Apple Mac Pro desktops now come with 8-cores

Macworld 2008: Capitalises on Intel Penryn launch

Steve Jobs' Macworld 2008 keynote may still be seven days away, but that hasn't stopped Apple from launching a new 8-core version of its Mac Pro desktop.

The new Mac Pro combines two Quad-Core Xeon processors, running at speeds of up to 3.2GHz, based on the Intel 45nm Penryn architecture announced at CES. Apple says the desktops are the fastest Mac it has ever made, and are twice as powerful as the Quad-Core machines introduced in August 2006.

Aside from the new processors, the Mac Pro offers 12MB of L2 cache per processor and dual-independent 1600MHz front side buses. It can hold up to 32GB of 800MHz DDR memory, giving it a 61 per cent increase in performance according to Apple's own benchmarks.

The new Mac Pro also includes an ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT graphics card with 256MB of video RAM as standard, although you can also opt for a 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800GT or 1.5GB Nvidia Quadro FX 5600 using the Mac Pro's PCI Express 2.0 slots.

Apple says the new Mac Pro can drive up to eight different displays at once - perfect then for the home office setup of Apple board member and environmental campaigner Al Gore.

4TB hard disk space, no Blu-ray option

Other key features include the ability to add up to 4-terabytes of hard disk storage - and, somewhat disappointingly, the option to add up to two DVD-burning SuperDrives. We would have expected Apple to have some kind of Blu-ray move by now, but burners supporting the format are conspicuous by their absence in the Mac Pro spec list. You could always add your internal or external drive however.

The new Mac Pro also comes equipped with five USB ports, two FireWire 400 ports, two FireWire 800 ports, optical and analogue audio in/outs, dual Gigabit Ethernet and a headphone jack. The only thing obviously missing is AirPort Extreme 802.11n wireless networking - that's stuck, somewhat curiously, on the build-to-order options list.

The standard £1,749 model has the following spec:

* 2x 2.8 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon processors with dual-independent 1600 MHz front side buses
* 2GB of 800 MHz DDR2 ECC fully-buffered DIMM memory, expandable up to 32GB
* ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT with 256MB of GDDR3 memory
* 320GB Serial ATA 3Gbit/s hard drive running at 7200 rpm
* 16x SuperDrive with double-layer support (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
* two PCI Express 2.0 slots and two PCI Express slots
* Bluetooth 2.0+EDR
* Apple Keyboard and Mighty Mouse

All Mac Pro systems ship with Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, the version of the Apple operating system that originally went on sale at the end of October last year. UK pricing has still to be confirmed.