June 10, 2013

Apple's Redesigned Mac Pro is Unlike Any Computer You've Ever Seen

New Mac Pro - Top - at WWDC 2013Radically different, but powerful. Even though many video professionals would probably have preferred seeing NVIDIA GPUs, the new Mac Pro is the first professional computer from Apple to support workstation-class graphics cards (dual internal AMD GPUs to be exact). Many were expecting a smaller device with limited expandability, and Apple delivered -- and then some. They are definitely going to be reliant on Thunderbolt 2 (which should be twice as fast as Thunderbolt 1) for any PCI-E devices, and the only part of the system that is definitely expandable internally is RAM. If that sounds appealing, click through for an introduction to the fancy new system.

Courtesty of CNET (if you haven't seen it yet), here's the actual unveiling at the WWDC:

Apple is showing off a pretty nifty click-through animation detailing the benefits of the Mac Pro's design as well as the hardware inside its tiny body (which is the first Apple computer to be assembled in the US). The biggest feature, besides the size, is the fact that they are building in two GPUs. Choosing AMD means that we lose out on some of the performance benefits of Adobe's CUDA technology (which is NVIDIA only right now). It is possible to use OpenCL with Adobe products to achieve some speed improvements, but the fastest CUDA cards will still be faster than anything else when using specific Adobe products. Otherwise, it won't necessarily affect your workflow all that much, as these should be very powerful:

It looks like we'll have four replaceable RAM slots:

We're getting six Thunderbolt 2 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, one HDMI 1.4 port (which is 4K compatible), and two Ethernet ports. With that many Thunderbolt 2 ports, you'll be able to daisy-chain a mind-numbing amount of devices (36 actually), not to mention the fact that the tech can support up to three 4K displays running simultaneously:

So will storage be expandable? It seems like a possibility, though it's unclear right now how that process will work, but if it is simply slotted in and not soldered in any way, it stands to reason it could be upgraded at a future date. If anyone has clarification from a good source on that, feel free to share it.

So why the small cylinder design? It's about minimizing the size and improving heat dissipation. Apple has achieved what is practically impossible any other way. They've taken the guts of a much larger computer and squished it down into this design, but have improved cooling efficiency. That's because the entire core acts like a heatsink, cooling all of the hardware inside all at once, rather than needing individual heatsinks with fans. The new Mac Pro utilizes just one fan at the top, so the system is operating as efficiently as possible -- using the case itself as a giant heatsink and pulling out the heat through the top (which makes the most sense as heat normally rises).

Apple isn't going to satisfy everyone. Not even close. There are going to be many PCI-E cards that will have to be tossed into external enclosures connected to Thunderbolt. This is going to be a deal-breaker for some. If you've got multiple expansion cards, plus a host of external hard drives, it's going to get pretty ridiculous not only keeping track of where everything is plugged into, but also the extra unnecessary cost of having to purchase enclosures for each of these cards (I'm sure we will see a tower-like PCI-E external module with multiple slots for those who want something less unwieldy). For example, those working with RED in post will likely have a RED Rocket card. The new RED Rocket X card, introduced at NAB 2013, might see slower speeds with Thunderbolt than connected internally, and in the world of high-end video, even a few minutes can make a huge difference. We don't know the benchmarks for the new machine yet, but it will be interesting to see how much of an impact Thunderbolt 2 vs. standard PCI-E would have on a system like this.

There will be a fine line between people who really need the expansion, and those who would rather have it as a convenience. More than a few have moved to iMacs for much of their work, and the newest ones are even less customizable. Will it be worth it for you to spring for this machine? I think it will definitely depend on the price, which they haven't discussed yet. Forget this thing being anywhere below $2,000. Judging by their current lineup, and the way they've historically priced things, I'm sure we're looking at $3,000 to $4,000 or more, especially as purchasing two of the FirePro AMD GPUs and a Xeon processor alone would be expensive -- and that's before Apple adds any sort of markup.

New Mac Pro - Top - at WWDC 2013

Thunderbolt 2 can do a lot, but for some it's just going to be too cumbersome for the amount of custom cards they'll need to put in enclosures outside of their machine. I don't see it being used as the only machine at the highest end for that reason. They're going to stick to custom Linux or Windows boxes, where they can build the highest-spec computer they want, and know that they can upgrade and replace parts at will, limiting downtime. The new Mac Pro will be great to augment certain setups, and its size will make it attractive for situations that are already tight on space, but if you enjoy the convenience of tossing a couple large and cheap spinning drives into your machine at will, or even upgrading major internal parts, you're going to feel limited by this.

We already know it should be coming out by the end of the year, so the next major step will be finding how much it will set us back should we choose to head down this brave and uncharted path.

