Mac Pro and it’s future

  • Posted: 22 April 2011 12:18 AM

    I have been thinking about the Mac Pro future for a while and just read on mac rumors that Apple is “toying with rack mountable mac, I am surprised we didn’t see one in the last 7 years.

    What is everyones thoughts?

    So far everyone I know that uses a Mac Pro ends up with them on the floor where all the connections on the front are far too far away to be of much use, as they cant fit them on there desk

    They seem way too big compared to the small speed difference to a macbook pro.

    Yes the disks and cards take up space but there is a lot of empty room in there..

    Is there any advantage for any users out there to have a touch screen built in to view info or input info ? Maybe just a expensive gimmick

    Am I missing something ? A mini mack not really enough for high end pro users who want card space but with thunderbolt transfer speeds does it still need to be one box ?

    If you split out all the 4 hard disk spaces and just had one SSD in there and a separate inclosure for people the needed storage to fit there requirements?

    I fondly remember the g3 power mac desktop being a nice size.

    [ Edited: 22 April 2011 03:33 AM by Downunder ]      
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    Posted: 22 April 2011 12:28 AM #1

    Apple has yet to innovate the Mac Pro’s chassis, externally speaking.  I mean, these are the same Power Mac G5 duds from 2003.

    Apple redesigned the Mac mini.  The Mac Pro will see its day soon, I’m sure.

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    Posted: 22 April 2011 02:50 AM #2

    They wind up on the floor as far away as possible to get their fan noise away from the operator.

    Personally, I’d like something as expandable but lighter and if possible, quieter.

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  • Posted: 22 April 2011 12:10 PM #3

    Downunder - 22 April 2011 03:18 AM

    I have been thinking about the Mac Pro future for a while and just read on mac rumors that Apple is “toying with rack mountable mac, I am surprised we didn’t see one in the last 7 years.

    I did not go to macrumors to look for this article, but I think the recently discontinued Xserve fit this description quite well.

    I also think the current Mac Pro tower is a highly evolved form factor that could certainly use some tweaking, but overall is a design that has weathered well. To me it is hands down the most elegant tower in the consumer market. It manages to be simultaneously imposing and unassuming. It is almost a shame to have it under my desk, even there it makes a visual statement.

    Functionally, I would like to have another couple of slots for another video card or fibre-channel board. This would also call for a bigger power supply. A card slot and one additional each USB/FW port would be useful, although I think a Thunderbolt implementation is more likely.

    Access to the interior couldn’t be easier unless it had lift-gate remote control, and there are enough HD bays and memory slots to satisfy most needs.

    That being said, Apple would absolutely bake my noodle if they innovated a modular approach like Dull did with their Optiplex series of desktops. If it were actually possible to mix and match internal components to add bays or slots, and swap out power supplies, IT and the DIYers would sit up and take notice. I think Apple would not only do a better job of this than Dull, but it would create a huge opportunity for aftermarket upgrade and add-ons.

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  • Posted: 22 April 2011 12:38 PM #4

    CityGuide - 22 April 2011 03:10 PM
    Downunder - 22 April 2011 03:18 AM

    I think Apple would not only do a better job of this than Dull, but it would create a huge opportunity for aftermarket upgrade and add-ons.

    I doubt that will ever happen.  If you look at the logic of their product design for the last several years, they’ve been actively trying to kill the add-on/upgrade aftermarket.  Look at how it used to be with being able to buy new processors for the old G3/G4 machines?  Where are those products/companies now?

         
  • Posted: 22 April 2011 12:40 PM #5

    I had one of the prior PowerPC MacPro’s and upgraded to a Intel MacPro when they came out.  I got the MacPro for a couple of reasons:  1. the MacMini was not very powerful, and I occasionally like to boot into Windows and play games, 2. the video card on the Mini stunk, and 3. I’m using a 30” monitor.  I was able to upgrade my MacPro with a better video card, something I can’t do with anything else Apple makes.  I’ve got it loaded with 4 hard drives and lots of memory.  I even added a eSATA connector plate that connects to the internal SATA plugs.  None of this is possible in any other Mac.

