MacPro OctoCore Can Be Duplicated While Saving $4,078
The Mac Pro OctoCore Is 75% More Expensive Than Its Equivalent Components
I was a Mac evangelist for many years. Throughout the full decade of 1986 to 1996 I was personally responsible for the sale of several hundred Macs while acting as impromptu consultant to associates and friends. Then, Windows 95 came out and it was "shrug" why fight it any more? I defected to the Wintel side and never looked back.
When Apple adopted Intel CPUs my attention was once again piqued. I have absolutely no qualms in stating categorically that Apple has a superior OS all-round. OS X Tiger will happily dine on any Vista you can feed it and will just pick its teeth with my beloved XP Pro. As soon as OS X Leopard comes in, the fat lady will have sung the entire Ring Cycle and anyone who would like to dispute in Microsoft's favor can go check in directly at Lindsay Lohan's rehab center.
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Therefore, we can defuse the flamewars that I'm a Windows shill. I recognize outstanding superiority when I see it, and OS X's various permutations are what Windows Seven might aspire to be, but will likely fall well short.
The logical question at this point would be, why don't you put your money where your mouth is and go back to Mother Apple? There is one tiny disconcerting problem that I have which has so far kept me from being Steve Jobs' only fat, middle-aged, male groupie: the price.
Macs have always been outlandishly priced. I remember arranging the sale of many Mac IIci models with their blazing 68030 25MHz CPUs, a huge 80 MB HD and 4 MB RAM for $9,000 at the time when that much money would buy you a brand new Volkswagen Fox, plus a Honda Rebel motorcycle, and still leave you enough money to take the family to a nice dinner.
Since I'm in the pre-shopping phase to retire my trusty AMD dual core and go with a system that Photoshop will finally find itself comfortable on, I decided to open the doors wide open to Macs as well. I'm after maximum performance so why not consider the Mac Pro Dual Quad Core? It's Intel Inside, so at least I know that I could always dual boot to the familiar milieu of XP Pro whenever I wanted!
I decided to do the pricing comparison based on components that were either currently in stock or have their prices already fixed. The Mac OctoPro uses the Intel Xeon X5365 Clovertown 3GHz, 8MB L2 cache, TDP 150W which will not generally available as an OEM/retail part to the public for three more weeks as of the time of writing. However, there are various online retailers who are taking orders with fixed pricing on this CPU, thus we can assume that I certainly wouldn't be paying any more, and if I really wanted to wait three extra weeks, likely a bit less!
So the first thing I did was march on over to www.apple.com and go to configure the Mac OctoPro exactly as I want it:
- Part Number: Z0D8
- Two 3.0GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon
- 16GB (8 x 2GB) RAM
- Two 750GB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s
- ATI Radeon X1900 XT 512MB (2 x dual-link DVI)
- One 16x SuperDrive
- Apple Keyboard and Mighty Mouse - U.S. English
- Accessory kit
- Mac OS X - U.S. English
The total came to a rather hair raising $9,543. Nearly ten grand was a little bit more than I had budgeted for (I'd say!), so it was time to let my mouse go for a little ride across the wilderness of the online retailer price lists. I was going to duplicate, as closely as feasible, this exact Mac OctoPro configuration with off the shelf pieces to see where the prices line up.
Put your poison pens away and shelve the vitriol. I am well aware that I couldn't exactly match the specs of the Mac Pro, as it uses a proprietary motherboard, and various other bits and bobs. This is not a precise to the nth degree comparison where we're going to argue about FSB speeds and FireWire throughput all day ad nauseum. I am well aware that this is comparing Apples and Oranges. I am simply configuring off the shelf components to approximate as closely as reasonably feasible the MacPro specs. So let's go on with the configuration of the Orange:
The first thing is to deal with the currently unobtainium Intel Xeon X5365 Clovertown. The announced bin pricing for this CPU is $1,179, however there are various online retailers that will take your money today and ship the CPU in three weeks. The online retailer jncs.com is one of the vendors that is pre-selling it at the firm price of $1,285, so that's the price we'll use. Yes, I could wait three weeks and do the comparison with in stock sub $1,200 X5365s, but my Attention Deficit Disorder wouldn't allow me. Oooh. Look over there! A kitten!
