Mac architects can't wait for the Mac Pro

Mac architects can't wait for the Mac Pro

Summary: A Mac architect takes a detailed look at the forthcoming Mac Pro's graphic processors, which reveal plenty of potential value in the top-of-the-line machine.


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.

Topics: Apple, Hardware, Operating Systems, Software

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  • it would steal away dedicated Windows workstation users as well."

    Not important to everyone, but it has its uses.

    Not sure why Apple went with an AMD card, seeing as previous Mac Pros
    • Ugh, ZD|Net needs an edit button:


      Many workstations use NVidia mainly for CUDA support, something that AMD doesn't use, so they won't be getting any users there.

      At these price ranges, Power Users are choosing their computer's OS out of preference, rather than cost.

      Additionally, the lack of a standard, modular form factor may actually be a turn-off to them.

      Not everybody wants to embrace "external everything".

      While the view is subjective, I just wanted to point this out.

      Wiring hell is almost never good, and with Thunderbolt-only expansion, it can lead to some issues.

      There's a reason why towers have cases, to enclose, protect, and keep everything organized.
      • Here's my take on the external chassis method

        1. There are companies like NetStore which provide Thunderbolt (upgradeable to Thunderbolt 2) that have PCI slots AND a choice of hot pluggable/hot swappable drives, etc. This means you buy what you need and then you retain that chassis when you replace the main CPU/GPU a few years later. This actually provides more options and ultimately less amount of money spent since you aren't spending more time cracking the case open swapping cards and drives. This alone save a lot of time (time is money). Secondly, you can easily unplug the main CPU/GPU and either bring in for service (if it even dies in the first place) and plug in another box with the same cards/drives for your temporary back up system (or laptop).

        The problem with going with internal PCI slots and Drives is that the case is bigger, power supply is bigger, more fans and potentially water cooling is required and all of this costs MONEY and produces far more heat, power consumption, etc. even for those that don't use or need PCI slots or additional drives, so why pay for it.

        Either way, there are pros and cons to each method, but fans create noise, if that fan noise gets into the digital signal, it's POTENTIALLY going to slow down the signal and cause more errors. Noise is bad, especially fan noise (not just from an ambient perspective).

        I haven't seen a single XEON based PC that has Thunderbolt (let alone Thunderbolt 2) as standard (PCI Thunderbolt cards aren't shipping yet), nor have I seen any PC ship with the higher speed SSD storage, so I think Apple has the distinct advantage here. Plus with two GPUs, apps can be written to leverage both GPUs, even with single monitor setups.

        Apple solved the heat/cooling issue while still offering a high performance and keeping the cost down and giving people the flexibility of buying or not buying additional PCI slots/drive cages.

        A lot of production shops where there are multiple users on the same project are more likely going to be using SANS, so having or even needing more than what SSD options Apple gives you is pretty much not needed. Plus people that transfer data from portable drives have plenty of options (Thunderbolt 1/2, Firewire, Fibre Channel, USB 2/3, etc.) because TB2 has lots of adapters available. So no downside there.

        These systems can start turning into big space heaters and costing a LOT of money quickly.

        I think Apple's paradigm shift is either going to be a no-brainer for some and some just are going to have a more difficult time adapting as they might still be in the mind set of BIG towers is the way to go.
        • huh?

          Wow, do you have any idea what you're talking about? Unoccupied PCI slots consume no power. Nor cooling. Apple uses the same Intel processors and chipsets as PC vendors using the same level of processors (i.e. workstations) and so have the same heat dissipation requirements. There is no magic. The same hardware under equivalent load will generate the same heat. Sticking it in an Apple case and running an Apple OS doesn't change that.

          As far as fan noise, I have never ever experienced or heard of fan noise interfering with digital signals on any system. (I hope you're talking about electrical noise, not audible noise. Otherwise...double wow.)

          Finally, yes there are PCs that have the same features. Just browsing, I see that HP's latest model Z820 workstations come with the same chips, a range of graphics including AMD W and Nvidia Quadro, and Thunderbolt 2 ports. You'd have to configure one to see how the prices would compare.
          • Unoccupied slots

            Wow, do you have any idea how to do engineering design?

            While unoccupied slots don't consume power in and of themselves, they require the case to be larger, thus giving a larger volume for the system fan to cool. More volume to cool requires more power (and a larger fan, or series of fans) to cool. And a system with empty PCI slots must have a fan that can cool a case full of PCI cards, requiring more fans and more noise.

            If you don't have slots for cards in your computer, you can size your cooling system to take care of cooling just what heat the system itself produces.

            As for fans interfering with digital signals, don't fans require electromagnets? Don't electromagnets generate magnetic fields, which have the potential to disrupt digital signals? If you have more fans, don't you require more and better shielding to prevent the possible magnetic fields generated by the fans from generating line noise? That's something I learned in high school physics.
          • I Agree

            jreuter swung and missed on that pitch big time. Spun himself into the ground and looked bad doing it.
          • Re: There is no Magic

            Of course, there is no Magic. There is just better, or worse engineered systems.
            The same hardware, engineered differently and/or driven differently, will obviously generate different heat.

            Fans do generate electrical noise, as do all spinning electromagnetic field motors -- whether and how much that noise interferes with other electronics... boils down again, to engineering.

