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The new Mac Pro: Hands on, and what you need to know

Jason Snell, Dan Frakes | June 12, 2013
What better place than a room full of developers--people accustomed to harnessing as much computing power as they can get their hands on--to unveil a brand new Mac Pro? And so that's just what Apple did on Monday, devoting a large portion of the 2013 WWDC keynote to a product we've long been hoping for--and even predicting. It's a new Mac Pro, not at all like the old Mac Pro, and it's coming later this year.

It's a dense, heavy object, but much smaller than the old Mac Pro: just 9.9 inches tall and 6.6 inches in diameter. You can actually pick it up--and we did--with one hand by grabbing it by the top. That's because while the Mac Pro's case ends at the top of the cylinder, the internal housing, made of the same aluminum material as the exterior, ends an inch or so below that with a ringed vent above a single fan. You can grab the top of the external housing anywhere around the ring and pick it right up.

Underneath that fan is a key reason for the Mac Pro's unique design: the "unified thermal core." This is Apple's name for the large, triangular space in the middle of the cylinder, with its sides made up of the two video cards and the processor card--each of which vents its heat into that central core. The top-mounted fan sucks cool air from beneath the Mac Pro, pulls it up through that core, where it cools the components, and then blows the warmed air out the top. (Apple says the fan is very quiet, because it's a large, single fan with an efficient design.)

Apple also added some of its typical design flourishes to the new Mac Pro's design. For example, if you turn the tower around to connect or disconnect a peripheral--more on that below--the computer automatically senses the movement and illuminates the back panel to make it easier to see the ports.

Will the new Mac Pro be faster than current models?
It would be difficult for the new ones to be slower than the current models, which (minor speed bumps aside) have been largely untouched for years. For starters, the 2013 Mac Pro will use Intel's latest Xeon chipset, the Xeon E5. You'll be able to configure the computer with up to 12 cores of processing power that, in Apple's words, provide up to 40 GBps of "PCI Express gen 3 bandwidth and 256-bit-wide floating-point instructions." The company claims the new Mac Pro's processors will be up to twice as fast as the current model's.

Apple’s Phil Schiller stacks the old Mac Pro (left) up against the new model during the WWDC 2013 keynote.

The 2013 Mac Pro will also have significantly faster memory thanks to a four-channel DDR3 memory controller running at 1866MHz. The computer will use ECC (error-correcting code) memory and will offer up to 60 GBps of memory bandwidth (compared to 30 GBps for the current Mac Pro models).


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