Amid all of the fuss about the complete redesign of the venerable iOS operating system for iDevices, as well as OS X Mavericks and iTunes Radio, we had another signiﬁcant announcement in the keynote at the 2013 Worldwide Developers Conference, in one of Apple's key frontiers to prove that it continues to innovate. That announcement was of a new Mac Pro, and you can rest assured that it bears not many similarities to the average Mac Pro. That much was clear from its distinctive glossy, cylindrical shape.
The declaration of Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller that the Cupertino company ”can't innovate any more? My ass!" perhaps gives the game away as to the extent to which the firm wishes to recover its stature as a fulcrum of pioneering verve. As always, though, it's on the inside where much of the real evidence of this is to be found, with some impressive specifications more than backing up that outlandish exterior.
The refashioned Mac Pro has been deemed by Apple as cramming "an amazing amount of power into an incredibly small package", and with the likes of dual workstation-class GPUs, ultra-fast ECC memory, next generation Xeon processors, Thunderbolt 2 and PCle- based flash storage all on board, you wouldn't be tempted to argue.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF A UNIFIED THERMAL CORE
The Apple press release announcing the unveiling of the Mac Pro makes constant references to a "revolutionary" and "ingenious" unified thermal core, around which all of the aforementioned features are built. But what is it, and what does it do? Well, this element is central to a pro desktop architecture and design that is completely new and utterly optimized for performance. It allows for the efficient sharing of the desktop’s entire thermal capacity across all of the processors. If you're still trying to get your head around the idea of a ‘unified thermal core’, think of it this way. Computers are normally built with multiple heat sinks and fa so that the processor and graphic cards can be cooled. In the case of the Mac Pro, however, everything is built around a single piece of extruded aluminum, designed to ensure maximum airflow and thermal capacity. It involves heat being conducted away from the CPU and GPUs, and instead being distributed uniformly across the core. This means that in the event of one processor being forced to work harder than the others, the additional thermal capacity can be efficiently shared among them.
Apple says that it's the first time a computer has even been built in this way - a firm indicator of the kind of innovation on which so much of its reputation rests. It's also because of this that the new machine can deliver such an impressive performance despite its volume being a mere eighth of that of that of the outgoing Mac Pro indeed, it measures a mere 9.9 inches tall with a diameter of 6.6 inches. But it's only when you take off the cover and see the vast array of inputs and outputs on the back panel that you get a sense of precisely how much is packed inside. Such a vast range of ports is as you might expect, pretty useful, as we'll cover in more detail below.
IMPRESSIVE COMPUTING POWER
Everywhere we look Apple makes reference to a device that boasts so much speed and power from the two AMD FirePro workstation-class GPUs that help to make the new Mac Pro up to 2.5 times faster than the current one, to the PCle- based flash storage that is as much as 10 times faster than conventional desktop hard drives. Customers can also expect double the floating point performance thanks to next generation Intel Xeon E5 processors that have up to 12 core configurations. You can also expect as much as 6OGBps of memory bandwidth from the new machine, courtesy of the most recent four-channel ECC DDR3 memory running at 1866 MHz. Certainly the use of ECC memory will be welcomed by those computer users who are all too familiar with transient memory errors stopping their video exports, rendering jobs and simulations. As many as 7 teraflops of computing power are promised, which Apple claims is sufficient for the seamless editing of full-resolution 4K video at the same time background effects are being rendered.
This GPU performance compares to the 2.7 teraflops delivered by the current Mac Pro. It represents part of a general transition from the CPU to the GPU in terms of the place where software developers have found the power to leverage for their apps. Various other areas of innovation At this point you might also be wondering about the fans after all, such a high performance device also inevitably requires a great amount of cooling. Well, instead of simply having a larger number of fans, Apple has opted for one bigger fan albeit a supremely well-engineered one that pulls air upward through a bottom vent.
The extraordinarily simple, elegant and quiet system involves air passing vertically through the centre of the device, absorbing the heat and carrying it out through the top and it's only possible thanks to careful consideration of every aspect of the fan through the design process, including the blades’ number, size, shape and spacing. Air resistance throughout the system has been minimized so that the resultant backward-curved impeller blades can run at fewer resolutions per minute and draw air more efficiently as they spin and bring a significant reduction in noise. As you might expect, the wireless system is also an advanced one, with three stream 802.11ac Wi-Fi being used to access the network. Bluetooth 4.0 is used for all of the Mac Pro’s other wireless connections.
WHEN WILL IT BE RELEASED?
This is one area in which Apple has been a bit shier to divulge details, merely promising a release "later this year.” But when it does finally arrive, on the basis of this specification sheet, the new machine will certainly have no shortage of takers, many of whom will be curious to see the exact extent to which it can really be described as in Apple's words ”the most radical Mac yet".
All of the publicity material that has surrounded the new Mac Pro so far has been suitably bullish, with Apple claiming that every element that makes up a pro computer from the graphics and storage to processing power, memory and expansion has been reconsidered. It says that the result of all of its work is quite unlike anything that has gone before. Personally, we reckon the machine will live up to such a prodigious billing but we can only wait to find out.