What do you think? Does this fit into your current workflow? If you're already running an iMac or Mac Mini in your setup, does this one interest you?

Link: Mac Pro System Walkthrough -- Apple

Your Comment

155 Comments

One thing is for certain: it's shiny.

June 10, 2013

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Micah Van Hove
Writer
writer, director, dp

Its nice, you could use it as a computer and a bin once it gets outdated.

June 10, 2013

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Marcus

Seems that AMD over Nvidia won't be too much of a problem BTW: http://www.philiphodgetts.com/?p=14159

June 10, 2013

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Yeah, the OpenCL support is definitely getting better, but at the moment CUDA is still faster with Adobe - which, again - may or may not be an issue.

June 10, 2013

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

Yeah, after you factor in the crazy speed of the built in flash storage, Thunderbolt 2.0, 7 Teraflops of GPU computing power, the quad channel 1866MHz RAM with 60GB/second memory bandwidth, 40GB/second PCIe bandwidth...I think the AMD vs. nVidia debate becomes a moot point.

June 10, 2013

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Dave

...because obviously the new Mac Pro is the only way to get those specs.

June 10, 2013

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Gabe

Very interesting link, thanks for sharing!

June 11, 2013

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Jules

I know the old Mac Pro wasn't support customizable or upgradable but the odd shape that anything you want to put inside the new model will need to be a proprietary Apple part. No third Party support.

June 10, 2013

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Hubert

Will it though?

I mean, it seems that everything is just arranged in a cylinder shape so that everything is close to the fan/"thermal core" construction... but those components are probably that way in a standardized fashion. The outer layer comes off, too - so it seems pretty reasonable to expect that you can exchange parts.

June 11, 2013

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urs.px

Well Koo, good luck updating the hackintosh guide for this thing :D

"First, you'll want to go to Target and get yourself a nice black trash can. Then..."

June 10, 2013

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Lol yes!

June 10, 2013

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Mike F

Hah!

June 11, 2013

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

You are a funny man sir :D

June 11, 2013

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I've got a macbook. Go it about 3 years ago. I use it as an alarm clock now that I have a windows desktop.

June 10, 2013

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Joe P

If you're using windoze, you probably need an alarm clock.

June 10, 2013

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Joe Nolan

lol Yeah I use to own a mac, until I found out that it was outdated technology by the time it hits the sales shelf.
Could you imagine waiting these last 2 years for something like this? when we have been editing 4k footage with our PCs with no problem.

June 11, 2013

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stanley k.

Oh yay, a black vaccuum cleaner, I bet is sux real good, like everything else apple makes.

June 10, 2013

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ZIM

Wow! The jokes are getting poorer and more boring by the minute... Even trolls' standards are lowering.

June 10, 2013

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Jeff

That was no joke.

June 11, 2013

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Razor

This would work for me. I'm using more 'entry level' broadcast formats and when I had to buy some new bits last year I went with external I/O and raid thinking that, worse case, I could edit on a thunderbolt imac or macbook pro, but also presuming this was where Apple was heading. I could see where it wouldn't appeal to others though.
The price and Adobe uptake on openCL will be my concerns when I replace my old MacPro later this year as I'm thinking an Adobe switch is on the cards.

June 10, 2013

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Cal

I'm pretty ignorant about these matters, but is there any chance that two (or more) thunderbolt cables out of the same peripheral device (say, a Red Rocket X or other high-end video card) might bring more throughput, putting Thunderbolt on more level ground with an internal PCE-I connection? With TB2 ports to spare, that would be nice...

June 10, 2013

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Davíð

Given the fact that PCIe is modular and TB is a variant of PCIe, I would say yes, it should be possible to combine two or more TB channels for higher throughput. It is a software matter.

June 11, 2013

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Thyl Engelhardt

As much as it seems like an inovation, they only seemed to niche a niche market. We are looking to expand our 4K workflow, and we don't really need the extra expense when it comes to housing our RED cards, and rehousing our RAIDs. It will be an ugly mess of cables that used to be hidden inside the machine. It is almost like one step forward two steps back...Cables alone are $50!!

June 10, 2013

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Matt Groves

Thank God. Now I can say my next unit might be a Mac. I just better make some serious cash with my PC. Ha. Good news today...I think. At least the're addressing 4k acquisition...expensive yes, but it looks like it's gonna work just fine. Anxious to see what becomes of FCP now with all this power.

