Posted by : Amanda Stein Thursday, January 23, 2014

The latest Mac Pro represents a significant leap from the previous generation in terms of both aesthetics and technical prowess. There is a lot horsepower under the bonnet, but can you really justify the cost of investment?




Overview.

Featuring the latest Intel XEON Quad core or 6-Core processors in addition to AMD workstation class GPUs as standard, the Mac Pro is the most powerful Mac available off the shelf. The design of the new Mac Pro is a major change in direction from the silver tower we all know and love. Apple has designed the Mac Pro to leverage maximum airflow and even heat distribution from a unified thermal core. This revolutionary design has allowed Apple to cram an incredible amount of power into a chassis that measures just 16.7 cm in diameter.

The Aesthetics.

The cylindrical design of the new Mac Pro has kicked off numerous debates and arguments across the internet. The all-aluminum design is best described as marmite, you either love it, or you hate it. Personally, I think the design is very attractive and most people I know that have seen the Mac Pro in the flesh agree with me.
With an upmarket glossy deep grey finish looks almost silver in a certain light, this is a chassis that should be proudly displayed on your desktop, not hidden away under the desk. Describing the new Mac Pro as a Trashcan, R2D2 or a giant coke can is mischievous at best!

Clever design.

The more time you spend analyzing the Mac Pro, the more it seems to defy convention. When it comes to fitting a large amount of technology into a small chassis, Apple are the undisputed champions and you really get to appreciate what Apple has achieved when you see the 2013 Mac Pro sit alongside the previous generation tower.
This clever design has been achieved by introducing an ingenious cooling and heat distribution solution and sacrificing a significant amount of internal flexibility.
Additional hard drive bays and expansion slots have been sacrificed for an array of external expansion ports, including 6 x thunderbolt ports that provide an average data transfer rate of 20GB per second. Some traditionalists will be upset by the restricted internal expansion possibilities (although you can still upgrade the RAM and the SSD), but with a few exceptions, the majority of us will never have the need to upgrade such a ridiculously high powered machine.

The Unified Thermal core.

For me, the most important design element of the Mac Pro is the introduction of a Unified Thermal Core (see images). The Unified Thermal core is a triangular shaped aluminum frame that acts as a centralised heat sink for all of the components in the chassis. Inside the thermal core, you will find a series of aluminum fins that are similar to the fins found on a traditional heatsink. These help to aid even heat distribution, dispersing the heat away from the CPU and GPUS that surround the thermal core.
The unified thermal core is supported by a single fan system that is positioned at the top of the cylinder, directly above the thermal core. This single fan delivers incredible cooling performance, sucking air up from the bottom intake, cooling the thermal core before carrying the warm air out through the top of the cylinder.
The acoustics also deserve a mention. For a single fan doing so much work, it is very quiet indeed.
Creating a high capacity workstation in such a small chassis simply would not have been possible using conventional cooling methods such as independent heat sinks and cooling fans. When you open the case and look at the thermal core, you do wonder why no one has thought of this design before!

So whats the performance like?

When it comes to the business critical day-to-day tasks of online shopping and initialising your playlist on iTunes, the 2013 revision feels noticeably faster than the previous generation Mac Pro, quite rightly so for a machine that costs a minimal 2.5k! However, the Mac Pro comes into its own when used with software applications that utilise its multi-core capabilities, such as Logic Pro and Final Cut Pro. Users of Final Cut pro in particular will be very impressed with the speed in which the Mac Pro can perform editing, rendering, importing and exporting.

Technical specifications and pricing.

The Mac Pro is available in two flavors on the Apple Website, both of which can be configured-to-order.
The Quad Core Mac Pro starts at a healthy £2499.00 delivered, with the 6-core model starting from £3299.00. Disappointingly, at this price nether model comes with a keyboard and mouse. Make sure that your boss is sitting down before telling him that you have replacing your existing Mac!
Apple Business Financing is available for both models starting from £104.13 per month. Visit the official Mac Pro store to find out more. If you use Macs on a business network then I would suggest employing the services of a specialist similar to our mac company for example. 

Quad-Core and Dual GPU model – standard specification.

