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Hands on with Apple's new Intel Xeon E5, dual AMD FirePro equipped Mac Pro

post #1 of 170
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Apple's latest event prominently outlined new iPads, but also focused attention on Apple's now third place but still strategically important Macintosh business, including the new Mac Pro desktop and revamped 13- and 15- inch MacBook Pro notebooks.



Mac Pro industrial design



After first teasing its newly redesigned Mac Pro (above) in spots starting this summer, Apple provided the first real details of component specs and prices this week. As expected, they are not aimed at consumers, with the base price starting at $2999 and a second tier opening at $3999. Every aspect of the new machine targets the needs of creative Mac professionals.

Unlike conventional PCs that plug a series of components into logic board fit in an open box with room for expansion bays and slots, the new Mac Pro has an innovative industrial design that rethinks the entire concept of desktop computing by looking at the current state of computing afresh.



Apple detailed the new Mac Pro's design process in a video it presented at its event earlier this week (below). Apple's head of operations Jeff Williams explained, "To make a product as advanced as the Mac Pro, we had to pioneer entirely new processes."



Thinking inside the box



As AppleInsider outlined in April, the new Mac Pro gets rid of not only optical drives but also mechanical hard drives for booting and storage, shifting instead to solid state flash storage just like the MacBook Air (albeit a high performance variety).

This allows Apple to drop both drive bays and the disk-oriented SATA interface, as the Pro's flash storage uses PCIe directly, essentialy being plugged right into an expansion slot without an intermediary disk interface. But the new machine also gets rid of PCIe slots themselves, instead accommodating external expansion via Thunderbolt, which is essentially PCIe in the form of a cable.

That allows for an extremely compact unit that concentrates a workstation class CPU (Intel Xeon E5, available with 4, 6, 8 or 12 cores), two AMD FirePro GPUs (each packing 2-6GB of VRAM), and up to 64GB in four DDR3 ECC RAM slots along with a power supply into a cylinder with a 6.6 inch footprint that's smaller than the 7.7 inch Mac mini.



Triangle within a cylinder



At 9.9 inches tall, it's 1/8 the volume of the previous Mac Pro tower. The key to the Mac Pro's dense, compact design is its innovative central thermal core: a triangular wedge of aluminum with internal ribs that function as a shared heat sink for the three primary processors, which are attached to each side.



The two GPUs are attached on either sides of the isosceles triangle, fit onto boards that screw into the thermal core and expose the chips via thermal paste to it, so the heat they generate can be quickly absorbed into the core. The hypotenuse side gets the larger Xeon attached to it in the same way.



Mounted upright, this allows a relatively slow fan mounted on top to pull air up through the thermal core and evacuate it out the top, assisted by the natural upward thermal convection. Apple's designers in the hands on area explained that about half of the airflow pulled through the machine goes up through the core, while the other half circulates around the plenum space surrounding the core within the Mac Pro's external cylindrical tube.



RAM, storage and expansion



The remaining area in front of the Xeon CPU accommodates the RAM slots and the external ports. There are four RAM slots that accommodate up to 64GB total using standard 1866MHz DDR3 ECC parts, driven by a four channel memory controller delivering up to 60GB/s of memory bandwidth, twice that of previous Mac Pro systems.

The flash storage unit (which like the iMac is proprietary to Apple and not considered user serviceable) attaches to the surface of one of the GPU board sides. In the current design, there's only one connector for an internal flash storage device (depicted below, without the flash unit installed), with options ranging from 256GB to 1TB. Powered by a PCIe controller that can deliver up to 1200MB/s, this flash storage is much faster than a typical 500MB/s SATA flash SSD or a SATA 7200 RPM hard drive running at 110MB/s.



All additional storage is connected externally, via either the Mac Pro's four USB 3.0 ports, six available Thunderbolt 2 ports, or using the dual Gigabit Ethernet ports via Network Attached Storage or a Storage Area Network.

In addition to supporting external storage and expansion (including pro audio interfaces), each 20Gb/s Thunderbolt 2 port can support up to 6 devices in a chain, for a total of 36. In addition to delivering PCIe, Thunderbolt also carries DisplayPort signals, offering support for up to three 4K Ultra HD displays or six standard Thunderbolt displays.

There's also a standard HDMI 1.4 port for connecting a standard HDTV or DVI-type monitor. Other interfaces include minijack MacBook-style hybrid analog and digital audio in and out as well as wireless networking with 802.11ac for up to 1.2Gbps WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0

Mac Pro designed for pros



In addition to a fast, multiple core Intel CPU, the Mac Pro makes dedicated use of one GPU for driving video displays while the second is reserved for computing, from audio and graphics processing to scientific number crunching or 3D rendering. Apple directly pitches its new Mac Pro at video editing, 3D modeling and animation, photography, graphic design, audio, and science and technology professionals.