June 10, 2013

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Anthony Marino

It´s somehow strange to me - it feels as if we´re getting more and more "locked up" in "solutions", which are not made with the professional user in mind, but rather with his/her wallet. As a professional you need a proper, expandable Workstation, which supports certain standards. This new MacPro is not doing that. I mean, if I look also at that what Adobe´s doing with their "cloud"-service (you can´t own the software-version higher than CS7 anymore, you can use it only, if you´re paying a monthly fee). It´s strange - here we have companies, which are affecting our job-practice massively and we can´t do much about it (and that´s our toolsets!). At least you can buy a PC instead of a Mac, but in general I don´t like the direction in which we´re going (Companies seem to not listen to their users needs or they don´t care much about it - they worry more about making as much as possible money, than to satisfy their customers)... It would be really nice, if we could implement some laws (e.g. against monopoly -> Adobe or to keep some industry-standard -> Apple with Cuda-Cards) and/or develop our own tools (e.g. Fairphone / Open-Source).

June 10, 2013

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Oliver

If someone gets it so wrong that they leave a group of people out, there will surely be someone else coming along behind to pick up the stragglers.. as was the case with FCPX v.s Adobe.
worst case scenario someone could 'kick-start' an alternative solution.

June 10, 2013

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Companies are only going to listen to customers to a point. Can you listen to every suggestion your client makes and still deliver high quality? It's not always the case. On the other hand they will always look for ways to make more money.

June 11, 2013

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Masaan

The new Mac Pro looks like it's going to be AMAZING!!! Why is the article and all the comments below full of nothing but complaints about how it's not perfect. What is happening to us that a company can put out such a powerful machine in such an elegant design and all we do is moan about how it could be better. We are lucky to live in a time where such innovations are being made. Some of you are really not seeing the forest through the trees. It's a little tiny box that will can handle images that are basically the equivalent of 35mm Motion Picture film. Any since filmmaker since the dawn of cinema would drool at the prospect of having access to something like this. Seriously folks, we're getting spoiled.

June 10, 2013

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John

and the elegant design will surely lend itself to catching the drool.......

June 10, 2013

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Vincent Bruce

I don't know, people love to hate or make claims without understanding anything about the company. While I'm sure revenue plays a role in this, one of the main reasons there is no internal expandability is because if apple can completely control the hardware software relationship, the experience/performance of the computer will really benefit. Apple designed FCPX to specifically run on OSX which was designed to specifically run on their hardware. If you go in there and fuck around with those components, it's not going to make things more stable, pro users want reliable performance, not something hacked together, that's what prosumers do. Real pro users don't want to mess around with the hardware, they just want a computer that works consistently and fast. Pro users aren't concerned about the price, it's in their budget to buy these computers.

This computer will blow users away when they run the updated version of FCPX on a maxed out pro with 12GB of VRAM. people only complain because they know they won't be able to justify purchasing it, so instead of feeling bad about it they talk shit. Just like kids.

June 10, 2013

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Julian

"Real pro users don’t want to mess around with the hardware, they just want a computer that works consistently and fast. Pro users aren’t concerned about the price, it’s in their budget to buy these computers." - This is just ridiculous. I don't know what world you come from but every "pro" (since you seem to love that title) I know, with myself included: a) Cares about hardware because it leads to better, faster delivery and b) has a budget with limitations. Seriously, drop the elitist attitude. People have budgetary and hardware needs - "pros" included. Not all of us want to blindly trust that Apple will support this machine and not just ignore it for multiple years like the last Mac Pro, and not all of us really think that this... thing is worth the surely incredible price tag that will be placed on it.

June 11, 2013

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David S.

It seems to me that this appeals to certain "pro" segments, myself potentially being one of them. Right now its pointless as everything is speculation. We don't know what it will cost, we don't know what the expansion bays will cost. Will it be expensive, yes, but I charge for my services and have built in things like amortization, maintenance and upgrades into my rates, because that is what "Pros" actually do when we run business.

I will study this box and do a cost benefit analysis and a pros and cons when all of that information becomes available. If it makes sense financially then it will be sitting on my desktop and in my DMT stations. If it doesn't then I switch.

One thing is for sure though, Apple has made a statement that they haven't abandoned the 'Pro' market as they see it and have invested heavily in tooling up manufacturing. Will this be the right machine for all pros? No, but for those who can work with this, I think it bodes well.

June 11, 2013

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Allan S

I think the story with this computer will be a little like FCPX. Bash it. Actually try it. Realize it's a daring and improved piece of software. (I confess I was one of those who dismissed FCPX ... until I tried it.)

June 11, 2013

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Tom

It looks like your autocorrect changed FirePro to FireProof, which is kinda funny.

June 10, 2013

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It's a new class of AMD GPUs, capable of withstanding 1000 degree temperatures.

