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Mac Pro Replaced by Mac Prime

As Tim Cook foreshadowed last year, Apple has released the long-awaited successor to the Mac Pro. Apple’s new high-end desktop Mac sports not only a radically different design but a new name, too: Mac Prime. The name derives from the surprising fact that every Mac Prime model uses a prime number of processor cores rather than the usual multiples of two. The Mac Prime can be configured with 5 to 17 cores (whereas Mac Pro models were most recently available with 4, 6, or 12 cores). It is also, as widely rumored, the first Mac model to be built entirely in the United States, with assembly taking place at a new Apple factory near Portland, Oregon.

Apple’s Web site claims that the Mac Prime’s power comes from an advanced technique called “fractal processing,” developed jointly with Intel. Fractal processing enables a much higher number of calculations per core, per second, than can be achieved with conventional processor architecture — even when factoring in existing techniques such as Turbo Boost (which increases clock speed while reducing the number of active cores) and Hyper-Threading (which doubles the number of virtual cores). For example, a 5-core Xeon fractal processor reportedly yields greater effective performance than a standard 6-core Xeon processor running at the same clock speed. According to Apple, this technique requires that the number of cores per processor, as well as the computer’s total number of cores, be prime.

The number of processor cores isn’t the only “prime” thing about the Mac Prime. Apple has chosen, presumably for marketing reasons, to make almost every specification a prime number — the amount of RAM, number of ports and expansion slots, and so on. Even the case has a prime number of sides: seven instead of the usual six (the effect is subtle, but the back of the case consists of two vertical panels joined at a slight angle).

About that case: while sticking with its trademark brushed aluminum, Apple seems to have taken frequent requests for a “mini tower” design to heart — at least to the extent possible while maintaining reasonable expandability. The Mac Prime is reportedly 31 percent smaller than the Mac Pro it replaces. That space savings comes from eliminating the two built-in optical drive bays (external USB SuperDrives are, however, supported) and reducing the number of hard drive bays and PCI Express slots from four of each to three of each. Photos on Apple’s Web site illustrate how the design maintains the Mac Pro’s modularity and easy access to internal components.

Although some Mac Pro users are sure to be miffed at the reduced internal expansion options, Apple has arguably increased overall expandability by focusing on external ports. The Mac Prime offers an unprecedented seven Thunderbolt ports — three on the front and four on the back — which directly support external storage, displays, and other peripherals. (Thunderbolt adapters are widely available for connecting to FireWire 800, gigabit Ethernet, eSATA, Fibre Channel, PCIe, ExpressCard/34, and other common device types.) In addition, in place of the Mac Pro’s five USB 2.0 ports, the Mac Prime offers seven USB 3.0 ports — four on the front and three on the back. As on the Mac Pro, the Mac Prime has a front-panel headphone jack, plus optical digital audio input and output ports and stereo line-level input and output jacks. Support for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth also appear to be unchanged from the Mac Pro. But the Mac Prime has no independent FireWire, Ethernet, or video ports (all of which Apple now apparently considers redundant, thanks to Thunderbolt).

The Mac Prime comes in two standard configurations, each with various build-to-order options. The base model includes a 5-core Xeon “Westmere” processor running at 4.21 GHz for $2,399, with an optional upgrade to a 7-core processor running at 4.43 GHz ($500 extra). This single-processor configuration comes standard with 11 GB of RAM, expandable to 67 GB. The high-end model costs $4,099 and features an 11-core processor plus a dual-core processor (13 total cores) running at 2.9 GHz. Build-to-order options offer 17 cores (11 + 3 + 3) running at either 3.1 GHz (for an extra $1,200) or 3.3 GHz (for an extra $2,400). The high-end Mac Prime ships with 17 GB of RAM standard, expandable to 127 GB.

Both Mac Prime models come with a 2 TB, 7207-rpm hard drive standard. Build-to-order storage options include (for each of the Mac Prime’s three drive bays) a 3 TB, 7200-rpm hard drive, a 2 TB or 3 TB Fusion drive, or a 1 TB (1031 GB) SSD. They include an ATI Radeon HD 7963 graphics card (upgradeable to two HD 7963 cards or one 7993 card), each of which supports up to three displays with resolutions up to 7681 by 4801 (considerably higher than anything currently on the market, suggesting that Apple might be working on something like a 30-inch Retina display).

Security Editor Rich Mogull shared a true Easter egg with us from his pre-release look at the new Mac Prime. If you type “Steve Jobs lives!” into any Cocoa-based app with text input (TextEdit, Pages, etc.), the Mac Prime will play a special video made by Jobs before his death. It’s stored in the Mac Prime ROMs, so this won’t work anywhere else (as far as we know).

All Mac Prime configurations are available today.


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Comments about Mac Pro Replaced by Mac Prime
(Comments are closed.)

