diglloyd Mac Performance Guide

Up to 8TB of Thunderbolt Storage!

November 2011

MPG Reader Special Prices at OWC — even lower than Black Friday prices

I’ve arranged even BETTER prices on select items for MPG readers only — significantly better than even the OWC Black Friday prices.

Good deals! REALLY good deals.

The links found here (only) yield these prices (via cookie, kill that cookie and pay a higher price if you prefer). In case you really wanted to verify.

Valid through Monday end of day— Deals go away after 11:59PM Monday.

16GB memory for
MacBook Pro 2011, MacMini 2011, iMac 2010/2011

Special MPG price $499.99 => $450 ($50 off!).

OWC Mercury 16GB memory kit for MacBook Pro 2011, MacMini 2011, iMac 2010/2011
OWC Mercury 16GB memory kit for MacBook Pro 2011, MacMini 2011, iMac 2010/2011

Mac Pro 2009/2010 Memory Deals

Special MPG prices for either 1066 MHz or 1333 MHz memory for Apple Mac Pro. Compare MPG vs regular prices here.

Special prices shown in green, click to view the deals at OWC.

OWC Mercury EXTREME Pro 6G

The SSDs I use in my Mac Pro and MacBook Pro for lightning-fast disk performance. I have about 10 of them, including my all-SSD Mac Pro.

240GB for $450 and 480GB for $1040 for MPG

OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD
OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD

Data Doubler + Mercury EXTREME Pro 6G Bundles – Save even more

DataDoubler + 240GB bundle $495 or DataDoubler + 480GB for $1079

And more savings –

Buy ANY Data Doubler (0GB Kits on special from $65; Bundle deals from $99.97) and get the External Enlcosure for Apple Superdrive for FREE!

Free shipping

Available Free Shipping on all of these items + the up to $50 Instant Savings with Amazon Checkout is also available.

From OWC:

The source/apc string activates these special prices. And once activated, it’s maintained by cookie. For anyone not sure these are ‘extra specials’ for MPG – can give them this link to kill the discount.

Black Friday Specials at OWC

OWC Exclusive: Bonus Instant Savings by with Amazon Checkout – up to $50!

Nothing tricky – the more you order, the bigger the instant savings. LIMITED TIME – Starts mid-day Wednesday, ENDS Monday Night!

Details at http://eshop.macsales.com/owcpages/amazoncheckout/

See the over 250 featured deals

http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/Cyber_Specials/

My personal favorite: solid state drives, a great way to give rejuvenate any Mac.

OWC Black Friday specials
Click for  OWC Black Friday specials

Shipping Specials Starting from $0.99 for USA, $3.99 International

FREE Delivery available within USA for Memory orders $49 & Up
FREE Delivery available within USA for Most any order $99 & Up (may exclude Hawaii/Alaska)

OWC DataDoubler

Allows two internal drives in a MacBook Pro. Note that the optical bay generally has trouble with a 6G SSD, so if you get a bundle with a 6G SSD, put the 6G SSD into the main bay, and the other drive into the optical bay.

OWC offers DataDoubler do-it-yourself kits with bracket and drive or the DataDoubler bracket by itself.

OWC DataDoubler drive bracket for MacBook Pro
OWC DataDoubler drive bracket for MacBook Pro

Media integrity and performance verification— one of many reasons to use DiskTester

When a hard drive is shipped from the factory, the recording media is a blank slate with possible bad areas. It’s always a good idea to verify your new hard drive before putting it into “production use”.

Most bad areas can be mapped out, but this can result in oddball performance anomalies. While not a big deal for a single drive, it’s a glitch for a multi-drive RAID setup.

Verifying drives is especially good idea for RAID-0 striping, where one goofy drive can slow down the whole RAID. Variations up to 10% in speed can be observed between identical model drives, with the “dogs” perhaps being future drives more likely to fail: buy 5 and use the fastest 4 for a 4-drive RAID. Test each drive individually for starters, then test as a RAID later.

Not long ago, I cherry picked 4 Hitachi 7K2000 drives for my main Mac Pro. I saw speeds from 118MB/sec to 133MB/sec. This four fastest drives yielded about 520MB/sec speed versus 480MB/sec for an average setup. Not a huge amount, but why not? The other drives became backups, and the one serious dud was returned.

