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Apple Desktops Discussion of Apple's desktop machines including Mac Pro, iMac, Power Mac, and mini

Mac Pro - How loud is the Mac Pro


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hollerz.mac

 
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How loud are the Mac Pro fans compared to the PowerMac G5? Thinking of upgrading soon!
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Very, very quiet. One time I came home after being out for the night and I had a power failure. I didn't even realize the mac pro had turned off because it's so quiet when its on.

It's funny, when I downloaded the latest firmware update one of things it does is turn all of the fans on at 100% all at once while updating and it sounded like a hair dryer!
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hollerz.mac

 
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Thats what I like to hear My PowerMac G5 is queit but in the middle of the night it can still keep me awake when I leave it downloading or whatever (its in my bedroom). Although I'm not sure it'll be that much quieter, if any, than the G5.

I'm hoping to upgrade so I can get rid of my PC once and for all, I use it for games so with boot camp and running windows I can get rid of the PC and KVM switch and the mess of wires that comes with it!
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This is great news. My PowerMac G5 is one of the last of the PowerPC line (I bought it JUST before the Mac Pro came out) and it is one of the quietest computers I have ever owned. I have a PC that is quieter, but I bought it from a place that specializes in silent computing, www.endpcnoise.com, so you would expect it to be very quiet. So, if the Mac Pro is even quieter, that is great. I am sitting out this generation of Mac Pro, but fully expect to buy the next one, you know, when they come out with one of those 4.0 GHz quad core Kentsfield chips, plus a Bluray reader... always salivating over what comes next!! :-)

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SuB8HaVeN

 
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You must have the water cooled dually G5. I envy you...

The next generation of the Mac Pro will probably use the quad-core Xeon chips and will probably also utilize the next-generation of Intel chipsets supporting either DDR2 or DDR3 if available at that time. A 4.0GHz quad-core Xeon looks a little out of the picture. If Intel couldn't hit 4.0GHz with a single-core Prescott, I highly doubt they will be able to do it with a quad-core chip. In my opinion, I think the limit for Woodcrest will be about 3.4GHz, and the limit for Kentsfield will probably be about 3.0-3.2GHz. The next generation quad-core Xeon chips will undoubtedly be much improved over Kentsfield and will probably run cooler, consume less power, and be able to ramp even farther. AMD and Intel seemed to have run smack into the brick wall of raw gigahertz and are having to look for other ways to gain performance without ramping up the clock. Moore's Law is in effect, and the good old days of adding gold to a processor and ramping up the clock speed are all but over sadly enough...

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Unfortunately I did not keep the article, but I remember reading one recently where Intel said they felt they would hit 5 GHz by the end of next year. The enabler was the new 45 nm (or was it 35? Anyway, smaller than today's 65 nm) process. At that size, heat dissipation is greatly reduced and so you can jack up the clock rate. Hence, I thought I was being conservative in *just* waiting for four GHz.

The problem with more cores is that if you have 4 3 GHz cores, and your software isn't written to take advantage of it, you really only get one core of throughput. More cores is good for servers, and consumer software will eventually catch up to some extent, but more raw clock speed is what really speeds up EVERYTHING.

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By the way, how would I know if my PowerMac G5 was water cooled? I thought only the quad core 2.5 GHz models were water cooled. Mine is a dual 2.3 GHz. Were these water cooled as well?

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I think the ultimate in speed technology would be 2 single chips at like 5ghz each and then 2 quad core chips at the. 3.4ghz limit for a total of 10 cores, 2 of which are running at 5ghz, and the os on flash drives (like the one in the 8gb nano). Hard drive bottle neck would be out of the equation for os speed, and the processors would be so insanely fast. I know that is me completely making things up, and it would require alot of money in research and development for a motherboard that could handle that.

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anythings gotta be quieter than the g5 powermacs even my dual 2.7 watercooled powermac is loud...although not as loud as non-watercooled ones.

mac pro's have less fans, so in turn, they should also produce less noise
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SuB8HaVeN

 
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I'm not sure which G5 was water-cooled, but I was assuming yours was since water-cooled machines tend to be very quiet.