Robert Allen  2013-04-01 01:39
Thanks for alerting us to this new desktop Mac. However, there are a couple of small errors in your specifications for the Mac Prime. First, the hard drive is a 3 TB 7207-rpm drive. And, it supports up to 3 displays with resolutions up to 7681 by 4801. Once again, you have proved that TidBITS is on top of all things Mac.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-04-01 05:12
Drat, read the spec sheet wrong, sorry! I've updated those numbers in the article.
David Chew  2013-04-01 11:09
And wasn't the new display a 31" display?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-04-01 11:13
Nope, that's just speculation based on known screen-glass sizes. Plus, if it did happen, we anticipate it would need to work with all Macs, not just the Mac Prime.
You would've completely had me if you hadn't said "available today," though I guess that's kind of the point. Even better: Available 5/7/13 !
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-04-01 05:13
Apple's new Macs are almost always available "today" these days (the recent iMacs notwithstanding). :-)
Sae Ro   2013-04-01 02:07
I'm guessing this is an April Fools joke.
inuvik  2013-04-01 02:28
Gotta be a April Fools gag.
Jim Redelfs  2013-04-01 03:25
Aw, right, Joe!! Your article fooled me enough that I logged-onto Apple's site and even searched for "Prime" to no avail. Then the tiny, .2W LED came on above my head. An April Fool I am!
Great humor, really well thought out. Steve was a stickler for simplicity. What could be simpler than prime?
Oh man, you got me. I avidly read all the specs, and believed it, perhaps due to my euro-centric sensibilities. The Mac Pro can no longer be sold in the EU after end of March due to a fan spec that is out of spec with new EU rules. Apple, instead of fixing it, simply stopped selling them in the EU...also, I imagine, due to rumours of a replacement this year. So seeing said replacement the day after the end of Mac Pros here felt "right". My bad.
Chris  An apple icon for a Friend of TidBITS 2013-04-01 07:06
"stereo line-level input and output jacks"

Stereo??? Surely you mean 5.1!
Reid Blondell  2013-04-01 07:48
So the Radeon 7963/7993 have Thunderbolt ports only? Will those support external drives instead of monitors? ;)
Nicholas Barnard  2013-04-01 08:31
I want a picture. (that'd put someone's photoshopping skills to the test..)
brutno  2013-04-01 08:31
Is the top-end model called Optimus Prime? Because that would be cool.
Robert Maizner  2013-04-01 08:39
Let's just hope the ultimate joke isn't on all of us and Apple makes us wait another year for the replacement! If you are waiting (and waiting and waiting) like me, check out if you haven't already.
Just ordered 19 of them
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-04-01 08:53
Then you get the prime discount of 11% off...
Openreels  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2013-04-01 08:51
I hate to say it, but all of this seems perfectly plausible from Apple! They love gimmickry as much as they love innovation. Only the Steve Jobs video struck me as ridiculous, but even that wouldn't surprise me if it actually happened...
dianeoforegon  2013-04-01 09:45
Your April Fool's jokes are always the best.
I'm ashamed to say that I got as far as finding all those pictures before I tumbled to the significance of the prime-number date of the email. Got me!
David Rabinowitz  2013-04-01 10:39
I'll take two!
Mac Carter  2013-04-01 10:52
That's 2 articles in this TidBits issue that snagged me! This is starting to feel like Charley Brown with Lucy holding the ball for him to kick. I even went to Apple's site looking for it!! I can't believe I'm such a sucker.
Steve Nicholson  2013-04-01 11:21
Arrrgh! The title of your article caught my eye in NetNewsWire and it was the first article I read today, blindly unaware of the date. You completely got me even though I was thinking "How can RAM come in 17Gb?" and "How can anything support that weird resolution?" and "4.21 GHz? That's awfully fast". I was so eager for a Mac Pro replacement that none of that made me overly suspicious. Even the "Steve Jobs Lives!" feature.

Also, I'm sure you meant a 29-inch or 31-inch Retina display.
I have fallen upon the sword and the pain fills me up, like many of the April Fools Days of my youth.
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2013-04-01 13:09
This is one of the best April Fools day TidBITS articles ever. As implausible as all the prime stuff seems in after-thought, like others I am so anxious for the new Mac Pro that I swallowed it for way too long. Somehow, Apple and prime numbers just seem made for each other.

Even the Thunderbolt everywhere notion seemed like typical Apple overreach. Though in reality it would be a nightmare - Thunderbolt adaptors are expensive.
Peter Breis  2013-04-01 16:53
The bit that had me rolling on the floor in paroxysms of uncontrollable laughter was "Thunderbolt adapters are widely available…"!
Suzanne R Brown  2013-04-01 20:58
It was nearly midnight when I suddenly remembered that you always do an April Fool's issue...and you get me every single time!
John Gersh  2013-04-02 04:27
The Mac Prime will, of course, retain the perforated-metal front and rear panels. They're not only for airflow, now; they also serve as sieves.
david cuddy  2013-04-02 12:59
This insightful article failed to mention the most significant aspect of the new Mac Prime. Reliable sources indicate that Apple is rejecting the pedestrian binary arithmetic used in most computers to date, adopting a radical new base-3 architecture. Instead of using bits, internal numbers will be represented as 'tits' (nominally represented by symbols 0, 1 and *).
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-04-02 13:08
I am very glad I wasn't drinking when I read this, or I would have had to clean my monitors.
Glenn Fleishman  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-04-02 13:18
This the only time I've wished we had a "favorite this comment" button.
Chris  An apple icon for a Friend of TidBITS 2013-04-02 14:15
Quick, somebody claim! Oops, too late...
David Price  An apple icon for a TidBITS Supporter 2013-07-05 00:12
The Mac Pro that was announced on June 10, 2013 probably exceeded even Joe's wildest imagination, but it's amazing how many things Joe got right about the new Mac Pro:

- radically different design
- first Mac model to be built entirely in the United States
- 31 percent smaller (actually, it's smaller than that)
- two built-in optical drive bays eliminated
- number of hard drive bays reduced (actually, none)
- number of PCI Express slots reduced
- some Mac Pro users are sure to be miffed at the reduced internal expansion options
- Apple increased overall expandability by focusing on external ports
- addition of Thunderbolt ports (actually 6, not 7)
- addition of USB 3.0 ports (actually 4, not 7)
- no independent FireWire ports
- no independent video ports
- two graphics cards
- support for up to 3 ultra HD displays
- Apple's new high-end desktop Mac breaks all the rules
- Apple's new high-end desktop Mac smashes all previous performance barriers
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-07-05 06:48
Just another example of the prescience of our supposedly "joke" April Fools articles... We can't let on about what we really know! :-)