At Architosh, the resource for Mac-based architects, Anthony Frausto-Robledo took a close look at the graphic processors in the forthcoming Mac Pro workstation and then compared them to similar AMD FirePro GPU cards on the market.
Frausto-Robledo starts out with the question: What are the D300, D500 and D700 anyway? After all, the cards are specifically designed for the Mac Pro. Each Mac Pro will come with a pair of the GPUs, which can add up.
Apple’s mid-level Mac Pro starts at $3,999. Out of that price, the dual-D500′s net-yield 85 percent of the streaming processors, 69 percent of the teraflops and 75 percent of the video memory of a FirePro W8000. Averaging these the D500 yields 76 percent of much of the value of the W8000, or $1,308. Apple appears to be equipping users with about $1,800 of graphics value in the dual-D500 configuration. $2,199 for the rest of the unit.
According to Frausto-Robledo, the top-model's D700 has specs similar to the FirePro W9000, costing about $3,000. He believes:
Apple may scale value on the D700 quite a bit, essentially giving away the extra heaps of video ram. That would make the D700-equipped Mac Pros a must have for the top-end performing pro users — and it would steal away dedicated Windows workstation users as well.
In an accompanying opinion piece, Frausto-Robledo says the new Mac Pros with as many as 12 cores will present customers with new decisions on how those cores will be utilized by applications with different architectures. We see the same decisions with standard 2D apps: some programs want fewer, faster cores and others can take advantage of more, although slower, cores.
For example, he points to support in Graphisoft ArchiCAD 17 for multi-core, oriented background-processing performance algorithms.
Apple has really done it this time. It’s giving users a more closed system, but it is also giving pro users for the very first time more CPU and GPU configuration options than ever before. You can pair the mighty D700 with the quad-core Xeon or you can go more efficient with D300 or D500.
You can scale your CPU choice from a typical quad-core (which is baseline these days for a performance processor…and by the way the baseline, according to BOXX for a Revit workstation), or you can add 2, 4 or 8 more cores to the mix. It depends on your precise workflow and budget for a new workstation.
It's hard to know whether multicore performance will drive architects in existing workflows toward other programs that support the Mac Pro's multiple cores. However, students and professionals not frozen in their workflows may make choices toward learning programs with more potential for performance. That could be a generational shift in favor of the Macintosh.