Apple unveils octa-core Mac Pro

Apple allows customers to build eight core Mac Pros

Apple has added an option to its Mac Pro desktop line that lets customers build out systems equipped with two of Intel's fastest quad-core Xeon processors, marking the first time users have been able to buy a Mac powered by eight processor cores.

The Mac Pro, which starts at $US2499 for a standard-configuration desktop machine with dual 2.66GHz dual-core processors, jumps $US1498 when the option for two 3GHz quad-core Xeon chips is selected. That makes the cheapest eight-core Mac $US3997. Buyers at the other end of the scale can also order a Mac Pro with two 2GHz processors; that model sells for $US2200.

Intel introduced the quad-core Xeon 5300 series processors in November and aimed them at the server and high-end gaming PC market. Other computer makers, including Dell and HP, have been selling Xeon 5300-equipped servers and workstations since then.

A Dell Precision 690 system configured close to the lowest-priced eight-core Mac Pro - two 2.66GHz quad-core Xeon chips, 1GB RAM, a 250GB drive and no monitor - checks out at $US5432.

Intel's Xeon line officially tops out with the 2.66GHz 5355 processor, which is the fastest chip that can be dropped into Dell's Precision workstations. According to reports, however, the brand-new 3GHz chip offered by Apple is in limited production and the computer maker grabbed what supply was available. Intel did not immediately return calls for confirmation on the availability of the 3GHz Xeon.

Apple is targeting developers, animators and other high-end workstation users. "The eight-core Mac offers greater performance for some processing-intensive tasks, such as 3D modelling, animation and scientific applications," company spokesperson, Teresa Brewer, said.

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