Processor
3.7GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon E5 with 10MB L3 cache and Turbo Boost up to 3.9GHz (Configurable to 3.5GHz 6-core processor with 12MB L3 cache, 3.0GHz 8-core processor with 25MB L3 cache or 2.7GHz 12-core processor with 30MB L3 cache)
Memory
12GB (three 4GB) of 1866MHz DDR3 ECC memory (Configurable to 16GB (four 4GB), 32GB (four 8GB) or 64GB (four 16GB).
Graphics processors
Dual AMD FirePro D300 graphics processors with 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM each
  • 1,280 stream processors
  • 256-bit-wide memory bus
  • 160GB/s memory bandwidth
  • 2 teraflops performance
Configurable to dual AMD FirePro D500, each with 3GB GDDR5 VRAM, 1,526 stream processors, 384-bit-wide memory bus, 240GB/s memory bandwidth and 2.2 teraflops performance; or dual AMD FirePro D700, each with 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM, 2,048 stream processors, 384-bit-wide memory bus, 264GB/s memory bandwidth and 3.5 teraflops performance
Storage
256GB PCIe-based flash storage (Configurable to 512GB or 1TB2).

6-Core and Dual GPU model – standard specification.

Processor
Intel Xeon E5 with 12MB L3 cache and Turbo Boost up to 3.9GHz (Configurable to 3.0GHz 8-core processor with 25MB L3 cache or 2.7GHz 12-core processor with 30MB L3 cache)
Memory
16GB (four 4GB) of 1866MHz DDR3 ECC memory (Configurable to 32GB (four 8GB) or 64GB (four 16GB)
Graphics processors
Dual AMD FirePro D500 graphics processors with 3GB of GDDR5 VRAM each
  • 1,526 stream processors
  • 384-bit-wide memory bus
  • 240GB/s memory bandwidth
  • 2.2 teraflops performance
Configurable to dual AMD FirePro D700, each with 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM, 2,048 stream processors, 384-bit-wide memory bus, 264GB/s memory bandwidth and 3.5 teraflops performance
Storage
256GB PCIe-based flash storage (Configurable to 512GB or 1TB2).

What software is included?

Both models ship with the OSX mavericks’ operating system and the following apps:
  • iPhoto
  • imovie
  • Garageband
  • Pages
  • Numbers
  • Keynote


Display support.

Both models have support for up to three (yes three) 4K displays or six thunderbolt displays.


Dimensions.

Height - 25.1cm x Diameter – 16.7cm x Weight -5kg


External connections and expansion ports.

  • 4 x USB 3
  • 6 x Thunderbolt 2
  • Dual Gigabit Ethernet
  • 1 x HDMI Ultra HD
  • Speaker and headphone sockets


Sound.

Surprisingly, both models still feature an internal speaker. Surely, no one uses these anymore! The speaker isn’t great, but it does the job.


Pros and cons

Here are a few pros and cons based on our experience with the Mac Pro:
Pros
  • Incredible performance from both quad and 6-core models.
  • Internal flash storage is fast
  • It is very quiet
  • Futuristic compact design
  • Support for up to 3 x 4K monitors (so you better get saving)
  • auto-illumination of external ports is a nice touch
Cons
  • Its very expensive, especially when you start to add configure-to-order options
  • Lack of internal expansion options
  • The aesthetics may not be to everyone’s taste
  • It can get a little warm
  • Not enough software available to utilise 2 x GPU’s at this moment in time
  • Keyboard and mouse has to be purchased separately


Should you buy one?

Taking into account and specifications and the starting price, the Mac pro is truly a machine designed for professional use only. Small is the new big, and the compact design of the Mac Pro will be an attraction for many, although whether you like the design or not is down to personal taste.
The lack of internal expansion options shouldn’t be a problem for most of us. Most PC users keep their processors and graphics cards for longer because there simply isn’t the need to upgrade as frequently anymore thanks to the advances in software development and multi-core processing technology. Macs will be no different.
If you don’t use specialised software applications that utilise multiprocessing capabilities then it is very hard to justify investing in a Mac Pro. If you are a professional that is looking to leverage maximum efficiency from applications such as Final cut Pro for example, then the new Mac Pro will be a welcome addition to your desktop.

Resources:

The official mac pro homepage - click here
Featured images:
  •  License: Royalty Free or iStock source: http://www.bigstockphoto.com/
Another article by Brian Morton. A professional IT consultant of 11 years and counting. You will find Brian’s articles across on the internet on various technology sites. Brian does like his Apple Macs!

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