Mac News Review

Most Powerful Mac Pro and Xserve Ever, Dishwashers Great for Cleaning Keyboards, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2008.01.11

PowerBook, iBook, MacBook, and other portable computing is covered in The 'Book Review. iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV news is covered in The iNews Review.

All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

News & Opinion

Apple Updates

Products

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

Apple Introduces More Powerful Mac Pro

PR: Apple has introduced the new Mac Pro with eight processor cores and a new system architecture that delivers up to twice the performance of its predecessor*. The new Mac Pro combines two of Intel's new 45 nanometer Quad-Core Xeon processors running up to 3.2 GHz, powerful new graphics, and up to 4 TB of internal storage to offer the ideal system for creative professionals, 3D digital content creators, and scientists. The standard 8-core configuration starts at just $2,799.

"The new Mac Pro is the fastest Mac we've ever made," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. "With 3.2 GHz 8-core Xeon processing, a 1600 MHz front side bus and 800 MHz memory, the new Mac Pro uses the fastest Intel Xeon architecture on the market."

Mac ProThe new Mac Pro features the latest Quad-Core Intel Xeon 5400 series processors based on state-of-the-art 45nm Intel Core microarchitecture running up to 3.2 GHz, each with 12 MB of L2 cache per processor for breakthrough performance and power efficiency. With a new high-bandwidth hardware architecture, dual-independent 1600 MHz front side buses and up to 32 GB of 800 MHz DDR2 ECC FB-DIMM memory, the new Mac Pro achieves a 61 percent increase in memory throughput**.

Every Mac Pro comes standard with the ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT graphics card with 256 MB of video memory. The Mac Pro includes a new PCI Express 2.0 graphics slot that delivers up to double the bandwidth compared to the previous generation, and supports the latest generation of graphics cards from Nvidia, such as the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT with 512 MB of video memory, or Nvidia Quadro FX 5600 with 1.5 GB of video memory and a 3-D stereo port for stereo-in-a-window applications. With support for up to four graphics cards, the new Mac Pro can drive up to eight 30-inch displays at once for advanced visualization and large display walls.

The Mac Pro is the most expandable Mac ever, featuring four internal hard drive bays with direct-attach, cable-free installation of four 1 TB Serial ATA hard drives, totaling 4 TB of internal storage and support for two SuperDrives. With optional 15000 rpm SAS drives that can deliver up to 250 MB/s of RAID 5 disk I/O performance, the Mac Pro is ideal for film and video editors. Combined with SATA or SAS drives, using an optional Mac Pro RAID card offers the ultimate data protection and disk I/O performance on the Mac Pro. The Mac Pro is easily and conveniently accessible in front and back so users can connect external devices with five USB 2.0, two FireWire 400, two FireWire 800, optical and analog audio in and out, dual Gigabit Ethernet ports and a headphone jack.

Every Mac Pro includes Leopard, the sixth major release of the world's most advanced operating system. Leopard is packed with more than 300 new features and introduces a brand new desktop with Stacks, a new way to easily access files from the Dock; a redesigned Finder that lets users quickly browse and share files between multiple Macs; Quick Look, a new way to instantly see files without opening an application; Spaces, an intuitive new feature used to create groups of applications and instantly switch between them; and Time Machine, an effortless way to automatically back up everything on a Mac. Featuring an improved scheduler and other multicore technology, Leopard is a perfect companion to the Mac Pro, making applications faster and helping application developers take advantage of multicore systems.

The new ultra-thin aluminum Apple Keyboard now ships with every Mac Pro and built-in Bluetooth 2.0 makes it easy to reduce cable clutter with the optional Apple Wireless Keyboard and Apple Wireless Mouse.

Pricing & Availability

The new Mac Pro is shipping today and will be available through the Apple Store (www.apple.com), Apple's retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers.

