Notes of interest on Apple's desktops: Mac Pro gets Xeons early

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2014
While most are familiar with Apple's desktop overhaul, a number of important details have slipped through the cracks -- including confirmation that Apple is receiving access to Intel's next-generation Xeon processors ahead of schedule.



Apple gets Nehalem Xeons early



People familiar with the matter say the new Nehalem-based Xeon processors in the Mac Pro are the same chips not due until late March for virtually all other customers, including powerhouses like Dell and HP.



Apple has apparently received them ahead of other manufacturers since the Mac Pro is a workstation product based on the new chip architecture, and not a server product; the smaller footprint of that market, as well as Apple's relative share, means enough stock should be on hand to cover the Mac Pro until the wider launch a few weeks later.



The early access fits a historical pattern that has seen Intel give Apple early access or non-standard parts: the 2007 Mac Pro update used a special 3GHz Xeon that didn't appear in shipping products from competitors until weeks later, while the just-replaced iMacs had the same Core 2 Duo system buses and clock speeds of notebook processors in April 2008 that weren't widely available until that summer.



Mac Pro requires Mac OS X 10.5.7



A graphics upgrade has turned up in the Apple Store possibly hinting at an imminent release of Mac OS X 10.5.7, which was first reported late last month.



The ATI Radeon HD 4870 Graphics Upgrade Kit for Mac Pro is described as "the ultimate choice for visual creative, scientific, and technical applications." It's intended for the Early 2008 or Early 2009 revisions of the Mac Pro workstation; however, one of the requirements is "Mac OS X v10.5.7 or later", which has not yet been released. Given that the new Mac Pros announced today are expected to reach customers next week, this may signal a Leopard update being released very soon, in the next one to two weeks. [Update: Apple recently changed this back to 10.5.6]



One late leak ahead of Apple's refresh pointed to the drivers being contained in a 10.5.7 beta seeded to developers.



As for the new Mac Pro itself, performance benchmarks provided by Apple show processing speed increases in key apps despite running at lower clock speeds, including 1.8 times faster on Mathematica 7.0 and 1.5 times faster ProRes to H.264 encoding in Final Cut Studio 2; the gains come mostly from the extra channel of memory bandwidth and the reduced memory latency but are also helped by optimizations that let each individual core in the workstation talk to each other more effectively.



However, the Mac maker is still far from being ready to ship its RAID card, which is rare in the industry for not requiring a direct cable link to each hard drive in the RAID array. Readers tell AppleInsider that placing an order for a Mac Pro with the card changes the estimated ship date from just 2-3 days to between 6 and 8 weeks. Why this is remains unclear.



iMac



The iMac brings a new keyboard offering. The wired Apple Keyboard is slimmed up, adopting the style of the Apple Wireless Keyboard by omitting the numeric keypad. The original model with the keypad is still available as a free upgrade to online orders.



Customers can also get up to 4GB of standard memory, with optional memory up to 8GB; this mirrors an extra level of headroom added when the 17-inch MacBook Pro was introduced earlier this year.



An upgrade to a discrete ATI Radeon HD 4850 chip is also new and reverses Apple's longstanding preference for giving iMacs stock ATI graphics and making NVIDIA graphics an option. It too will likely need Mac OS X 10.5.7 as it too first appeared in Mac OS X 10.5.7 development builds.



Mac mini



Like the iMac, Apple has paid a great deal of attention to the environment, but not always in immediately apparent ways. Apple says the volume of the shipping box has decreased by 60 percent compared with the first-generation Mac mini, for example.



The new Mac mini also uses an advanced power management system which is ultimately drawn from the MacBook family, which shares the same GeForce 9400M chipset and mobile Core 2 Duo processors. It uses up to 45 percent less power whenÂ*idleÂ*than its predecessor at 13W, according to Apple, although this doesn't necessarily represent the Mac mini's actual footprint. The processor in the desktop has a thermal design power ceiling of 25W, so any significant use of the system is likely to increase energy consumption well beyond Apple's figures.



Waving goodbye to FireWire 400



The Mac maker's new desktop updates complete the phasing out of FireWire 400 ports from its hardware in favor for the faster Firewire 800 specification. When announced in January 2008, the Mac Pro supplied two FireWire 400 and two FireWire 800 ports, but today's new model has four ports, all of them FireWire 800.



