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How fast is the stock original Mac Pro in real-world tests compared to its predecessor? How fast does it run Photoshop?
Please note that all systems mentioned in this Q&A have been discontinued. The original Mac Pro models were replaced on January 8, 2008 by the "Early 2008" Mac Pro models.
A number of websites benchmarked the Mac Pro in real-world tests of "Universal" applications and applications like Adobe Photoshop CS2 that are required to run via "Rosetta". Each of these quoted sources should be reviewed in their entirety for the full perspective provided by the author. All systems were configured with 1 GB of RAM.
In a MacWorld "First Look", James Galbraith compared the speed of the stock Mac Pro "Quad Core" 2.66 to the Power Macintosh G5 "Quad Core" 2.5, as well as the Power Macintosh G5/2.7 DP (PCI-X) and iMac "Core Duo" 2.0 20-Inch.
Regarding the overall speed, the noticeably impressed author stated:
The standard configuration of the Mac Pro outperforms its PowerPC-based G5 predecessors by a wide margin. . . tallying a Speedmark 4.5 score of 299 in Macworld Lab testing is nothing to sneeze at -- especially in light of the fact that a few of the tests that make up Speedmark involve applications that don’t yet run natively on Intel chips. That means the Mac Pro was able to improve upon the Speedmark score of the Power Mac G5 Quad by 14 percent, even though the collection of tests that comprises Speedmark includes several which require Rosetta.
Regarding Photoshop CS2, MacWorld reported that the Power Macintosh G5 took 45 seconds to complete a series of 14 scripted tasks, and the Mac Pro took one minute and 25 seconds to complete the same.
BareFeats compared the Mac Pro "Quad Core" 2.66 to the Power Macintosh G5 "Quad Core" 2.5. The author noted that the Power Mac G5 "beats [the Mac Pro] when running Photoshop CS2 and After Effects 7 (both non-UB apps)" by 37% and 20%, respectively. However, "running Universal Binary apps like iMovie, Final Cut Pro, etc" the Mac Pro "was from 15% to 47% faster" than the Power Mac G5.
MacInTouch pitted the Mac Pro "Quad Core" 2.66 against a Power Macintosh G5 Dual Core (2.0) in a number of benchmarks. Using Photoshop CS2 in "RetouchArtists, Image Resize, and Kaleidoscope" tests the website found that the Mac Pro was roughly 50% to 60% of the speed of the Power Mac G5. MacInTouch concluded that in real-world use "Rosetta still incurs a substantial performance penalty compared to a real dual-core G5."
In an in-depth review, ArsTechnica benchmarked the Mac Pro "Quad Core" 2.66 compared to the Power Macintosh G5 "Quad Core" 2.5 in a battery of 21 Photoshop tests and noted that "for the most part, Photoshop showed a clear advantage for the G5. That said, the Mac Pro pulled out ahead on three of the actions and drew even on one other. The only place where the Mac Pro was trounced was on the Pointillize and Halftone filters."
With the December 14, 2006 release of the "Universal Binary" beta version of Photoshop CS3, MacWorld and BareFeats published tests comparing the speed of Photoshop CS3 to Photoshop CS2 on the Intel-based Mac Pro and the PowerPC-based Power Macintosh G5. Each was pleased that CS3 running natively on the Mac Pro is much faster than CS2 running under "Rosetta", often nearly twice as fast.
BareFeats wisely noticed that:
The Mac Pro running CS3 is 86% faster than the Quad-Core G5 running our MP6 test (20 History States). However, it is only 10% faster running the Retouch Artists' test (20 History States). That second stat is especially interesting when you take into account the Mac Pro's 20% faster clock speed.
MacWorld concluded that:
In all the tests the Intel Mac (Mac Pro and MacBook Pro) beat its corresponding PowerPC cousin (Power Mac G5 and PowerBook G4), although the four PowerPC cores on the Power Mac G5 kept that machine pretty close in overall speed to the newer Mac Pro.
Ultimately, the Mac Pro is impressively fast when running native software and still impressive running software via "Rosetta" given the demands of the "translation environment". However, for users heavily dependent on software that has not yet been released in "Universal" binary format for the Intel-based Macs, the Power Macintosh G5 remains well worth consideration.