With support for both OpenGL 4.1 and OpenCL (which drives computationally intensive, general purpose tasks on free GPU cores), the dual standard FirePro D300 to D700 GPUs deliver up to 7 teraflops of computational muscle, workstation class graphics power with capabilities and computational accuracy well beyond the typical higher-end consumer, Radeon-style GPUs designed primarily for playing video games.

The new machine is expected to become available in December, and will be accompanied by new versions of Apple's Aperture, Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro tuned to take special advantage of it.
post #2 of 170
Oh I can't sleep!
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post #3 of 170
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

The flash storage unit (which like the iMac is proprietary to Apple and not considered user serviceable) attaches to the surface of one of the GPU board sides. 

 

That's not correct. According to the slides put up by Phil Schiller at the presentation on Tuesday, the flash storage is in fact user replaceable.

 

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post #4 of 170

You call this "hands on"!?!? LOL!

post #5 of 170
How is this hands-on?
post #6 of 170
Very cool!
post #7 of 170
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smiles77 View Post

That's not correct. According to the slides put up by Phil Schiller at the presentation on Tuesday, the flash storage is in fact user replaceable.



We really don't know what exactly that phrase covers, other than the RAM modules.
post #8 of 170
Beautifully designed machine.
post #9 of 170
Ok, we got a great description of the new Mac Pro but where is the hands on part? You know where you use it and describe who fast it runs, how fast it launches apps. How Final Cut X works on it.

Otherwise you need to retitle this article to: We regurgitate everything Apple told us about the New Mac Pro but don't actually touch the thing.
post #10 of 170

A really nice computer, must be inspiring to work with it beside you. The 6 TB2 ports seems like overkill though, maybe if they'd only had 4, they would have had enough spare I/O bandwidth for a second internal Flash drive, which would surely have been far more useful.

 

And why does the high end configuration on the Apple Store only have 256GB of Flash? Even the high end Macbook Pro configuration has 512GB. Surely the default configs should be designed to avoid as many people having to do CTO as possible. i.e. you don't want to inconvenience people by forcing them to wait for a special build. And yet these configurations seem more about meeting a certain price point than being sensible defaults.

post #11 of 170

With...

 

Apple Thunderbolt Display with USB 3 and built-in 3D.

Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keypad with built-in USB 3.

post #12 of 170
want = yes, need = not realy, I realy want to see it and read the experiences of real users, side by side tech stuff. 3k is a little steap to jump in blindly
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post #13 of 170

Beautiful machine, I'm very tempted by one.  It's just a shame that Apple are price gouging their UK customers as usual. :mad:

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post #14 of 170
I can't wait to hear some stories of real world usage.

Small request for Apple.

A 3k computer that comes in jet black should have a jet black keyboard not a grey one.

With matching Magic Trackpad.
post #15 of 170
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post
 

A really nice computer, must be inspiring to work with it beside you. The 6 TB2 ports seems like overkill though, maybe if they'd only had 4, they would have had enough spare I/O bandwidth for a second internal Flash drive, which would surely have been far more useful.

 

And why does the high end configuration on the Apple Store only have 256GB of Flash? Even the high end Macbook Pro configuration has 512GB. Surely the default configs should be designed to avoid as many people having to do CTO as possible. i.e. you don't want to inconvenience people by forcing them to wait for a special build. And yet these configurations seem more about meeting a certain price point than being sensible defaults.

True, although with TB drives most of your storage requirements should be outside of the Mac Pro

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post #16 of 170
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

We really don't know what exactly that phrase covers, other than the RAM modules.

That screenshot from the presentation is ONLY talking about the flash storage so why would they have "User accessible" on that slide to refer to RAM modules?
post #17 of 170
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

 There are four RAM slots that accommodate up to 64GB total using standard 1866MHz DDR3 ECC parts, driven by a four channel memory controller delivering up to 60GB/s of memory bandwidth, twice that of previous Mac Pro systems.

Does anyone make 2133 MHz ECC? All I could find searching is Non-ECC.

 

Right now the largest sticks I could find are 16GB, but theoretically the Mac Pro could access unlimited memory as larger capacity modules become available. Personally I would still prefer a larger traditional enclosure, but I'm definitely in the market for a new Mac Pro. It has been a long wait. What I find so incredible, though, about Apple hardware in general, is that it lasts a long, long time with no problems. At least that has been my experience.


