Apple

Apple's new Mac Pro desktop: First look

Here is a just-the-facts look at the Mac Pro desktop, announced at Apple's WWDC event, with links to galleries and a roundup of other news.

The bold new design of the new Mac Pro has been called a "bin" (as in waste bin) by the snarky, while other fans praised its sleek, cylindrical shape. But for most, it comes down, of course, to what's inside that tot-sized R2D2 container of flashing lights. While everyone has been making their favorite sci-fi references, my inner nerd immediately suggested the Genesis Device from Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan. However, you see it, below are the most salient facts about what the Mac Pro desktop offers.

Photo Credit: StarTrek.com

Mac Pro 2013

Mac Pro 2013 facts and features

  • Aluminum cylinder 9.9-inches tall and 6.6-inches in diameter
  • Intel Xeon E5 with up to 12 cores of processing power, up to 40GB/s of PCI Express gen 3 bandwidth
  • Dual AMD FirePro GPUs (Apple claiming 7 teraflops of GPU performance)
  • DDR3 memory controller running at 1866MHz delivering up to 60GB/s of memory bandwidth
  • PCI Express flash storage (up to 2.5 times faster than the fastest SATA-based solid-state drive, and 10 times faster than a 7200-rpm a SATA hard drive)
  • Unified thermal core design with one fan
  • No optical drive; Built-in Thunderbolt 2, USB 3, Gigabit Ethernet, and HDMI 1.4 ports
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • No pricing as of yet, coming later this year

With such radical new design features, you can bet that TechRepublic's Bill Detwiler will be cracking one open as soon as they're available, which is sometime later this year, according to Apple, but there is no specific date as of yet. Also of note, the Mac Pro will be built in the U.S.

What are your first impressions of the Mac Pro? The klutz in me is already imagining the pain of dropping that slippery cylinder on my toe. What do you think the price tag will be?

Stay tuned for more analysis and perspective on all of the news out of WWDC, including iOS 7, the new MacBook Airs, the Mavericks OS, and more. Meanwhile, you can check out some of the first impressions of the folks at ZDNet and view the galleries by visiting the links below.

WWDC roundup:

About

Selena has been at TechRepublic since 2002. She is currently a Senior Editor with a background in technical writing, editing, and research. She edits Data Center, Linux and Open Source, Apple in the Enterprise, The Enterprise Cloud, Web Designer, and...

25 comments
hartiq
hartiq

Vulpinemac asks "Since you are supposedly looking for a "last PC", then I have to wonder why you are so concerned about a workstation-grade machine anyway." Why not? At the time I could afford it. Still could. I cleared all my debts and got a little grubstake when The Company reduntanted and retired me. I wanted to treat myself a little so I bought a BD-recordy-player, a tablet so I could play with Android, an e-reader so I could run SETI@HOME on a device singularly unsuited to it and the best, biggest, fastest, most-ported, most muscled beast of a desktop I could find. I liked the look and feel of the all-in-one iMacs, but they are not expandable, not easily. I liked the MacPros but they are old, slow and obsolete compared to the Win7 box I chose. I didn't want another laptop, my tablet does everything I'll ever need a laptop for, so MacBooks and other lappies were not considered. And W8 is *hideous*. W8 is too hideous to live. A standard setup of any Windows is not good looking, but that can be improved with some tweaking. I did consider Linuxes, but the effort of seeking out a big machine with a *Nixxy OS pre-installed was too tiring. The Win7 box can't run MacOSX easily, but it can run everything else with the proper emulators and bottlers and VM's. I wanted a "last computer" that would give me fun and allow me to learn things during what I hope will be an *extremely* long retirement, so I don't want a box that will be unable to be upgraded, unable to be expanded or will be unable to run Firefox 87 in ten years time. Besides, it's *my* box, so why shouldn't I get a huge, big monster? I would have preferred a new MacPro, but apparently Apple aren't going to make any, they have instead applied the *name* to overblown iPads, so I'll be happy with my Win7 machine. It really was a very considered choice. Though the moment I saw it sitting on the shelf screaming "BUY ME!" I knew I would. In over twenty years of owning PC's from quite a few manufacturers, including Dell, HP and Apple, I have had one video card fail and zero hard drives. I have added bits to PC's but none of them have failed, either. However, SSD's are by their very nature given a limited life span and the more you use them the quicker they die. Using an SSD for SETI@HOME or any of its BOINC-ish friends is suicide and any computer that can't do simple stuff like that is a toy. Getting rid of spinning disks is a brilliant idea, but they should have been replaced with something reliable.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

