Never before has it been so apparent that a power tower—pretty much the laziest design in the computer industry—is being sold by a design-centric company with neither design nor power.
And I'm not sure that the solution is just a refresh away.
The Mac Pro was once the only viable option for a OS X lover in need of serious horsepower for tasks like editing media. Now, with the new iMac? I think it's straight up stupid to buy a Mac Pro.
The $2,500 Mac Pro, desperately in need of a refresh, gives you a 2.66GHz Quad-Core Xeon (essentially an i7), 3GB of RAM (triple channel, but seriously?), 640GB hard drive (again, seriously?) and a nominal graphics card. Spend $800 more and you'll get a another processor and 3GB more RAM.
The $2200, 27-inch iMac obviously includes a screen, plus you get a 2.8GHz Quad-Core (i7), 1TB drive, 4GB of RAM and a nominal graphics card.
But beyond those clock speeds, the Mac Pro's i7 processor is the more premium Bloomfield edition, while the iMac uses the Lynnfield. (More on those differences here.)
Still, the bottom line is that the iMac's Lynnfield processor is newer, and it shows in performance.
Macworld benched the new iMacs against the latest Mac Pros. And, you know what? The i7 iMac more than held its own. It basically defeated the 4-core Mac Pro across the board.
And other than a few specific tasks in which the most expensive Mac Pro's 8 cores proved beneficial (Handbrake, Cinebench, etc), the iMac outperformed the competition or kept things close enough not to be relevant, plus it straight-up won in the eyes of Speedmark 6.
Performance-wise, the base Mac Pro makes no sense at all. The 8-core Mac Pro offers a touch more power, sometimes, and other times (in many day to day tasks) even it is outgunned.
Of course, any Mac Pro still allows multiple internal hard drives, three PCI slots, more FireWire ports (four vs one) and more room for RAM expansion (32GB vs 16GB). But once again, even in the worlds of professional media creation, that's a pretty questionable upsell, especially with external storage solutions and the fact that most high, high end media pros (like special effects artists) turn to dedicated render farms to do their heavy number crunching anyway.
With the new iMac, Apple has shrunk the Mac-Pro-needing niche even smaller. And I can't tell anyone with a straight face that a handful of expandability is worth $300-$1100 with no monitor, no matter how deep their pockets are.
Apple needs to reexamine their pricing model. Even with an inevitable processor refresh (i9, anyone?), it's time for a price drop and/or some free with purchase displays. Just because you're a pro doesn't mean you're a sucker.