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Apple Debuts Dramatic Redesign for Mac Pro

Sleek 4K-ready Design Earns Kudos from Users, But Also Some Skepticism

Apple finally quit with the teasing, revealing its big idea for a startlingly smaller Mac Pro at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco this morning. The new Mac Pro — the first serious overhaul of Apple's most powerful desktop systems in five years — is a black cylinder, just 9.9 inches tall and 6.6 inches wide, that takes up one-eighth the total space of the existing cheese-grater models. The best introduction to the new machine is available at Apple's own website, which shows the machine inside and out, and from every angle, but be aware that the page is a little glitchy in certain browsers.
 
Due "later this year," the new Mac Pro will use Xeon E5 processors in up to a 12-core configuration, along with 1866GHz DDR3 ECC RAM and a PCIe flash drive. Floating-point processing performance will be up to double that of the current generation of Mac Pros, Apple said. Graphics horsepower comes in the form of dual AMD (yes, AMD) FirePro GPUs with up to 6 GB of VRAM that will drive up to three 4K displays at one time while editing full-resolution 4K video. The system will have up to 60 GB/sec of PCIe bandwidth, compared to 30 GB/sec in the current Mac Pro.
 
The industrial design is nothing if not innovative. A "unified thermal core" takes the place of multiple heat sinks and fans — a single piece of aluminum conducts heat away from the processors. A single low-noise fan inside the case pulls air upward, through the center of the system, and out the top. 
 
Since there's not much room under the hood, expandibility will take place via four USB 3 and six Thunderbolt 2 ports on the back of the system. (A motion sensor lights up the ports when you spin the machine around so that you can see what you're doing.) With that many Thunderbolt ports and some careful planning, you should be able to daisy-chain up to 36 devices. Functionality is rounded out with three-stream 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
 
Also announced today, without much detail, is a new version of Final Cut Pro X that Apple says will be optimized for the new Mac Pro, specifically including "support for dual GPUs and 4K broadcast monitoring." Speaking of which, a nice 4K Cinema Display would be a great accessory for the new Mac Pro.
 
Incidentally, the Mac Pro is going to be entirely assembled and partly machined in the U.S.
 
Immediate reaction to the Mac Pro's new design seems mostly positive, though some pro users seemed skeptical about the system's usability, with many waiting to hear more about pricing before turning thumbs up or down. Some lamented the move away from Nvidia cards and their Cuda architecture, as well as the loss of any internal expansion options. Others bemoaned the back-of-the-desk tangle of cables that rely on multiple Thunderbolt connections for external expansion. Here's a round-up of some responses that came in on our Twitter feed during the minutes and hours following the announcement.
 

Update 5:25 p.m. ET: Blackmagic Design CEO Grant Petty says the company's tests show that DaVinci Resolve 10 "screams" on the new Mac Pro hardware.

25 Comments

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  • Chris Pettit

    Max 12 Cores. That says it all

    • Anonymous

      Says very little. What’s your point?

      • Chris Pettit

        I’ve had 16 core XEON Windows machine for a year and a half. Why wait all this time and limit it to 12 cores?

        • Anonymous

          I’ve had 16 core XEON Windows machine for a year and a half.

          No, you’ve had an 8 core XEON. 8 physical cores and 16 logical. Your computer sees the CPU as having 16 cores – but in reality, it’s 8 cores handling 16 threads.

          The leaked details of the Mac Pro’s Ivy Bridge E features 12 Cores, so it’s debatable that your 16 virtual cores will beat out 12 faster, more modern physical cores. But I do agree with you that Apple should come out with a dual socket version down the road that would make it 24 logical cores especially considering you can’t upgrade the Mac Pro CPU (AFAIK).

          • Chris Pettit

            Wrong again. I have a dual 8 core for 16 cores and 32 virtual cores. Nice try

          • Chris Pettit

            I should clarify: I should probably not have posted here, I gave up on Mac workstations some time ago in preference ( very reluctantly) for more power from custom built machines running 64 bit Windows when there still was no 64 bit Mac.

            So I’m not really in the market for this machine anyway, I should just stay out of the discussion, and will from now on.

            The only thing is, if Apple is falls on their face again, then the only viable OS option for workstation power might one day be Microsoft. And I am NO evangelist for them. I sincerely hope that the new MacPro is successful, it’s in everyone’s interest that it be so.

            But it seems like they have again sacrificed flexibility and power for “cool” look. I hope I’m wrong, I may buy one some day.