How DiskTester helps

Filling a volume

DiskTester makes the testing and verification process easy with its fill-volume facility. By doing so, the drive is forced to detect and map out any bad blocks. In addition, DiskTester verifies all data during the read phase of fill-volume (which can be repeated so long as the created files remains on the disk).

The detailed results across the entire drive can be graphed to show any performance anomalies, stutter, etc. This is true for single drives and RAID.

Get DiskTester here.

Video capture

Video users in particular might want to verify that the drive or the RAID doesn’t have downward spikes in performance, so as to preclude lost frames.

Graphing the results

When DiskTester has finished filling the volume, you can paste the numbers into the supplied spreadsheet. This is a fantastic way to see just what your drive is doing

In the graph below, the decline in speed across the drive is readily visible, see Why You Need More Space Than You Need. . The spike for the last 1% of the drive should be ignored; this is not a drive issue but rather a Mac OS X file system behavior when the drive is almost full.

Graphed drive-speed data from DiskTester fill-volume
Graphed drive-speed data from DiskTester fill-volume

The Adobe Shake-Down

The latest from Adobe, according to RobGalbraith.com:

Starting with Photoshop CS6, which is anticipated to ship in 2012, Adobe will be enforcing a new upgrade policy. The existing practice is to allow customers to purchase the newest version at the upgrade price if they own an existing version up to three major releases back.

To upgrade to Photoshop CS6 or any other Creative Suite 6 application at the upgrade price, however, you will need to own a license to the previous major release (in this case, CS5, CS5.1 and CS5.5 are all considered to be the same version). Earlier major version releases will not be eligible for upgrade pricing.

Martin D writes:

What Adobe has been doing has made little rational sense, but the implication I see here is that anybody who wants to use this software is potentially looking at $400-1500 “Adobe tax” every year in order to stay current (depending on how many apps they use). Of course, we don't know if any pricing changes are coming.

They offer a CS5.5 Design Premium subscription at $95/month (pre-paid for a year) or $140/month-to-month, which suggests to me their target is to wring about $1200-1400 per year out of a typical suite user, one way or another.

By comparison, Photoshop Extended alone is $49/month (pre-paid for a year) or $75/mont-to-month, which is $600-900 per year.

Meanwhile, the low end of the graphics market is quite active these days, and fewer people have any need to shell out for Photoshop and its appalling learning curve.

If Adobe continues in this direction, their suite apps are going to form a shrinking bubble that becomes ever more isolated at the "high end" until it winks out in obsolescence. Maybe that's for the best?

DIGLLOYD MPG: The main reason I do not buy the full Adobe suite is that I use only a fraction of it, and the upgrade price is appalling— suitable for big corporations, but very unfriendly to small businesses. And the upgrade price simply does not reflect value for me, and no doubt this is the reason so many users are running older versions,

I use Adobe DreamWeaver CS5.5 and Adobe Photoshop CS5.1 heavily for my web site, and have paid Adobe many thousands over the years.

I would not mind paying the upgrade fees if Adobe actually fixed the appalling number of bugs, particular in DreamWeaver, which for 5 years now has been the most unreliable software program I use. The fact is, not a single one of the DreamWeaver bugs has been fixed, a track record showing contempt for users. I wrote about this in 2006— nothing has been fixed since then. I mean nothing. If anything, there are more bugs.

Instead, Adobe adds fluff features, while leaving both bugs and severe usability issues intact in each and every “upgrade” I have paid for, then calls it a “major upgrade”. It is deeply offensive to be treated this way by Adobe. I’d use another HTML editor in a heartbeat if a good Mac alternative existed.

As for Photoshop CS5, its aging sausage code base finally went 64-bit with CS5, but Adobe’s strategy does not seem to have anything at all to do with bugs fixes or usability, but rather stuffing in a few cool features for a “major” release, which is the same sausage code base foisted on users the previous release. What I want to see improved for my bread-and-butter everyday work: rock-solid reliability, full CPU core usage maxed-out on my 12-core Mac Pro, and elimination of modal nonsense (why can’t I do something else while saving/opening/batch-processing RAW?), What I do not need is cute features— those are nice but should come last.

