Mac Pro Six-Core/3.5GHz (late 2013) review

The Mac Pro is a stunning device. A workstation Mac that is also compact and good-looking. The Mac Pro can take on the most compute-hungry tasks, such as video editing and 3D rendering, but it will look pretty good doing it too. And it's not going to take up much space. In this Mac Pro review we tested the six-core Mac Pro.

You'll see that as well as being compact and attractive the Mac Pro offers impressive multi-core performance with dual workstation-class GPUs. It is packed with fast internal storage and has plenty of external-expansion options. It runs quiet and keeps cool, too. It's not cheap and we'd like to see more internal expansion options. But we are pretty smitten with the Mac Pro.

We've reviewed the Mac Pro before, testing the eight-core model with Intel Xeon E5-1680 v2 running at 3.0 GHz, and maxed out with 64 GB of memory. You can also read our entry-level Mac Pro Quad-Core/3.6GHz review. In this article we're testing and reviewing the Mac Pro Six-Core/3.5GHz model. It retails for £3,299 inc VAT. Wondering when the new Mac Pro will launch? Read our New Mac Pro 2015 release date rumours

Read our Mac Pro reviews:

Mac Pro Six-Core/3.5GHz (late 2013) review: build and design

Mac ProWith the Mac Pro you come for the looks, and stay for the performance. The Mac Pro Quad-Core is just 251 mm tall - lean your iPad against it and it will all but cover up the Mac. Just 167 mm round the Mac Pro is like big tin of soup or a small bin. And it looks great.

The design has a purpose, too. Inside the Mac Pro's reflective shell is a central cooling core consisting of a finned triangular-section heatsink, with three facets that run the height of the casework. Two of these are taken up by high-power AMD FirePower professional graphics cards, the third main logic board with CPU completes the third side. There's only one cooling fan - a large turbine-like finned rotor that sits at the top of the chassis drawing in air through a series of vents running the circumference of the base.

That styish cylindrical design aids the flow of air, and thanks to the large size of that single fan, it can move plenty of air while still rotating slowly. This means it is quiet an efficient. Cool air passes up the central heatsinked assembly and warm air drifts out through the chimney-like aperture at top, and noise levels are impercetibly low. You just can't hear it. (See also: a history of Pro Macs.)

Not sure which Mac to buy? Read our Best Mac buyers guide

Mac Pro Six-Core/3.5GHz (late 2013) review: specification explained

Our six-core Mac Pro sports an Intel Xeon E5 processor, aka Ivy Bridge Extreme. It's the workstation-class version of Intel's Ivy Bridge family, in this case clocked at 3.5 GHz. It's a 22nm chip that supports Hyper-Threading, and in this case it is paired with 16GB of fast 1,867MHz RAM. This is fault-tolerate error checking and correcting (ECC) memory we'd expect of a professional workstation. There are two AMD FirePro D300 graphics cards. All of these options can be upgraded.

Even the entry-level Mac Pro has only solid-state flash for storage. And not just any SSD. The 256GB of flash storage here throws out the data-throttling SATA controller and puts fast flash chips more directly in touch with the PCIe bus.

In terms of connectivity this Mac Pro has three Intel Thunderbolt controllers, providing six Thunderbolt 2 ports, and one HDMI 1.4 video port. There are four USB 3.0 I/Os, while built-in audio connectivity comes in the form of two 3.5mm mini-jacks – one a combined stereo analogue line-out with Toslink digital audio output; the other a headset jack for earphones and a mic.

Helping keep down the cable count are the two latest wireless data standards: 802.11ac Wi-Fi with a three-antenna array for best throughput, and Bluetooth 4.0 with its low-power capability for new and upcoming LE peripherals. (See also: new Mac Pro - insanely cool or too cool?)

Mac Pro Six-Core/3.5GHz (late 2013) review: specs

Mac ProProcessor type: Intel Xeon E 3.5GHz 6-core with 12MB of L3 cache; Dual AMD FirePro workstation-class GPUs; Solid-State Drive; HDMI; Line Out 1/8; Thunderbolt 2.0; USB 3.0; Ethernet Type: 10/100/1000 Mbps; 802.11a/ac/b/g/n; Bluetooth; DDR3, 1866.0 MHz

Mac Pro Six-Core/3.5GHz (late 2013) benchmarks

Our colleagues over at Macworld.com have been rigorously benchmarking the six core Mac Pro. You can read the full Mac Pro review here. We've quoted from it extensively below:

Mac Pro Speedmark 9 scores

  • Mac Pro 6-core/3.5GHz (Late 2013)323
  • Mac Pro 8-core/3.0GHz CTO (Late 2013)350
  • Mac Pro 12-core/2.4GHz (Mid 2012)196
  • 27" iMac quad-core/3.5GHz CTO (Late 2013)326

Higher results are better. Reference models in italics.—Macworld Lab testing by James Galbraith and Albert Filice

'In terms of overall performance, the 6-core Mac Pro was an impressive 65 percent faster that the previous high-end stock Mac Pro, the 2012 12-core Mac Pro with two 6-core Intel Xeon processors running at 2.4GHz. The new Mac Pro was faster in every test except the Cinebench CPU test, which was 10 percent faster on the 12-core system. Our file copy test was more than 4 times as fast on the new Mac Pro’s PCI-connected flash storage than on the 12-core system’s 7200 rpm drives.