I'll bite the bullet and go with Intel's much hyped V8 setup which uses the S5000XVNSAS motherboard. It has some really impressive specs:
Chipset: Intel 5000X; 1,333MHz FSB; Max memory: 32GB ECC FB-DIMMs; Ports: 4 SAS/SATA, 2 SATA, 2 Gigabit Ethernet, 4 USB; Slots: 1 PCI-E x16, 2 PCI-E x4, 1 PCI-X 100/133, 1 PCI-X 100.
However, it's also quite pricy, and the best price I found was $571 at costcentral.com. Could I have saved myself some serious money by opting for the Asus DSBV-D Dual Socket 771 Intel 5000V SSI CEB 1.1 Motherboard from newegg.com at $350? Definitely. But let's go with the pricier and more capable mobo so that no one can accuse me of lowballing the Orange configuration to skew the comparison.
It's RAM time, so hold on to your wallets. The Xeons are 771 socket server CPUs so there is no way to get away from using buffered RAM. I know, I'm not crazy about ECC RAM either, but if you want to run an X5365 whether in your Apple or Orange, you're going to have to put up with it. So let's go with Kingston 2GB 240-Pin ECC Registered DDR2 667 (PC2 5300) Server Memory from newegg.com at $133.
Now let's add on the video card. The Asus EAX1900XT/HTVDP/256M Radeon X1900XT 256MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express x16 Video Card is $270 at newegg.com. Back to newegg.com we go for Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3750640AS 750GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s OEM Hard Drive at $210.
Two X5365s sucking up 150W each, plus the video and two big HDs is going to require some serious Power Supply capacity. For some reason known only to a man who has several hundred identical turtlenecks and trousers hanging in his closet, Apple seems to not want to divulge the rating of its PSUs, but I was able to dig up that the Mac Pro PSU Part Number 661-4001 is rated at 900W. There are lots of powerful PSUs on the market, but I do have to admit that I have a soft spot for Enermax as the 420W I'm currently running is sweeeeeeeeet, so let's go with the Enermax Galaxy EGX1000EWL ATX12V/ EPS12V/ BTX 1000W Power Supply which gives us an extra 100W to play with and comes from our good friends at newegg.com for $330.
You might have noticed that I rely on newegg.com a lot. It's not because I'm lazy, but due to experience. I've rarely found their prices to be more than about 1% or so above the absolute cheapest competition, and newegg.com has a great street reputation, a generous RMA allowance, and is overall a really reliable online vendor. Just go on any tech forum and ask around to see where the gurus buy and most will say newegg.com. End of commercial. Mr. New Egg, send me a check!
Let's not get crazy and price out mice, etc. Let's just allow $100 for a basic garden variety case with a 16X drive, cheapo keyboard and mouse, and let the purchaser upgrade to a Cooler Master CSX 830 CX-830DSPD-01 Blue Aluminum ATX Full Tower for $1,000 just because it has that "cool skull graphic on the front."
Since we're buying all these goodies, we can take advantage of the Microsoft Windows XP Professional With SP2B 1 OEM Pack E85-04741 at the cut rate price of $140 again from newegg.com. If you have to ask why not Vista, that may be because I refuse to load Gestapoware onto my PC.
Hal Orange OctoCore
- Part Number: HAL9000-8
- Two 3.0GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon: 2 x $1,285 = $2,570
- S5000XVNSAS Motherboard: $571
- 16GB (8 x 2GB) RAM: 8 x $133 = $1,064
- Two 750GB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s: 2 x $210 = $420
- ATI Radeon X1900 XT 512MB (2 x dual-link DVI): $270
- One 16x Drive, Keyboard, Mouse, PSU, Case: $430
- Windows XP Pro: $140
Total price? A jaw-dropping $5,465. A savings of $4,078.
Don't get me wrong, the Mac does have some nifty features, a nice looking case, and will let you run OS X, but is that worth $4,078? How many ways can you say fugeddaboutit?
Charging a premium of very close to 75% because of the name on the box is sheer unadulterated highway robbery. Let the Mac Evangelists scream and yell and turn blue about how they have the far superior system. I'll be working on the Hal Orange OctoCore, buy a new Samsung PPM63M6H 63 inch Plasma Television, and still have enough money left over for 79 bags of popcorn.
AHA you say, but the price difference is only that high on the rarefied top end models? Check out my next Hub where I compare a quad core Mac Pro to an off the shelf component build. If you thought 75% was outrageous, how about 153%?