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Apple Gets Around to a New Mac Pro

“Can’t innovate any more, my ass,” Phil Schiller muttered gleefully as he stood in front of the Keynote slides that introduced Apple’s new and completely redesigned Mac Pro to attendees at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference. The shiny new product, slated to roll out later this year for an as-yet-unspecified price, is a total redesign of the existing Mac Pro, which hasn’t seen a major update since 2009. The new Mac Pro literally can “roll out”: it’s a 9.9-inch tall, 6.6-inch wide (25.1 by 16.8 cm) cylinder, encased in gleaming black polished aluminum.

Even more notable than the Mac’s new shape and size is the fact that it has neither a hard drive nor drive bays, a startling departure for Apple’s Pro product line. For years, professional users have loved to fill their Mac Pros to the gunwales with extra disk storage and peripheral cards. But instead of a built-in disk drive, this new model uses PCIe flash storage that the system can access at 1.25 GB per second.

As for other storage devices, the round Mac Pro instead provides six Thunderbolt 2 ports, each capable of providing 20 GB/s data transfer speeds, suitable for an expansion chassis… or two, or more. Since a Thunderbolt 2 port can support as many as six daisy-chained devices, the forthcoming Mac Pro could support as many as 36 Thunderbolt 2 devices at once. Apple didn’t announce a specific expansion chassis, so we don’t know if the company will provide one or if that will be left as a third-party opportunity.

Video professionals mourning the loss of internal storage device bays may be comforted by the Mac Pro’s capability to support as many as three 4K displays at a time, though Apple announced no such displays today. What video pros are sure to like is the improved graphics processing power available from the cylinder: the new Mac Pro comes with two AMD FirePro GPUs, each loaded with as much as 6 GB of VRAM, and offering up to 7 teraflops of graphic processing power, nearly triple the performance of the older model Pros.

While Apple unveiled no memory specs, the new Pro, judging from the pictures on Apple’s site, apparently supports four DDR3 memory slots. These are handled by a controller that communicates at 1866 MHz, providing as much as 60 GB/s memory bandwidth, twice the bandwidth of current Mac Pros. And that memory will be feeding the new Intel E5 chipset, featuring from 2 to 12 cores and providing twice the floating-point performance of extant models.

Rounding out the port picture are two Gigabit Ethernet ports, four USB 3 ports, headphone and speaker ports, and an HDMI 1.4 port. And to make sure you can find your way around this plethora of portage, the Mac Pro lights up the I/O panel when you rotate the cylinder to plug in a new device.

It’s hard to say which professionals will welcome this brave, new, round and shiny Mac Pro, with its spectacular speed and svelte design, and which ones will be discouraged, if not outraged, by the lack of drive bays and expansion slots. No one will know for sure until the computers (which will be assembled in the United States) begin rolling out to customers later this year. But nobody can deny that Apple has reimagined what a professional desktop computer looks like.


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Comments about Apple Gets Around to a New Mac Pro
(Comments are closed.)

kellywp  2013-06-10 18:56
So now Apple comes out with something that won't meet the needs of any of the graphics professionals who have been waiting for the new Mac Pro.
Yes, it will have processing power, but disregarding the storage needs of it's intended audience is just unforgivable. What a thumb of the nose for the graphic pros! An eSATA connection would help some, but doesn't look like that is part of the deal.
I gave up a couple of months ago, tired of waiting, and replaced my Mac Pro with a Mac Mini (Core I7, 2.3 GHz) and an external 4 bay USB 3.0 enclosure. With a total cost of $1100, including a DVD drive and 16 gigs of RAM, it was cheap and blew away the old Mac Pro's performance. I was worried that I would have regrets when the new Pro came out. I don't.
Surprising to me that you would take that opinion. i made the same move (i7 mini with SSD) and a thunderbolt RAID for storage. i think that's the way of the future. let the computer be the computer and the storage be storage (on a separate unit that's easier to work with then my 50 lb MacPro!) Good Day!
Might want to investigate what all those ports are for.
Dennis B. Swaney  2013-06-11 09:40

