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Mac Pro fails the Boot Camp test

Mac Pro fails the Boot Camp test

When CNET looked at the Mac Pro last week, we were very impressed with its performance. As more Universal applications become available, the Mac Pro's burgeoning potential will be even better realized. And if our Photoshop CS2 test is indicative of other non-Intel-native apps's performance, then even apps that run under Rosetta will still be relatively speedy.

One of the advantages that Intel-based Macs provide is that they are also capable of running Windows XP natively with Apple's Boot Camp Public Beta. Full disclosure: I purchased my very first Mac--a MacBook Pro--earlier this year so that I could have a single system running both Windows and the Mac OS. While I am likely in the minority for Mac owners, I am certainly not the only one enjoying the best of both worlds--as can be evidenced by the traffic on Apple's discussion boards. My MacBook Pro runs Windows just fine, as do apparently many other MacBooks and Mac Minis out there.

Needless to say, we had very high expectations when we installed Boot Camp and Windows XP onto our Mac Pro. The first indication that something was not quite right was the slow speed at which the OS installed. Once we had it all set up and the apps were loaded, we put it to the test. Windows performance was much slower than we anticipated. To figure out what might have been wrong, we turned to the true Mac experts: the Mac users who frequent Apple's discussion forums. The group's general consensus was that the current version of Boot Camp supports only Serial ATA hard drives in the slower PIO mode, and not the significantly faster DMA mode.

It turns out that the Mac community had it right: an Apple spokesperson confirmed to us that Boot Camp currently supports only PIO mode for Serial ATA hard drives. Keeping things in perspective, Boot Camp is still in beta, so you can't necessarily expect it to run flawlessly...yet. Unfortunately, this means that for the time being, Mac Pro users probably won't want to run Windows natively using Boot Camp. Another option would be to use Parallels Desktop for Mac to run Windows on the Mac OS as a virtual machine. Our own performance testing with a MacBook Pro, however, indicates that performance using Parallels is significantly slower than you'd get running Windows natively.

There is still a part of this mystery yet to be solved: Why didn't this show up as a significant issue with the Serial ATA drives in the MacBook Pro and the iMac we previously tested with Boot Camp? I've posed this question to Apple, and I hope to have an answer soon.

In the meantime, Apple is aware of the issue and is investigating it. There is no official word on when it will be resolved.