After years of waiting, Apple has finally unveiled the newest incarnation of the Mac Pro, giving eager developers and journalists a sneak peek at the desktop workstation. While some of the features were expected updates to outdated specs – like the upgrade to current Xeon workstation processors and AMD FirePro graphics – others were completely unexpected. The new Mac Pro has a gleaming new design that is so radically different from the previous model it’s likely to leave people wondering if the underlying DNA is even the same.
While the new Mac Pro may not closely resemble the previous desktop workstation, it's every inch an Apple product, with a forward-looking tubular design built around Apple's unique unified thermal core. Instead of using multiple heatsinks and cooling fans, all of the Mac Pro's internal components are mounted on a specially designed three-sided frame. This extruded aluminium frame serves as one giant heatsink running the length of the desktop, with the tubular design effectively creating a wind tunnel for optimal cooling.
As is common with products coming out of Cupertino, Apple has utilised all manner of advanced and exotic manufacturing processes in making both the thermal core (extruded milled aluminium) and the chassis (impact extrusion).
The cylindrical chassis stands just 250mm tall, with a 165mm diameter, making it dramatically smaller than the previous model, which measured 205 x 475 x 510mm (WxDxH). Despite this considerably more compact design, Apple touted the new Mac Pro as having all the necessary hardware and even more expandability than the previous model.
Ports and connections
Much of this expansion relies upon the impressive selection of ports found on the back of the round tower. Set into a slim, glowing panel are a half dozen Thunderbolt 2 ports and four USB 3.0 ports, along with an HDMI output and two Gigabit Ethernet ports. Internally, the Mac Pro is equipped with 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
The inclusion of Thunderbolt 2 is significant, offering twice the throughput of the already fast Thunderbolt (10GBps) – offering bidirectional data transfer speeds of up to 20Gbps. Each Thunderbolt port is also able to support up to six peripheral devices in a daisy chain configuration, allowing for a total of 36 different devices – including displays, drives, external PCIe, and so forth – to be connected at once, all taking advantage of this 20GBps speed. As a result, Apple is calling the Mac Pro the most expandable Mac Pro ever made, "without being limited to the space inside the enclosure," according to the new Mac Pro product page.
Components and memory
Inside the Mac Pro is an impressive array of hardware, starting with the latest Intel Xeon E5 chipset, with up to 12 cores of raw performance power, up to 40GBps of PCI Express gen 3 bandwidth, and 256-bit-wide floating-point instructions.
Apple boosts the raw horsepower further with not one, but two AMD FirePro workstation-class graphics processors, each with up to 6GB of dedicated memory. While the previous Mac Pro was powerful – it also boasted 12-core Xeon processing, with up to 2.7 teraflops of computing power – the new Mac Pro ups the ante by pumping out up to 7 teraflops.
Providing storage for all of this raw power is "next-generation PCI Express flash storage." Though details are scarce, the previous model offered up to 8TB of internal storage – it's likely that the new Mac Pro will offer comparable storage. Even if not packed with several terabytes of storage, the new Mac Pro will certainly support an immense amount of storage through the integrated Thunderbolt 2 ports.
The Mac Pro is made to support extreme video displays as well as providing the processing power for high-end video editing. Editing full resolution 4K video is, at present, beyond even most workstation's capabilities, but with two AMD FirePro GPUs, the new Mac Pro will be able to "seamlessly edit full resolution 4K video while simultaneously rendering effects in the background" while connected up to as many as three 4K Ultra HD displays.
As of right now, details about availability and pricing are scant, with Apple only committing to comment that it is "coming later this year" (presumably this autumn). Pricing is unavailable, and Apple has attached a disclaimer about hardware specifications possibly changing between now and whenever the Mac Pro is available for purchase.
The MacBook Air also got a boost this week. For more on that, check out: A closer look at Apple’s new MacBook Air.
And have a gander at the video below for a first look at the Mac Pro: