Apple’s New Mac Pro - The Specs (So Far)

| Analysis

Wow, what a beauty. There's only one thing wrong with Apple's new Mac Pro: we can't buy it yet. Announced Monday at the company's World Wide Developer Conference keynote, the Mac Pro completely re-imagines workstation-grade computing power. The thing looks great, but we know you're just dying to see the specs.

The problem is that we don't know all of the specs, but we have laboriously pieced together what we do know and present it below for your edification in table form. That's right, we have your back.

Apple's New Mac Pro - The Specs So Far
Category What It Has Additional Info TMO Commentary
Processor      
  Intel Xeon E5 "Configurations up to 12 cores" We don't know the processor speed, but the E5 is a highly regarded processor line from Intel. We also don't know which E5 model will be used, but Intel is releasing a new version later in 2013, the same time the Mac Pro is supposed to ship. Odds are this is the processor Apple will use. Another unknown is precisely which configurations Apple will offer. A single-processor/6-core option for the entry level would still represent substantial power.
Dimensions      
 

Height: 9.9 inches

Width: 6.6 inches

  This is tiny, taller than Apple's old G4 Cube. It's 1/8 the total volume of Apple's current Power Mac aluminum towers, but the tradeoff is that all expansion is external. The top is designed to serve as a handle. The front is devoid of adornment, while Apple's logo is on the back above the ports. We'd love to see an Apple logo on the front.
Storage      
  SSD Only PCIe SSD (x1 Slot) No hard drives, and judging by the information provided and the image accompanying the information on storage (see the second image below the table), the new Mac Pro has precisely one (1) SSD slot. It's fast—up to 2.5x faster than SATA-based SSDs and up to 10x faster than a 7200 RPM SATA hard drive—but one slot means that having even 1TB of internal storage will be expensive. At least it's not soldered to the board, but with such a fast architecture, it's a shame it's not expandable.
Internal Bus      
  PCI Express gen. 3 "Up to 40GB/s" of bandwidth This is the internal bus open only to memory, storage, and processor. All expansion is external.
Memory      
  Four-channel DDR3 memory controller running at 1866MHz

(x4 Slots)

Capacity Unknown

We don't know the maximum capacity on memory for this beast, but we do know it has four slots that offer 60GB/s bandwidth, as shown in the image below the table. That's twice the bandwidth as the current aluminum Mac Pro towers.
Graphics      
  AMD FirePro workstation-class GPU (x2)

We don't have specifics on these video cards, but it looks like there will be options for how much VRAM they can have. Apple said "up to 6GB" for each card. They will power a veritable boat load of displays (1X HDMI and a bunch more via Thunderbolt 2), or you could go the route of using up to three "4K" ultra-high resolution displays. Which is crazy SciFi stuff at this stage of the game.

Apple also intimated that developers will be able to tap these cards for added oomph in their software. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable on the coding side can add to this in the comments.

I/O      
  USB 3 4 Ports Okie dokie.
  Thunderbolt 2 6 Ports Pretty sweet, but we're already seeing some complaints about PCIe gen. 3 being faster, and that this means Apple's Mac Pro will not be as fast as it could be.
  Gigabit Ethernet 2 Ports SOP
  HDMI v. 1.4 1 Port We'd like to see two of these ports for compatibility with existing displays, but one is still welcome. It will make the transition to newer displays easier.
Cooling      
  Fan (x1) Seriously? A single fan? That's so...wait for it...fantastic that it defies description. One fan means it should be quiet. One fan means that much less power being consumed. One fan is part of how this device can be so small. One fan to cool a workstation-class device appears to be a first, and it's insanely...wait for it...cool.
Networking      
  Wi-Fi 802.11ac This is a new version of Wi-Fi, and it is promising.
  Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet (x2) Meh. For the vast majority of users, this will be enough, if not more than enough. Some users will find it wanting.
  Bluetooth 4.0   Rock on.
Pricing      
  Don't Know    
Availability      
  Late 2013    

If you haven't checked out Apple's interactive webpage for the Mac Pro, do so. It's gorgeous and informative.

Mac Pro Memory

Apple's New Mac Pro - 4 Slots, Lots of Bandwidth

Mac Pro Storage

Storage - One (1) Slot

Comments

John Dingler, artist

Handsome1

aardman

The industrial design brings Darth Vader to mind.  Shiny black with slotted air vents.

iJack

I’m beginning to agree with other comments made elsewhere on TMO. Perhaps the outer skin should be glass. Those innards are a work of art, and it’s a pity to hide them.

jameskatt

I am hoping that these can be populated by 64 GB memory cards - if they exist for a total of 256 GB of RAM.  Minimally, I’m hoping we can get 32 GB memory cards for a total of 128 GB RAM.

Bryan Chaffin

jameskatt, my guess is that 128GB would be the minimum maximum…if you know what I mean.  smile

MOSiX Man

It seems strange that there is only a single SSD option. There is obviously a space for the necessary connector and mounting post on the second logic board. Maybe that will change between now and when these monsters are finally released.

