Apple Gives a Sneak Peek of the All New Mac Pro

apple Jun 10, 2013

MacPro-Hero-shot.pngNo, this is not some sort of bizarre humidifier being sold at Touch of Modern or Fab.com. This is the all-new Apple Mac Pro. Gone is the tired “cheese grater”. Gone is the tower of power. Gone is the burly, brushed aluminum case that gave many a PC user pause. Gone, but not forgotten.

After so many years of relative design stability, Apple has decided to once again combine art, engineering and science to create a powerhouse desktop system that can actually fit on your desk. PC users have long been able to get powerhouse systems in small form factor (SFF) cases. These were usually boxy little affairs with a handle on top and some sort of exotic cooling system to handle all of the performance components inside. Xeons, with their large TDP envelopes, were particularly tricky to stuff into those itty-bitty cases. This is why most workstations have large tower chassis with lots of fans, high wattage power supplies, and drive bays galore.

Welcome to the 21st century.

Apple, with typical aplomb and design foresight, brings us the workstation for the next ten years.

Measuring at 9.9 inches high and 6.6 inches in diameter (⅛ the volume of the previous Mac Pro), this Tiny Tube of Power has all of the things that make it a Mac Pro:

  • Dual Xeon E5 processors (up to 12 cores)
  • Four channel ECC DDR3 Memory running at 1866 MHz (60 GBps bandwidth)
  • Two AMD FirePro GPUs delivering 7 teraflops of compute power and the ability to drive three 4K displays simultaneously.
  • PCIe based flash storage drive (10x faster than a regular SATA drive)
  • Six Thunderbolt 2 ports
  • Four USB 3.0 ports
  • Two gigabit ethernet ports
  • Near silent operation thanks to a unified thermal core and only one cooling fan.

Ok, now that the hardware otakus are on the floor twitching blissfully in their technogasms, what does this mean to photographers like me?

A lot.

The new Mac Pro packs an incredible amount of compute horsepower into a tiny near-silent package. The addition of FirePro GPUs brings a much needed boost in floating point computation needed for things like image processing (the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite can already tap into this, plus I expect Aperture X to do no less), video rendering (FCP X is mentioned as being able to tap in the GPUs as well) and especially 3D content creation.

“OK, but The Tube has only one drive. Where do I store all of my stuff?”

MacPro Front Back
An excellent question, my young padawan. The secret lies in the power of the Ports. The new Mac Pro may not have any internal drive bays, but it has replaced them with a plethora of ports. No less than six (6) Thunderbolt 2 ports grace the back of The Tube along with four (4) USB 3.0 ports. Thunderbolt 2 can be used to connect monitors and storage devices. It also has a max throughput of 20 Gbps which about 3.2x faster than SATA 6G and 2x faster than USB 3.0 so get ready to use Thunderbolt 2 for your working storage and USB 3.0 for Time Machine. I wonder how long it’s going to take Drobo to upgrade the Drobo 5D to Thunderbolt 2.
So what would a workstation configuration with The Tube look like? Here’s a quick rendition of what I would use:
Pro Photo Workstation
  • One Mac Pro with dual 6-core Xeon E5, 32GB of RAM, 512GB drive and dual FirePro GPUs
  • Two 27″ Thunderbolt Displays
  • One Drobo 5D Mk II (name I made up for a Drobo 5D with Thunderbolt 2 – don’t call Drobo asking about one)
  • USB 3.0 Blu Ray burner with LightScribe (I am a little old school that way) – not shown
  • Wacom Intuos5 (Medium sized model) – not shown
  • Logitech K750 Solar Keyboard for Mac – not shown
  • Logitech G700 gaming mouse (much more accurate the a regular mouse) – not shown

I would more than likely split the Drobo into two volumes: one for working storage and once for Time Machine. If money were no object, I would get a Drobo FS as well and have that as a Time Machine target. One of the “gotchas” of Time Machine is that the target volume has to be larger than the sum of all of the drives being backed up.

Anyway, here is the full press release:

SAN FRANCISCO—June 10, 2013—Apple® today showed a sneak peek into the future of the pro desktop with a first look at the next generation Mac Pro®. Designed around a revolutionary unified thermal core, the Mac Pro introduces a completely new pro desktop architecture and design that is optimized for performance inside and out. With next generation Xeon processors, dual workstation-class GPUs, Thunderbolt 2, PCIe-based flash storage, and ultra-fast ECC memory, the new 9.9-inch tall Mac Pro packs an amazing amount of power into an incredibly small package.

“With the latest Xeon processors, dual FirePro GPUs, ECC memory, PCIe-based flash and Thunderbolt 2, all built around a revolutionary thermal core, the next generation Mac Pro is the most radical Mac yet,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “All this performance and expandability is packed into a dramatic new design that’s one-eighth the volume, and best of all, it will be assembled here in the USA.”

The next generation Mac Pro is architected around an ingenious unified thermal core that allows the desktop to efficiently share its entire thermal capacity across all the processors. The result is a pro desktop with breakthrough performance packed into a design that is one-eighth the volume of the current Mac Pro. Next generation Intel Xeon E5 processors with up to 12 core configurations deliver double the floating point performance. With two AMD FirePro workstation-class GPUs, the all-new Mac Pro is up to 2.5 times faster than the current Mac Pro and delivers up to an amazing 7 teraflops of compute power. The new Mac Pro also features PCIe-based flash storage that is up to 10 times faster than conventional desktop hard drives and includes the latest four-channel ECC DDR3 memory running at 1866 MHz to deliver up to 60GBps of memory bandwidth.* With all that power, the new Mac Pro lets you seamlessly edit full-resolution 4K video while simultaneously rendering effects in the background.

The next generation Mac Pro is the most expandable Mac® ever built. With six Thunderbolt 2 ports that can deliver up to 20Gbps of bandwidth to each external device, Mac Pro is perfect for connecting to external storage, multiple PCI expansion chassis, audio and video breakout boxes, and the latest external displays, including 4K desktop displays. Each of the six Thunderbolt 2 ports supports up to six daisy-chained devices, giving you the ability to connect up to 36 high-performance peripherals. Thunderbolt 2 is completely backwards compatible with existing Thunderbolt peripherals, and allows you to transfer data between Macs faster and easier than ever.

The next generation Mac Pro will be available later this year. To learn more, visit www.apple.com/mac-pro.

*Performance claims are based on technical specifications of preproduction Mac Pro hardware as of June 2013.

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