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

06.10.13 @ 8:02PM Tags : ,

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:

New Apple Mac Pro - Processor - WWDC 2013

Mac Pro Clickthrough - GPU Performance

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

Mac Pro Clickthrough - Memory

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:

Mac Pro Clickthrough - Ports

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.

Mac Pro Clickthrough - Storage

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).

Mac Pro Clickthrough - Unified Thermal Core

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

Related Posts

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  2. If Apple Unveils a Radically Different Mac Pro at the WWDC, Will Anyone Actually Want It?
  3. $250 Matrox DS1 is Your New (or First, At Least) Apple Thunderbolt to Multi-Peripheral Hub


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  • It can’t be any good… there aren’t any glowing neon lights or alien faces on the case. :D

    However, cleaning staff will have to be vigilant, or dust bunnies will migrate to it…

    • Will George Lucas’s version have a giant light saber coming out of the top of it (a bug killer)?

      It looks like a giant suppository.

      Problems, no pcie gpu card slot, no upgradable CPU, and memory systems are up to 1000GB/s for a few years (not that it matters, you need a/way for the CPU to take advantage of it). People might get a big PC case like thunderbolt case (ironic) to store their cards, drives, and control panels. Originally there was supposed to be a little server blade case, that could be ventilated very well, and in the vertical position. With this system, you simply buy a case for your drives and cards and put it on or under or vertically beside the blade. You could stack them, or buy a frame to insert them. Upgrading can be incredibly easy, and a pci-e card lay down horizontally in the blade case. Remember the Mac Cube, I liked it, but apparently not too many people did.

  • Looks like a little power house but like the new imac you Are no longer able to upgrade your self. It appears Mac is trying to lock people out from DIY upgrades. This is likly going to come back to bite apple in the but as pro users need to be able to service their workstations in the field without the hold ups of getting it to an apple store.

    • You are absolutely right about that (self -Service / etc. ).

    • You’re right, this machine is not intended for amateurs who like to call themselves pros. I assume that’s what you meant, because no actual professional would be moronic enough to bring a Mac Pro “into the field” ( the old form factor sure was great for that) without a backup. Only an amateur would even consider risking a project based entirely on their ability to fix whatever problem might occur on site. Furthermore, I’m assuming you’re referring to the GPU, as nothing else is known to be any less or any more serviceable on the new MP.

      • By “in the field”, I’m almost certain Dave meant “in an office” or similar (because it was contrasted against “in an apple store”). So you’ve based most of your reply on a false assumption.

        • Most? Hardly. None of my points are changed by the distinction. Either way, it isn’t my fault he chose to use a widely used idiom incorrectly.

      • Down time from PC’s have cost the clients I’ve worked with many many thousands because of short 1/2 hour to 6 hour down times. To keep them running reliably you need an experienced and dedicated professional just to keep them going… Mac’s… not so much.

    • So if you’re motherboard or CPU is fried you will replace it on set?
      Or do you bring a backup machine.

  • Beautiful, design, nice features (well for the price you will pay it it’s quite normal) and definitively ….closed.

    A very beautiful jail indeed… ;0)

  • I have been wondering and looking at one of these for years, what i will never understand about Mac and OSx why when every time they bring in new software, Its missing those user friendly buttons that make life so much better, Snow leopard fantastic, then I up graded new MBP cannot expand desk top. With my eye site and sage , That vital. Now you got to zoom and thats crap quality. you could also Enlarge other windows too. and browsers , just with your finger, I went to look at getting an I mac. What? The mountain lion is worse. No slider to enlarge icons ot thumb nails, When doing work flow on photos or searching for files or books. And as for the DVD player recorder, (optical drive) SO CALLED SUPER DRIVE! ha ha ha , still cannot burn multi layer dvds 8gb. All that money spent, In 6 years i must have spend over $500 And gained nothing.

  • Considering that it can drive three 4K displays and as Adobe showed in their Premiere Pro CC demo, even the rMB Pro can perform realtime color correction, compositing, rendering and display of a complex timeline which includes RAW 5K from RED. For less than the price of a Red Rocket Card you can have a new Mac Pro that should blow the doors off of the highest speed rMB Pro!!!

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