days using the new Mac Pro with its SSD, I am here to testify that Apple's marketing is absolutely no hype!
There's flash storage, and then there's next-generation PCIe-based flash storage. We're talking storage that's up to 2.4 times faster than the fastest SATA-based solid-state drive and up to 10 times faster than a 7200-rpm SATA hard drive. Most flash storage systems connect via SATA buses designed for slower spinning hard drives. But we designed the new Mac Pro around new PCIe-based flash controller technology to deliver the fastest solid-state drives available standard in a desktop computer. With PCIe-based flash storage, your Mac Pro boots nearly instantly, applications launch fast, big projects open quickly, and everything you do is incredibly responsive.
It's true! It's all true! I can't believe how fast this computer starts up each morning ... it's astonishing! And all my programs start SO fast now! And everything IS incredibly responsive! Using an SSD as my primary drive is SO much better that I could never imagine going back to a traditional mechanical hard drive. Any computer I buy for myself in the future will absolutely have an SSD!

Of course, half a terabyte is pretty low capacity in the overall scheme of things, so I am supplementing it with some larger-capacity external drives — you can read all the details in Hard Drive Storage On My New Mac Pro. One thing is for sure: I am the happy owner of a new smaller, quieter, faster Mac Pro!

In my next article in this series, I will give you the details of how I set up my new Mac Pro.
This article is 4th a series of articles on this Web site related to Technology and Computing which also includes (scroll to see the entire list):
1.
26  Oct  2010
2.
11  Jan  2014
3.
24  Jan  2014
4.
My New Mac Pro: First Impressions
29  Jan  2014
5.
5  Feb  2014
6.
7  Feb  2014
7.
14  Feb  2014
8.
15  Feb  2014
9.
16  Feb  2014
10.
17  Feb  2014
11.
1  Nov  2014
12.
12  Nov  2014
13.
20  Nov  2014
14.
22  Nov  2014
15.
2  Dec  2014
16.
6  Dec  2014
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