Welcome to our New Mac Pro release date, rumours and leaked images article, here we plan to do everything that the title suggests. We are going to bring you everything we know about the new Mac Pro along with its expected release date. Also we are going to bring you a few of the juiciest rumours that are flying round the web's most trusted websites. Finally we have a few new Mac Pro images to show you. So sit back and relax we're got the new Mac Pro covered. We'll update this story as more information becomes available, so be sure to check back from time to time.
Last updated: 30 April 2013...
New Mac Pro release date
Back in June 2012, Apple attracted criticism and concern after it made a very minor update to the Mac Pro. In response to that criticism Apple CEO Tim Cook promised that new Mac Pros would be released in 2013, so we know that something is on its way. See also: The Mac that time forgot
A likely Mac Pro release date and venue would be at WWDC – set to commence on 10 June. Apple's worldwide developers conference is held on a yearly basis in San Francisco. In previous years this event tended to have a Pro focus, although in recent times it's rather been taken over by the iPad, iPhone and iOS. Hopefully this June we will get back to the Mac.
What's the big deal about the Mac Pro?
The Mac Pro isn't a high-powered consumer computer and it isn't even a business computer used in a design setting. It's a workstation, and workstations operate to different rules to desktop computers.
The Mac Pro is the tower system for Mac professionals who like adding things other than stickers to their computer. It's designed to be used by a single person who requires serious computing power. You can add new graphics cards, four hard drives and all sorts to its clinical innards. It boasts Hyper-Threading technology for up to 24 virtual cores and has ports galore. It can pack up to 64GB of RAM.
The typical market for workstations is 3D mechanical design, engineering simulation, animation studios, and video production houses. Over the years the Mac Pro has risen in popularity with this group, only to fade as Apple failed to keep up with the times. Now this market don't lack for serious alternatives that are cheaper, updated more frequently and have similar - or even better - levels of software support.
In the meantime Apple has pursued the highly profitable consumer market. Should Apple even bother with the professional user in this new era of iPads and iPhones?
Apple's apparent lack of interest in its Mac tower over the past few years has lead many to suppose that the company intends to lay the Mac Pro to rest. The Mac Pro's current design was introduced 10 years ago at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in June 2003. Call it a design classic by all means, but the Mac Pro case is still long in the tooth. Ten years is a heck of a long time in computing. Since the launch of the G5, which introduced the classic Mac Pro tower design, much has changed in the world of desktop computers. Bear in mind that Apple introduced the G4 Sunflower iMac in the same year, and look at how much the iMac has changed in that time.
The current Mac Pro
Apple last updated the Mac Pro at last years WWDC. The introduction of this 'New' model resulted in a lot of criticism, lead by Andy Hertzfield (a member of the original Mac development team) and a Facebook page, MacProsPlease, was set up by a freelance editor/animator to plea with Apple to address the issue.
In response to the fears that Apple was abandoning the pro Mac user, Apple CEO Tim Cook promised that new Mac Pros would be released in 2013. In an email, Tim Cook replied to one concerned Mac Pro user, saying: "Our Pro customers like you are really important to us. Although we didn't have a chance to talk about a new Mac Pro [at WWDC], don't worry as we're working on something really great for later next year."
There are two versions of the current Mac Pro (along with various build-to-order options and a Server model): a 3.2GHz, quad-core Intel Xeon chip, with 6GB of RAM; and a high-end model with two 2.4GHz, six-core Xeons and 12GB of RAM. Both sport a 1TB hard drive and AMD's Radeon HD 5770 graphics cards. Prices start at £2,049.
As noted by Hertzfield, there is: "Still no Thunderbolt, still no USB 3.0, no SATA III or RAM speed improvements - it seems like it's stuck in time in 2010." The top-end graphics option is a pair of 2009 ATI Radeons – that cost around £100.
It's no wonder Mac Pro users were concerned.
It's been two and a half years since Apple last really updated its Mac Pro (July 2010, when it introduced SSD and 12 core options).
Mac Pro - Banned in Europe
It hasn't helped matters that Apple has been forced to stop selling the Mac Pro in Europe. An amendment to a safety regulation left the professional Mac incompliant and left Apple with no choice but to stop shipping the Mac Pro to these countries on the 1 March.
Apple told Macworld that the amendment to the IEC 60950-1 regulation increases requirements around electrical port protection and the fan guards in the system. Apple told us that it still considers the Mac Pro to be a very safe and very reliable product, however, so if you own one there is no need to panic.