On the topic of processor architecture, there are several things you have to remember. Back in the day of the Intel Pentium III and AMD K7 (Athlon), it was a race for higher clock speed. Arguably, both processors performed the same clock on clock, so the more megahertz, the more performance. When AMD released the Athlon Palomino core, laying the groundwork for the Athlon XP, they introduced "Quantispeed Architecture," which essentially meant that clock on clock, the Athlon XP was faster than the Pentium 4. An Athlon XP at 1.6GHz (1800+ model) was actually faster than a Pentium 4 at 1.8GHz, and so on. Why is this so? When AMD revamped their K7 architecture, they shortened the pipeline (decreased the number of stages), in turn increasing instructions per clock cycle, meaning that the processor did more work for a given clock speed (AMD 1.6GHz=Intel 1.8GHz).

The basis for the Pentium 4 architecture was called Netburst. The idea behind Netburst "technology" was that if you increased the length of the pipeline, or added more stages, the clock speed could in turn ramp farther. This is where Intel was planning on hitting 5GHz on 90nm by the end of 2005 (or was it 2004?). While increasing the length of the pipeline certainly is a great way to increase clock speed (Pentium 4 chips at the time were clocked higher than Athlon XP chips), it is also detrimental to the number of instructions per clock cycle, meaning performance for a given clock speed is decreased.

Here's where it gets interesting. With the debut of AMD's next-generation K8 (Hammer/Athlon 64/Opteron) architecture, Intel was also pushing Netburst architecture to its extremes. While AMD stayed with a short pipeline and lower clock speed, Intel went to the other extreme with their latest Prescott (90nm) Pentium 4 processor and increased the pipeline even moreso than their previous Northwood (130nm) Pentium 4, and continued to ramp the Pentium 4 even higher than its already astonishing clock speeds compared to AMD chips. Here's the cigar. When Prescott was first released, a 3.0GHz Northwood was faster than a 3.2-3.4GHz "new and improved" Prescott. When AMD released their Athlon 64 at 2.0GHz, it entirely obliterated the Pentium 4 Prescott at 3.4GHz. This is the difference between architectures.

Now while Netburst was a decent idea, it never played out. Prescott scales better as it is clocked higher, so eventually the Prescott would outperform a Northwood clock on clock at a much higher clock speed. If Intel could have hit 4.0GHz, Prescott could have performed well enough to compete with the new Athlon 64. Even better, if Intel hit 5.0GHz with the Prescott, it would obliterate the new Athlon 64. The only problem is that the higher the clock speed, the more transistors are required, the more heat is created, the more leakage there is, the less efficient it is. Intel had a lot of trouble keeping that long pipeline stuffed with information, so they had to develop technologies such as HyperThreading and improved data prefetch to try and keep data flowing in and out.

So as you increase the length of the pipeline, in turn increasing clock speed, you eventually hit diminishing returns. A 5.0GHz processor with an extremely long pipeline is useless. It would create ridiculous heat, consume probably 200W+ by itself, be very complex, and would require a very complex and advanced data prefetch to keep its long pipeline busy. Intel finally discovered that they had hit this brick wall and decided to create Pentium M (Banias) which eventually led to the Core architecture used in servers and PCs today (this was all inspired by a SOC project Intel had going on in the background that grew to be fruitless). Banias had a shorter pipeline, lower clock speed, but at 2.0GHz a Pentium M could outrun a 3.0GHz Pentium 4. Now that Intel is achieving higher performance from lower clock speeds, it seems senseless for them to ever go back again. Netburst is finally dead and Intel is now following in the footsteps set forth by AMD.

Even with dual core you are going to reach a point of diminishing returns. Once you ramp a dual core processor as far as possible, you're right back at square one. So instead of building "up" and increasing clock speed by any means necessary, you build "across" and add more cores to each processor. Sure it is going to take some time for all software to become multithreaded, but this is the way of the future. There is no other way to continue increasing processor performance (inside the limits of price and power/heat) without simply adding more processor cores to each chip. There are also technologies being developed (by AMD I think?) that sort of resembles a backwards HyperThreading, where for example instead of making 2 logical processing threads with 1 physical processor, you make 1 logical processing thread with 2 physical processors. This would in essence turn a multicore processor into a single-core processor.