    That said though, do I really need space for 2 optical drives?  Probably not, I don’t do a lot of disk-to-disk copying.

    Do I need multiple expansion slots?  Other than the graphic card, nope.  Although being able to add on a RAID controller has crossed my mind from time to time.

    Do I need 4 internal harddrive bays?  With eSATA I could get by without it, but more importantly, with a Thunderbolt equipped MacPro, I could really get by without needing all those internal slots.

    So that just leaves processor and memory, and we know Apple (and lots of other people) are perfectly capable of cramming an i7 and lots of memory into a small case.

    That leaves a big heavy case that I’m not using a lot of features on.

    I think Thunderbolt is a potential game changer with respect to the MacPro too.  There’s no need for a lot of internal drive storage with Thunderbolt offering amazing speed.  Let customers decide how much or little storage they need.

    Sony I believe is rumored to be offering a docking station that has discrete graphics in it.  If they could do that, and Thunderbolt is really just an extension of PCI-Express, could we not have an external chassis for those people that need to have a bunch of expansion cards?

    Shuttle Computer has been building breadbox computers for years now that offer support for powerful graphics cards.  If they can do it, Apple certainly can.

    The monster MacPro has its place, but I believe that place is becoming more and more the extreme high-end.  Realistically, how many of us really need 12-cores of processing power or 64gb of memory capability?  If you need that much, then I suspect you probably want some hardware RAID, yet you have to buy a separate card for that, as you don’t get it on the motherboard by default.

    There is a room to let the MacPro move upwards into a high-end beasty roll, while providing room for a new ‘Mac Standard’ space with a new mid-tower / breadbox design using still-powerful but not-expensive non-Xeon processors, with graphic card capability, Thunderbolt for extra harddrive capacity, and other potential expansion.  One could say that a mid-range Mac would cannibalize MacPro sales, but I think the MacPro’s high-cost and big footprint do that well enough, while a mid-range machine with option for a good graphics card and Thunderbolt for other expansion capability would see more than enough customers to replace any loss of MacPro sales.

         
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    Posted: 22 April 2011 12:57 PM #6

    FWIW, I’m not a video or graphic guy buteven set up as a tradestation I’m using both optical bays and all four internal HDD bays. The bottleneck I’ve got is bandwidth on the PCI slots in that Apple cannot support two or more serious video cards and so the second video card is a bit slow.

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  • Posted: 22 April 2011 04:06 PM #7

    I don’t need tons of processors but I do need a lot of headroom. I typically run seven to eight applications at a time - no games - and have multiple windows open with activity. Consistent response and fast screen refresh rates are important to me. I use all four HD bays, with one acting as a backup to boot and two as software RAID for data. The RAM risers are populated with a mix of RAM sizes (though recently the B riser seems to have vanished). The card drives a 30” display and a 19” Dell, and the FW and USB buses push a scanner, cameras and assorted peripherals.

    I owned a 9500 that I pushed to its limits before finally giving it up. Dual video cards, dual ethernet, third-party overclocked CPU, USB card, etc. It even ran VirtualPC. I gave it up when it was clear nothing was going to be written in OS9 anymore, but it was a good strong box that handled everything I threw at it. I replaced it with a lampshade iMac in 2003. After two years, two RAM chips, one logic board, and a hard drive I replaced it with my current MacPro.

    If I had to replace my tower today, I think I could do so with the current iMac. Apple has their product mix pretty well situated in this department now. My old iMac wasn’t up to the rigors of the video editing I was doing at the time, but I think its well within the capability of the current version. I don’t do anything fancier than what iMovie/iDVD supports, and that’s the key. iMovie/iDVD was capable of more than the first couple of then-current generation iMacs could handle (in fact I suspect that was behind the removal of some editing tools in iMovie 7) but the current crop has everything I need except for screen real estate - and that’s where the ability for expansion comes into play.

