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Apple introduced the new Mac Pro at WWDC. The computer comes with up to 28 Xeon cores, four Radeon Pro Vega II GPUs and a new form factor.
The Mac is Pro again
After six years now, the Pro segment has also received a little more attention from Apple. At yesterday’s WWDC, the replacement of the Mac Pro introduced in 2013 was finally unveiled. This means that the company is once again taking off in the Pro segment with its own workstation device. In the meantime, there was only the iMac Pro, but it was neither upgradeable nor really coolable. With the new Mac Pro, Apple wants to do things differently and at the same time admits that the 2013 version was a mistake.
With the new model, the company therefore changes from a garbage bucket shape back to a tower, as was usual with earlier Mac Pros. This has several advantages. On the one hand the cooling is by far not such a big problem anymore, on the other hand Apple allows to upgrade the hardware again. And it has a lot to offer.
Mac Pro with up to 28 cores and 1.5 terabytes of RAM
As in previous years, Apple is relying on the Intel Xeon platform for the new Mac Pro. The Xeon W processors, probably already from the upcoming Cascade Lake series, come with up to 28 cores. The basic model is equipped with eight cores, variants are still available with 12, 16, 24 and 28 cores in the largest expansion stage. When it comes to RAM, Apple uses the six-channel interface on up to 12 slots. The two largest processors can therefore handle up to 1.5 terabytes of RAM. The basic version is already equipped with 32 gigabytes of DDR4-2933 memory to utilize the hexachannel interface. NVMe SSDs, which are connected via two M.2 slots, serve as mass storage. Apple offers up to four terabytes of NVMe memory in the new Mac Pro. The basic version starts with a low 256 gigabytes model.
Up to four Radeon Pro Vega II GPUs
Apple is also exploiting the full potential of the Xeon W platform for expansions. There are eight PCIe slots, which are connected twice with 16, once with eight and once with four PCIe 3.0 lanes. These slots are single slots, plus four double slots. Finally, it gets exciting with the graphics cards. Apple is backing up to four GPUs, the highest expansion of which is a Radeon Pro Vega II, the Pro version of the Radeon VII. Each of these GPUs has 32 gigabytes of HBM2 memory.
But the special thing is how these GPUs are structured. They sit on so-called MPX modules. Two of them are built into the Mac Pro by Apple, on each module up to two Radeon Pro Vega II find their place. These are not connected via Crossfire, but a variant of AMD’s Infinity Fabric. The special thing is that this module also has its own additional connector, similar to a PCIe slot. This is used to transmit data as well as up to 475 watts of power. Together with the regular PCIe slot, this adds up to 550 watts of power consumption. Via this slot Apple also realizes Thunderbolt 3 connections on the back of the graphics module. All in all, four Radeon Pro Vega II GPUs with up to 128 gigabytes of video memory are possible in this way. The smallest version has a Radeon Pro 580X with 8 Gigabyte GDDR5 on the MPX module, in addition there is a module with one and a module with two Radeon Pro Vega II GPUs.
Especially interesting for video workstations is the Afterburner expansion card. It’s an FPGA processor that can handle ProRes and accelerate three 8K streams simultaneously in Final Cut Pro X. Apple also boasts about the power supply unit, by the way. A 1.4 kilowatt model with up to 1,280 watts continuous output is installed.
Cooling by airflow and finally upgradable again
The new form factor also allows a rather new way of cooling for Apple. In the front there are three powerful fans that push the air through the case. They use this airflow to cool both the processor and the MPX modules with the GPUs. The cooling concept is reminiscent of cooling servers. On the back of the board there is an additional radial fan that cools the remaining system components.
Apple emphasizes how important cooling is for the new Mac Pro. The processors have waste heat of up to 300 watts, which needs to be cooled. And the company emphasizes that the processors are not throttled down under heavy load, as is the case with virtually every other Apple product. The cooling is designed to deliver the highest performance at a low noise level.
Another topic for Apple is the easy upgradeability of the Mac Pro. Both the main memory and the SSDs as well as the graphics modules are easily exchangeable. The housing is also easy to open. The processor is not soldered, but socketed and should therefore be replaceable. Apple has not yet indicated how upgrading memory, SSD, or graphics units will affect the warranty. It will also be interesting to see whether graphics cards other than Apple’s MPX modules can be used with the Mac Pro.
Many connections and even including accessories, price starting from 5,999 US dollars
Apple is also not economical with the connections this time. On the top side there are two Thunderbolt 3 ports as USB C ports including DisplayPort support. The I/O card on the back comes with two USB 3.0 type A ports, two Thunderbolt 3 ports and one 3.5mm jack port. Apple also has two 10 GB Ethernet ports. Each graphics module comes with four Thunderbolt 3 ports and an HDMI port. The Radeon Pro 580X, on the other hand, comes with two HDMI ports and four DisplayPort connectors, capable of Thunderbolt 3.
Apple is also generous when it comes to accessories. The Mac Pro comes with the Magic Keyboard, Magic Mouse 2 and a USB-C to Lightning cable. In view of the price, however, this is entirely appropriate. The basic version of the new Mac Pro with eight cores, 32 gigabytes of RAM, 256 gigabytes of SSD and Radeon Pro 580X already costs a proud $5,999, without taxes mind you. Apple wants to ship the new Mac Pro this fall, so then we’ll know what the higher configurations will cost.