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Apple guns Xserve and Mac Pro to 11

Er, make that 8

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Screw all the namby-pamby gadgets being dished out by weaklings at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Big Iron - not gizmos - is where it's at, as far as Apple is concerned.

Apple has popped fresh four-core chips from Intel into a new Xserve and new Mac Pro. The eight core, dual processor machines may not count as Big Iron at, say, SGI or Sun Microsystems, but they do at Steve's house.

The revamped 1U Xserve should show double the performance of its predecessor, according to Apple, which used the SPEC jbb 2005 benchmark for internal testing. The system ships with up to two 3.0GHz quad-core Xeon 5400 series chips from Intel that include 12MB of L2 cache per chip and 1600MHz front side buses. In addition, customers will see two PCI Express 2.0 expansion slots to provide up to four times the I/O bandwidth over previous Xserve models, support for 3TB of internal storage (73GB or 300GB SAS drives or 80GB and 1TB SATA drives) and support for 4Gb Fibre Channel and 10Gb Ethernet cards.

Apple is also patting itself on the back for shipping the Xserve with an unlimited client edition of the Leopard Server operating system.

A standard configuration of the Xserve starts at $2,999, but that's with a single 2.8GHz Xeon.

Tower of Power

The eight cores of Intel goodness have made their way to Apple's desktop line as well with the arrival of the "fastest Mac (Apple) has ever made."

The new Mac Pro runs on a pair of 3.2GHz Xeon 5400 series chips with up to 12MB of L2 cache and that same 1600MHz front side bus. Once again, Apple claims a performance doubling over the previous Mac Pro models.

The system also ships standard with the ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT graphics card (256MB of memory) and has a new PCI Express 2.0 graphics slot that brings twice the bandwidth over previous gear. Customers can pop the latest and greatest Nvidia graphics card into that slot.

"The Mac Pro is the most expandable Mac ever, featuring four internal hard drive bays with direct-attach, cable-free installation of four 1TB Serial ATA hard drives, totaling 4TB of internal storage and support for two SuperDrives," Apple said. "With optional 15000 rpm SAS drives that can deliver up to 250MB/s of RAID 5 disk I/O performance, the Mac Pro is ideal for film and video editors. Combined with SATA or SAS drives, using an optional Mac Pro RAID card offers the ultimate data protection and disk I/O performance on the Mac Pro."

The fresh Mac Pro runs Leopard as well and starts at $2,799 with a pair of 2.8GHz Xeons.

It should be noted that the price for the Mac Pro escalates quickly as you add 800MHz FB-DIMMs. Apple is shipping 2GB standard and then adding $500 for 4GB, right on up to $9,100 extra for 32GB. Even by vendor mark-up standards, that's quite a hike for Apple to do the memory labor. As we say in the office, Apple uses the same price scale for add-ons that airports use for food and booze.

We sent out a carrier pigeon to retrieve a statement from Apple about its excessive component prices but have yet to receive a "no comment" from the company's driven PR department.

Anyhow, you can configure the hell out of a Mac Pro here

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