Q&A: Testing a Mac Pro

Q A colleague’s 2009 Mac Pro struggles to meet his performance expectations when rendering many large images, and he is interested in replacing it with a new Mac Pro. Unfortunately an Apple store would not let him run his own benchmarking tests on it, and the limited results were not as good as his existing system. How can he test one properly before committing to its cost, and why should the tests he attempted look so poor?

A For this sort of specialist testing and purchase, he would be much better going to an independent Apple retailer, preferably one with insight into his specialist needs. Setting up and benchmarking systems to give meaningful real-world results is not easy, and there are many possible explanations why limited tests could appear very misleading.

However the major advances in the new Mac Pro are not in processor speed, which might only be 3.0 or 2.7 GHz compared with his old system at 2.26-3.33 GHz, but in the number of available cores, GPU performance, and bus speed. Unless the apps benchmarked can make good use of 8 or 12 cores and dual D700 GPUs, for instance, they may not run any faster on a new model.

Updated from the original, which was first published in MacUser volume 30 issue 6, 2014.