At issue are the large fans within the Mac Pro. Since they are unprotected, it would be possible to touch the fan blades. According to Apple, the new requirements necessitate fan guards and some increased protection on the ports on the electrical system.
New Mac Pro leaked images
There are a number of images that have appeared around the web that could give us an insight into what the new Mac Pro might look like. Many of these are concept images.
FCP.co has published some images of what the new Mac Pro might look like. With various different sized models, from a base model up to a Pro Server with 14 hard drives. The designs were developed by Peter Zigich, he suggests that Apple should use a modular design, like Lego blocks and that it should be highly customizable. Zigich even suggests that one model could be targeted at the consumer, being little better than a Mac mini.
Think those images are bad? How about this new Mac Pro images - made out of Lego?
Since writing this story we have received the following concept images, what do you think of the ideas outlined below. Thanks to @scottiericho for the ideas, you can see more here:
New Mac Pro rumours - Thinner 'rack mount' design
To comply with the safety regulations mentioned above, Apple will have to make some internal changes to the machine, we hope to see more than fan guards in the new model however. For starters the aging Mac could do with a bit of a facelift.
The design of the Mac Pro hasn’t changed in a decade. The only difference between the case of the Power Mac G5 launched in 2003 and that of the current Mac Pro is a few extra ports and a second optical drive. The presence of two optical-drive slots shows just how old the current Mac Pro design is – Apple spits at such things these days.
In terms of technology design ten years is equivalent to the time between the Triassic and Cretaceous periods. While it’s true that during that 10 years no other workstation company has designed anything as majestic as the Power Mac G5/Mac Pro it shows a distinct lack of ambition for Apple design guru Jony Ive in sticking with the same design.
Some key changes that have happened to computing in the past ten years are:
- Components are much smaller and more efficient so they take up less space, and require less cooling
- Input/Output is now much faster (Thunderbolt and USB 3.0) making external components as viable and easier to use than internal upgrades.
- Optical technology (DVD-Rom) is being put out to pasture, and drives are being removed from most newer computers.
- SSD Flash has replaced/augmented traditional hard drives.
- RAM has become integrated with motherboards.
- Wireless technology has replaced many cable connections
The result of all of this is that computers are much smaller and thinner than before, you only need to take a look at the MacBook Air and latest iMac to see that in action.
With this new technology a redesigned Mac Pro could be substantially thinner than the current model, and Apple certainly tends towards thinner as its natural design progression.
Would a thinner Mac Pro be practical for the traditional user? With the thinner case comes the prospect of Apple creating a Mac Pro that is capable of being both a desktop computer and a replacement for the Xserve Rack that Apple discontinued in 2010. This would come as heady relief for both Mac OS X power users and system administrators, who were left in a state of limbo after Apple discontinued its rack mount server.
Whether Apple can pack the power of the Mac Pro into a 1in thinner case is debatable, however. Although if you look at something like the HP Z1 Workstation you can see how HP have got workstation power into an iMac-esque case. The Z1, is designed to look like an iMac and offers performance somewhere between an iMac and a Mac Pro.
The thinner form factor may impact the upgradability of the device, however. Especially with regard to the PCI Express sockets used for graphics cards. Apple could include space for an upgradable card, maybe two at a push. Or Apple could elect to have fixed graphics along with the CPU at the time of purchase. Some Macs have their RAM fixed at the point of pur
chase. However, upgradability is an important factor in the case of the Mac Pro, and a feature that sets it apart from other Macs. For some the ability to switch in newer graphics cards and extra memory at a later date is crucial.
One cosmetic change that seems inevitable is the removal of the optical drive, which is still likely to attract hostility even in this era of cloud computing and WiFi storage solutions.
New Mac Pro rumours - modular design
Another suggestion is that Apple could move to a modular system for the Mac Pro.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in January a company called Xi3 revealed a modular computer called the Piston. The Piston is backed by gaming giant, Valve and Apple is also rumoured to be interested in the technology. The idea behind a modular computer is that Apple would not sell a single case, but several smaller component 'cubes' that connect together to form a computer. So you'd buy a processor cube, storage cube, graphics card cube, and so on. These would connect using Apple's ThunderBolt technology. It's an interesting concept, although whether Apple is planning such a radical change is debatable.
