I bought a 2.26 8-core Xeon Mac Pro recently. I intend to use it for music and video production, two tasks for which it is well-suited. I call it “Big Iron” since that’s what it is: A huge chunk of metal that takes over the whole side of my desk. It’s also also about 4-5 times faster than any computer I’ve ever owned.

Actually, I should amend that. It’s 2x times faster on 32-bit applications, and it’s 4-5 times faster on 64-bit applications. Which are 64-bit? You can run System Profiler to find out, but my usual test involves just launching the app. If it runs significantly faster than I’ve ever seen it before, it’s 64-bit. As more apps become 64-bit and as they are rejiggered to take advantage of multiple cores, Big Iron will run things even more efficiently.

The internals of the machine are a remarkable piece of engineering. The RAM, four hard drive bays and optical drive bays are all easily accessible. RAM has been easy to install on the Mac towers for some time. The hard drives have been moderately difficult and optical drives generally a bit of pain. It’s notable that Apple’s now made it so simple. These are absolutely do-it-yourself projects even if your mechanical talent extends no further than turning a screwdriver.

I’ve had a couple of software compatibility issues, but nothing show-stopping. Truth be told, I’m not sure if the issue is the Mac Pro or, more likely in my view, Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard with which it shipped. Either way, it’s been nothing I’ve really had to worry about. All my main applications have been working fine.

For anyone considering a Mac Pro, I can give it a hearty endorsement with the sole caveat that for 95 percent of the people out there an iMac is a better, plenty fast, more cost-effective choice. But if you have the need for top-end speed, this baby is a beast.