The standard 8-core Mac Pro, with a suggested retail price of $2,799 (US), includes:

  • two 2.8 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon processors with dual-independent 1600 MHz front side buses;
  • 2 GB of 800 MHz DDR2 ECC fully-buffered DIMM memory, expandable up to 32 GB;
  • ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT with 256 MB of GDDR3 memory;
  • 320 GB Serial ATA 3Gb/s hard drive running at 7200 rpm;
  • 16x SuperDrive with double-layer support (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW);
  • two PCI Express 2.0 slots and two PCI Express slots;
  • Bluetooth 2.0+EDR; and
  • ships with Apple Keyboard and Mighty Mouse.

In addition to the standard configuration, the Mac Pro offers numerous build-to-order options including: one 2.8 GHz, two 3.0 GHz, or two 3.2 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon processors; up to 32 GB of 800 MHz DDR2 fully-buffered ECC memory; up to four 1 TB Serial ATA hard drives running at 7200 rpm or up to four 300 GB SAS drives running at 15000 rpm; Mac Pro RAID card; up to two 16x SuperDrives with double-layer support; Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT or Nvidia Quadro FX 5600 graphics cards; AirPort Extreme 802.11n; Apple USB Modem; Apple wireless Aluminum Keyboard; Apple wireless Mighty Mouse; and Mac OS X Server Leopard. Complete build-to-order options and pricing are available at www.apple.com/macpro .

*Based on estimated results comparing a preproduction 2.8 GHz 8-core Mac Pro with a 2.66 GHz Quad-Core Mac Pro running professional applications like Maya, modo and Logic Pro.

**Testing conducted by Apple in December 2007 using a preproduction 2.8 GHz 8-core Mac Pro with a 2.66 GHz quad-core Mac Pro. All systems were configured with 4 GB of RAM. Results are based on the STREAM v. 5.6 benchmark ( www.cs.virginia.edu/stream/ref.html ) using OMP support for multiprocessor-compiled builds. All systems were configured with 8 GB of RAM. Performance tests are conducted using specific computer systems and reflect the approximate performance of Mac Pro.

About New Graphic Cards Available with the New Mac Pro

Hardmac's Lionel reports:

"Most of our readers did not follow the recent released in the GPU world. So we decided to bring some information about the 3 new graphic cards available with the new Mac Pro:

  • The Radeon HD 2600 XT....
  • The GeForce 8800 GT....
  • The Quadro FX 5600...."

New Mac Pro, Same Old Design

BusinessWeek's Arik Hesseldahl says:

"Perhaps hinting that it has more products in its pipeline that can comfortably fit into a single Steve Jobs keynote - now a week away - Apple bowed an updated version of its Mac Pro desktop machine, this one bearing two Intel Quad Core Xeon Processors, making eight cores standard. It's a powerful machine to be sure, and is aimed mostly at Apple's creative pro user segment who really needs that power for multimedia production."

8-core Xserve Puts Apple Back in the Majors

InfoWorld's Tom Yager says:

"Apple rarely lets any product sit still for long, so when something in Apple's lineup goes untouched for a while, it prompts speculation about Apple's commitment to it. Consider Xserve. I do, and sometimes I feel like I'm the only one who does. Apple's Xserve went Intel with the rest of the Mac line, but instead of keeping pace with x86 rack server competitors and keeping up with Intel's latest silicon like its Mac client kin, Xserve hung back. It's been a two socket, four-core server in an eight-core world. Ever since the Intel transition, Apple's been quiet on the marketing front for Xserve, too. It looked like Apple might have relegated its server to the back burner, but that didn't jibe with the proud noise that Apple has made over OS X Server Leopard, its first true UNIX server OS. A shiny new OS on server hardware that had lost pace with the market? Perhaps Apple was quietly thinking what I've been quietly advising curious buyers to do: Use Mac Pro as a server instead. An eight-core Mac Pro makes a nice home for OS X Leopard Server."

Inside Intel's 'Harpertown' Processor

ZD Net's Jason D. O'Grady says:

"Apple yesterday announced significant updates to their Mac Pro and Xserve lines featuring Intel's 'Harpertown' processor - but what's in a name?

