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Thursday, November 13, 2008, 12:00 pm PT (03:00 pm ET)

New Intel Xeons offer upgrade path for Mac Pro in early 2009 [u]

Intel during the first quarter of next year will introduce a total of 13 new Nehalem-based Xeon chips, at least two of which are likely to turn up in a long-awaited upgrade to Apple's Mac Pro workstations.

Among them will be ten processors belonging the Xeon 5500 series, which appears to represent the chipmakers "Gainestown" series, or the successor to the current quad-core 45-nm Xeon Harpertown series employed by Apple's existing 2.8GHz, 3.0GHz, and 3.2GHz Mac Pros (which include two of the quad-core chips for a total of eight cores).

Only nine of the Xeon 5500 series chips are quad-core, and only five appear as if they could find their way into a next-generation Mac Pro, namely the 3.2GHz W5580 ($1,600), 2.93GHz X5570 ($1,386), 2.8GHz X5560 ($1,172), 2.66GHz X5550 ($958), and 2.53GHz E5540 ($744).

Speculation over precisely which models Apple could adopt is complicated by a dearth of public information on the new parts, as well as the prices for the new chips published Thursday by DigiTimes, which make them much more expensive than Harpertown chips at identical clock frequencies.

The existing Mac Pros are believed to use Intel's 2.8GHz E5462, 3.0GHz X5472, and 3.2GHz X5482 Harpertown Xeons, which were priced $797, $958, and $1279 respectively, in lots of 1000 when they were introduced last fall.

Gainestown is effectively believed to be an Intel Core i7-based chip, which would see integration of an on-die memory controller and the replacement of the Front Side Bus with Intel's QuickPath point-to-point processor interconnect.

Current Mac Pro chips

The chips used in Apple's existing Mac Pros with their price when purchased in lots of 1000.


Current Mac Pro chips

Chips that could potentially fuel an upgrade to the Mac Pro (middle 3 most likely) with prices when purchased in lots of 1000.


In addition to the 5 chips mentioned above, Intel also plans to announce 2.4GHz, 2.26GHz, 2.13GHz, and 2GHz quad-core Xeon 5500 series chips, an undetermined dual-core chip, and three undetermined Xeon 3500 series chips.

[Editor's note: updated with charts.]