New Macs! (2012)
New Mac Pros are immanent: apple.com has pulled the current (now old) line of Mac Pros and that means new machines are probably less than a week away. While there's been no official announcement, Apple's notorious secrecy can't stop us from actually knowing exactly what they are about to release: Mac Pros depend on Intel chips and Intel releases roadmaps extending years into the future, so you merely need to know when the new Macs are coming out and you instantly know what they will be.
In this case, we know for certain that the new Mac Pros will be based on Intel Xeon E5 processors. So a high-end Mac Pro will have 2x Xeon E5 processors (2687W, but that won't be listed in Apple's specs) running at 3.8 GHz in turbo mode, 3.1 GHz when not under load. The combined 32 threads [2x 8-cores (16-threads)] will need a bare minumum of 32GB to feed them and I don't think it'd be overkill to run 64GB at all (8 sticks of 4GB RAM). Monster!
Apple is very consistent on pricing as well and with Intel retailing the Xeon E5 2687W processor for $1,900 each(!) and with Apple charging $3,600 for 64GB of RAM, I think it is safe to say this machine will set you back $10,000, at least. While it's often been the case in the past that Apple gets the first run from Intel and for a short period of time has the fastest machines in the universe, today we find the chips already out. hp will definitely have equivalent servers and Z820 workstations, but they will also definitely not be any cheaper than the Apple products - and good luck figuring out how to configure your machine at hp.com: might as well just build the thing for yourself. All told, I think we're still talking $6,000 for a homebuild machine, which is quite a savings, but still isn't a bargain. Still, consider this: You could easily spec out a new Mac Pro with the minimum amount of RAM for about $6,400, add 64GB of RAM from newegg.com and come in just over $7,000. $6,000 for a homebuilt machine or $7,000 for a new Mac Pro? Hmmm, pretty darned competitive, if you ask me.
Performance-wise, we're not seeing a jump at all in processor speed, so on single-threaded tasks, an overclocked 4.5Ghz consumer desktop CPU will still demolish these new Intel Xeon E5 machines, but in video production, it's pretty rare that we'd only be using one thread. It's also true that a 32-thread new Mac Pro won't be twice as fast as the last generation 16-thread boxes: it just doesn't scale that simply. And, sadly, we can also be certain that Adobe After Effects will run twice as fast under Windows as it will under OS X on the exact same machine.