Similarly, the iMac has lost its FireWire 400 port in favor of another USB connector, making it four USB 2.0 on the back, a FireWire 800 port right beside, and two USB ports in the keyboard.







The new Mac mini has also upgraded to FireWire 800, making every new Mac with FireWire at least as fast. The MacBook Air and unibody 13" MacBook lack FireWire due to their internal design constraints.



While Apple hasn't publicly explained why the shift has come so quickly, the answer likely rests in the speed of external hard drives and other high-speed storage. Even regular 3.5-inch disks can transfer data as quickly as 160MB per second, which completely eclipses FireWire 400 and is still bottlenecked by FireWire 800's peak 100MB per second.



MacBook and MacBook Pro



Almost overshadowed by the desktop updates, Apple on Tuesday upgraded its portable options to make a 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo standard on the higher end 15-inch MacBook Pro and to give it the same stock processor and processor/storage upgrade options as the 17-inch MacBook Pro. A buyer can now opt for a 2.93GHz Core 2 Duo and a 256GB solid-state drive where before 2.8GHz and a 128GB drive were the maximum options.



Although the MacBook Air was one of Apple's first systems with a solid-state drive, it remains at 128GB. This likely stems from the size difference, as it requires a 1.8-inch drive where the larger enclosures of the other notebooks can afford roomier 2.5-inch drives.



A recent battery update helps the system maintain a charge when the system is shut down and goes unused for an extended period.



AirPort and Time Capsule



Apple now offers Time Capsule registration with a MobileMe account to allow remote access to the disk from anywhere with an internet connection.



Meanwhile, an AirPort Client Update addresses issues with roaming and network selection in dual-band environments, while Apple's AirPort Utility 5.4.1 has been released with no specific changes outlined. Presumably, it aids in compatibility with the new features and client update.



Mac pricing



We've updated our Mac Pricing Guide following today's updates to make it easy for readers to find the lowest price on all of Apple's current generation Mac models. The best prices are highlighted in bold. The "Discount" column to the far right reflects the amount of savings between Apple's retail price and the lowest price offered on March 3rd for that respective model through the company's authorized resellers. Discounts on the just released Macs range from $30 on Mac minis to $255 on current iMacs, and from $119 to $444 on their previous generation equivalents.



Please Note: With Apple having refreshed its entire desktop line (and tweaked its MacBook Pro line) on March 3, there's considerable overlap in product inventories at resellers. To make our Mac Price Guide as clear as possible, we've split the guide into two tables for the time being. The first lists all of Apple's current Mac products, including the new models introduced March 3rd. The second lists last generation models that were replaced on March 3rd, and which are now heavily discounted at some resellers.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 32
    irelandireland Posts: 17,422member
    I'd rather 4 usb ports and FW800 any day.
  • Reply 2 of 32
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Any word of the new 256GB SSDs are from Intel?
  • Reply 3 of 32
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,125member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post


    I'd rather 4 usb ports and FW800 any day.



    That's what this is for



  • Reply 4 of 32
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,125member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    Any word of the new 256GB SSDs are from Intel?



    Intel only has



    32...

    64...

    80...

    160GB



    320GB should hit this year when the 34nm NAND flash comes in quantity.



    SSD. 256MB ..you're probably looking at Samsung first and then Toshiba.
  • Reply 5 of 32
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Mac Pro requires Mac OS X 10.5.7



    A graphics upgrade has turned up in the Apple Store possibly hinting at an imminent release of Mac OS X 10.5.7, which was first reported late last month.



    The ATI Radeon HD 4870 Graphics Upgrade Kit for Mac Pro is described as "the ultimate choice for visual creative, scientific, and technical applications." It's intended for the Early 2008 or Early 2009 revisions of the Mac Pro workstation; however, one of the requirements is "Mac OS X v10.5.7 or later", which has not yet been released. Given that the new Mac Pros announced today are expected to reach customers next week, this may signal a Leopard update being released very soon, in the next one to two weeks.



    One late leak ahead of Apple's refresh pointed to the drivers being contained in a 10.5.7 beta seeded to developers.





