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Nehalem Cores vs. Clock Speed Conclusions

Last updated 2010-05-13 - Send Feedback
Related: Mac Pro, memory

The following are shown by the tests as a clear reality check on 8 cores:

  • A faster CPU clock speed of 3.33GHz builds in a 13.6% advantage over 2.93GHz.
  • The equivalent of 4.5 CPU cores at 2.93GHz are needed to achieve parity with 4 cores at 3.33Ghz.
  • Few programs can effectively use more than 4 CPU cores, so parity of the 8-core is often not reached.
  • The 3.33Ghz quad-core Mac Pro is often as fast or faster than the 8-core 2.93GHz model.
  • The 8-core model is for really big jobs that need more than 32GB memory, or specific programs and tasks that are written to exploit more than 4 cores.

In short—

The quad-core 2.93GHz or 2.66GHz model are also good choices, offering very high value at slightly lower performance. Buying refurbished further extends that value proposition (3.33GHz won't be found in the refurb store, so you have to buy it new).

Time in seconds, lower is faster.
Click for larger graph.

Model differentiator

Key differentiator of the quad-core 3.33Ghz model:

  • Often as fast or faster than the 8-core model;
  • Costs US$2200 less;
  • Maximum of 32GB memory using four 8GB modules;
  • 24GB as 3 X 8GB is more expensive than 24GB as 6 X 4GB (for the 8-core), but you can go with 16GB as 4 X 4GB;
  • Lower power draw;

Key differentiator of the 8-core model:

  • Accepts up to 64GB memory using eight 8GB modules (twice the memory of quad-core model);
  • Much faster for certain specific tasks where all the cores are used;
  • Consumes more power;
  • Costs $2200 more than the 3.33GHz quad-core.
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All the memory I use is from OWC.

Refurbished

A good way to get a Mac Pro is through the Apple refurbished program (thanks for using the links from that page). Unfortunately, your author has never actually seen the 3.33GHz model become available, presumably because it is a build to order option, which is not easily returned.

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