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Choosing a Mac Pro— will you make an expensive mistake or the right choice?

I recently worked with a consulting client who was having some performance problems using brushstrokes in Photoshop— response time was taking 10-20 seconds for a large stroke, seriously impeding her work.

Quad-core can be faster— it all depends

After analyzing the memory usage, disk utilization and CPU usage , I concluded that this was a CPU-bound task, which means that it runs at the speed of the CPU, and is not influenced by disk speed, and has ample memory.

CPU speed is one aspect of system performance that cannot be improved upon with any upgrade.

This particular client had purchased an 8-core Mac Pro running at 2.26GHz. Her usage of the Mac Pro involved operations utilizing no more than about two cores (out of 8), leaving 75% of the raw CPU power untapped. That’s a software problem and can’t be fixed by the end user.

The only solution in this case was a faster CPU speed, meaning a faster clock speed. The 3.33GHz quad-core Mac Pro would run her work about 47% faster, and ironically, for about the same cost as the 8-core 2.26GHZ Mac Pro!

Apple does not explain the real-world considerations of quad-core vs 8-core, perhaps because it is to their profit when more money is spent on an 8-core machine. Ironically, my client now has to budget for a faster Mac Pro, which is even more benefit to Apple!

Most professional users of the Mac Pro are not computer experts— they are photographers and artists and graphics professionals. It’s not easy figuring this stuff out, which is why you should seek advice from someone who works like you do. That is why Mac Performance Guide exists, and it is what consulting is for.

For more on such considerations, see my special report Apple Mac Pro Shootout: quad-core @ 3.33GHz or 8-core @ 2.93GHz?.

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