Kelly, go back and read the third paragraph of the article; the one that starts "As for other storage devices ..."
John B  2013-06-11 11:58
You're inadvertently and succinctly describing the paradigm shift that this new Mac Pro embodies. I also went the I7 mini route, forsaking the heat engine syndrome of the old, oversized Mac Pro. Doesn't it seem that the containerization of the old has been supplanted by the externalization of components? Space limitations are externalized. Variety of options is expanded greatly, and temperature considerations are greatly reduced. It seems that Apple is leaving the classic server box concept behind. The Mac mini has its own distinct role and limitations. This new Mac Pro is its big brother, plus.
John VanDyk  2013-06-10 19:42
We finally stopped waiting and got a Dell Precision T7600 for our videographer. It supports 8 drives plus a boot SSD and has 128GB of RAM with half the slots empty. We went from overnight renders on the top-of-the-line Mac Mini he was using to 1.5 hours. Today's announcement was interesting (though I find the aesthetic awful) but we are quite happy and not looking back.
Dennis B. Swaney  2013-06-11 09:42
Dude! You gotta Dull! ;)
Terry S  2013-06-12 20:44
COMPLETE AWESOMENESS! This is the future of the Pro Desktop computer! Windows Workstations are headed this way too from what I'm hearing in the tech forums. So heavy and bulky cases are out.

When Apple debuted Thunderbolt and only released it on the rest of their family of computers, it spawned a new level of development and innovation for Storage and Acquisition Industry. Not quite as wide-spread as USB 1.0 was when they rolled out the first iMac, but still quite the game-changer. With such data-bandwidth potential, the possibilities were almost endless. Now that there are many external expansion and storage solutions that support both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt, there really is no need for massive internal storage options on a Pro Desktop. So Apple's move here was quite practical and most likely planned out in advance with their initial introduction of Thunderbolt 1.0 over two years ago.
Benjamin Lowengard  2013-06-11 08:22
I totally like it - but I wonder what the prices will range - I'm thinking somewhere around 1500-3200$. External Boxes don't bug me -nor does the lack of internal storage- esp with such bandwidth and speed (probably Mavaricks (maverX?) only). I must say my 2x 1.5 g4 PowerMac still runs like a champ and boots faster than you can say: Intel powered Charcoal Starter.
Michael E. Cohen  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-06-11 10:08
According to this post by Alex Gollner, it looks like the new Mac Pro might be internally modifiable in various ways. Interesting.
Terry S  2013-06-12 20:43
Benjamin - If they're smart, they will keep the base price the same or less than the current Mac Pro. As far as the maxed out configurations - the sky's the limit just as it currently is on the Mac Pro. The main thing that will drive prices I can see is the Flash Storage and the new RAM modules. It will take Crucial and OWC a while to catch up on offering more affordable alternatives but it will only be a short wait I'm sure. There appears only to be 4 slots - so I wonder if they will be offering up to 32GB Memory Dimms to be more comparable or surpass the current Mac Pro. Only time will tell.
Openreels  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2013-06-12 07:03
I guess they figure some of those TB ports will be used with Displayport displays, for those who need more than one HDMI. Not a bad plan, other than Apple's inclusion of the miserable HDCP protection on their DP outputs. This has been a thorn in the side of pro users for years!

