The New Mac Pros
Apple’s design engineers have gone against the status quo again with their rumored upcoming Mac Pro computer design. As they usually do the engineers at Apple analyzed and evaluated all the hardware elements that make up a professional workstation computer. These elements include: graphics, storage, expansion, processing power, and memory. The new Mac Pros with the previously mentioned hardware in mind have a never before seen a design that is as small, sleek and efficient. It will be the smallest workstation we’ve ever seen at 9.9 inches in height and 6.6 inches wide.
This new design has stirred up controversy among Mac users, the Mac Pros are not even out yet and Mac users on line are already buzzing about the potential benefits and drawbacks of the new Mac Pro design.
According to Apple here are some details as to what the new Mac Pro hardware will consist of:
The new Mac Pro will use state-of-the-art technology to achieve new levels of performance for professional Mac users. The components are built around a “central thermal core” resulting in a revolutionary circular body. The Mac Pro workstation will supposedly feature PCI-E flash storage technology, graphics with dual GPUs (graphics processing unit), Thunderbolt 2 interfaces, new-generation Xeon processors, extremely fast DDR3 1866MHz memory, and support for 4K video. 4K video resolution is a new resolution standard designed for digital cinema and computer graphics. 4K refers to the horizontal resolution (instead of the vertical) for video formats, which is approximately 4,000 pixels.
The new Mac Pro design will enable the small-framed computer to provide an unexpected punch in power for pro Mac users. The technology used by Apple engineers to allow the new Mac Pros to be able to yield so much power according to Apple is in the unified thermal core. Apple has done something totally innovative with the new Mac Pro design. Rather than using multiple heat sinks and fans to cool the processor and graphics cards like most desktop computers, Apple built everything in the Mac Pro around a single cylinder piece of aluminum.
This new circular Mac Pro design is meant to maximize airflow as well as thermal capacity and it works by conducting heat away from the CPU and GPUs. The cylindrical design distributes the heat evenly across the core allowing for a uniform and efficient distribution of thermal capacity. This is the first time a computer has been built with this kind of design.
The Mac Pros will use a four-channel DDR3 memory controller running at 1866MHz, translating into 60GB/s of memory bandwidth and the new Mac Pro will have twice the memory bandwidth of the current model.
Additionally these Mac Pros will use ECC memory to reduce transient memory errors. The Mac Pro will utilize the new-generation Intel Xeon E5 chipset and offer configurations of up to 12 cores of processing power. According to Intel, the new Mac Pro will exceed the current model by “up to 2x” the FLOPs performance. This move to the Ivy Bridge-EP-based Xeon microprocessor allows the Mac Pro to have USB 3.0 and faster a PCI-E bus, which Apple is using for the solid state drive (SSD) interface.
The Mac Pros will feature two AMD FirePro GPUs with potentially 6 GB of dedicated VRAM and delivering up to 528Gbps total bandwidth.
The system will use the next-generation PCI Express flash storage technology which is 2.5 times faster than the fastest SATA-based solid-state drive and up to 10 times faster than a mechanical 7200 rpm SATA hard drive. PCI-Express (peripheral component interconnect express) is a high-speed serial expansion card format that uses a point-to-point architecture. PCI-E-based flash has much better performance than the more common SATA or SAS connection to solid-state drives (SSD) or flash because of the direct connection to the peripheral hardware.
Apple used cutting edge technology to engineer a single high-powered fan to cool the Mac Pro by pulling air up through a vent in the bottom of the computer while still running quietly. The cylindrical design of the new Mac Pro does not include an internal SuperDrive. This was an obvious evolution; right now, the only Macs that still have internal optical (DVD) drives are the Non-Retina Display MacBook Pros. This allows the interior of the Mac Pro to act as a giant aluminum heatsink, moving heat away from the CPU, GPUs and other components and channeling it up like a chimney. The current Mac Pros have fans that can be noisy, so this is a welcome change, especially for digital audio pros that need to have quiet studios to record.
The Mac Pro will come with six Thunderbolt 2 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, HDMI 1.4 ports, and a motion sensor that lights up the back panel when it is turned on.
The Thunderbolt 2 interfaces will deliver twice the throughput as the original Thunderbolt interface, providing up to 20Gb/s of bandwidth to each attached device. These interfaces will allow you to connect massive amounts of storage, add a PCI expansion chassis, and use high resolution external displays such as 4K displays. The main difference between the Thunderbolt 2.0 from the original Thunderbolt port, is the ability to use massive 4K displays. There are no implications for audio or video I/O here.
Each Thunderbolt 2 port allows you to daisy-chain up to six peripheral devices.
The current qualm with the new Mac Pro design is the absence of internal storage bays and expansion slots. Today Apple’s computers have never been so easily upgradeable, component by component. The internal slots in Apple’s traditional pro towers have always accommodated common pro user needs such as adding storage media; video and audio interfaces.
This new Mac Pro design may create a dilemma for Mac users that used expansion hardware via the slots and internal bays in the traditional towers.
The Mac Pro Is Still Expandable
Don’t worry, the Mac Pros are still expandable using the Thunderbolt and USB 3 interfaces. Apple has also made sure there were multiple dedicated controllers for those ports, which is a good thing for bandwidth-hungry, performance-dependent audio and video users. The added storage and I/O flexibility can make a huge difference in productivity when it comes to video or audio media production. Just because there are no external PCI Express slots this does not mean there is a total absence of PCI Express, the protocol your expansion card uses to integrate with your computer’s main architecture. Thunderbolt interfaces are actually PCI Express. Thunderbolt is an extension of the PCI-E bus over a cable. This interface is not as fast as the internal speed of the current PCI Express 3.0 standard, or the soon to be released PCI Express 4.0, but it provides more than enough bandwidth for extremely large configurations of audio inputs and outputs, video streams, and high-speed storage.