'PCMark Office tests were twice as fast on the new stock Mac Pro and graphics tests showed the dual AMD FirePro D500 GPUs in the new Mac Pro pushing twice as many frames per second in the Heaven graphics benchmark at 1280 by 720 resolutions than the 12-core Mac Pro with its Radeon HD 5770 graphics. Cranking the resolution to 2560 by 1600, the new Mac Pro was able to display 10 times as many frames per second as the 2012 Mac Pro.

'As one would expect, the stock 6-core Mac Pro couldn’t quite keep up with the new custom 8-core Mac Pro, which was 8 percent faster overall than the stock 6-core Mac Pro. MathematicaMark was 41 percent faster on the CTO Mac Pro. Many tests showed less than 5 percent difference between the systems, including Photoshop, iTunes, Aperture, File copy, file Zip and Unzip, and PCMark Office suite running on a Parallels virtual machine.

'CPU tests showed the custom Mac Pro’s 8-core advantage, posting an 18 percent higher Cinebench CPU score, 17 percent faster Final Cut Pro render result, and a 41 percent higher MathematicaMark score. The custom Mac Pro’s D700 graphics helped the CTO Mac Pro post frame rates 22 to 29 percent higher in the Heaven and Valley benchmarks at higher resolutions.

'As we’ve seen before, the Mac Pro is not for everyone. In many tasks, a consumer-oriented system like the iMac might perform better. The new 6-core Mac Pro had an overall Speedmark 9 score almost identical to a $2699 CTO 27-inch iMac that was our Speedmark 9 champ before testing the new CTO Mac Pro. But while the scores averaged out to be similar overall, individual results show some major differences. The iMac was faster at iTunes, zipping and unzipping files, PCMark Office suite tests and even 3D game tests. The Mac Pro was much faster at at Phoshop, especially the OpenCL action script, Final Cut Pro import and render tests, as well as MathematicaMark and Cinebench CPU tests.'

Mac Pro Finder tests

Mac model Copy Zip Unzip
Mac Pro 6-core/3.5GHz (Late 2013) 24.4 314.2 39.3
Mac Pro 8-core/3.0GHz CTO (Late 2013) 23.5 324.8 39.1
Mac Pro 12-core/2.4GHz (Mid 2012) 113.2 396.4 96.5
27" iMac quad-core/3.5GHz CTO (Late 2013) 40.9 241.3 33.6

Results are times in seconds. Lower results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

Mac Pro Final Cut Pro X import

Mac model Results (seconds)
Mac Pro 6-core/3.5GHz (Late 2013) 17.9
Mac Pro 8-core/3.0GHz CTO (Late 2013) 15.8
Mac Pro 12-core/2.4GHz (Mid 2012) 100.7
27" iMac quad-core/3.5GHz CTO (Late 2013) 45.6

Lower results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

Mac Pro Final Cut Pro X render

Mac model Results (seconds)
Mac Pro 6-core/3.5GHz (Late 2013) 46.90
Mac Pro 8-core/3.0GHz CTO (Late 2013) 39.1
Mac Pro 12-core/2.4GHz (Mid 2012) 154.4
27" iMac quad-core/3.5GHz CTO (Late 2013) 68.9

Lower results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

Mac Pro iMovie 10.0.1 enhance/export

Mac model Results (seconds)
Mac Pro 6-core/3.5GHz (Late 2013) 186.3
Mac Pro 8-core/3.0GHz CTO (Late 2013) 170.0
Mac Pro 12-core/2.4GHz (Mid 2012) 225.0
27" iMac quad-core/3.5GHz CTO (Late 2013) 47.3

Lower results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

Mac Pro iPhoto 9.5.1 import

Mac model Results (seconds)
Mac Pro 6-core/3.5GHz (Late 2013) 49.3
Mac Pro 8-core/3.0GHz CTO (Late 2013) 43.0
Mac Pro 12-core/2.4GHz (Mid 2012) 80.0
27" iMac quad-core/3.5GHz CTO (Late 2013) 70.3

Lower results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

Mac Pro iTunes 11.1 AAC to MP3 encode

Mac model Results (seconds)
Mac Pro 6-core/3.5GHz (Late 2013) 59.3
Mac Pro 8-core/3.0GHz CTO (Late 2013) 60.3
Mac Pro 12-core/2.4GHz (Mid 2012) 96.0
27" iMac quad-core/3.5GHz CTO (Late 2013) 56.0