"Intel's quad-core Xeon 5400-series 'Harpertown' processors run at up to 3.2 GHz and are based on the new 45-nm Intel Core microarchitecture. The new chips are known for high performance and energy efficiency."

Running the Classic Mac OS on Intel Macs

MacOS User's Andrew Youll reports:

"When Steve Jobs announced Apples transition to Intel's X86 processor line, a huge stir occurred among some Mac OS X users who depend on 'Classic' the OS 9 environment in Mac OS X for their day to day Mac usage, as Mac OS X on Intel means no more 'Classic' and they were right.

"Rosetta allows PowerPC applications to run on X86 through JIT (Just In Time) architecture emulation, but its translation is not on a low enough level within OS X to allow 'Classic' to work on X86 and as such those among us who use OS 9 applications have been left out in the cold.

"Until now that is; a project called 'Sheep Shaver' was created to allow BeOS on PowerPC emulate the PowerPC architecture to run another PowerPC Operating System on top of BeOS, this application was ported to Mac OS X with the demise of Be Inc. and has since been ported to Mac OS X on Intel processors."

Dishwashers Are Great for Cleaning Keyboards

Cult of Mac's Leander Kahney says:

"Last month, after a couple of eggnogs at the office, I drenched my keyboard in a cup of coffee. Kind readers suggested running it through the dishwasher. Of course, putting keyboards in dishwashers is the kind of thing you read on the internet all the time, but never believe it actually works.

"So, skeptical that it would work, I tried it myself. I'm happy to report that running a filthy, coffee-stained keyboard through the dishwasher works great. The keyboard is spotless, and it works perfectly."

Mac Enjoys 27% Market Share Among Tech Reporters

Fortune's Philip Elmer-DeWitt says:

"With 1.83 million square feet of floor space to cover, it's not easy to gather in one place the 600 media representatives who have flocked to Las Vegas for the orgy of marketing excess that is the 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show. But in the press lounge on Sunday, Valleywag's Jordon Golson found 129 reporters and bloggers (they wear different badges this year), and he used the opportunity to take a survey of what machines they were using."

Apple's OLED Keyboard Patent: Optimus Maximus, Watch Out!

Ars Technica's Justin Berka reports:

Optimus Maximus keyboard"Art Lebedev's Optimus keyboard (now the Optimus Maximus) has been around in various incarnations for a few years now, with the full-size version having been released on March 15 of last year (2007, in case you're still getting used to the 2008 thing). But just two days before its official (re-) release, Apple filed a patent application for a dynamically controlled keyboard, the contents of which were published yesterday."

Why Does AppleCare Cost More in Canada?

The Consumerist says:

"We all know that Canadians have to pay more for books, but why do they have to pay more for AppleCare?"

"Since we're not Canadian, we don't actually know why Apple charges more. Perhaps it's because Canada is an entirely different country with completely different laws than the United States and that subtle distinction affects the price of goods and services."

Editor's note: You can't rule out the fluctuating exchange rate. Five years ago, $1 Canadian was worth 65¢ US; four years ago, 77¢; three years ago, 82¢; two years ago, 87¢; one year ago 85¢; and six months ago, 95¢. The Canadian dollar peaked at $1.07 US two months ago and is currently near par. dk

Apple Updates

Mac Pro & Mac mini Fast Start: The New User's Guide to the Mac

An updated Apple Knowledge Base article says:

"Got a new Mac Pro or Mac mini? This handy Fast Start guide will help you set up your computer and get you on your way to working and playing in no time."

Products

IceRage Launches Two Magnificent Mice

PR: IceRage debuts its line of fashion mobile input devices with two mice options for the style-conscious user.

After heralding in the age of Fashioneering, IceRage will premiere its chic line of fashionable peripherals at CES starting with the Pocket Mouse and the Ultimate Pocket Mouse. Come by their booth at the Korean Pavilion, Sands Convention Center, booth number 70954 at CES Las Vegas 2008 for a demonstration.

The Pocket MouseThe Pocket Mouse

Designer mouse available in either USB wired or Bluetooth enabled.

