Precision 690 vs. Mac Pro


On Monday, August 7th, Steve Jobs announced the release of the Mac Pro, one of the latest Macs to be transitioned to the Intel chips. During this announcement, he also stated that the standard configuration of the Mac Pro (2x 2.66GHz Intel Xeon “Woodcrest”) is $1,000 cheaper than a similarly specced out Dell. I’ve heard a few ramblings about that figure not being correct, so I decided to find out for myself.

Before I start, there’s a little disclaimer: I’ve been an official “Mac Fanboy” for a long, long time. I grew up on an Apple IIe and I think our first Mac at home was the LCII with System 6. However, I’ve always been one to admit that Macs were a bit more expensive than a similarly equipped “PC.” But now that Apple has made the transition to Intel chips, it’s been much easier to compare.

First of all, I had to find a Dell that was comparable. To do that, I hit Dell’s website. Once there, though, it was a bit tricky to figure out which workstation I should use for the comparison. This was made especially difficult because of the generic “Xeon” chip name. According to Wikipedia, the first Xeon chip was a Pentium II Xeon. They’ve been using that meme ever since. Eventually I settled down on the Precision 690. It also helped to look at this picture:


However, I wasn’t satisfied with those specs. Afterall, the graphics cards are different. So here’s what I finally settled on for the specs:

Mac Pro Dell Precision 690
Processors: 2x Dual Core Intel Xeon “Woodcrest” Processors, 2.66GHz, 4MB L2/chip, 1.33GHz, 64-bit dual bus 2x Dual Core Intel Xeon 5150 Processors, 2.66GHz, 4MB L2/chip, 1.33GHz, 64-bit dual bus
OS: Mac OSX Tiger (10.4) Windows XP Pro
Storage: 250GB SATA, 3.0Gb/s, 7200RPM, 8MB cache 250GB SATA, 3.0Gb/s, 7200RPM, 8MB cache
Optical Drive: 16x Dual Layer Superdrive 48xCDRW and 16xDVD+/-RW
Graphics: 512MB nVidia Quatro FX 4500 512MB nVidia Quatro FX 4500
Total Cost: $4,149 $5,213

There you are. $1,054 cheaper. I didn’t do any trickery. Here’s what I did:

On Dell’s site, I went to Desktops:Medium/large business, Precision, Precision 690, 750W w/ Windows XP Pro. Here, I had to do a little customizing. I had to choose both processors (the 5150 is presumably the same processor as the Mac Pro, since according to Apple, they use the 5100 series processor). I changed the RAM to 1GB @ 667MHz instead of 533MHz. The graphics card was the most difficult one. The only card the Dell and Mac Pro have in common is the Quatro FX 5500. Then I had to bump up the boot HD to a 250GB SATA from the 80GB SATA. Up the optical drive. And finally remove the monitor they try to include.

On the Mac Pro end, I just upped the graphics card to the Quatro FX 5500.

So everything’s pretty much the same. What could be different? Mainly the motherboard. I have no idea what Dell and Apple put in their systems. Also, the optical drive could be different. I’m sure they are from different vendors, but I’m not so sure the Dell has the dual layer burner. Someone more familiar with Dell’s might know better.

So there it is. A nearly direct price comparison between a Mac and a “PC.” Are there other comparison’s out there? Sure. But this is my comparison. There may be many like it, but this is mine.

For those interested, here are the PDFs of the Precision 690 and the Mac Pro (both after customizing in their respective stores).

Edit: Macworld recently did their own comparison However, when configuring the Dell, the kept the monitor and failed to give the computers the same graphics card.