June 10, 2013

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

Well they certainly have the hype down pat, don't they? Way overpriced, I built a PC just as fast, including a 3GB CUDA card for half the bucks. And probably last longer too. Good thing they have their koolaid drinking followers, eh?

June 10, 2013

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Vincent Bruce

Overpriced? Half the price of what? Is the price listed somewhere?

June 10, 2013

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Eric

NO FLOPPY DRIVE?! Apple will never get any of my money NEVER EVER!!!!!

June 10, 2013

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James

I agree man! No floppy drive is a no-go!

June 11, 2013

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Razor

Not that switching to a Mac ever crossed my mind, but hey, ATI? Seriously? It seems that they'll like to stay behind in the 3d area, as usual after all.

June 10, 2013

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Marco

I work on the road shooting for television and there are a ton of people in the industry that work like this. We all need to download media, do quick edits, and make stringouts in the field. This is the first solution I have seen that I can fit in my carry-on with the kind of power needed to support high fps and high res footage in the field. I am super excited and would expect the price point to start around mid 3k. Red is great for film and big narrative TV, but the majority of broadcast still using ex3s, c300s, fs700s, and 2/3rd inch cameras, and with this box (pilon) plus an external hd and monitor will be the most powerful and portable solution out there.

June 10, 2013

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Ben

CUDA is to OpenCL as Flash is to HTML5

So, I'm glad they picked AMD. Rip that CUDA band-aid right off.... pull that tick out before it burrows.

I would like to see a Thunderbolt 2 reach PCI3.0's 32TB/s speeds for me to give those ports up, though.

Let's try and force the industry into OpenCL/OpenEXR/CinemaDNG/etc. because life's so much less buggy when there's less proprietary technology (RedRocket/CUDA) that companies can keep a mystery.

Nuke, Houdini, Blender, and HOPEFULLY Resolve 10 will be fully OpenCL soon enough. Good time to buy stock in AMD?

June 10, 2013

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Harry Pray IV

Despite I like to push OS as much as I can, I don't think you can compare Cuda vs OpenCl in terms of performance yet.

June 11, 2013

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Marco

You do know that OpenCL is proprietary, right? Apple owns it. They currently do not charge a licensing fee for it's usage, but that doesn't mean they won't, or that it is in any way open source. I think it's a good framework, and I trust that it will remain without licensing fees, but it is not open source.

June 11, 2013

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Iirc, this is not correct. From Wikipedia:
"OpenCL is an open standard maintained by the non-profit technology consortium Khronos Group. It has been adopted by Intel, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Nvidia, Altera, Samsung, Vivante and ARM Holdings."

June 11, 2013

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Thyl Engelhardt

The first sentence under history on wikipedia:
"OpenCL was initially developed by Apple Inc., which holds trademark rights, and refined into an initial proposal in collaboration with technical teams at AMD, IBM, Intel, and Nvidia."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenCL

Which is why NVIDIA has to include this disclaimer:
"OpenCL is a trademark of Apple Inc., used under license by Khronos."
https://developer.nvidia.com/opencl

It is owned by Apple. Good thing? Bad thing? It's hard to say. In general I trust the way they've gone about developing the framework and think it's inclusive, but that doesn't mean it's open source.

June 11, 2013

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There is a difference between a technology and a trade mark. Have a look at the trademark legislation for your country.

June 11, 2013

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Thyl Engelhardt

Sounds like the name is trademarked and being used "under license". The tech itself is open as far as I'm aware.

June 11, 2013

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Luke

It's not just trademark - there is a licensing agreement involved to use their framework. I don't know the specifics of that licensing framework (those are generally confidential agreements), but I know it exists.

They present all of their frameworks available royalty free, but if you want to implement an API or claim that your product works with OpenCL you pay a fee to have them test it:
"Khronos does not charge royalties to or require licensing by developers using any of its APIs in their own software products. However, implementers of Khronos APIs are strongly encouraged to become Khronos Adopters so that their API implementations may access Khronos' API conformance tests, use Khronos' trademarks, and be covered by the Khronos IP umbrella agreement. "
http://www.khronos.org/developers

More here:
http://www.khronos.org/conformance/

I don't think that's unreasonable or sneaky legaleze or anything sinister (although what the "Khronos IP umbrella agreement" is is unclear). There's a good quality control argument to be made for their approach, theoretically guaranteeing that this framework will be implemented to spec and hack-free. But it is a licensed product, and licenses can be revoked or even not granted, which is fundamentally different from open-source or most GNU software.

It's worth noting that Flash has an even less restrictive usage agreement, which a lot of Apple people got into a lather over.

June 11, 2013

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Thanks Colin,

I didn't know that.

June 11, 2013

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Marco

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