    Apple has since updated the Upgrade Kit to say 10.5.6 or later.
  • Reply 6 of 32
    mactelmactel Posts: 1,275member
    My only disappointment is the 1Gb RAM in the low-end Mac Mini. Should have started at 2Gb RAM. I'll suck it up and buy one anyway.
  • Reply 7 of 32
    winterspanwinterspan Posts: 605member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    Any word of the new 256GB SSDs are from Intel?



    They don't make 256GB yet. And I have to say that question coming from you is somehwat naive... I haven't seen benchmarks beyond the original Macbook Air SSD which was terrible, but I'd be surprised if ANY of them used by Apple are even decent when compared to the Intel X25, OCZ Vertex, etc.. Please correct me if I'm wrong. Do you know what SSD is currently used and if there is a benchmark somewhere? If their MB Pro SSD can get anywhere near either of these drives in combined read+write speed I'll eat my shirt..
  • Reply 8 of 32
    "Even regular 3.5-inch disks can transfer data as quickly as 160MB per second [...]"



    I'd love to see a "regular" hard drive that can sustainably transfer data at 160MB/sec anywhere beyond the disk's controller. Ultra160 SCSI, from eons ago, might rightfully claim that ability but that's not a "regular" disk, either. No SATA disk can sustain 160MB/sec for more than a few seconds in the real world and one certainly can't saturate a FW800 bus; FW400 is probably safe, too, unless there are multiple disks on the same FW bus blasting data at full power for minutes on end.
  • Reply 9 of 32
    winterspanwinterspan Posts: 605member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    The ATI Radeon HD 4870 Graphics Upgrade Kit for Mac Pro is described as "the ultimate choice for visual creative, scientific, and technical applications."



    That's a load of bullshit If I've ever seen one. -- Perhaps it's the ultimate "choice" of what they are offering. The 4870 is a good consumer card, but most "scientific" and "technical applications" (and nearly all 3D/CAD/CAM rendering) will require a pro OpenGL card like an Nvidia Quadro, which Apple conveniently removed..



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    the gains come mostly from the extra channel of memory bandwidth and the reduced memory latency but are also helped by optimizations that let each individual core in the workstation talk to each other more effectively.



    The IMC and Quickpath is more important than the third memory channel, and while overall memory bandwidth is definitely a factor, just as important in many applications is the 2-thread per core SMT/"Hyperthreading"



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Even regular 3.5-inch disks can transfer data as quickly as 160MB per second, which completely eclipses FireWire 400 and is still bottlenecked by FireWire 800's peak 100MB per second.



    Don't know where you got this idea.. "regular" 3.5" drives rarely do any better than 65-75MB/sec for sustained read speeds, and the most expensive 10K RPM enthusiast drives don't break much more than 110 MB/sec. Any numbers much higher than that are just from the drives ~16MB cache..



    http://www.storagereview.com/Testbed4Compare.sr (drop down box -> max read speed)

    http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/3...mance,658.html
  • Reply 10 of 32
    tshorttshort Posts: 42member
    The Mac Pricing Guide has errors:



    "2.1GHz 13" MacBook (white)" should be 2.0GHz

    "1.83GHz Mac mini" in the top table should be listed as "2.0GHz Mac mini (1GB)"



    There may be other errors, but these are the most obvious.
  • Reply 11 of 32
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post


    Intel only has



    32...

    64...

    80...

    160GB



    320GB should hit this year when the 34nm NAND flash comes in quantity.



    SSD. 256MB ..you're probably looking at Samsung first and then Toshiba.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by winterspan View Post


    They don't make 256GB yet. And I have to say that question coming from you is somehwat naive... I haven't seen benchmarks beyond the original Macbook Air SSD which was terrible, but I'd be surprised if ANY of them used by Apple are even decent when compared to the Intel X25, OCZ Vertex, etc.. Please correct me if I'm wrong. Do you know what SSD is currently used and if there is a benchmark somewhere? If their MB Pro SSD can get anywhere near either of these drives in combined read+write speed I'll eat my shirt..