I loved the reaction from everybody when they finally showed this new Mac Pro next to the current-gen model and it was revealed just how small it is. I, apparently among a lot of others, thought that it was probably three times as big as it really is.

ctopher

I never really wanted an old Mac pro, they looked big and loud and industrial.
I do not need the power these machines have for what I do,
But, Damn I want one of these….

Why? It doesn’t make sense, look at the specs and see what it’s missing: no spinning hard drive, no optical drive, no VGA, DVI, FireWire, eSATA, regular old SATA, no floppy!

But, I’m attracted by the sexy size and shape and the power (but why won’t it support the 8-core Xeon chips?)

FlipFriddle

Yeah. The size is what got me. I thought it was cool and everything until I saw the thing sitting next to a current MacPro and that’s when I said “Holy crap!”

This thing is clearly about being a nerve center for a huge array of Thunderbolt devices; as many as you can throw at it.

Paul Goodwin

I just browsed some specs on PCIe 6GB/sec SSDs vs 6GB/sec 7200 rpm HDDs. It appears that the SSDs draw 10-20 times as much power idling, and 6-10 times as much power when operating at max. This type SSD can draw up to 8 watts Idling for a 320 GB model, where 750 GB model HDD would draw roughly 1/10 of that. When really screaming the 320 GB SSD can draw up to 25 watts versus about 3-4 watts for the HDD. The computer power supply has to supply all that power, and at 80% efficiency or so, add about another 20% of the total watts over what the drives are dissipating. For 1 TB PCIe SSD, you’d need 75 watts just for the SSD and another 20W or so in the power supply. An HDD this capacity would only require 5-6 watts. So building an internal expansion system for this kind of fast storage is just not practical. I can see why Apple opted to put it outside. They chose speed as the focus on this design, as having a screaming computer with a bunch of HDDs as a bottleneck just didn’t make sense. They would have had to design a huge power supply for the machine to cover the big storage customer, as well as either screaming fans or a refrigeration system. The thermal challenge for the big external storage systems will be significant - quiet and cool means using HDDs or some pretty sophisticated cooling system for the SSDs.

ctopher

Paul Goodwin - I cannot comment on the power consumption, but I noticed that you reference 6GB/sec. Aren’t most of those SATA->PCIe->SATA solutions? I wonder if Apple is going that route (making the driver side of the equation easier) or if they went whole hog and use NVMe drivers or something else that supports all of those PCIe lanes.

Are they using MLC or SLC NAND? Do they use RAIN for speed and error correction?

Apple tends to roll their own when it matters and I wonder if it matters here? After all, their use case is likely rendering video and other compute intensive graphical tasks, not database queries so raw speed may not actually be that important.

Bleeding Edge SSD technologies and Apple’s choices would make a fascinating article.

ilikeimac

I’m curious to know more about the graphics cards. It sounds like these are from the “workstation” class of cards that go beyond the needs of gamers and are meant for profession 3D or video editing, and can cost thousands of dollars per card instead of hundreds. As I understand it, previous Mac Pros haven’t been able to use anything like those.

Bigger question: are these cards upgradeable? Will they be seated in a standard kind of slot and when cards designed for tower cases be able to fit into the same space?

rtamesis

This is a perfect third party opportunity to replace the metal shell with one made of shatterproof tinted glass in order to show off its cool innards.

Zarko

It looks to me that the SSD is placed “above” one of the graphics cards, and it doesn’t appear that there’s the connector for a connection above the other one.  Maybe they’ll put one above the other graphics card for configurations with a large quantity of internal storage.

Hagen

Processors—Apple says “up to 12 cores”, so I would expect lesser sizes. 6-core, certainly. 8-core? How about a 4-core for a cost the average Joe could afford?

Graphics—I see from the pics (here and elsewhere) that the center “unified thermal core” is three sided, so I’m figuring one very large CPU chip and two very large GPUs, all bolted to the central heat sink. I very much doubt those will be replaceable in any way, short of a Genius Bar service call.

SSD—The stick shown looks the same as what’s in the MacBook Air, and first tests of the new Air are getting 600MBps from those. Anyone look to see if the MacBook Air SSD is any different?

SSD vs. HDD—Paul, are you sure your figures aren’t reversed? I had thought that the switch to SSD (especially in the MBAirs) gave serious power savings and better battery life. I’d love to see two of those SSDs in the Pro, but heat concerns don’t sound right—especially with them stuck against the backsides of the GPUs, away from the heatsink.

Paul Goodwin

ctopher I have very little knowledge of what they put in the MacPro other than what I could gsee on their website. Yes, they would likely have put some of their own innovation where they thought it benefitted in a machine of this kind. It’ll be interesting to learn how much they really stretched to get the power they have in this size package. When they talk about 7 Teraflops, I have to shake my head. It wasn’t that long ago that a Gigaflop was a marvel. And in my prior work, sophisticated electronic jet engine controls get by fine with a few hundred megaflops. And the technology in this machine would make for some great articles. Let me know if you find some good ones

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