Honestly, that's a pity because they both still work as well as they did when new--better really since they're running 6GB of RAM when they were designed for a max of 4GB. That said, technology advances alone are dating these machines, preventing me from using them as an external display and hard drive for a new Mac while later iMacs can serve that role. On the other hand, I am strongly considering replacing these iMacs with the new Mac Pro within the next year. Those same new technologies make the new Pro a very strong contender in my personal photo business due to its much greater processing speed, needed in photo and video encoding for my clients. Encoding a 1-hour video to DVD format takes roughly 4 hours in my current machines. Even that's better than the ones I used before these--which took 12 hours or more for the same task.

NickP2012
NickP2012

It's a very nice looking computer. Packed full of the lasted, if I could I would get it.

j0nn0
j0nn0

... and quite Retro/Steampunk in design. I wouldn't mind having one on my desktop - pretty sure it slices through HD like a hot knife through butter.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

anodizing aluminum is pretty easy and has no effect on the heating/cooling capabilities of the machine. Apple's latest iPhones even use black anodized aluminum for the back and sides of the case to help cooling. Anodizing doesn't add a layer of insulating vinyl, epoxy or plastic to put color on the metal. I also didn't say aluminum was a "departure" from their design. If you remember, the Mac Cube was Apple's first aluminum-cased desktop Mac and was quite handsome--but they added an acrylic shell around it as both a continuation of the plastic shells on the iMac of the day and as protection over the aluminum itself, which admittedly is easy to scratch when continuously handled. The Cube, then, was the departure, not the new Mac Pro. That also means that Apple isn't really changing anything since they've already been producing a lot of products (admittedly hand-held) in black, as well as the stereotypical brushed metal look. Apple's older Mac Pro in silver was a big, in-your-face kind of machine and with this model they're turning it into a functional work of art, effectively concealing the fact that you have a computer on your desk while making it small enough that it will sit ON your desk, not under it, helping to avoid some of the dirt that all towers typically collect by sitting on the floor. Cleaner tower, better cooling, more reliability and longer usable life before breakdown. In other words, this model appears very well engineered, very typical of Apple.

Gisabun
Gisabun

Or is this a black b ut very expensive C3P0? :-)

chiefski76
chiefski76

My first thought was of the Cray-1 from back in the early 70's. Brilliant, Apple, but not original!

dominic64_2003
dominic64_2003

A very clever piece of engineering and a welcome move away from standard open architecture. From what I can see there is enough computing power within this Mac Pro to suffice for most power users. So the need for one to tinker should be minimal. Really impressed to see the inclusion of PCIe architecture included in this design. Can't really see the cabling nightmare given that ultimately this is a desktop machine. Unless we referring to use of multiple screens. Well Done Apple.

hartiq
hartiq

It is. It's hideous. It's also an overgrown iPod, a toy. Real computers have expansion bays and room for more than one CPU and spinning hard-drives. E-book readers, iPod shuffles and other toys have flash memory as their only storage. I don't care how quiet the SSD makes it, it is useless as a professional working machine. The lack of an optical drive, the lack of anywhere to *put* an optical drive further reinforces the "this-is-a-toy" aspects. A couple of months back I was looking for "my last computer", the PC to serve me in my retirement. I looked at machines with *Nixes pre-installed but these were all small, expensive and slow. I really wanted a MacPro but these were old, tired, small, restrictive and obsolete. So I went for a Win7 HP box. It's a beast of a machine and, apart from OSX, I can run almost any OS on it to play. I was thinking of waiting for the rumoured new MacPro that was supposed to come out in 2013. I am *very* glad I did not. This thing is the hardware equivalent of Windows-8. It is *ugly*. It is also nowhere near a serious working PC. Which is a pity. Apple could have done ever so much better.