    Thanks. I had forgotten that Intel is building gets with different capacities. That clearly answers my question; these are not from Intel.
  • Reply 12 of 32
    shanmugamshanmugam Posts: 1,200member
    thanks for the price guide AI! i appreciate it.



    but one question for knowledgeable folks here, Macmall, OnSale and ClubMac are the same companies? i see all their address same i am confused; someone please unconfuse me
  • Reply 13 of 32
    BuffyzDeadBuffyzDead Posts: 318member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post


    That's what this is for









    To Include All That, tucked in right behind the display, elegantly.



    And what's great about that Firewire, is that with a single input, I can have access to my 6 independent hard drives, all at equal, simultaneous speeds. That is 800 running at 800 speeds and 400 running at 400 speeds, all on the same daisy chain.



    Firewire allows you to daisy chain up to 16 drives Or 15 ft of cable length, whichever comes first.



    Get the $15.00 adapter to those Firewire 400 devices, and it's all you'll ever need.



    With USB, you need the 6 inputs.
  • Reply 14 of 32
    citycity Posts: 522member
    Let me be the first to wish for a Mac Mini upgrade.
  • Reply 15 of 32
    elrothelroth Posts: 1,201member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by winterspan View Post


    If their MB Pro SSD can get anywhere near either of these drives in combined read+write speed I'll eat my shirt..



    I hope it's not polyester.
  • Reply 16 of 32
    Apple forgot to take their meds, and schizophrenia is setting in... They get together with Nvidia with OpenCL/CUDA, yet the drivers for current Nvidia offerings leave them lacking behind AMD/ATI in areas outside games (Boinc is THE perfect example). Apple uses Nvidia chipsets in a lot of their products, and now puts a consumer 4870 as the top graphics option in their top of the line Mac Pro? Not even a 4870 X2, GTX 295, a Quadro or a FirePro? That would be fine if there were other aftermarket options readily available for OS X, but there aren't. Apple always seems to pick "hand me downs" when it comes to GPU options. Other than the inclusion of the Nehalem Xeons, I don't see much innovation in this launch... ah, it must be that mini displayport in the Apple/ATI 4870 When is Apple going to support more GPUs from both AMD/ATI and NVIDIA? I would love to plug in one (or two) 4870 X2 in my MP, but realistically, when is that going to happen? <rant over>
  • Reply 17 of 32
    eSata has been kicking FW800's ass for awhile. (and 100MB/s is under perfect conditions with 0 overhead; ie: doesn't happen)



    When is Apple going to get it together and kick out FW3200?



    Anyone with an external SSD would be pissed.



    I want to see a FW3200 drive can at eShop!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!





    +++Hopefully, the present Graphics Card Dearth is just a MiniDisplayPort issue, soon to be resolved.



    I think someone had speculated that its inclusion was due to Movie Studio Pressure. -???





    Kind of a shame for AAPL to put such a wonky connector out there, as the variety+scope of graphics cards is certainly more important than dongleage style points. \





    These were fun posts at BareFeats about Drive Speeds:

    http://www.barefeats.com/hard112.html

    http://www.barefeats.com/mbpp08.html
  • Reply 18 of 32
    http://store.apple.com/ca/product/MB...mco=NDE4NDMxOA



    That's $323 US dollars. WOW, that mini displayport added $174 to the cost of a regular 4870 512MB (see http://www.tomshardware.com/news/ATI...-Cut,7141.html ).
  • Reply 19 of 32
    my god it is startling, even on professional machines where many of us can use Blu-Ray, Apple continues to stonewall any progress on this technology.



    its getting ridiculous at this point.
  • Reply 20 of 32
    hiimamachiimamac Posts: 584member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mitchelljd View Post


    my god it is startling, even on professional machines where many of us can use Blu-Ray, Apple continues to stonewall any progress on this technology.



    its getting ridiculous at this point.



    Haven't seen the benchmarks yet, but this is a huge step for APPLE, new GPU with FIREWIRE?



    If it runs games (it will run motion, illustrator) and has firewire, this is a big deal for edit bays, 2,3,4 and portable. For consumers, if they threw in a DVR, they would have a hit, right now, only laptops are selling, worst economy in a long time.



    The entertainment business are going to gobble these up if they do what I think they will.
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