First looks and teardowns of Apple's new Mac Pro

First looks and teardowns of Apple's new Mac Pro

Summary: The first units off the Mac Pro (Late 2013) production line are making their way to customers, so a number of analyst sites have posted first looks and teardowns of the new model.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company would ship the new Mac Pro this year and it did so, despite many predictions that it wouldn't or couldn't. From the first-looks, I predict that the Mac Pro (Late 2013) will be the new status-symbol, C-level desktop of choice across the enterprise.

First-looks and tear-downs of Apple's new Mac Pro

This machine is a great combination of performance power and industrial design. It will be the perfect talking-point machine for captains of industry and everyone down the food chain. It has the performance to handle 4K HDTV content, so bosses won't have to rely upon someone else's machine to view any content associated with the brand. It is expandable, although the enterprise crowd won't really need that, outside of C-level executives in engineering, architecture, sci-tech and content-creation companies.

And it has a sexy, black, sleek look. It will be a surprise hit this year, beating sales expectations.

In a review at Anandtech, Anand Lal Shimpi says he never thought that he would go back to the Mac Pro. He appreciated the flexibility offered by his 15-inch MacBook Pro as a desktop, and there was no way he was "going to take two steps back in single threaded performance just to get a quieter system." He waxed enthusiastic about the updated hardware.

All in all the new Mac Pro is a good update to its aging predecessor. Apple did a great job with the new chassis and build a desktop that's extremely dense with compute. When I had to dust off the old Mac Pros to prepare them for this comparison I quickly remembered many of the reasons that frustrated me about the platform. The old Mac Pro was big, bulky, a pain to work on and was substantially behind the consumer Macs in single threaded performance. The new Mac Pro fixes literally all of that. If you have a workload that justifies it and prefer OS X, the Mac Pro is thankfully no longer just your only solution, it's a great solution.

The picture isn't all rosy dealing with 4K/MST video, Lal Shimpi said. However, there are workarounds. He also suggests that the choice of monitors and the configuration of Thunderbolt 2 bandwidth make a great deal of difference in support for 4K performance. Thankfully, there are 6 ports available.

I measured less than 4Gbps of bandwidth (~480MB/s) available for writes to a Thunderbolt 2 device downstream from the Mac Pro if it had a 4K display plugged in to it. Read performance remained untouched since display data only flows from host to display, leaving a full 20Gbps available for reads. If you’re going to connect Thunderbolt 2 devices to the Mac Pro as well as a 4K display, you’ll want to make sure that they aren’t on the same chain.

Lal Shimpi observes that the Mac Pro line will now be given some respect. He hopes that Cupertino will push Intel to drive workstation performance in the way that it pushes its partners and suppliers for the rest of its lines.

Intel does its highest paying desktop customers a disservice by always selling them a previous generation micro architecture in exchange for more cores and PCIe lanes. In the case of the Mac Pro, especially given the lackluster OS X adoption of QuickSync and how well the Mac Pro makes use of PCIe lanes, I’m actually ok with the tradeoff. You end up with a far better platform as a result.

On the tear-down front, iFixit presented its repairability score for the new model: 8 out of 10 (10 is easiest to repair). Despite the good score, the article still advised that without a repair manual, technicians shouldn't risk working on the expensive equipment due to "some proprietary new connectors and tight cable routing."

For being so compact, the design is surprisingly modular and easy to disassemble. Non-proprietary Torx screws are used throughout, and several components can be replaced independently. The easily-opened case is designed to make RAM upgrades a snap. The fan is easy to access and replace.

While it will require a bit of digging, the CPU is user-replaceable—meaning intrepid fixers should be able to save considerably by upgrading from the base-level processor configuration.

On its blog, Other World Computing also posted a very detailed photo teardown of the new Mac Pro.

In addition, Apple recently posted a note about the memory specifications of the Mac Pro (Late 2013).

Topics: Apple, Hardware, Operating Systems, Storage

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33 comments
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  • Single-thread performance...

    The review in the current c't magazine (Germany) implies that in single / dual thread execution, the Mac Pro is slower than an iMac with Core i7 processor. iTunes was up to 30% faster on the iMac, single thread video encoding around 10% faster.

    Naturally, it was a different story when it came to proper multi-threaded software. They also postulated that once OpenCL software starts to appear, it will make the Mac Pro a real runner, with its dual AMD OpenCL cards.
    wright_is
    • CUDA

      CUDA is still king in the GPU computing arena. Nvidia in fact is the top dog overall in the professional market. It also supports OpenCL as well. Do you think this situation will be turned on its head just because Apple introduced a new enclosure design for its mac pro, design that refuses out of political reasons to support Quadro cards ?
      Ghest
      • Compared to...

        an iMac with a mobile nVidia GPU that isn't replaceable, yes...

