Apple Mac Pro: what you need to know

Apple’s all-new Mac Pro has just been announced, and it’s a workstation that’s perfect for artists and video professionals

Apple has pumped tons of power into its all-new Mac Pro workstation computer, making use of Intel’s latest Xeon processors, which are available with up to 12 cores and at a speed up to 3.9GHz (using Turbo Boost). The other main feature of the new workstation is dual workstation-class AMD FirePro graphics cards, which are said to be optimised for the new operating system, OS X Mavericks.

Who should buy the Mac Pro?

With specs like these, it’s obvious that the new Mac Pro is aimed at artists and video professionals, and especially video professionals who are keen to flex their muscle with 4K video. Real-time video capturing at the higher resolution can be accomplished with the new system, and Apple claims that video processing performance is up to eight times greater than on the previous generation of the Mac Pro.

In a press release sent by Apple this morning, CEO of BlackMagic, Grant Petty, said the Mac Pro “is a revolution in pro desktop design and performance”, in reference to the system looking different to a conventional computer while supplying such high specifications, and also being able to offer “blazing performance” in programs such as DaVinci Resolve (image processing) and UltraStudio 4K. The CEO of Foundry, Bill Collis, praised the Mac Pro for its dual graphics cards, saying that the company has seen MARI (3D texture painting software) run “five times faster” on the new system, which has been able to create a “more fluid” painting experience.

What’s inside the Mac Pro?

Besides the Xeon CPUs and dual FirePro graphics cards, the new Mac Pro offers faster storage performance, and also better bandwidth for Thunderbolt devices. The new storage system is comprised of PCIe-based flash components, which first made an appearance in Apple’s MacBook Pro, and is said to offer transfer rates up to 1200 megabytes per second (MBps), which is much faster than what a SATA-based flash drive can do.

The storage capacity is up to 1TB, which is a high mark for a solid state drive (SSD) based computer, and more storage can be added via external avenues, including Thunderbolt 2. External drives based on Thunderbolt 2 are said to offer theoretical data transfer speeds up to 20 gigabytes per second, and the connection can also be used to connect up to three 4K monitors.

Every facet of the Mac Pro is faster than the previous generation, and this includes wireless connectivity. The Mac Pro has 802.11ac wireless networking built in, which can offer much greater file transfer rates than 802.11n. Meanwhile, Bluetooth has been upgraded to the 4.0 specification.

How does the Mac Pro stay cool?

All of these components are housed in an enclosure that doesn’t look like a typical computer at all. It’s cylindrical on the outside, while on the inside its components are laid out in a triangular arrangement that make use of a central aluminium heat sink. Apple calls this the “thermal core” of the computer and says it’s the reason the computer has been able to take up such a comparatively small footprint while offering such high performance.

Only a single, large fan is installed in the chassis, which also helps to keep the noise down, and it’s the only mechanical part in the system. It draws air in from the bottom and feeds it up through the core of the heat sink, pushing heat that it gathers along the way out through the top of the chassis. Apple claims that it had to contemplate the design of the fan very hard, from the number of fan blades it used, to their shape and position in order for the cooling performance to be effective at lower revolutions per minute, which is key to it being so quiet.

Mac Pro specifications and Australian pricing

The full specifications of the Mac Pro systems that are available in Australia are as follows:

Quad-core configuration

CPU: Intel Xeon E-5, quad-core, 3.7GHz, 3.9GHz Turbo Boost
Graphics: Dual AMD FirePro D300 graphics cards with 2GB VRAM each
Memory: 12GB ECC RAM
Storage: 256GB PCIe solid state drive
USB: 4 x 3.0
Thunderbolt 2: 6
Gigabit Ethernet: 2
HDMI: 1
Wi-Fi: 802.11ac (backwards compatible with 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth: Version 4
Audio: Combination optical/digital output and analogue line output; headphone jack; HDMI multi-channel audio; built-in speaker
Power consumption: Up to 450W
Operating system: OSX Mavericks 10.9
Price: $3999

Six-core configuration

CPU: Intel Xeon E-5, six-core, 3.5GHz, 3.9GHz Turbo Boost
Graphics: Dual AMD FirePro D500 graphics cards with 3GB VRAM each
Memory: 16GB ECC RAM
Storage: 256GB PCIe solid state drive
USB: 4 x 3.0
Thunderbolt 2: 6
Gigabit Ethernet: 2
HDMI: 1
Wi-Fi: 802.11ac (backwards compatible with 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth: Version 4
Audio: Combination optical/digital output and analogue line output; headphone jack; HDMI multi-channel audio; built-in speaker
Power consumption: Up to 450W
Operating system: OSX Mavericks 10.9
Price: $5999

You can configure your own system as well, using the following options from Apple’s online store:

CPU: Eight-core or Twelve-core
Memory: Up to 64GB
Graphics: Dual AMD FirePro D700 graphics cards with 6GB of VRAM
Storage: 1TB of PCIe flash storage

When will the Mac Pro be available to buy?

The new Mac Pro will be available to buy from December, either through the Apple store, Apple’s online store, and selected authorised resellers.

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Elias Plastiras

Elias Plastiras

Good Gear Guide

@pcworldau

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