I doubt I am alone here, as there seems to be universal dislike of Adobe. Adobe management is playing a fool’s game that will hit them hard at some point, perhaps for the reasons Martin D suggests, and perhaps for others. Witness the about-face on Flash for mobile devices— a shot across the bow aimed by Saint Jobs. For that reason, I issue a “sell” on Adobe; they are pursuing corporate suicide via slow poisoning by irritating a customer base that needs only a small excuse to look elsewhere.

Jak K writes:

Regarding the high price of Adobe Suite products, I have an interesting suggestion to talented professionals using these products.

In 2002 I inquired just out of curiosity about what the staffing situation was at a local community college. The department head informed me they like to hire professionals working in the field (graphics in this case) and most of their staff was part time otherwise known as adjunct. When the person I talked to learned of my prepress experience since the dawn of DTP, I was asked if I would teach a prepress course in the upcoming semester.

So, simple curiousity led unexpectedly to an offer to teach. I ended up teaching Prepress, Digital Color Theory and Practice, Photoshop and QuarkXpress.

When it came time to upgrade my Adobe software, it dawned on me that I was eligible for educational pricing. Phew, what a difference.

And it was, I believe, a win-win proposition for Adobe and myself. Most of my night class students were folks already in a related field from photography to graphic design and wanted to extend their knowledge. My students could buy educational versions as well and I strongly encouraged them to do so. I'd hazard a guess that more than 50% of my students went on to upgrade after they left school. That's a win for Adobe and a win for me.

So, I suggest that if you are skilled in graphics, that you consider giving back and passing on your insight and skills to the next generation. Teach them how to teach themselves and to collaborate with others. The pay is not great and there are no benefits, but the rewards are surprising. If you do a good job, you'll beam with pride of the curiosity and skill you develop in your students. The bonus is you will get educational pricing that is well worth it, and Adobe or other software companies will gain loyal users.

By the way -- some community colleges (CC) have a high turnover while others you have to wait for someone to retire to get a position. Some high schools and trade schools also hire graphic professionals. There are also a slew of "Art Institutes" which I'd approach cautiously. I don't care for their "high cost to quality of eduction ratio" at many of these institutions, so ascertain that you are comfortable with their value to students.

P.S. I'm still concerned with the future of Adobe's software and absolutely abysmal support. The bright note is they can reinvent themselves with HTML5 content creation tools in the area of web tools--but I remain equally cautious on that point as well.

DIGLLOY MPG: The education discount is more along the lines of what pricing could be to garner Adobe a loyal and wide user base. Alas, that is not the strategy.

As for technical support, I agree— it has been miserable for years. I don’t like the generic nature of it (or the outsourcing half way around the world). I liken it to a bouncer at the door; the job seems to be to make it annoying enough that the caller will find their own solution, which of course for bugs means no solution at all except suffering with the bugs for years.

In addition, having lost licenses many times over the years due to system changes, the “you’re probably a thief but we’ll help you out this one time” attitude is also offensive.

Memory Price Trend Graphs Updated

I’ve posted updated graphs for Mac Pro memory price history, MacBook Pro memory price history, and iMac memory price history.

The Macbook Pro 16GB kit has continued to drop, with other prices remaining stable. Power users on the MacBook Pro should move to 16GB if they have not already. All MacBook Pro users are likely to benefit by going to 8GB, which costs so little that it’s a no-brainer.

MacBook Pro memory price historyMacBook Pro memory price history

OWC Comments on the Hard Drive Availability Situation

See previous comments on the hard drive and memory pricing situation.

See also this video showing the flooding in Thailand.

From the OWC “garage sale” email (you can sign up here):

Three weeks ago I thought it was bad and also had worst case scenarios in consideration. Another week and the worst of the worst case didn't line up with what the reality was becoming. It seems like there may be some improvement in drive supply by mid-December, but it's still disastrous and not likely to return to the prior normal for many months and even as long as a year.

