A critical look at the new Mac Pro

arstechnica by Dave Girard

A graphics pro breaks down Apple's new machine.

Hell finally froze over yesterday and Apple announced a new Mac Pro at WWDC. At first glance, the new machine was as mysterious as it was terrifying to me and many other creative pros who have been waiting for ages for this thing to drop. But now that Apple has a full site page for the new machine and I’ve gotten some info from people familiar with its internals and with OS X 10.9, the Mac Pro has becomes less of a mystery.

But that’s also what’s freaking us out.

The design

At 6.6" × 9.9" for its cylindrical machined aluminum case, the new Mac Pro is tiny, and no other workstation-class Xeon desktop with a discrete workstation GPU—or two, in this case—looks anything like it. You get the feeling that the designers sat around coming up with ideas for the new Mac Pro and said, “If Darth Vader edited video, what would his computer look like?” Well... it would probably look like this:

If you haven’t seen the inside already, it’s a truly amazing bit of engineering, organized in a tube-like shape with a triangular arrangement of the motherboard elements along the exterior walls of the “thermal core,” a unibody-like heatsink that draws heat away from the GPU, CPU, and memory. Even more unusually, the machine has only one (1!) fan that cools everything, wind-tunnel style.

So the Mac Pro will, I suspect, be a ridiculously quiet workstation as well. This is Apple engineering at its best, and I won’t have any concerns about using this for long sessions of V-Ray rendering or ZBrush sculpting. Detractors will say it’s going to overheat if you do anything serious, but Apple knows these things need to run around the clock for days on end. It didn’t put a dual workstation GPU in there and expect people not to use it extensively. More about that further on.

The new Mac Pro makes the previous generation look (thankfully) as outdated as it should, given that the machine it’s replacing uses technology from 2010. All the expected modern technologies are here, plus some that will put the new machine ahead of many current competing workstations: dual Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI 1.4, Thunderbolt 2.0 with DisplayPort 1.2 support for up to three 4K displays, 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0, 1866MHz ECC RAM, PCIe-based flash storage, and dual AMD FirePro GPUs with up to 6GB of VRAM. The addition of WiFi as standard is a nice addition, but it’s kind of a gimme considering the machine's lack of upgradeability. read more...

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