mainhoo
mainhoo

...a cable management nightmare. for anyone wanting to do any professional grade work on this machine, i foresee several issues compared to the conventional box design - specially for those who care about keeping data, analog audio and power cables as far separated as possible. not to mention the untidy cable spaghetti which might be a distinct possibility now. otherwise, everything else is totally droolworthy :)

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

some of your points fail in the details. The iMac and the new Mac Pro are expandable--just not internally so. I have more than 3TB of hard drive space attached to a 6-year-old iMac carrying 6 GB of RAM--2GB more than it was designed to accept but which has made the machine work better than when it was new. It really does depend on what you want to do with expandability. One advantage with a Mac is that you do get the ability to run any and all Windows apps and any version of Windows through Bootcamp--letting the machine BE a dedicated Windows machine while you're using it as such. Macs running Windows have proven themselves in multiple benchmarks as equal or superior to almost all generic and brand-name machines of the same price and definitely superior to lesser priced PCs. Of course, this also means you could choose to install Linux in that Bootcamp partition if you wished. On the other hand, I wouldn't recommend using VM software to run Windows in OS X if you intend to run resource-intensive Windows apps. I've discovered that if you have tasks that rely on precise timing, the emulators tend to 'hiccup' on occasion, costing you tens to hundreds of milliseconds which over time significantly disrupts audio/video synchronization. No, I'm not trying to suggest you get an Apple when you've already got your mind set on something else, I'm just pointing out that especially with the new Mac Pro, the expandability is still there--though mostly external. Apple did point out that even the video cards will be upgradeable and that it carries two separate video cards from the factory. The new one is no worse than the existing ones and significantly better in many ways. And Flash memory does appear to be quite reliable as I've not heard of any iPhones or iPads failing due to memory loss. I'll grant it's more expensive than spinning disks, but in the long term it's cooler and much, much faster. I expect it won't be long at all before some Windows OEM will develop a Flash memory machine of their own to compete with the Mac Pro.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

R2-D2. C-3PO was the tall, bipedal, golden one. But yes, it does.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

Old computers are also put at risk every time a technician has to open that box to replace components, which means that unit is completely off line until repairs are made while with this design all user-replaceable components (with the exception of the RAM) are external to the case, keeping the machine usable even while video cards, hard drives and other components are being replaced. In many ways the concept is far more efficient and cleaner than the old 'beige box' PCs which have dominated computing for over 30 years now. The lack of an optical drive emphasizes the fact that optical is effectively obsolete for normal data storage while giving the user the choice of any optical drive they want at any time, including Blue Ray. I've discovered "In my old age" that I almost never use optical any more except for archiving photos (soon to be totally obsolete) and creating home video disks for friends who don't have the skill to do it for themselves. Since you are supposedly looking for a "last PC", then I have to wonder why you are so concerned about a workstation-grade machine anyway. Ugly? Eye of the beholder. To some it will be ugly; to most, what it looks like means nothing as long as it can perform and perform reliably. This is a machine that can virtually eliminate down time in the enterprise as the vast majority of breakdowns occur in plug-in components like hard drives and video cards. By making them externally replaceable, the machine may never need to shut down for maintenance and repair. Personally, I think the new Mac Pro is a huge step forward, no matter what it looks like.