In a nut shell... First Western Digital's main production complex in Thailand, one that produces about 60% of WD's output + roughly 18% of the overall world drive supply, was first inaccessible and then literally under water from the flooding. While there are plenty of various drive sub-component manufacturers also impacted by the flooding - the one most critical to the HD industry would be be Nidec. Nidec happens to supply effectively 100% of the drive motors to Hitachi, Seagate, Toshiba, Etc.. in addition to WD. Roughly 90% of the Nidec production was in this same region with multiple facilities either offline due to inaccessibility or under water. Alternate production facilities are being fired back up and/or production increased at those unaffected... but this single source/single geo supplier impact made what was already bad - beyond worst expectations.

This is an industry that is all about back ups... apparently they hardly take their own advice and now we're literally paying the price. Really unbelievable to me, and I wonder if stockholders/boards of these companies will learn from the failure from allowing such. Milk already spilled and cleanup can't even begin until that water recedes.... By no means do I overlook the human tragedy for the people of Thailand in this natural disaster either - but please note that my expertise is on the drive aspect and so commented.

SSDs are a bright spot - a major upgrade vs. a hard drive when it comes to the over all performance they deliver to a system and... Despite increased demand as of late, cost is down from a month ago and pretty stable. Consumers and businesses are buying more, but the system builders really can't make the cost from HD to SSD, at least not yet, to impact NAND availability. So - while hard drive cost has sky rocketed over the past month, SSDs have edged lower. I do acknowledge that mass storage needs are not practical to replace with an SSD (2TB HD vs. cost for SSD)... None the less..

DIGLLOYD: See the storage options at OWC. Memory prices are also a bright spot.

MacBook Pro 17" 2.5 GHz In the Field vs MacBook Air, MacBook Pro 13"

I returned from a week-long photography trip recently. On such trips, I do a modest amount of image review, I take care of customer emails and subscriptions, etc— typically at the end of a 14-hour day in a remote area (no hotel or restaurant!), so I have little patience for a slow computer.

My needs are not those of everyone, but here I share my experience with three Apple laptops, all of mid or late 2011 generation, and all with SSD drives.

MacBook Air — too slow

I eliminated the 1.7GHz 13" MacBook Air as a candidate for my field work after my last trip; it was noticeably sluggish for every important task I perform, making it a irritating device when I wanted to get things done and get a night’s sleep. The same operations on the 13" MacBook Pro were considerably faster.

Also, the lack of a Firewire 800 port on the MBA means waiting 3X as long to download a Compact Flash camera card over USB, and 3X as long to make a backup over USB. That said, I bought several FW800 readers when Lexar and SanDisk discontinued theirs, and it now appears that none are available from any vendor, so this point is a non-option for users without one. However, the 17" model does afford the option of an ExpressCard/34 reader.

Based on experience, I now consider the MBA a usable but mainly stylish computer mostly suitable for web and email and other casual uses. I do like it, but it’s just not up to speed for the work I need to do. Because I travel by car for photography (not airplane), the light weight is not at an advantage for me, but might be for many users. Perhaps the next generation model will resolve the speed issue.

MacBook Pro 13" — fast

I tried the 13" 2.7GHz MacBook Pro on the next trip (and simultaneously with the MBA on the previous one), and it was a big improvement in performance over the MacBook Air— the sluggish behavior was gone. Side-by-side, the speed difference was immediately obvious.

In terms of performance for my work, I’d rate the 13" MacBook Pro as an excellent value, and very close to the 4-core 17" model. The small screen is its only real limitation.

MacBook Pro 17" — fast and a large screen

On my most recent trip, I utilized the very latest 17" 2.5GHz MacBook Pro— the fastest MacBook Pro available. The 4 CPU cores of the 17" model helped a little over the dual-core 13" model when processing images, but in general performance was hardly to be distinguished from the 13" MacBook Pro. So on a performance basis for most tasks, the 17" has little to offer over the 13" (CPU cores are frequently underutilized, so 2 cores is usually plenty for most tasks, and the 13" model runs at a faster 2.7 GHz).

What sealed the deal with the 17" model? The large screen. This is an efficiency issue for me in multiple ways: image evaluation, editing of web pages, and even reading emails. More in view at one time means less fiddly scrolling around, and easier image evaluation.

img
After a 12-hour day outdoors, I have no patience for a slow laptop or a small screen

MacBook Pro Dies In Its Sleep— Runs Hot and Goes Dead

I have to believe this is a general hardware bug, or a system software bug, because it happens on both my 13" 2.7GHz MacBook Pro, and my 17" 2.5GHz MacBook Pro.