        If you go outside of the Apple OS X sphere, no, but then you probably wouldn't be buying a Mac Pro anyway.
        wright_is
      • Quadro Cards

        My NVIDIA QUADRO 5000 for mac has built in support in Mavericks and functions beautifully. My former Quadro 4000 worked beautifully as well.
        Lydia Robertson
    • That's because the iMac uses the Haswell processor.

      The Mac Pro uses ivy bridge based technology for its processors.
      ye
    • CUDA vs Open CL

      CUDA development is years ahead of open CL. There is no money being spent on Open CL technology compared to CUDA which nVidia has been pouring a lot of money into advancing the technology for supercomputer class use.
      Pity the new Mac Pro won't have CUDA.
      Adobe Premiere users may not be so keen on the new Mac Pro simply because of this.
      warboat
  • The Mac Pro used to get a lot of respect.

    "Lal Shimpi observes that the Mac Pro line will now be given some respect."

    The reason it hasn't as of late is Apple let it languish. Performance wise there's nothing special about the new Mac Pro. It just looks that way because the reference, the previous Mac Pro, hadn't really been updated in over three years.
    ye
    • Right. Because being able to do 4k video in real

      time is such a yawner.
      baggins_z
      • What does this have to do with what I wrote?

        Or are you just trolling
        ye
        • "Performance wise there's nothing special about the new Mac Pro"

          Do you read what your write, or do you just copy/paste from some talking points memo?
          baggins_z
          • You could have just said...

            ..."Yes, I am trolling".
            ye
          • One would have to agree

            You are indeed trolling.
            ego.sum.stig
      • processing 4k video in real time doesn't need that much power

        The real grunt is processing 4k video at 10 or 20 or 50 times real time.
        Processing 1 hour of video in 1 hour is a piece of piss for any decent machine.
        What pros want is the ability to render 1 hour of video in WAY less than 1 hour.
        Apple fanboys think processing in real time is special.
        Blissful ignorance.
        warboat
    • The Mac Pro in the last 3 years has

      done brilliantly what it is supposed to do for those industries that use it. Apple tends not to fix things that aren't broken. With 4K video and other hyper-data activities becoming mainstream, the time is right for a Mac Pro major upgrade.

      Lots of folks look at specs and extrapolate that to a performance value. That's tough to do with Apple gear because of the way everything is engineered together.

      I don't want to upgrade my pro workstation every year because the last model has become inadequate in terms of performance. That doesn't make economic sense. Bragging about frequent hardware upgrades is ridiculous. It just tells me you bought an inadequate machine in the first place.
      CowLauncher
      • If it wasn't broken then why did they change it?

        "Lots of folks look at specs and extrapolate that to a performance value. That's tough to do with Apple gear because of the way everything is engineered together."

        It's my opinion Apple offers a lot of value. And this Mac Pro is no exception. That doesn't mean Apple didn't let the previous Mac Pro languish. While new processors had to wait on Intel (or AMD) the rest of the system could have grown. Better graphics cards (Firepro cards have been available for some time...they're not unique to the new Mac Pro), Thunderbold (even if version 1), PCIe SSD's, etc.
        ye
        • It's not that it is broken

          But that tech has moved on and Apple has to keep up - it's particularly telling that a 3 year old machine line has kept up quite well without a major hardware refresh. I wonder if it's that they really let the line languish as you say or that the tech was good enough by Apple standards to keep on without any major changes until now.

          In any event this new Mac Pro is a really decent machine despite the protests from warboat and the other apple haters.
          athynz
      • Old Mac Pro obsolescence

        Greetings,
        I agree. My old 2010 Mac Pro is not at all obsolete. I am a professional editor and have no intention of editing 4K because its there. None of my clients require it. The film I am editing now does not require it. I am thinking of upgrading in the next 6 months but the old Mac Pro will be turned into a server platform and be a great place for my assistants to work from or a producer to screen and mark dailies. I will also still use it as a graphics work station for After Effects. It has a long life ahead of it.
        Lydia Robertson
      • Mac not Pro

        It's a AMD GPU hardwaired to a Mac Host.
        If you want Quadro cores in your Mac Pro host then tough luck.
        And no, strapping nVidia cards into a thunderbolt cage will not do. This is high bandwidth GPU cards at PCIex16 not some SSD on a serial bus.
        This new Mac Pro is just like a Mac Mini with similar levels of modularity.
        warboat
  • Mac Pro USED to be super

    When they dumped the RISC processor architecture and went to commodity Intel, the Pro became just mundane at a premium price. You could just wipe it and install Windows, and have a pretty great system as well. There's nothing unique about the hardware. It looks cool, but realistically...is it worth the money? naahhh.
    NotMSUser
    • Woohoo, someone else who is clueless

      about manufacturing and lot grades.
      baggins_z