Lower results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

Mac Pro HandBrake 0.9.5 encode

Mac model Results (seconds)
Mac Pro 6-core/3.5GHz (Late 2013) 69.3
Mac Pro 8-core/3.0GHz CTO (Late 2013) 63.7
Mac Pro 12-core/2.4GHz (Mid 2012) 105.7
27" iMac quad-core/3.5GHz CTO (Late 2013) 82.7

Lower results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

Mac Pro Photoshop CC action script

Mac model Results (seconds)
Mac Pro 6-core/3.5GHz (Late 2013) 84.7
Mac Pro 8-core/3.0GHz CTO (Late 2013) 81.3
Mac Pro 12-core/2.4GHz (Mid 2012) 117.3
27" iMac quad-core/3.5GHz CTO (Late 2013) 94.0

Lower results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

Mac Pro Photoshop CC OpenCL

Mac model Results (seconds)
Mac Pro 6-core/3.5GHz (Late 2013) 160
Mac Pro 8-core/3.0GHz CTO (Late 2013) 162
Mac Pro 12-core/2.4GHz (Mid 2012) 258
27" iMac quad-core/3.5GHz CTO (Late 2013) 233

Lower results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

Mac Pro Aperture 3.5.1 import/process

Mac model Results (seconds)
Mac Pro 6-core/3.5GHz (Late 2013) 72.0
Mac Pro 8-core/3.0GHz CTO (Late 2013) 72.0
Mac Pro 12-core/2.4GHz (Mid 2012) 127.0
27" iMac quad-core/3.5GHz CTO (Late 2013) 70.7

Lower results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

Mac Pro Cinebench R15 CPU

Mac model Results (seconds)
Mac Pro 6-core/3.5GHz (Late 2013) 45.3
Mac Pro 8-core/3.0GHz CTO (Late 2013) 37.0
Mac Pro 12-core/2.4GHz (Mid 2012) 41.3
27" iMac quad-core/3.5GHz CTO (Late 2013) 61.0

Lower results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

Mac Pro MathematicaMark 9

Mac model Results (scores)
Mac Pro 6-core/3.5GHz (Late 2013) 5.8
Mac Pro 8-core/3.0GHz CTO (Late 2013) 8.1
Mac Pro 12-core/2.4GHz (Mid 2012) 5.7
27" iMac quad-core/3.5GHz CTO (Late 2013) 3.7

Higher results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

Mac Pro Parallels 9-PCMark 8 Office

Mac model Results (scores)
Mac Pro 6-core/3.5GHz (Late 2013) 3408.0
Mac Pro 8-core/3.0GHz CTO (Late 2013) 3338.0
Mac Pro 12-core/2.4GHz (Mid 2012) 1768.7
27" iMac quad-core/3.5GHz CTO (Late 2013) 3511.7

Higher results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

Mac Pro Unigine Heaven and Valley 1280-by-720

Mac model Heaven 1280-by-720 Valley 1280-by-720
Mac Pro 6-core/3.5GHz (Late 2013) 86.8 72.9
Mac Pro 8-core/3.0GHz CTO (Late 2013) 103.7 80.3
Mac Pro 12-core/2.4GHz (Mid 2012) 43.4 42.2
27" iMac quad-core/3.5GHz CTO (Late 2013) 90.5 80.8

Results are frames per second. Higher results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

Mac Pro Unigine Heaven and Valley 1920-by-1080

Mac model Heaven 1920-by-1080 Valley 1920-by-1080
Mac Pro 6-core/3.5GHz (Late 2013) 25.9 25.6
Mac Pro 8-core/3.0GHz CTO (Late 2013) 31.5 31.7
Mac Pro 12-core/2.4GHz (Mid 2012) 10.4 13.2
27\" iMac quad-core/3.5GHz CTO (Late 2013) 24.6 27.0

Results are frames per second. Higher results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

Mac Pro Unigine Heaven and Valley 2560-by-1600

Mac model Heaven 2560-by-1600 Valley 2560-by-1600
Mac Pro 6-core/3.5GHz (Late 2013) 11.47 14.12
Mac Pro 8-core/3.0GHz CTO (Late 2013) 14.42 18.21
Mac Pro 12-core/2.4GHz (Mid 2012) 1.15 1.25

Results are frames per second. Higher results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

Mac Pro Cinebench R15 OpenGL

Mac model Results (fps)
Mac Pro 6-core/3.5GHz (Late 2013) 79.6
Mac Pro 8-core/3.0GHz CTO (Late 2013) 87.4
Mac Pro 12-core/2.4GHz (Mid 2012) 53.5
27" iMac quad-core/3.5GHz CTO (Late 2013) 90.2

Results are frames per second. Higher results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

Read: Mac Pro versus iMac

OUR VERDICT

The new Mac Pro redefines Apple's highest-end system. Lacking the internal expansion that once drew advanced hobbyists to the line, the new Mac Pro is truly a workstation-class computer designed to shave minutes and hours off projects that video, audio and programming pros run day-in and day-out.

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