I close the lid on the MacBook Pro, putting it to sleep. Or I should say that I assumed I was putting it to sleep— perhaps the machine never really goes to sleep, but crashes somehow, resulting in the following problem.

Some time later, I notice that the MacBook Pro is very hot, with the fans are running at full blast. Opening the lid, the screen is black and the MBP is unresponsive— black screen no response of any kind. A hard reboot is needed to restore functionality.

With the 17" model, this behavior was after all the latest updates prior to Nov 11, 2011.

I have to say that sleep is flaky on all Macs because I’ve had all models of Macs I own sometimes go into sleep-crash mode: black screen, won’t wake up, force reboot by cutting the power.

Reader comments

From Richard:

Yeap… it does that with my MBP 15" 2.8 GHz Core i7/8 GB/OS 10.6.8 too! BUT not with my MBP 13" 2.53GHz Core 2 Duo/4GB/OS 10.6.8.

Go work that out!? Very frustrated with Apple support!

From Dan K

My wife just had exactly the same issue with her 2-3 year old 15" MacBook Pro running Snow Leopard. I wonder if it had something to do with the end of DST - or maybe just a coincidence?

From Frank D

I’m not sure this is the same issue, but it’s not unusual in my experience. Other readers have written about similar problems.

While the 13" model is an excellent one (see my comments), the 15" model has a larger screen and anti-glare option; it would be my choice for airplane travel.

I've been an avid follower of your site and saw your section on sleep problems. I purchased a new MBP 13" (this is my first Mac), got it all configured, etc and connected it to an external monitor. I selected mirroring for the display since I wanted to close the MBP while connected to an external monitor. When I closed the MBP lid it shut down the external monitor, then froze and I couldn't hard boot. I disconnected the external monitor and power supply but still couldn't hard reboot. I thought I'd let the battery run down and then try it. Nope, after a few minutes the disk started spinning and the laptop started to get warm. I packed everything up and headed to the Apple store.

The Apple store was great, they were willing to refund my money (or replace the unit with new MBP). I decided to get the refund because I'm now evaluating options and considering the 15 inch model BTO with hi res antiglare screen.

Thanks for sharing you experience with the same problem -

Memory and Hard Drive Prices: Win Some, Lose Some

With the floods in Thailand causing huge supply issues for hard drives, prices have spiked 70% on 3TB drives, and nearly as much on 2TB drives, in just 10 days or so.

The silver lining is that fewer hard drives might (might) lead to lower memory prices, since fewer PCs can be built!

Current thinking on prices from OWC

Today, Larry O'Conner of OWC shared his thoughts with me on supply issues for memory and hard drives:

Hard Drive prices up, SSD prices stable/still getting better, Memory down
Memory is down more and I’d not be surprised to see further dips on memory sets 2GB, 4GB, 8GB module based for Mac Pro and 2GB, 4GB for iMac/MacBook Pro.

These long available, staple density modules could easily come down more now with the hard drive situation. That situation being that fewer drives are available, fewer computers are going to be built in this quarter, that will leave more memory supply on the table that wasn’t planned for and that typically means more price pressure. Already now at the lowest prices ever for memory.

8GB SO-DIMM kits (16GB kit for Macbook Pros, up to 32GB for iMac) more stable... Will continue to edge lower, but not because of the HDD situation impact.

16GB modules for those 48GB and 96GB Mac Pro kits are down a little and should continue to drift down, but like the 8GB SO – really don’t have the supply impact like the more common lower density modules do.

So far solid state drives (SSD) are not impacted in terms of NAND supply. We’re seeing increased run on them and putting us a little behind, but so far seeing prices steady to lower – following the same general trend line more or less as had been. SSDs are still too expensive for enough of a shift from HDD to SSD to impact this trend thus far. Now if hard drive supply ends up not recovering to some stability in 4-6 weeks, could get a heck of a lot uglier for everything.