Edited by mstone - 10/24/13 at 7:38am

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post #18 of 170
Obsolete the day it ships. Thunderbolt is perfect for a Thunderbolt display, but not much else. The use of 6 Thunderbolt connectors requires two GPUs, how many current Mac Pros ship with two GPUs? This is a badly constrained design.
post #19 of 170
While I'm going to buy one, I'm also going to wait for next year's model. Quite frankly, this is going to be a much more expensive solution than the older Mac Pro. I always bought the top model, but this one is made in such a way that prices are going to be much higher due to what's included.

Dual pro cards is expensive, even with the lower price 300 series. The 700 series has a whopping price tag, and again, there are two.

We can see that the base $3000 model only includes 256GB flash storage. For some users, this will be enough because of the way they configure their system. But for the rest of us, we need at least 512 for the main drive.

I'm also surprised that the base unit doesn't include 16GB RAM, I'm also disappointed that it only goes to 64GB, which is a step back. With many workstations allowing 128, or even more, this will be a limitation going forward, unless Apple allows more in a future model. But even so, with the price of this, it's going to be kept for a while. So that path isn't there.

I wonder what the next step up will be, other than 8 cores. And will it be another $1,000? So that's $5,000. Then the next, again at $1,000 with12 cores brings us to $6,000. What else do we get for that? Where does storage go in those models? How about the graphics card? Will all of that be extra? I can somehow see the top equipped model costing $8,000, or so.

And then, of course, we need a Thunderbolt tower for the rest of our drives. I've got 5 drives in the case now. One is an SSD residing in the lower optical bay as my startup drive. For speed, we may need two ports. So at least $750 there.

And then, what about cards? So we need a card bay. That could easily cost another $1,000.

Hey, this is beginning to look expensive!

I predict that a lot of video, photo, and publishing people are going to go towards the very capable 27" iMac.

Arrg. Corrected for many typos.
post #20 of 170
Slick design and engineering don't make up for the fact that this machine is lacking in expansion and choice. Most workstation class machines offer more internal storage expansion, multiple graphics options, dual Xeon CPU's, and more memory. Also, conspicuously absent from Apple's latest announcements was a 4K display (several vendors have announced these). Again, I think this is a cool machine just with limited appeal...
post #21 of 170
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smiles77 View Post
 

 

That's not correct. According to the slides put up by Phil Schiller at the presentation on Tuesday, the flash storage is in fact user replaceable.

 

 

I thought the same thing and went back to the keynote. All it says is "User accessible," which is good because that means the flash drive can be replaced, but it doesn't say whether OWC has a license to sell a replacement. At least this means you can upgrade at a later date to a larger flash drive. As for the memory, the keynote says the same thing but looking for this memory comes up with weird heatsinks attached to most of them. 

post #22 of 170
with dual-GPU, this machine is clearly aimed at the video/effects/graphics crowd. Within that segment, no amount of internal storage will ever be enough, so external storage is a given. There are also tons of external equipment like editing boards, capture boxes, sound mixers, drawing tablets, etc. Thunderbolt 2 is a pretty good replacement for PCI Express slots (the current Mac Pro has 4 PCI-E x16 slots). For this purpose, the new Mac Pro is an impressive computer.

The audio professionals are definitely not well-served by the new Mac Pro. What will they do with the dual-FirePro graphics? Once again, I think Apple is missing a mid-level Mac here. A Mac Mini is suitable for some professional use, but painfully lacks internal and external expandability. The iMac solves the expandability issue somewhat, but I don't want to throw out a perfectly good screen after 4 years. A Mac with Core i7, lots of non-ECC RAM, and tons of Thunderbolt ports like the new Mac Pro, without the expensive GPUs will find favor with some groups.
post #23 of 170
Quote:
Originally Posted by thornwald View Post

Ok, we got a great description of the new Mac Pro but where is the hands on part? You know where you use it and describe who fast it runs, how fast it launches apps. How Final Cut X works on it.

Otherwise you need to retitle this article to: We regurgitate everything Apple told us about the New Mac Pro but don't actually touch the thing.

^^^ This!

Just to add some meat this thread. here's a video by Michael Cioni. His company, Light Iron, does Post, DI, etc for movies like 42, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Muppets... Michael is a talented creative, engaging speaker and has an amazing mind.