TNT
TNT

I agree the form factor is ugly and very unlike Apple design. That said, it appears to be a graphic designer's wet dream. Did you look at those specs? Its fast and has more processing power than your Win7 HP box. You are right that there is no optical drive or standard hard drives - or even bays to install such hardware. But I honestly cannot remember the last time I used my DVD RW drive on my desktop. With Apple and Microsoft moving toward an Internet delivered software model, the optical drive has very little place in the world. And flash memory for storage is the future. I upgraded my desktop PC's hard drive to an SSD earlier this year and it was the single largest performance boost of any upgrade I've ever performed. SSD's are essentially flash memory only they use a SATA connection instead of a PCI slot for data transfer. The new Mac Pro is anything but a toy. And while it may be ugly, I'm still gazing at it like Homer Simpson over a box of donuts.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

Why? Because with only limited exceptions, everybody's computer desk is a cable nightmare. Not necessarily plugged into the machine itself, but all the power cords for external devices as well as their USB connections which require one, two or even more multi-port hubs as well. The difference here is that by using Thunderbolt, you no longer have to work in a hub & spoke system; you can daisy-chain multiple components in such a way that you simply don't have as many dedicated cables running behind your desk. As such, all the drawbacks of having power, audio and signal cables running parallel in one tight area is simply eliminated. A little bit of foresight and planning by the obsessive would then eliminate the rest of the perceived problem.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

Either you haven't been paying attention to Apple for the last 15 years, or you simply don't understand their design philosophies. This is very much in their design philosophy and is in many ways a re-development of the original Mac Cube, intended to put workstation power into a very efficient package needing only one fan for cooling. The only real difference between this new model and the old Cube is the aluminum case which greatly improves cooling while removing heat-generating electric motors and high-intensity lasers (I'm sure everyone here is aware of how hot an optical or magnetic drive gets.) If you want optical or magnetic storage, purchase the one with the capabilities you want and simply plug it in. No longer do you have to merely 'accept what Apple chooses to give you' (a huge complaint by the anti-Apple zealots for over a decade, now.)

Slayer_
Slayer_

If I was Apple, I probably would have loaded it up with Multi terabyte hybrid drives. A system like this is for hard core data crunching, creating/compiling rendered movies, etc. Things that take a lot of space. I suppose gigabit ethernet and a strong server would cover for this however.

TNT
TNT

When I said it was unlike Apple, it was in reference to my calling it "ugly". Usually Apple designs are truly remarkable and beautiful and this just isn't. It's funny you mention the aluminum as the departure of their design, as that's the one place I figured they stayed true to form. Most of the Mac Pros and iMacs have had aluminum casings for years now, just in the "brushed" rather than polished style. Maybe I understand Apple's design philosophies better than you think. ;-)

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

External drive bays capable of holding between 4 and 8 terabytes of storage configured as individual drives or as a RAID stack have been available for years. With the Thunderbolt communications protocol, those external drives are as fast as any internal, but still far slower than Flash. This also means that if a drive dies, the machine itself is still eminently functional even while the dead drive is being replaced, almost eliminating down time.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

That implies a housed drive unit which this new Mac Pro does not include. As H-9000 says below, if you want more storage, simply buy the drive or drive stack you want to use and configure it the way that best suits your needs. It's a lot less expensive than ordering internal drives when you order your computer and simply saves the flash memory for real work such as accelerating image and video processing far beyond anything else currently available. Obviously Apple is not you, because they're thinking way ahead of you.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

But with no real storage it seems more than a bit pointless to me. One of the places where I do work has a 6K CPU Blade with Terra bites of storage and lots of Thin Clients to make the server do the work with each using up to 10 CPU's which when you consider are Xeon's is quite a few cores just for the input. Not sure how the thing is configured to do the actual number crunching but it is blindly fast for Image generation with most runs being less than a days work of the thing. Some of those would be weeks of Number Crunching with less hardware particularly if there is any water involved. Anyway back to the Mac it's looks great on paper except for the available storage. Col

Slayer_
Slayer_

For say 5 people working at the same time.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Wouldn't you just have a Dumb Terminal and a very expensive one at that? The Mac Pro seems over engendered with all of the Good Things at the expense of Storage. Besides what Desktop uses Xeon CPU's? Col

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