I'm moving my desk and computer around which means disconnecting the entire thing and reconnecting it in another room. So this is a fine time to think about the design of the Mac Pro, as it relates to ports on connectivity. There are some real nice features of the machine but a few disappointments. As usual with Apple products, remedying the downsides would be trivial and cheap so we must assume that Apple just didn't think about these things, or thought about them but decided they knew better than us how a machine should be designed. I should start off by clarifying that I'm talking about the Mac Pro desktop - not a laptop, and not a lower cost machine. This is the big machine that people buy when space, weight, power consumption, and cost are no issue. People buying this machine want the best, most powerful, most flexible machine available and they're will to pay over $3,000 to get it. Also, they're probably Apple fans.
First the good points:
- USB and firewire ports on the front and back. I love the ports on the front, for things that I attach for short periods of time. Way better than having to reach around to the back of the machine for a quick connection.
- Four internal drive bays. This is great for expandability. I'm using one bay for the boot drive and two bays for a striped RAID for performance. I use the fourth bay when I'm building up a new boot drive, which I do whenever a new major version of Mac OS comes out.
- Two optical bays. This would be great for me if I cared enough to have a second optical drive. It costs less than $100 but I've only ever needed two at one time once. I REALLY like that you can install a SSD boot drive up there and regain another regular drive bay if you have lots of cash and need more space. I don't do this, but check out Diglloyd's Mac Performance Website for more info about that.
- Lots of PCI slots. Now that more applications are taking advantage of GPU coprocessing I should get off my duff and buy a modern video card. It'll make some things in Photoshop faster, apparently. I like that I can put a few video cards in there and have a ton of monitors because often screen space is worth more than CPU speed.
Now let's talk about what I don't like.
- Not enough USB ports! I generally have the following USB devices connected to my desktop Mac:
- Wacom tablet
- HP printer/scanner/fax
- Canon photo printer
- docking station for Garmin bike computer
That's six items that I would prefer to connect to the back, but there are only 3 ports. Yes, I can buy a powered hub but I'd prefer not to. It's one more thing to plug in and a ton more wires.
- No balanced audio. I'd like to see balanced audio in and out. I'm talking 1/4" TRS or XLR ports, which are industry standard on professional audio equipment. I realize there's optical audio in and out but the things I'd like to connect to (a Mackie mixing board, or my home stereo) don't have optical.Yes, I could buy an external firewire sound module with tons of balanced ins and outs, but a basic stereo in and out is all I'm asking for. I've never heard anyone else bitch about this so perhaps I'm the only one who misses this.
That's about it. I'm very happy with the machine overall. It's a lot faster than my laptop and I love working with the full size mouse and keyboard, as well as multiple monitors. The built-in RAID stripe is big and fast with no external cables which is really nice.
I'm just sayin' that there could be a few more ports on it, that's all.