The entire video is a great watch, but at 13:42, Michael talks about the future of FCPX (I'd love to get his take on the Mac Pro).

http://vimeo.com/73797466


FWIW, I am going to buy a Mac Pro!
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post #24 of 170
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smiles77 View Post

That's not correct. According to the slides put up by Phil Schiller at the presentation on Tuesday, the flash storage is in fact user replaceable.


We really don't know what exactly that phrase covers, other than the RAM modules.

Well, but that's the point. He first put up the slide about RAM being "User accessible" (which we know for a fact is user-replaceable) and then used the same terminology to refer to the flash storage. There's no other sensible conclusion. You can even see the simple screw that holds the storage in the socket, which is easily removed.

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post #25 of 170
Quote:
Originally Posted by akqies View Post


That screenshot from the presentation is ONLY talking about the flash storage so why would they have "User accessible" on that slide to refer to RAM modules?

Maybe it's "user accessible" in the same way this article is "hands-on."  You can "access" all the internals you want, but we never said you could replace or upgrade any part ;-)

post #26 of 170
Sorry, can't read this at the moment, I'm currently hands on with Kiera Knightley (using the same unusual use of "hands on").
post #27 of 170
Quote:
Originally Posted by saarek View Post

Beautiful machine, I'm very tempted by one.  It's just a shame that Apple are price gouging their UK customers as usual. 1mad.gif

I've told you before, this is why I moved to the USA 1biggrin.gif
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post #28 of 170
Quote:
Originally Posted by karmadave View Post

... Also, conspicuously absent from Apple's latest announcements was a 4K display (several vendors have announced these). Again, I think this is a cool machine just with limited appeal...

Apple doesn't sell UPSs or office furniture either, but I think people manage to muddle through.  If Apple can't bring anything new to the table over what Sharp is offering (I think that's what they used in the demo), then why should they bother sticking their name on a commodity piece of hardware?

post #29 of 170
This is testing my Apple love. I can't see it as anything other than a waste paper bin designed for an office on the Death Star.

Sorry.

I'm sure that as form follows function this is excellent design, but I don't want a round shiny black thing on my desk or next to it.
post #30 of 170
Quote:
Originally Posted by zoffdino View Post

with dual-GPU, this machine is clearly aimed at the video/effects/graphics crowd. Within that segment, no amount of internal storage will ever be enough, so external storage is a given. There are also tons of external equipment like editing boards, capture boxes, sound mixers, drawing tablets, etc. Thunderbolt 2 is a pretty good replacement for PCI Express slots (the current Mac Pro has 4 PCI-E x16 slots). For this purpose, the new Mac Pro is an impressive computer.

The audio professionals are definitely not well-served by the new Mac Pro. What will they do with the dual-FirePro graphics? Once again, I think Apple is missing a mid-level Mac here. A Mac Mini is suitable for some professional use, but painfully lacks internal and external expandability. The iMac solves the expandability issue somewhat, but I don't want to throw out a perfectly good screen after 4 years. A Mac with Core i7, lots of non-ECC RAM, and tons of Thunderbolt ports like the new Mac Pro, without the expensive GPUs will find favor with some groups.

In re: your 2nd paragraph:

OpenCL and GPGPU:
Quote:
General-purpose computing on graphics processing units (GPGPU, rarely GPGP or GP²U) is the utilization of a graphics processing unit (GPU), which typically handles computation only for computer graphics, to perform computation in applications traditionally handled by the central processing unit (CPU).[1][2][3] Any GPU providing a functionally complete set of operations performed on arbitrary bits can compute any computable value. Additionally, the use of multiple graphics cards in one computer, or large numbers of graphics chips, further parallelizes the already parallel nature of graphics processing.[4]

OpenCL is the currently dominant open general-purpose GPU computing language. The dominant proprietary framework is Nvidia's CUDA.[5]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General-purpose_computing_on_graphics_processing_units

I suspect that makers of audio gear and audio software will exploit the internal capabilities and external expandability of the Mac Pro.
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post #31 of 170

After reading several postings I'd like to post my opinion on what this "device" is used for. Previously, Macs contained everything required in one package (including keyboard and monitor). The new Mac Pro is a Lego(tm) piece. Pro users will now need to add everything except for the boot drive, RAM and video cards to complete their system. Some people like this and others don't. If I already had access to a NAS or Xsan or something similar, I'm practically ready to go. A 256GB boot drive might not be enough to handle extra large digital photos but them again, bulking up on internal RAM might be enough for fast processing using something similar to a fusion drive setup. Video professionals will need tons of storage, much more than will easily fit in a single CPU box, so it really shouldn't matter to them. Publishing professionals in large corporations should be using network storage anyway (my background for 30+ years) so they already have storage arrays or some kind. If they don't, they risk losing lots of billable work if the local computer dies (this does happen, especially when serviced by Windows-centric IT staff). 

