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An All New Pro

June 20, 2013 - Dave Hecei
macpro-old-newApple has finally revealed the next generation Pro tower. The only problem is that it isn’t really a tower, it might not really be ‘pro’, it might be extremely expensive, and it won’t be available until later this fall.

The Mac Pro is Apple’s high-end workstation. The current model comes in a beautiful, but aging, aluminum tower case. This case has been around since the introduction of the G5 PowerMac. That Mac was introduced back in 2003 so I’d say it’s pretty old. Inside this case houses either a single or dual Intel Xeon processor(s). The Xeon is Intel’s workstation class line of CPUs. The current Pro can be either a single quad- or six-core model or the top-of-the-line dual six-core, which ends up being a monster 12-core Mac.

The current case can also hold up to two optical drives and four 3.5-inch SATA hard drives. The motherboard has four PCIe slots and two slide-out processor trays that hold four RAM slots each. In the end, the current Mac Pro is big, fast, heavy, and very expandable. The problem is that except for the 12-core model, the Pro can actually be beaten in many tasks by the new MacBook Pro 15 with Retina Display or by the high-end iMac.

So, Apple’s update to the Pro has been long awaited. Apple made a minor update to the Pro in 2012, but it was so minor most really feel the Pro hasn’t changed since 2010 – three years ago. To say that ‘pro’ level users have been clamoring for a new high-end Mac for a while now.

Enter the upcoming new Mac Pro. Picture a much smaller, piano black cylinder with a rounded top. Standing just under 10-inches tall and with a diameter of about six and a half inches, this new Pro is tiny in comparison to the current model. Putting both the old and new side-by-side it’s hard to image that this tiny little black cylinder can even compete with the aluminum behemoth. To say the new Pro is a bit different from the old one is like saying summer is a bit different than winter.

While it’s quite obvious that Apple has decided to make a statement with the new Pro. Shape not withstanding, the whole design is inline with the current Apple mindset. Make it small, make it powerful, and make it non-upgradeable (and whatever you do, don’t put an optical drive in it). Inside the cylinder is an extruded aluminum block. Well, actually it’s shaped like a triangle. This block is actually an ingenious heat sink. On two of the sides of the triangle will be the two GPUs. On the remaining side will be the CPU. You may have guessed that there is no optical drive (there really is no room) and there is no spinning hard drives. Storage is via an SSD connected directly to the PCIe bus, not through the much slower SATA connection.

Inside are slots for RAM and the slot for the SSD. There are no other slots inside the new Pro. Expansion is going to happen through ports. To handle this, Apple has included the new Thunderbolt 2 port. Not with just one or two mind you, but with six. There is also a single HDMI port, two gigabit Ethernet ports, and four USB 3.0 ports. The graphics are stated to be handled by dual AMD FirePro workstation-class GPUs. Since the new Pro will not ship until much later this year, these chips may change if something newer comes along before production starts. This also includes the reported CPU. As you’ve probably seen many times, specifications may change without notice.

The striking appearance of the new Pro may entice some to purchase it – even with a ‘guestimated’ price starting at over $3000. The main question is whether current Pro owner will upgrade to such a unique Mac design. Some are calling it the Pro Tube (remember the PowerMac G4 Cube?) or Mac mini Pro. The Mac mini is Apple’s smallest and lowest priced desktop. Like the upcoming Pro, the mini is small, powerful for its size, and with little to no upgradability (and no optical drive).

It’s really going to depend on the peripherals. I don’t think software will really come into question here – it’s still a Mac. If Apple and third-party developers can come up with fast external peripherals like RAID arrays, hard drives, video capture, and even expansion boxes with PCIe slots, then the new Pro might have a fighting chance. It may end up being that you buy a new Mac Pro to connect to a specific device and not the other way around. Way back in the old days, computers were purchased because it ran a specific program. It might be that way with hardware for the upcoming Pro.

The new Pro does have some things going for it. For some, it will be where it’s made. It is going to be the first Mac in a long time assembled here in the USA. It will be one of the most unique computer designs since the original iMac. It will also, hopefully, be very fast. It really depends on the professional video editors, designers, engineers, photographers, and animators ability to gravitate to something radically different, oops I mean unique in design. I’m thinking that they might, if Apple makes it all work and price it within reason.


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