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Inside Apple's completely redesigned Mac Pro 2013

Neil Bennett | June 12, 2013
The 'bin-shaped' new Mac Pro offers an incredibly powerful set of components wrapped around an innovative cooling system.

The 'bin-shaped' new Mac Pro offers an incredibly powerful set of components wrapped around an innovative cooling system.

Apple has taken the wrapper of a completely redesigned Mac Pro workstation. It's about an eigth of the size of previous model and features a design that has already been compared to a bin (or Dusty Bin in a Daft Punk helmet, according to Jonathan Barnbrook on Twitter), something Dyson would create and to an air-conditioning unit. This last comparison is more accurate, as the design of the new Mac Pro is all about getting airflow through to its top-of-the-range components - as while it's tiny in size, this Mac Pro aims to go up against its main rival's flagship desktop workstations such as Dell's Precision T7600, HP's Z820 and Lenovo 's ThinkStation D30.

For the new Mac Pro, Apple has arranged all of the components around a central wind tunnel with a single big fan, which it has engineered to keep everything cool while apparently keeping noise to a minimum. The full chassis measures about 25cm tall and 16cm in diameter.

As you'd expect from a top flight workstation, the 2013 Mac Pro features two Intel Xeon processors. Surprisingly, while the Dell T7600, HP Z820 and Lenovo D30 offers dual eight-core chips (for a total of 16 cores), the new Mac Pro features two 6-core processors.

Which next-generation?
Apple describes these as 'next-generation E5 processors', which could refer to the current generation of E5 Xeon processor based on the 'Sandy Bridge' architecture, or could hint towards the next generation E5 line based on the 'Ivy Bridge' platform that it announced in April and is due in Q3 of 2013 (so from July to September). Apple hasn't said when the new Mac Pro is shipping beyond a vague 'later this year', so it's most likely that the Mac Pro will include the new 'Ivy Bridge' chips.

While Apple hasn't said just how much RAM the 2013 Mac Pro can support, it does support 1,866MHz of ECC RAM, while its rivals support RAM no faster than 1,600MHz. Storage-wise, the new Mac Pro features PCIe flash storage, which with a data transfer rate of 1,250MBps is 2.5x faster than the fastest SATA-based flash storage, according to Apple, and over 10x faster than a 7,200rpm SATA drive. We expect these to be very expensive and small in capacity, so you'll likely need to pair these with an external drive for your projects.

For graphics, the 2013 Mac Pro has dual graphics chips from AMD's FirePro range. It hasn't said which cards are included, but from the quoted specs they appear to be the same chips as found in AMD's top-of-the-line FirePro W9000 graphics card - which feature 6GB of graphics RAM (and ECC RAM at that), a 384-bit memory interface and 264GBps memory bandwidth. Apple says that the cards will allow you to do VFX and editing work on full-res 4K video - and output the three 4K displays at once. Unlike the PC-based FirePro W9000 though, there are no DisplayPorts on the 2013 Mac Pro - instead the three of the six Thunderbolt 2 ports can be used as mini-DisplayPort outputs that output to DisplayPort monitors using an adapter, as with Apple's MacBook Pro and iMac.

 

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