DIGLLOYD: OWC tends to pass along price changes very quickly on memory or hard drives (just in time inventory), so if memory prices continue to dip, that should show up quickly in consumer pricing at OWC. But note that higher density modules (4GB and 8GB) might simply continue their steady decline.

Hard drive deal

OWC also seems to be practically giving away their Mercury Elite Pro case (trying to protect their customers it seems), since the 3TB Mercury Elite Pro is at $329.99 and the bare 7K3000 hard drive (no case) is $319.99! At least as I write this.

Upgrading

Apple MacBook Pro 2.5 GHz Quad-Core with 16GB Memory

I reported yesterday on the memory speed with the Apple 4GB memory configuration in the 2011 2.5 GHz MacBook Pro (see my review of the February, 2011 MacBook Pro, which is essentially the same).

Tests that follow compare the speed using MemoryTester 'compute' on the 2.5 GHz MacBook Pro, using either the 4GB Apple memory, or the 16GB OWC memory.

Update: the diglloydSpeed1 benchmark runs in 22 seconds with 16GB, instead of 26 seconds with 4GB memory. That’s probably because 4GB is just a bit on the low side (not enough memory to run efficiently).

Memory speed

The test shows that the Apple 4GB (2 X 2GB) memory configuration has lower speed than the OWC 16GB kit, by about 9%. This is unlikely to have any real world effect as indeed the SHA1 test shows no difference (see graph further below). However, I have not yet run my other suite of tests, such as Photoshop speed.

I also tested my 13" MacBook Pro with the 8GB OWC kit (2 X 4GB), and memory speed is also testing faster on the 13" model. I have no explanation for the slower memory speed of the Apple 4GB configuration in the 17" MacBook Pro; it must be some type of module design issue.

MemoryTester 'compute' for SHA1 hash speed
MemoryTester 'compute' for SHA1 hash speed

Compute intensive benchmarks

The SHA1 hash has moderate memory access. The memory configuration exerts no effect, presumably processor caching is hiding the small memory speed difference.

MemoryTester 'compute' for SHA1 hash speed
MemoryTester 'compute' for SHA1 hash speed

Pure CPU speed test which does not involve memory— as expected there is no difference in speed between memory configurations.

MemoryTester 'compute' for SHA1 hash speed
MemoryTester 'compute' for SHA1 hash speed

 

End of Life for the Apple Mac Pro?

There is online speculation that Apple might EOL (end of life) the Mac Pro (see also), just as was done for the XServe. In short, no new Mac Pro.

Update: enter your feedback to Apple at http://www.apple.com/feedback/macpro.html.

Martin D writes with some excellent questions:

This sort of speculation about the future of the Mac Pro is disconcerting, especially when cross referenced with Apple's recent “consumerization” of all its “pro” apps (Logic will be the last one to fall, probably in Q1 or Q2 2012). You've touched on this in the past without going into a lot of exploration.

  • Does Thunderbolt really have the potential to obviate the need for a computer with multiple integrated drive bays?
  • Could an enlarged Mac Mini accommodate bigger processors, large amounts of RAM, and copious external storage and thereby actually replace a Mac Pro?
  • Seems even if you removed all the internal drive bays and card slots from a Mac Pro and collapsed it accordingly, you'd only save about 50% of the volume because of the CPU heat sinks and power supply. (I suppose you might not need such a large power supply.)
  • Will tiny SSDs actually wipe out the mechanical hard drive? What time frame?
  • Does that mean a new, more space-efficient drive form factor is coming? (Apple has already started wiring SSDs into their motherboards.)
  • If Apple lets the Mac Pro fade away, what is all this stuff converging on? Laptops for everybody?

Within Apple itself are legions of programmers who have to compile enormous code bases, designers who produce high resolution artwork, filmmakers who produce high definition video—it's not like they are actually blind to high end needs: they have daily high end needs of their own. Seems like something else is going on here.

DIGLLOYD:

Let’s keep in mind that nothing is decided yet— the demise of the Mac Pro could be greatly exaggerated. But it is disturbing to me that Apple could decide to drop the Mac Pro; it is my daily machine and has been for years, for good reason.

However, as I wrote on July 21st:

It’s simple: business investments go into products that matter to profits. The Mac Pro is almost an irrelevancy at this point, contributing perhaps 1% of Apple’s sales, with iPhone and iPad dominating the lineup, and laptops after that.

Dumping power and elegant products is a slippery slope that breeds other poor decisions for other parts of the user base (What should we drop next? Which pro software should we dumb-down or drop or alter beyond recognition, showing disdain for our users who make a living using it?).

To see the world degrade into generic shiny parts for teenagers, and away from solidly-built pro-level gear is deeply disappointing. It feels like a violation, especially after investing large sums over the years.

Alienating the user base — a strategic blunder

Eliminating the Mac Pro would alienate high end users (including me), who really do need the Mac Pro. Such users are key influencers who would be hung out to dry, no doubt with assertions from Apple that some replacement “solution” is just as good, but would in reality be a compromise and frustration for high-end users.

Elimination of the Mac Pro would be a long term strategic mistake that in my mind would signal the coming demise of Apple (believe it or not), not for the loss of the Mac Pro on its own, but because it’s a warning shot for all high end users that their needs are not important— so look elsewhere. And thus a warning shot to any user thinking about brand loyalty, and building a professional solution around Apple products. Death to the ecosystem. No company prospers forever, and the first step is failing to honor apparently small market segments that matter much more than bean counters realize.

Dovetailing into the whole thing (as Martin notes), is the consumerization of everything, including the features in Lion. My Mac is not an iPhone, but clearly that is not understood at Apple. The Mac is getting harder to use, not easier, and all that eye candy being thrown in is not easier, it’s more confusing, something I see firsthand with friends and clients. As Exhibit A, I present iTunes, a kitchen-sink mess.

When a company steps away from respecting a core part of its user base reliant upon the Mac Pro (many key influencers in there!), Apple loses their support in many ways; it’s a crack in the door for alternatives. Competition is slobbering over the iPhone and iPad market. They will succeed sooner or later (probably later), but Apple does not need to accelerate the process by alienating professional users.

What does the Mac Pro offer?

No other Apple computer can replace a Mac Pro in raw computing power, memory expansion, drive support, PCIe card support, etc. Good enough for most people is not good enough for many professionals.

The MPG Pro Workstation is my design for those professionals.

A small box with a messy jumble of cables daisy-chained along is a space-management, reliability and noise headache. There are technical issues too:

  • Memory capacity is at most 32GB in an iMac today, and that’s the most expensive memory, because it has to be high density memory. By comparison, a Mac Pro can go to 96GB (or 48GB in 4/6-core models), at very reasonable cost. I cannot work efficiently with less than 48GB.
  • Thunderbolt is bandwidth limited to about 1GB/sec, it is certainly no replacement for a card in a PCIe slot, especially high performance cards.
  • It will take years for Thunderbolt to evolve an ecosystem of parts that high-end professionals need. And unless the PC world also adopts Thunderbolt, Apple will take us back to the days of product bifurcation, with Mac-specific products costing more, with fewer choices.
  • PCIe cards are not suitable for Thunderbolt, at least not high performance cards, such as graphics cards.
  • For expansion, a tangle of external boxes and cables is a mess. And a reliability problem. And a power supply quality problem. And noisy. Having up to six internal drives all on a very high quality power supply is a huge plus.
  • Reliability is enhanced by the ability to have multiple drives, ECC memory, a robust power supply, efficient cooling, etc. A MacMini or iMac do not offer any of those attributes.

Reader response

Warren S writes:

I agree completely with your November 1 article on the Mac Pro's potential demise. I own a Mac Pro which I would have a difficult time doing without. The iMac would not be adequate. Of course, unless there has been an a announcement this is all speculation. It could be Apple is simply waiting until the new Intel processors ship in Q1:12?

However, why not send your excellent article to Apple? They need to see it and read the arguments presented. A company like BMW seems to do well making a small number of M cars which offer maximum performance alongside more mainstream models designed for the general marketplace. Apple can and should continue to do the same. All one has to do is to think in terms of maximizing customer satisfaction along with achieving superior profitability. These dual mandates are not at odds.

DIGLLOYD: Well, I agree, but I’m not sure to whom I’d send it at Apple.


Max Your Mac Pro at OWC

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