For once, the media pundits appear to have been caught on the hop, the new Mac Pro being a surprise to many. We've been waiting for Apple to update their workhorse desktop range for some time, we were promised an update by the main man himself, most of us were expecting the same form factor - at least I was...
The new Mac Pro unvieled last night and expected later this year completley blows the usual desktop design away. It also blows away much of the normal standard of desktop towers, mainly in the form of storage, internally it will have a PCIe based flash drive, being capable of up to 40GB/s. Something you can already get for the existing MacPro - at a price for the top of the range OCZ Z-drive 3.2TB version - its upwards of £15k!
There's also a bump in GPU power with Dual AMD FirePro cards each with up to 6GB of ram. GPU processing has traditionally been super fast to cope with moving large amounts of data about increasingly larger resolution displays. As well as running up to 3, 4K displays ( 3840 pixels × 2160). Smarter application designers have begun to take advantage of this power to use it for offloading intensive CPU tasks such as video rendering and decoding and even audio processing. Again this is cutting edge stuff, currently the AMD Firepro W9000 with 6GB of ram will set you back over £2k.
Processors will be up to 12-core with the Intel Xeon E5 chipset, introduced by Intel last year as server grade CPUs.
RAM - with a DDR-3 four channel controller - there are four RAM slots. Capable of running at 1866MHz you can get 60GB/s IO.
What's interesting about this machine is that it's jettisoned the internal drive bays and PCI slots in favour of external 6 Thunderbolt 2 connections. Thunderbolt 2 is capable of running at 20GB/s with up to 36 devices connected. Checking the comments on the various live blog postings from last nights presentation, you can find various witty individuals mentioning that you'd have trouble finding 36 Thunderbolt devices currently available. Thunderbolt 2 devices will be even scarcer for the time being. Additionally there are 4 USB3.0 slots, 2 Gigabit Ethernet ports and an HDMI port, plus Wifi (802.11ac) and Bluetooth 4.0.
All of this is wrapped around a single aluminium heatsink they call a unified thermal core with a large fan on the top to pull the cold air through from the bottom.
I'm not sure what I think about this form factor, I do know that if we upgrade here, its going to cost a packet in peripherals and external storage - even a thunberbolt cable is in the region of $30-50.
Having said that, I am slavering over the processing power, we work with a lot of video, and this would fly through our work. For an audio workstation, I would imagine it would be nigh impossible to reach the limit of what it can do, but you'll have trouble racking it up!
So given the price of some of the components that go into making it, I can't imagine the base model coming in at less than $2.5k - better start saving now - at least they've given us warning that its coming so I can start saving up.
Will you be tempted? Oh yeah, and they introduced iTunes Radio too...