          • sad mac

            Instead of making a new Final Cut X to fit this new Mac Pro, they’ve made a Mac Pro that suits the version of Final Cut they abominated back with X. No expansion. Tangles of cords. Heat(sinks)? Remember the cube? And cost? While small creative companies are striving to survive, will this be cost effective? Design for the future? Sure, but if you can’t pick up your client’s archival material and quickly incorporate it, you won’t be doing anybody’s projects. Give me large movable interior space and user upgradable parts over chic design anyday. I love the design in theory but I need to work inside the machine as well as with it to do my work. I move and replace hard drives. I still burn discs. I have to use endless amounts of information on discs from discs. Why won’t the supposed smartest company just use common sense and give the pro something they can actually do professional work with? And why choose only certain video suppliers? The whole scheme smacks of who made the cheapest deal with apple, not necessarily which cards were best for video. And what happens if it turns out these video cards fail or get too hot? The architecture won’t accept another brand.

            I want a good new machine and this is a gimmicky toy made to garner attention.

          • Ron Tyler

            Everybody is a expert all of a sudden…….go figure….!

  • Chet Thomas

    While I like the form, and I am sure there will be good performance, I am dismayed at the lack of expandability. I know that you can add external storage space, but doing so defeats the nice aesthetics (to say nothing of not being able to boot from an external HD in the first place).

    • Anonymous

      >I am dismayed at the lack of expandability

      You have more than 36 devices to hook up to it?

      • Chet Thomas

        Dude, did you read my entire post or just stop at that sentence? I am talking about INTERNAL expandability.

        • Anonymous

          No, I read the entire post, but you first made a blanket statement that was untrue. It’s incredibly expandable with Thunderbolt 2. And, as far as aesthetics go, you can daisy chain devices so they can all be tucked away under a desk or a cabinet with only the darth bucket on your desk. Looks better than some giant contraption on your desk with multiple fans blasting to cool all the stuff you cram into it on top of the GPUs/CPU/etc.

          I can find a lot of issues with this Mac Pro, but it expandability and aesthetics are fantastic (overall) thanks to Thunderbolt 2.

          • Jan Jop

            Yes it’s expandable but at a substantial additional cost for expansion chassis: http://www.magma.com/catalog/thunderbolt-pcie-expansion

          • Anonymous

            Yes, but internal expansion can cost you in performance as thait heats up your machine (and that’s even after possibly spending more money on trying to compensate for the added internal heat so you don’t overheat your other components entirely). I certainly don’t think the Mac Pro is for everyone and I have some qualms about it as well, but to say it has a lack of expandability is a bit shortsighted overall.

          • Larry Towers

            Expandability HA!!!! Thunderbolt2 is only the equivalent of a PCIe2.0 x 8 slot! This mac pro is Apples way of forcing you to upgrade every two years since there are going to be even fewer graphics cards options for it than current mac pros!!!

    • Photoboy

      You could boot from external thunderbolt, USB or FireWire. (FW would need a $29 adaptor)

      • Chet Thomas

        Can you boot into windows on an external drive using bootcamp?

  • Joe Mahma

    Why, why, why, why, why?

  • Ron Tyler

    Some one always has something to bitch about. What next…..just wait and see what the final offer is before you pass judgement. Who knows the new MAC PRO could be the one you have been waiting on yet!

  • StudioFets.

    Awesome design! And yes, Apple is still able to do great things, even without the late Steve Jobs. But… All the expansion happens outside the machine? So 9.9 by 6.6 becomes… What? 9.9 by 6.6 feet? And where are is CUDA? *waiting for more info and pricing*

  • metal dog media

    Where do I put all my BlackDesign PCI cards? We create films that use archive footage so pulling video in and out through firewire is still pretty handy. I dont expect firewire to be on new boxes so I guess we will be using cheese graters and FCP 7 for a while yet.

  • Ramon Aguayo

    First was i movie turning to final cut pro , now looks like 3 retina mac book prowithout display ,put it in a piramide form become mac pro…it look nice but still some of us we need to see the hobbyhorse to feel security.The thunderbolt 2.0 extendable solution will make the difference i think

    • Larry Towers

      Thunderbolt 2 is limited. If they really wanted to be a game changer they would have standardized on lightpeak.

  • toke lahti

    External box and cable and power supply for every hdd and pci card; extremely expensive cluttery, nice…

  • most likely priced out.

    If it’s starting price is $2,000 or below, maybe I’ll think about buying one, but above that, i’m simply priced out. I just make projects for myself at my own pace, so I can get by with an iMac at this point. I use Macs because that’s what I started out on, and I like the ease of compatibility I have experienced whenever I need to expand them or upgrade them. That’s just my experience.

    It does make it a little hard to spend $4,000 on a Mac Pro though, when you see comparable performance from PC’s for nearly half the price.

    Like I said, I’ll give this one some real thought if it is priced lower than the current Mac Pro line.