MSRP $59.99 (USB), $69.99 (Bluetooth)

The Pocket Mouse is best used with notebooks. Its ideal use is in small places; college lecture halls, school classrooms, corporate offices and in the board room. Take your fashion statement everywhere.

Features & Benefits

  • Sleek, stylish design allows you to personalize your tech wardrobe.
  • Instant Plug and Play for quick productivity
  • Ultra-Sensitivity Touch Pad for increased control and usability
  • Ambidextrous Design for optimized comfort and hand orientation
  • Enhanced Scrolling Capability for precision navigation
  • USB Cable for streamline connectivity
  • 800 dpi Tracking Resolution
  • Auto retractor eliminates cable clutter
  • Cable Storage houses wires for easy storage
  • PC compatibility: Vista, Windows XP Home/Professional, Windows 2000, Windows Me, Windows 98
  • Mac compatibility: Mac OS X
  • Dimensions: 3.5"(l) x 1.375"(w) x .375"(d)

Available colors: blue, pink, green, silver, white, black

The Ultimate Pocket MouseThe Ultimate Pocket Mouse

A desktop and hand mouse, laser pointer, and media controller, with a built-in cursor control and alpha numeric key pad for imbedding letters and numbers on the fly. MSRP $109.99

The Ultimate Mouse is best used as a regular mouse with superb accuracy, use in the classroom, corporate meetings, for presentations, and for controlling your notebook from a distance.

Make your point with the laser beam and imbed text on the fly.

Features & Benefits

  • Magneto-optical Functionality for maintenance-free optimized tracking
  • Bluetooth 2.0 with Pocket Adapter for enhanced speed, security, and reliability
  • 60' Range Remote Control for ultimate mobility and flexible presenting
  • Fully Functional Integrated Mouse for presenting, navigating, and inputting
  • Streamline Compact Feature-weight Design for enhanced portability
  • LED Display Lighting for use in dark spaces
  • Class II Laser Pointer protects human eyes and precision pointing
  • Mini USB Charger for enhanced productivity on the go
  • Mac compatibility: Mac OS X
  • PC compatibility: Vista, Windows XP Home/Professional, Windows 2000, Windows Me, Windows 98
  • Dimensions: 3.375"(l) x 1.625"(w) x .5"(d)

Available colors: white, black, silver

"IceRage is a part manufacturer, part design house. We recognize that the devices used to connect to our digital universe have become elements of our wardrobe. Using the highest quality materials and sleek sexy designs in a vivid array of colors, IceRage has ushered in the Fashioneering era with state-of-the-art products designed to meet the market need for fashionable technology accessories," says Joseph Alberici, President, Virtuu USA, LLC.

The Pocket Mouse and Ultimate Pocket Mouse will be widely available at all major retail and online resellers in January 2008.

The Pocket Mouse-MSRP $59.99 for the USB version and $69.99 for the Bluetooth. The Ultimate Mouse-MSRP $109.99. Each product will come with an introductory retail promotion.

The Pocket Mouse and The Ultimate Pocket Mouse are both backed by a one-year warranty from Virtuu USA LLC.

OWC Announces Memory Upgrades for Latest Mac Pro

PR: Other World Computing has announced availability of OWC Memory Upgrade Kits for the latest Mac Pro 8-Core Xeon models (new Mac Pro models announced Tuesday). Priced as low as $48.75 per GB, OWC is offering upgrades at a savings of well over 70% as compared to factory-installed and other competitors. The OWC (FB-DIMM) 800 MHz DDR2 72-Bit ECC fully-buffered Memory Upgrade Modules are available in matched sets of 1.0 GB, 2.0 GB, and 4.0 GB modules for up to 32.0 GB of total memory (see full pricing info below).

OWC has been providing memory to upgrade Apple computers for nearly 20 years. In August of 2006, OWC was the first to provide true Apple-Qualified memory for the first Apple Mac Pro Quad Xeon computers at independent prices and now without delay, has the new 800 MHz memory available for these most recent Apple Mac Pro 8-Core Xeon models. OWC Memory Upgrade Kits provide premium quality, fully-tested modules that completely meet and/or exceed all Apple specifications. Utilizing superior components, including true Apple-Qualified heat spreaders, the modules provide a lifetime of high-performance, reliable operation backed by OWC's Lifetime Advance Replacement Warranty.

