As Mac Pro stagnates, PC workstations muscle ahead

Like many Mac-primarily based creative experts, I followed this year’s WWDC keynote anxiously, watching for the “one greater aspect” that in no way got here: an E5 Xeon refresh of the Mac pro line. Its absence changed into brutally disappointing; luckily, Tim prepare dinner broke his vow of secrecy to reassure us that a brand new Mac pro will arrive in 2013. but for filmmakers compressing hours of 4K photos or college labs in want of new Maya machines, that’s a long term to wait—possibly too lengthy. due to the fact that I was additionally inside the market for a machine to help out with my V-Ray renders, I decided that the time had come to assess my alternatives. The current Westmere-based totally Mac pro line is definitely out of sync with what’s available somewhere else, and it’s miles now not competitive from a price-to-power standpoint.

I’ve heard it stated that Dell, HP, and Apple break up the pc market quite plenty 3 ways; whether or know not that is true, it did seem worth taking a look at how the alternative large boys’ hot-rods rolled. The HP Z820 and Dell Precision T5600 are each sizeable dual-socket Intel E5-2665 Xeons clocked at 2.4GHz and, if I needed to bet, I’d say that they’re much like what would have changed the dual Westmere Xeon 2.66GHz Mac pro that I reviewed in 2010.

Of path, you can nonetheless construct your own computer, however I’m writing this for a target market who needs top-tier help and doesn’t want to chase six different corporations when something goes incorrect. I’ve my personal overclocked 3930K gaming rig dual-booting Linux and home windows, but as I’ve talked about countless times within the comments segment of my Mac pro evaluations, a notebook needs to do one factor: keep running. vendor support remains secret to meaking this happen.

That’s wherein the Mac pro, Dell T5600, and HP Z820 are available. we’re going to begin our cage match with the HP Z820… because it becomes the primary machine to arrive for testing.

evaluation of the HP Z820

specs as reviewed:

twin E5-2665/eight core/2.4GHz with 20MB cache
Intel® C602 chipset
16GB quad-channel RAM (sixteen DIMM slots general, four used on this config)
NVIDIA Quadro 4000 2GB (1 dual-link DVI, 2 DisplayPort output)
500GB – home windows 7 professional
twin-layer DVD-RW
HP keyboard and mice
on the grounds that you may get Linux for these machines in place of windows 7, I additionally examined this machine with an HP-furnished Redhat Linux boot disk. more on that later.

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fashionable Ports:

four USB 2.0 on lower back, 1 on the front
2 USB 3.0 on lower back, 2 on front
1 Firewire four hundred on returned, 1 on the front
2 Gigabit ethernets on lower back
1 VGA out
playstation /2 keyboard and mouse on returned
Stereo output on returned
Headphones out on the front
Mic input on back and front
expansion slots:

3 PCIe Gen3 x16
1 PCIe Gen3 x8
1 PCIe Gen3 x4
1 PCIe Gen2 x4
1 PCI
fee as configured: $6,840 with cut price energetic at time of assessment

HP has lots of excessive-cease merchandise, and the company is not any stranger to content creators. for instance, its 30-bit Dreamcolor monitors are fantastic, and if you bought this sort of monitors and hooked it up to a Mac pro, you’d simply be throwing away color (Apple still hasn’t added aid for 10-bits-according to-channel coloration to OS X). My Z820 and Dell T5600 evaluate devices got here with a Quadro 4000; each Nvidia and AMD restrict high-bit output to their pro line by way of their drivers, so each workstations can take advantage of those high-bit displays.

lamentably, I don’t own a 30-bit show, however the Quadro 4000 works fine with my dual NEC 2490WUXi monitors in each home windows 7 and CentOS 6.3.

The rate tag

earlier than I cover the hardware and software capabilities of the Z820, allow’s communicate about that moderate sticker shock. the first aspect that jumped out at you about the Z820 became in all likelihood know not its 32-thread CPU or giant cache—it becomes the rate tag of $6,840, sans tax. We don’t generally tend to think of Mac execs as “the reasonably-priced retail choice,” but computing device retailers like HP, Dell, and BOXX continuously are available in at a better charge than the equivalently specced Mac pro. This time around, the scenario is manifestly special, seeing that Apple doesn’t even offer a Xeon E5 device, but it’s far usual and there’s an awesome purpose for it: on-site help.

The HP Z820 and Dell T5600 both come with 3-12 months on-site warranties, at the same time as the Mac pro has one-yr widespread AppleCare (you may purchase an added year of AppleCare for $250). The distinction is massive. AppleCare via a neighborhood Apple keep or certified Apple repair outlet works well if you stay in a first-rate metropolis and might afford a few days of down time, but an on-website online warranty is like having a hotline to a dude prepared to run out in your office to repair your problem the next day. it’s supposed to ensure minimal down time in case something goes wrong, like while a power deliver fails.

This degree of service provides loads of hazard to the profitability of a machine for pc providers. if you stay in Cheesehole, Wisconsin—away from an HP- or Dell-certified repair man—they will still put their dude on an aircraft to restore your computer, for 3 years, at no extra price.

An on-website guarantee is a fashionable in business enterprise environments, and Apple says that AppleCare consists of on-web site coverage… however I’ve in no way as soon as had them ship a technician to my office in 20+ years of the usage of Macs. They continually tell you to carry the system in, or even at huge Apple shops, components aren’t stocked, so there’s at least a -day down time for repairs.

On-web site coverage is computer existence insurance, and it’s expensive. given that stage of carrier, the $6,840 price tag of the Z820 could be very reasonable; whether the added top class is really worth it remains between you and your pockets.