The lack of Firewire ports is also an annoying but expected "feature." Fortunately some TB breakouts are on the horizon. Not everyone wants an Apple display...
Terry S  2013-06-12 20:43
Well FireWire is pretty much on the way out for the Pro Market - but if you need FireWire 800 - Apple currently does have a Thunderbolt to FW800 adapter. But if you need more ports and don't want to purchase a FW800/400 hub to attach to this adapter - I would recommend purchasing a Thunderbolt Expansion Chassis which support either 1 or 3 PCI-Express Cards. Then purchase or transfer them if you have them from your Mac Pro Tower. Those expansion chassises are really handy and take only one spot on the Thunderbolt daisy chain which support 6 devices per TB port. BH Photo/Video and Other World Computing have these at very reasonable prices.
Funny how the "features" of this turkey almost exactly match those of the April Fools joke "mac prime". Guess that joke was a bit more evil than it looked huh? Honestly I think they've lost the plot.
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2013-06-12 10:33
From what I'm reading on the blogs, many people are put off by the degree of change this Mac Pro presages. While the phrase "paradigm shift" is overused, nevertheless this is one. At the same time, many of us currently using Mac Pros have maxed out the internal storage and are already using external hard drives of one sort or another. The internal vs. external drive question is, in my opinion, far less important than some would have it. If you cannot afford to upgrade your drives to Thunderbolt, USB 3 is far cheaper and more than fast enough for most uses.

The salient point many are missing is that any distinctions in performance between internal and external drives are erased by USB 3 and Thunderbolt. USB 3 and TB now exceed the performance capabilities of all HDDs and many SSDs. The PCIe flash drive in the Mac Pro will outperform any SSD now in use in any computer; mechanical hard drives, of course, are not even in the same ball park.

Nonetheless, I will also be considering a Mac mini for my next computer - my Mac Pro is six years old and does not support Mountain Lion, much less Mavericks. With a Fusion drive, a quad-core i7 CPU and 16GB of 1600 MHz RAM, it will be much faster in most ways than my old Mac Pro. The only concern I have is for the integrated GPU. That seems to me to be a weak spot for the mini. Perhaps someone can tell me otherwise.

Unfortunately, those complaining about the lack of internal expandability with the new Mac Pro face much the same problem with a mini (and any other Mac at this point). But the main reason I may go with a mini is the expected cost of the new Mac Pros. With all those high-end components it's not likely to be competitively priced. I bought my current Mac Pro because I could upgrade it as my needs grew, enabling me to squeeze more life out of it. But that rationale does not pertain to the new Mac Pro.

I would have essentially the same after market costs for a mini as for a Mac Pro: cases for the hard drives currently in my Mac Pro and, possibly, a Thunderbolt dock to get extra ports. At least the mini still has FireWire 800; no telling how long that will be the case. The difference will be in the initial cost of the computer. Maxed out the mini is likely to be at least $1,000 less than a medium range Mac Pro.

For me, then, the only issue is cost. If I could afford a Mac Pro, I'd get one. I'd like to get my ports up off the floor and out from behind my heavy iron. The Mac mini and the new Mac Pro will manage that nicely. They'll both drive my 24" NEC monitor. I don't do video so the question of whether I really need a Mac Pro is harder than it used to be to answer in the affirmative. But do I want you? Natch.
Terry S  2013-06-12 20:43
B. Jefferson Le Blanc - I agree with most of your points. Today internal storage really is only what you need for your apps, utilities and system software. Any project files, media files (Music, Video, Photos), and archives should all be stored on a secondary drive and in the case of most of these newer Macs - an external drive(s). So with fast connections like eSATA, USB 3.0, and Thunderbolt, I do not know why internal storage is such an issue with many.

Now Expansion has bewildered many when the Mac Pro continued to be passed over with connection updates like Thunderbolt and USB 3.0. So the industry developed the Expansion Chassis for Thunderbolt and that really fixes the expansion issue. Those chassises support 1-3 PCI-Express Cards, and many are Thunderbolt-compatible. This works great for all Thunderbolt Macs like the Mini or the New Mac Pro.

Apple did incredible improvements on the internal hardware and everyone should be focused on how that will help their workflow.
Dave Price  2013-06-12 17:31
I called iLugger today to inquire whether they are considering making a case for the new Mac Pro. The guy I spoke to had no idea what I was talking about. However, I'm confident they'll make one. One of the features of the new Mac Pro is that it can be transported much more easily than the old clunker.
Terry S  2013-06-12 20:42
Dave - Yeah that would be a great advantage for portability with the New Mac Pro's size and design. Funny that they didn't even know about the new Mac Pro.