Late last month – or last year if you want – Apple finally unleashed the updated Mac Pro, and while few people want or need, the workstation has generated a lot of interest.
But what makes the Mac Pro tick? The teardown team from repair firm iFixit have got their hands on a system hot off the production line and have taken it apart to show us how Apple has put together the ultimate workstation.
It's fair to say that iFixit were impressed by system. "Beneath the surface," wrote Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, "the Mac Pro's compact, three-sided design is like nothing we've ever seen before — an example of what engineers can do when they think outside of the box."
But does the revolutionary design mean a system that's impossible to upgrade? Absolutely not. Both the RAM and CPUs are user-replaceable, and getting into the system doesn't involve having to get past any proprietary screws. Being able to upgrade the RAM and CPU means that buyers aren't tied to expensive Apple upgrades. For example, by doing a DIY upgrade to 12-core could save a buyer over $1,000.
Don't let the diminutive size of the Mac Pro fool you into thinking that it is form over function. The system is packed with high-end components, including:
- 3.7 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon E5-1620 v2 with Turbo Boost up to 3.9 GHz
- Intel BD82C602J Platform Controller Hub
- Elpida 4 GB DDR3L SDRAM
- PLX Technology PEX8723 PCI-E switch
- Intel DSL5520 Thunderbolt 2 controller
- AMD FirePro D300 graphics processor
- Elpida W2032BBBG 2 Gb GDDR5 VRAM
- Samsung S4LN053X01-8030 (ARM) flash controller
- Samsung K9HFGY8S5C-XCK0 flash storage
- Samsung K4P4G324EB 512 MB RAM
- Broadcom BCM57762 gigabit ethernet controller
- Fresco Logic FL1100 4-port USB 3.0 host controller
- Parade PS8401A HDMI jitter cleaning repeater
- Cirrus 4208-CRZ audio codec
All these components are tied together using a proprietary disc-shaped daughterboard at the base of the machine.
So, despite being compact, the Mac Pro is surprisingly modular and relatively easy to upgrade. The only downsides that iFixit point out is that there's no way to add extra internal storage, and that the use of proprietary connectors and tight cable routing could make working in this system a bit tricky.