            So, have you configured the HP Z820 workstation and compared prices to Apple's Mac Pro? What was the result? :-)
            (keep the spec the same, please)
  • Another throw away Mac

    The only thing I see is another work of art from Apple. Not a lot of practical purpose put forth.
    I see a very powerful machine built to wither as time goes on with no options to re new or replace much of anything. I think delegating the Mac Pro to a art object was not a path I would have taken.
    • So learn to think creatively

      What I see is a very powerful machine out of the box where users only need to pay for the extension that they want. Which for many will be none. Which saves the costs of a lot of redundant extensibility.

      But at the other extreme this machine has 6x 20Gbit IP capable ports as standard.

      And I have no doubt that the most interesting expansion at the other end of a thunderbolt cable will be, another Mac Pro.

      It can be used to build incredibly powerful clusters without additional expensive networking hardware.

      And using optical thunderbolt cables, they can be districted over a significant area.

      Which opens up enormously greater ability to make build workgroup networks of individually very powerful machines, but with phenomenal ability to make efficient use of all the spare resource on the network dynamically.
      Henry 3 Dogg
  • AMD and Blender

    It would be nice to see AMD working with Blender for Cycles Engine for getting OpenCL working. At $3,000, Mac Pro is expensive, but I really love the design of it. iMac is very cool, but I do have a monitor of my own that I want to use (it's a 47").

    I really don't want to build a Hackintosh computer specifically for having Mac OS X; I would rather invest in Apple hardware instead and would like to travel back through my memory lane since I've used Macs at school and not at home (couldn't afford one, I suppose). Besides, I cannot stand violating Apple's End User License Agreement. And by the way, I am not a sucker for Apple hardware and I will pay the money for the luxury of having a hardware of my choice. Not only that, I will add MacIntosh as an addition to my Linux server and desktop.

    I'm glad that I've been Windows-free since November of last year running Ubuntu 12.04 when I built my first computer using AMD A10-5700 APU with built-in Radeon HD 7660D GPU. Okay, I mentioned "Windows" and I've made Windows trolls so angry, so go ahead and attack me if you wish. I say this because there is always a bunch of Windows trolls in ZDNet defending Windows, but let me say one thing: I don't consider myself a fanboy of any operating system, but I would rather turn my back against Microsoft when it comes to desktop market and I don't feel I need to discuss why.
    Grayson Peddie
    • Hackintosh

      is illegal use of the OS licensing (even with Apple's new upgrade policy), plus it's not supported by the 3rd party app and hardware developers and is basically a VERY dishonest way of using computers. NO well respected company, production house is going to allow pirated OSs or apps used, you could get fired for that and Apple could sue a company for using if they felt like. Don't get into bad habits. If you want to use Apple's OS X, have respect for them and buy a Mac, otherwise use something else.

      Not having money or not wanting to spend money on something does NOT give you the right to pirate their software and use it on a professional level.
      • Right.

        I thought I would reply to Owl`Net, but didn't. I did say in my comment that once I have the money to buy a Mac, I'll buy a Mac. And in my opinion, the comment:

        "Not having money or not wanting to spend money on something does NOT give you the right to pirate their software and use it on a professional level."

        ...should go to Owl`Net since it does I have never said that I don't want to spend money in buying a Mac. I don't know if you have read my comment entirely. Perhaps Owl`Net thought about Hackintosh? I know Hackintosh is illegal and it is stupid of me for not stating it... :(

        *sigh* Pardon me. It just seems like you are basing in an assumption that I don't want to spend my money in buying a Mac. Am I taking your comment the wrong way? I just don't like to respond to trolls like Owl`Net but just want to make my own comment. :(
        Grayson Peddie
        • Ah, why no edit button?

          My comments I've written are pretty much about owning a Mac at home. I should have stated that because the article is geared for business and professional use.
          Grayson Peddie
      • Um, you did read the comment you replied to, right?

        He specifically says he DOESN'T want to do it and CAN'T STAND violating the license agreement. So what prompted the obviously undeserving lecture?
        • Thank You For Backing Me Up!

          Can't people slow down their reading speed before replying to my comment? Let alone think twice? It amazes me that some people just don't read twice and instead jump right into conclusions. Some people need to have their eyes checked.

          Whew... I'm late in replying to the topic. *sigh*
          Grayson Peddie
  • PCIe Flash

    As a developer, I'm really eager to see some numbers on the actual lifespan of the core flash storage. When you're constantly building and compiling, those write cycles can really add up. I'd clearly like the speed, but I'm not too keen on learning I've got to swap in new flash every half-year.
  • AMD FIREPRO W9000. All I can say is Ouch!

    This graphics card costs NZ$5,800. Apple's top model Mac Pro (6-core dual GPU) starts at NZ$6,599.00. The quad-core model starts at NZ$4,999.
    Laraine Anne Barker
  • As usual...

    The Mac haters can't see it, and the small potatoes guys can't understand why everyone can't build their own hardware. This is an awesome machine if you have a need for this kind of hardware. And for those who don't mind or actually like other OS platforms AND want to build their own machines, well they will never get it. Some of you should understand that a thing can be very good yet not be a fit for you. I don't need a Mercedes and couldn't care less about them. But I do understand they are good and some people need/want them. I don't tell them they are idiots.
    • Professional cynics

      They know the price of everything.... Computers are nothing but a pile of parts with an OS slapped on to them, not a tool to get a job done.
    • Re: As usual...

      You know, I really love building computers, but I do see value in having a Mac hardware, so I do agree with your statement. There are some Mac applications that are available for those who prefer to stay away from Windows.
      Grayson Peddie