Cash Back Trade-in Rebate

A cash-back rebate of up to $55 per set is also available from OWC for the trade-in of Apple factory memory. Available for immediate order, the OWC Memory Upgrade Kits consist of matched pairs of FB-DIMM modules manufactured to Apple's stringent Mac Pro specifications, far exceeding JEDEC (the leading developer of solid-state industry standards) specifications.

For additional information on OWC's Mac Pro 8-Way Quad Xeon Memory Modules, see: https://eshop.macsales.com/shop/memory/Mac-Pro-Memory or call toll free (800) 275-4576.

OWC Memory Module New Pricing:

  • 2.0 GB Matched Sets (1.0 GB Module x 2) for as low as $60.00/GB
  • 4.0 GB Matched Sets (2.0 GB Module x 2) for as low as $48.75/GB
  • 8.0 GB Matched Sets (4.0 GB Module x 2) for as low as $85.94/GB

OWC also offers a full line of memory for upgrading nearly every Apple model made from the last twenty years, including MacBook, MacBook Pro, iMac, PowerMac, and PowerBook computers.

The full OWC Memory line, as well as a compatibility guide which directs customers to the correct upgrades for each specific Apple model, can be found online.

Verbatim's New 2.5" SmartDisk Portable Hard Drives Debut at CES

PR: Leveraging the resources gained with the purchase of SmartDisk Corporation's external hard drive (HD) assets in July 2007, Verbatim Americas, LLC launched today a whole new line of SmartDisk 2.5" Portable Hard Drives (HDs). With the new elegantly designed HDs, consumers and businesses can immediately add 120, 160, 250, or 320 GB of removable capacity without having to open their computer. The palm-sized external drives will be available for both Windows and Mac users later this month with retail prices starting at $99.

Verbatim SmartDiskThe need for a fast, easy way to store, backup, share and transport data and multimedia files is fueling explosive growth in the worldwide removable storage industry. A growing number of consumers are using external hard drives to gain the additional storage they need for their photo, music and video files. Office workers are using the compact drives to transport work to their home systems and branch offices. As a result, IDC predicts more than 6 million external hard drives will be shipped in 2008, up 58 percent from the 3.8 million units shipped in 2006.

"Part of Verbatim's corporate strategy is to capitalize on this trend with an expanded line of external HD products that meet the diverse storage needs of consumers and businesses around the globe," said Charles Klinker, Verbatim Director of Marketing for SmartDisk products. "SmartDisk's advanced technologies are ideal complements to the inherent reliability, optimized performance and competitive pricing that resellers and consumers have come to expect from Verbatim brand products."

Verbatim has enhanced the versatility of its 2.5" SmartDisk HDs by offering them with choice of a USB interface or a Combo USB/FireWire interface. With the Combo USB/FireWire interface, the device also becomes interoperable and files can be transferred between a Mac and a PC. The bus-powered, 5400 RPM drives deliver transfer speeds of up to 480 MB per second (MB/sec.) when connected with USB 2.0 and up to 400 MB/sec. for FireWire connections without requiring an AC power adapter.

Once the SmartDisk portable HD is connected to a computer, it can be accessed and used like a computer hard drive. Users can drag files to the portable HD's icon to copy them, navigate to their HD in Open or Save dialog boxes, or delete files stored on the HD.

Verbatim 2.5" SmartDisk Portable HDs support the "Time Machine" backup feature in Mac OS X Leopard. Included in the USB-only models is CMS' award-winning BounceBack Express backup software, an easy-to-use backup utility that incorporates scheduling, backup sets, automatic launch options and a quick restore feature.

Verbatim 120, 160, 250 and 320 GB 2.5" SmartDisk Portable HDs will be available in January 2008 through retailers as well as leading etailers with suggested retail pricing beginning at $99 for the 120 GB USB version.

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