Sunday, 16 June 2013 15:34

Mac Pro – a circular argument

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No its not a waste paper bin - its Apple’s spectacular looking Mac Pro and it does not use a new Intel Haswell processor!

Apple have provided a web site that answers a few more questions. We suggest you have a browse. There are a series of 'dots' on the right side that you need to hover over and click to advance to the next page/s. It is important to note that there are no processor or GPU model numbers and a few of the specifications can be interpreted in different ways but there is no doubt that this is going to be a speedy machine.

It reportedly uses an unspecified Intel Xeon E5, 256 bit server processor with 12 cores and supporting PCI Express generation 3 bandwidth. But all this is speculation at present.

The new Mac Pro – a circular PC 9.9” high and 6.6” diameter (previous model 20.1 X 8.1 X 18.7”). It has about 1/8th of the volume of the old Mac Pro.

Its design has a lot to do with the reduction in CPU size and more features on the CPU die. Of course the dual AMD FirePro graphics were not as good news for Intel but it acknowledged that Intel HD Iris Pro is no match for same either.

The design is innovative as well as acting as a wind tunnel to carry away heat. There is only one fan so its low noise too. There is no truth in the rumour that you can order a round hotplate for the top – we don’t think it will get hot enough to fry and egg but it may keep the coffee warm and the processor apparently runs at around 90 degrees centigrade.

All that [horse] power means it is designed to be a high end workstation so there is an abundance of connection options set into the cylinder. Six Thunderbolt 2 ports (bi-directional 20GBps), four USB 3.0, HDMI Out, two Gigabit LAN ports and internally Wi-Fi AC and Bluetooth 4.0.

The two AMD FirePro can each have up to 6GB of dedicated memory and will support 4K video editing. It can support three displays (presumably via HDMI splitting)

Storage is via internal SSD but we expect that more use will be made of the Thunderbolt 2 for external hard disk storage.

Opinion:

Not to take anything away from Apple – this is an innovative design that will sell well and it’s the only high end computer that runs OS X.

But at the Intel launch I spoke to a number of local manufacturers like Scorptec, ASI and Leader and all had the same message – Apple Mac Pro is good (looks wise) but we can do better (specifications wise). A bespoke computer using Intel’s top of the line i7 processor, pushed over spec and cooled with Intel’s new silent water cooling option plus a couple of ‘f’ing ginormous” NVidia or Radeon GPU’s and a ton of memory should cost much less than a Mac Pro. Of course you have to run Linux or Windows 8.x.

One assembler said that the core i7-4770K (current fastest with four cores and eight hyper-threads) running at 3.5/3.9GHz should be more than a match for the Xeon in the Mac Pro especially as it can be pushed well above spec to over 5GHz and the Mac Pro case may not appeal to those who want to add peripheral boards – it is not internally expandable i.e. no PCI Express slots.

I could not get a good answer on the difference between a Xeon in the Mac and a Haswell Extreme edition i7 but the general response was that the latter would eat the former in all areas except perhaps using ECC memory.

And for a bit of fun.


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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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