As Mac Pro stagnates, PC workstations muscle ahead

arstechnica by Aurich Lawson

Like many Mac-based creative professionals, I followed this year's WWDC keynote anxiously, awaiting the "one more thing" that never came: an E5 Xeon refresh of the Mac Pro line. Its absence was brutally disappointing; thankfully, Tim Cook broke his vow of secrecy to reassure us that a new Mac Pro will arrive in 2013. But for filmmakers compressing hours of 4K footage or school labs in need of new Maya machines, that’s a long time to wait—perhaps too long. Since I was also in the market for a machine to help out with my V-Ray renders, I decided that the time had come to evaluate my alternatives. The current Westmere-based Mac Pro line is definitely out of sync with what’s available elsewhere, and it is no longer competitive from a price-to-power standpoint.

I have heard it said that Dell, HP, and Apple split the workstation market pretty much three ways; whether or not this is true, it did seem worth taking a look at how the other big boys’ hot-rods rolled. The HP Z820 and Dell Precision T5600 are both monstrous dual-socket Intel E5-2665 Xeons clocked at 2.4GHz and, if I had to guess, I’d say that they are much like what would have replaced the dual Westmere Xeon 2.66GHz Mac Pro that I reviewed in 2010.

Of course, you can still build your own workstation, but I’m writing this for an audience who needs top-tier support and doesn’t want to chase six different companies when something goes wrong. I have my own overclocked 3930K gaming rig dual-booting Linux and Windows, but as I’ve pointed out countless times in the comments section of my Mac Pro reviews, a workstation needs to do one thing: keep working. Vendor support remains key to making this happen.

That’s where the Mac Pro, Dell T5600, and HP Z820 come in. We'll start our cage match with the HP Z820... since it was the first machine to arrive for testing. read more...

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