Can you build the PC equivalent of a Mac Pro and save yourself some money doing it? If Stephen Fung at Futurelooks's effort is any indication, then the answer is a resounding no.
Fung attempted to cobble together a do-it-yourself PC with somewhat similar specs to the Mac Pro, and ended up spending quite a bit more money. What's more, the system wasn't nearly as good.
Fung's target was a high-end Mac Pro configuration - Apple's 12-core Mac Pro, equipped with 64 GB of RAM, 1 TB flash storage, two AMD D700 GPUs. That tipped the scales at $9,599.
For his Mac Pro-like PC, Fung went with a micro ATX-form PC case from Silverstone, a correspondingly small PC motherboard, and whatever components he could find that mimicked the Mac Pro. But immediately Fung ran into limitations: Error Correcting Code (ECC) DRAM wasn't available, and he could only find half the RAM. No Thunderbolt 2. No PCI Express-based flash storage - so he substituted two slower SATA drives striped together in a RAID 0 array.
The total damage on this quasi Mac Pro-like PC? Around $11,500. And not nearly as good. And running Windows - though conceivably you could make this a "Hackintosh," as some have done.
The "Apple tax" is a common trope - the idea that consumers pay more when they buy a Mac. But as the Mac Pro demonstrates, Apple can engineer a very sophisticated piece of hardware and keep the price reasonable - even competitive - compared to a PC. The "Apple tax" myth is not true in many cases, especially when you consider the software that Apple bundles on the Mac and the absence of crapware, adware, trial versions and the like - the junk that can make using a PC such a miserable experience.
Having said that, I'll go back to what I've said before - the Mac Pro isn't for everyone. This isn't a general-purpose system in the same way an iMac or a MacBook Pro might be. It's a very specialized piece of hardware designed to do some things exceptionally well. If you're in content creation - especially video editing or pro audio, or if you're in science, research or engineering, chances are you use applications that will benefit from the unique architecture of the Mac Pro - apps that make use of OpenCL, optimized for the Mac Pro's parallel processing pipeline.
Otherwise, it may not be worth your money. And that's okay. Not every tool is a hammer.
What do you think? Does this exercise make you think the Mac Pro a better value than you did before?
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