Upgrading a Mac Pro to More Cores or Faster CPU
This page applies to the 2010 Mac Pro. The 2013 Mac Pro can also be upgraded.
Apple won’t sell you a 3.33Ghz 12-core Mac Pro, but you can still have one! Or 3.46 GHz.
With OWC’s CPU upgrade program, you can upgrade to a faster CPU or more CPU cores! 2010 Mac Pro only.
That’s what I did. I’m now happily running my 8-core 2.4GHz Mac Pro with a brain transplant: the 12-core 3.33Ghz model—see my review.
You won’t believe how slick this upgrade is— send OWC your existing CPU tray, wait a few days for the upgraded tray, then pop it in and boot up!
The best 2010 Mac Pro system to upgrade is the 2.4GHz 8-core system, because it’s the least expensive.
Availability for fastest speeds as of mid February, 2011. Not all possibilities shown, see the OWC CPU upgrade page.
|2.8GHz 4-core||12-core up to 3.46 GHz
8-core up to 2.66 GHz
4/6core up to 3.46 GHz
|Most cost effective way to upgrade.|
|3.2GHz 4-core||same options as above||Better to upgrade the 2.8GHz model for lower cost|
|2.4Ghz 8-core||12-core up to 3.46GHz||Reasonable total cost.|
|3.33Ghz 6-core||12-core up to 3.46GHz||Not cost efficient, but can be done.|
|12-core||12-core up to 3.46 GHz||Not cost efficient, but can be done.|
Future clock speeds
In February 2011, the Intel 3.46GHz W5690 chip adds another increment of performance over Apple’s fastest 12-core offering, which runs at a modest 2.93GHz.
CPU prices drop over time, so if you buy a slower-cpu model now, don’t get buyer’s remorse— there is now an upgrade path to a faster CPU, and that path will become less expensive over time.
Heat dissipation and higher power draw
The 3.33GHz W5680 is a 130 watt CPU, whereas Apple’s 2.93GHz 12-core uses 95 watts. So under max load, the faster CPUs will draw 2X35 = 70 watts more power.
The single-CPU 2010 Mac Pros all use 130 watt parts, so there is no real difference with a dual CPU system other than total power draw; each CPU has its own heat sink on the dual core systems, each generating the same heat as the single-CPU systems. The Mac Pro fan system can easily deal with this; even under full load I found that the fan noise increased only a little.
I’m completely comfortable in my usage of this upgraded system, and I beat on it harder than most users. If you’re buying a fast system to run 24X7 at max CPU load with maxed-out heat-belching 15K rpm drives and the PCIe slots full of power hungry cards—who knows.
Cost and value
The 3.33Ghz CPU itself is a very expensive part, and so the great bulk of the upgrade cost is the dual CPUs themselves. In terms of value, it makes sense to upgrade to the 3.33Ghz 12-core only if you must have the last drop of performance. For single-CPU upgrades, its a friendlier price situation, such as going from 2.66Ghz to 3.33Ghz.