 

Nobody has said anything about using the Mac Pro as a server. It's overkill with the base graphics cards but maybe Apple will release a stripped server version with a simple graphics card, an integrated graphics card, or three CPU cards instead of the graphics cards for a very interesting server. Stack these cans in a specialized rack at an angle for access and proper airflow and you have the rebirth of an all-Mac computer center.

post #32 of 170
Quote:
Originally Posted by malax View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by karmadave View Post

... Also, conspicuously absent from Apple's latest announcements was a 4K display (several vendors have announced these). Again, I think this is a cool machine just with limited appeal...

Apple doesn't sell UPSs or office furniture either, but I think people manage to muddle through.  If Apple can't bring anything new to the table over what Sharp is offering (I think that's what they used in the demo), then why should they bother sticking their name on a commodity piece of hardware?

Is the Sharp Thunderbolt or HDMI? Traditionally computer monitors have higher resolution than TVs. Apple already makes monitors, so there is a natural expectation that they will eventually make a retina version, perhaps even more than 4k. Personally I think around 30" is a good size display for computing. I certainly don't want a 50" screen on my desk.

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post #33 of 170
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smiles77 View Post

Well, but that's the point. He first put up the slide about RAM being "User accessible" (which we know for a fact is user-replaceable) and then used the same terminology to refer to the flash storage. There's no other sensible conclusion. You can even see the simple screw that holds the storage in the socket, which is easily removed.


It might be possible, but no mention was made of it being possible. We all expect RAM to be upgradable, but in Apple's latest computers, the drive is extremely difficult to upgrade. I would hope it's possible.
post #34 of 170
It's hard to know which Pro market this is aimed at, since it's really a steroid-enhanced Mac Mini. It's useless until you spend thousands of dollars on external storage, or new devices, like an Atto Thunderlink and a bunch of adapters, to connect to storage you already own. Add a video IO device like an Ultrastudio or IO XT, a non-matching keyboard and mousy thing and the designer desktop is crawling with plugs, wires, humming power bricks and multi boards, and the bank account is drained of dosh, with barely half heading for Apple. Whereas the bulky, cumbersome old school tower needed one plug, contained an SSD and 12TB on board, and sat under, not on, the desk.

So if you're running tiny apps on small jobs,fine, FCP X using AVCHD or 5D or something. At that level it's a bit prosumer, like cutting on an iMac . Let's hope it's insanely faster than anything else in a box, and runs Resolve using 5K RED media at full debayer quality via some Sonnet box, and that its pair of FirePros beats a Cubix stuffed with GTX680s. Who knows, it might beat a 12-core. Or next year's version might. If it can, I'll be its biggest fan.
Edited by fearless - 10/24/13 at 8:18am
post #35 of 170
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post


BTW, do you plan to buy any Mac Pros for personal or company use?
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post #36 of 170
Quote:
Originally Posted by zoffdino View Post
The audio professionals are definitely not well-served by the new Mac Pro. What will they do with the dual-FirePro graphics?

 

One is dedicated to CPU tasks via opencl

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post #37 of 170
Originally Posted by melgross View Post
We really don't know what exactly that phrase covers, other than the RAM modules.

 

 

That screen from the keynote is talking only about the PCIe SSD storage. The stick is user-replaceable.

 

Also,

 

 

“That’s no desktop… that’s a workstation.”
“It’s too small to be a workstation…”

post #38 of 170
Quote:
Originally Posted by realpaulfreeman View Post

This is testing my Apple love. I can't see it as anything other than a waste paper bin designed for an office on the Death Star.

Sorry.

I'm sure that as form follows function this is excellent design, but I don't want a round shiny black thing on my desk or next to it.

You have a serious oerception problem. This is a machine. It really hardly matters what it looks like, particularly if you're really a professional for whom this machine might be what perfect. After all, workstations are a one the ugliest computers out there. The Mac Pro was an exception. This does have a certain beauty to it though, even if you don't appreciate it.
post #39 of 170
Its 1.3Gb wifi, not 1.2MB. That's what the AC standard is.
And if you don't want a round tower on your desktop then put it under your desk. Problem solved.
post #40 of 170
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


That screen from the keynote is talking only about the PCIe SSD storage. The stick is user-replaceable.

Also,





“That’s no desktop… that’s a workstation.”

“It’s too small to be a workstation…”

I'm not so sure about that. I do hope it's replaceable though.
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