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  • Posted: 22 April 2011 05:00 PM #8

    I don;t know enough about production costs to know how cost effective this would be, but I’d like to take myramoki’s idea further.  How about a modular Mac Pro?  Start with a Mac mini sized base unit.  Need more “crunch” (processing power), add a linked external GPU box.  GPUs are trouncing single processors for flops.  Need more graphics power, add an external video card bay box.  Need more storage, add a RAID box.  This allows the user to add the capability they need as they need it, and would open up possibilities for 3rd party vendors.

    This solves a few problems, but may create others.  And it flies in Apple’s long-term one box solution dating back to the original Macs.  It allows you to have the stuff on your desk you care about (the Mac base station and monitor, and possibly the video card bay box), and put the raid and GPU box on the floor with dedicated fans.

    Seems like it would scale much better than any current solution.  You could even make it rack mountable.

         
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    Posted: 22 April 2011 05:50 PM #9

    Eric Landstrom - 22 April 2011 05:50 AM

    They wind up on the floor as far away as possible to get their fan noise away from the operator.

    Personally, I’d like something as expandable but lighter and if possible, quieter.

    Eric, if you’re Mac Pro is making that much noise, you might want to have it checked. I’m sitting right on top of my Mac Pro and would have to put my ear right up to it to hear it. My MacBook fan is a lot louder.

         
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    Posted: 22 April 2011 06:00 PM #10

    CdnPhoto - 22 April 2011 08:50 PM
    Eric Landstrom - 22 April 2011 05:50 AM

    They wind up on the floor as far away as possible to get their fan noise away from the operator.

    Personally, I’d like something as expandable but lighter and if possible, quieter.

    Eric, if you’re Mac Pro is making that much noise, you might want to have it checked. I’m sitting right on top of my Mac Pro and would have to put my ear right up to it to hear it. My MacBook fan is a lot louder.

    While my 2010 MP isn’t whisper quiet it is pretty darned quiet. Just a VERY low level hum.

    This rumor about a new form factor is strictly related to the IT folks. They want a rack unit and not a a clug like Apple suggested when they discontinued the xserve. I personally doubt Apple will make a new xserve-like box. Just not enough $‘s in it.

    I LOVE the current 2010 MP design. 

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    Posted: 22 April 2011 08:32 PM #11

    Eric Landstrom - 22 April 2011 05:50 AM

    They wind up on the floor as far away as possible to get their fan noise away from the operator.

    Personally, I’d like something as expandable but lighter and if possible, quieter.

    Quieter ?

    I’ve got a Mac Pro Quad 2.66 sitting on the left side of my desk and can just barely hear the HDDs.
    It’s not noisy at all, and I hardly ever notice the “noise” except when the HDDs are going full bore….

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    Posted: 22 April 2011 08:45 PM #12

    The noise doesn’t concern me much since mine’s in a closet, but the shortage of slots is a problem that causes me to have an even louder chassis attached.

         
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    Posted: 22 April 2011 08:48 PM #13

    jimlongo - 22 April 2011 11:45 PM

    The noise doesn’t concern me much since mine’s in a closet, but the shortage of slots is a problem that causes me to have an even louder chassis attached.

    Just curious, what is the chassis you mentioned ?

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    Posted: 22 April 2011 08:59 PM #14

    Magma PE6R4, sort of like this, it’s a pcix to pcie expansion product.

    [ Edited: 22 April 2011 09:02 PM by jimlongo ]      
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    Posted: 23 April 2011 01:56 AM #15

    furbies - 22 April 2011 11:32 PM
    Eric Landstrom - 22 April 2011 05:50 AM

    They wind up on the floor as far away as possible to get their fan noise away from the operator.

    Personally, I’d like something as expandable but lighter and if possible, quieter.

    Quieter ?

    I’ve got a Mac Pro Quad 2.66 sitting on the left side of my desk and can just barely hear the HDDs.
    It’s not noisy at all, and I hardly ever notice the “noise” except when the HDDs are going full bore….

    Wait until the machine runs hot because the video cards are going bonkers from drawing a bunch of stock charts.

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    For those who look, a flash allows one to see farther.