Apple Takes Orders for Pricey Mac Pros

Apple today began taking orders for its most expensive computer, the Mac Pro, but won't ship the tower-style desktop to customers for at least a week and a half.

The company announced the impending refresh of the Mac Pro line last month when it revamped the more popular iMac . At the time, Apple said the new Mac Pros would debut in August.

Apple priced the three standard configurations at $2,499, $3,499 and $4,999 for machines with a single quad-core, two quad-core, or two six-core Intel processors, respectively.

The lowest-priced Mac Pro is powered by a 2.8GHz quad-core Intel Xeon processor built on the older "Nehalem" architecture -- the same architecture used by the Core i3, i5 and i7 CPUs in the cheaper iMacs -- includes 3GB of memory and a single 1TB hard drive.

Upper-end Mac Pros are equipped with the newer "Westmere" Xeon processors in either an eight- or 12-core configuration. The mid-range Mac Pro boasts two 2.4GHz quad-core Xeons, while the top-of-the-line model runs a pair of 2.66GHz six-Core Xeon processors. The previous record for processor cores on a Mac was the eight-core Mac Pro that debuted in March 2009 for $$3,299.

The Nehalem architecture is based on a 45-nanometer (nm) manufacturing process, while the Westmere chips are 32-nm.

While the low-end $2,499 Mac Pro retained its earlier price, the mid-range model jumped $200. As compensation, the newest system features slightly-faster processors -- 2.4GHz versus 2.26GHz -- a bigger hard drive and more memory on the graphics card.

The new Mac Pros follow the lead of the just-refreshed iMacs, ditching Nvidia graphics cards for ATI-labeled discrete graphics cards from Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). Nor are there any Nvidia at-the-factory options for the current line of Mac Pros.

All three standard models come with a single ATI Radeon HD 5770 card with 1GB of video RAM, but options include two pair of those same cards or a swap for a single ATI Radeon HD 5870 card with 1GB that raises the price by $200.

Although $4,999 is the top standard-model price in the line, a slew of options -- ranging from faster processors and additional hard drives to more memory and solid-state drives (SSD) -- can quickly drive up the cost.

The most-expensive configuration of the 12-core Mac Pro, for instance, comes to $17,249 when equipped with 2.9GHz processors, 32GB of memory, two optical drives, four SSD drives totaling 2TB of storage, a pair of graphics cards, a RAID card and a quad-channel Fibre Channel card.

According to Apple 's online store, orders for the new Mac Pros will ship in 7 to 10 business days.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com .

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