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New Mac Pro: Is this the droid you’ve been looking for? UPDATED

June 11, 2013

Mac Pro 2013 inside GPUs  Mac Pro 2013 inside top

[See update below.]

Apple did a “sneak peek” for its new Mac Pro during the keynote presentation at their Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco yesterday.

An overview of many of the new machine’s features starts at about the 53:15 point in the video of the keynote. There are additional details described in an animation on Apple’s site.

Apple says the new Mac Pro won’t start shipping until sometime later this year.

According to Apple, the new Mac Pro will be insanely fast, in part because it’ll feature some of Intel’s latest and greatest CPUs.

I appreciate the new Mac Pro’s energy and material-efficient design. The new Mac Pro will be much smaller than the current Mac Pro: A shiny, black cylinder just 9.9″ tall and 6.6″ in diameter. It’s somewhat reminiscent of a Star Wars droid. Or perhaps it’s an updated, cylindrical homage to Apple’s Power Mac G4 Cube of yesteryear? I just hope the new Mac Pro doesn’t suffer a similar fate as did that undeservedly maligned box.

The new Mac Pro is able to be so small because it doesn’t have room inside for multiple, relatively large 3.5″ hard disk or optical drives. In fact, it will have no internal bays for spinning disks at all.

Apple says the new machine will handle expansion primarily via 6 insanely fast “Thunderbolt-2” ports supporting up to 36 external Thunderbolt devices. The new Mac Pro will have no traditional internal expansion bus slots, except for 4 slots for removable, high-speed memory cards. The new Mac Pro will use internal, super-fast new flash technology for internal storage. Plus it’ll have 4 USB-3 ports, 2 gigabit ethernet ports, and an HDMI 1.4 port supporting 4K video. Apple says the new Mac Pro’s GPUs will handle up to three 4K displays via the HDMI and Thunderbolt-2 ports.

Speculation about pricing:

Apple did not announce pricing for the new Mac Pro.

Some online speculation suggests pricing for the new Mac Pro will start at far, far higher than $4,000 US.

I don’t think it will, so I’ll add to the speculation…

The current two Mac Pro base configurations start at $2,500 and $3,800.

My guess is the current Mac Pro models will likely continue to be available in most (but not all) parts of the world until the new Mac Pro ships.

Another guess: Unless Apple plans a yet-unannounced “in-between” model, I’d expect an entry-level version of the new Mac Pro to start at around the same $2,500 price as the current model.

But if such a “low” price is impossible — even if the new Mac Pro is configured with minimal RAM & flash storage — then perhaps Apple will soon announce a souped-up new top-of-the-line version of the Mac Mini positioned (price & performance wise) between the top-of-the-line iMac and the new Mac Pro?

Another long-shot possibility: I wonder if the new Mac Pro can be configured with only 1 GPU card installed instead of 2? If so, might that lower the price of an “entry level” new Mac Pro considerably?

Or, maybe the simplest, most likely scenario is that Apple will come out with a new, faster iMac as the “bridge” model?

In other words, I doubt Apple will leave a $2K – $3K price gap in the upper-middle of their overall Mac product line.

So, pricing for the new Mac Pro might start at way, way more than $4,000 US, but I bet it starts at around $2,500 US, just like the current model … unless they announce new machines to fill the “gap”.

About using Thunderbolt-2 for expansion:

[See update below.]

It seems a bit odd to me that Apple is touting using the new Mac Pro’s six allegedly insanely-fast Thunderbolt-2 ports for external expansion, but chooses not to use it themselves for connecting GPU or flash storage. I mean, why is Apple building relatively expensive GPUs and flash storage into the machine at all?

Why didn’t Apple just make the Mac Pro an even smaller box or cylinder that only contains the CPUs and RAM? Apple could then perhaps sell a satellite box/cylinder/expansion chassis for the GPUs and flash storage?

Because Apple will bundle “everything” inside the new Mac Pro, I actually have some doubts about the capabilities of Thunderbolt-2. If Thunderbolt-2 is really as fast and appropriate for external expansion as Apple says it is, then why don’t they use it themselves?

UPDATE:

On the wonderful MacInTouch.com website, Emory Lundberg replies (scroll down) concerning my confusion about the new Mac Pro’s GPUs’ internal configuration and its new Thunderbolt-2 ports:

===========================

Emory Lundberg wrote:

I assume they use an internal [SSD] because Apple doesn’t want to manufacture storage devices beyond Time Machine devices or rely on a third party for booting your computer. For what it’s worth, a Thunderbolt SSD-RAID device will be faster than a single internal SSD on SATA3.

The reason for using internal GPUs is because the GPUs they’re using far exceed the bus [bandwidth] of Thunderbolt 2. The Mac Pro site says each of the FirePro cards has “up to 6GB” of VRAM which tells me their high-end option will be the W9000 or an equivalent. That card pushes 264 GB/s, and Thunderbolt 2 can only do 2.5 GB/s. Graphics cards have much higher bandwidth requirements than storage. People using Fibrechannel for storage are at 8Gbps or 16Gbps; those who moved to 10Gbps ethernet solutions using iSCSI or CIFS/NFS/AFP and a magnetic SATA disk directly attached via SATA peaks at ~200MB/s (1.6Gbps).

You could put those cards in a PCI-E chassis but you’d be bottlenecked every time you used them. … At some point the whole thing will likely be built that way, but with memory and CPUs also on a chained bus. Today that isn’t possible. … [Thunderbolt-2 is] great for storage and devices that need 20Gbps. That doesn’t include workstation-class graphics cards.

===========================

Thanks for the info, Emory!

I like it, but …

Other than the above doubts and musings, I think the new Mac Pro is kinda cool. I hope it won’t be out of my price range, but it might be. But perhaps that won’t matter if Apple announces new, faster Mac Mini and iMac models in the coming months, which they are almost certain to do.

For what it’s worth, Grant Petty, CEO of Blackmagic Design, is excited about the new Mac Pro.

As always, stay tuned.

For my words only: ©2013 Peter J. DeCrescenzo. All rights reserved. http://www.peterdv.com

Note: I don’t receive income or remuneration for this blog, or for products seen or mentioned here. Advertisements on the page have nothing to do with me. The ads support WordPress, the publisher.

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