More raw clock speed, in theory, speeds up everything, but you have to remember that in order to reach higher clock speed you have to make a sacrifice by adding more stages to the pipeline, making the processor do less work per clock cycle. Basically, in order to make it faster, you have to make it slower. That doesn't seem logical, but that's just the way it is. I think any chip clocked at anywhere close to 5GHz, or even 4GHz for that matter, is simply out of the question at this day and time. To make a chip that fast, it would require phase-change cooling or greater, would probably consume 200-300W power (single core), and would probably perform about as well as a 2.93GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme or 3.0GHz Intel Woodcrest.

About future storage, I think we are going to start seeing the use of fiber real soon. It's already being used in networking applications and I can see it making its way into the storage market soon. Serial hard drives were a jump in the right direction; one that is probably heading toward a fiber interface. Using flash for secondary storage is certainly fast, but you have to remember the cost will be outstanding and you also have to keep it powered on to keep data (someone correct me if I'm wrong). They need to continue increasing the interconnect to the physical drive until the drive itself is the bottleneck before they start thinking about flash.

Just my $.02...

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Nice post about the recent history of AMD and Intel processors. Just a few things to add:

1.) The frequency of a processor means nothing unless you are comparing the same core running at difference freqencies. Both Intel and AMD are perfectly capable of creating 1Ghz or 50Ghz processors.

2.) Multi-core processors are the way of the future as it is much easier to increase processing performance through parallel processing. At some point within the next couple years we are going to begin to see specialized processing cores that included cores dedicated to such things as physics and graphics. Intel has begin the developement of such processors, and AMD's aquisition of ATI shows they are heading in the same direction.

3.) Serial ATA is here to stay for at least 10 years. The specifications will slowly evolve to included SATA600 and 1200 in the future. At the present time magnetic disks are what is holding performance back. It takes far too long to read and write data to them. A typical magnetic HD can only sustain 65MB/sec of transfer. Well below the 300MB/sec spec of the SATAII interface. Increasing drive caches is one way to help reduce the overhead of writing to the actual disk. We will slowly begin to move towards hybrid HDs that include large caches of flash memory. Notebooks should begin to see solid state HDs that use only flash memory to store data.

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My Mac Pro seems pretty darn quiet. I do hear some gentle fan noise from the case fan behind the front grill. So far, it is not disturbing me.

I thought the fan was getting noisier. I started hearing something like a 60 cycle hum, and it was getting louder. Then I discovered that it was just the removable side cover that was amplifying the hum by sympathetic vibration. I removed the cover, and put it back on again. That caused enough variance to dampen the vibration, and now the audible hum is gone.
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my quad is loud, well, louder then any other computer I have had, It is just sitting here I am not touching it (i am on my mbp) and its making a substantial amount of noise.

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hollerz.mac

 
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Thanks for the replys! and SuB8HaVeN etc., I've learned quite a bit about processors too, thanks!!
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In a case of serendipity, Investors Business daily carried an article on Intel's processor game plan this AM. Titled "Intel's Blast From The Past: Chipmaker To Stress Speed", it reports that by "early next year" Intel will release the Core 2 Quad, which promises to be 70% faster than existing Core 2. Doing the math, and noting that the high end of the Core 2 Duo line up is 2.99 GHz right now, that yields a 5.1 GHz part.

Given the wording of the article ("promises to be 70% faster"), it might not be simple math per the above; it may be a combination of improved architecture and a lesser, but increased, clock speed. Given the article's focus on raw speed though, I suspect that it is more to clock speed than to architecture.

The article goes on at length about how Intel's architecture based approach of the last two years has failed them badly in the market, with AMD going from single digit market share to over 20% now. Hence, Intel is planning to return to what worked - raw speed.

Anyway, that is what the article says - can a faster Mac Pro be far behind? :-)

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