New Mac Pro rumours - An iMac Pro
Alternatively Apple may be planning to launch a desktop computer that sits somewhere between the iMac, Mac mini and the current Mac Pro.
There are a good number of people for whom neither the Mac Pro nor the Mac mini is the right fit: they don't need all the bays, slots, and other geek-wish-list features of the Mac Pro, but the Mac mini doesn't offer enough storage or internal expandability. Similarly, some people won't buy an all-in-one computer like the iMac because they don't like the screen, not to mention that the latest iMacs offer essentially no internal expandability. A screenless desktop that offers power-user performance and moderate expandability is attractive to some.
So how about a smaller-than-a-Mac-Pro minitower with a reasonably powerful processor; a good graphics card in an upgradeable slot; a decent amount of RAM (upgradeable to at least 16GB); two drive bays that could accept either traditional hard drives or SSDs; a single free PCI Express slot; and room for one additional hard drive. At the right price this fantasy iMac Pro could be quite popular. The potential market would be current Mac owners looking for more power (but not £2,000+ worth of it), current Mac Pro customers who would purchase multiple minitowers, and new Mac converts who currently don't see the computer they want in Apple's lineup.
Won't high-end pro users abandon the Mac platform without a "true" Mac Pro? Some will, there's no doubt. But many already have, arguing that it's Apple that has been slowly abandoning the high-end market over the past half decade. (There's some evidence for this position: token updates to the Mac Pro, dropping the Xserve and Xserve RAID, major updates to pro apps that make them seem more consumer - than pro-focused, and so on.) And other pro users may find that they no longer need a monster tower as much as they think they do.
In the past, one of the biggest challenges that Apple would have had in designing a Mac minitower was making it powerful enough to satisfy power - user consumers and those pros who would be the most interested in such a computer - and, at the same time, keeping it reasonably priced. But technology has evolved to the point where a Mac minitower could handle all but the most-demanding pro workload.
If you consider Apple's relentless efforts over the past few years to make everything smaller, cooler, and less power-hungry; the fact that you don't need massive components to get good performance; and an apparent trend towards conceding the highest-end market - and it seems like a Mac minitower is a logical next step for the Mac Pro line.
New Mac Pro rumours – the processor
Apple looks set to adopt Intel’s next-generation of CPU, codenamed Haswell, for its consumer machines, but don't expect to see these in the new Mac Pro.
The processor inside the current Mac Pro is the Intel Xeon E5645 CPU - a two-year-old Westmere-EP chip - not the Xeon E5 processor that many had expected would make its way into the new Mac Pro.
Intel's Xeon processors are targeted at workstations and servers, so that chip family seems the most likely for any future Mac Pro. Enter rumours that Apple is waiting for Ivy Bridge E.
Ivy Bridge E processors are actually going to be marketed as Xeon E5 V2 processors. There is no corresponding Sandy Bridge predecessor rather it will follow on from the older Westmere-EX processors.
However, Ivy Bridge-E processors may not be seen until the end of the year (they are due to launch in Q3 2013). This would scupper any plans to launch an updated Mac Pro in June at WWDC. However, Apple has previously secured exclusivity from Intel for several generations of Xeon processors.
Ivy Bridge E offers 6-12 Core processors, which means Apple could theoretically produce a 24-core Mac Pro. That's double the 12 cores of power in the current model. A rumour from last summer suggested that the new Mac Pro’s onboard memory controller will be moved to the CPU, so the link between the CPUs will be faster, up to 8GT/s. The memory will also be upgraded from 1,333mhz to 1,600mhz to allow for 25 per cent more memory with 8 physical memory lanes.
You can also expect to find large amounts of cache, quad channel memory controllers supporting 8 GB of DDR3-1066/1333/1600/1866 per DIMM slot, along with PCI-E 3.0 (40 lanes) and 4 lanes supporting PCI-E 2.0.
It's believed that four CPUs will be launched: Core i7-4930, Core i7-4960, Core i7-4970 and Core i7-4990.
However, it is feasible that Apple could put a less powerful processor in the new Mac Pro. It used to be that the small, efficient, cool-running processors used in laptops and consumer-level desktop computers just weren't very powerful. If you wanted real performance, you needed a big tower with a huge, power-hungry processor that required a heat sink or other cooling system that was itself bigger than some laptops. But that's not the case any more. Today's best consumer-level processors, such as the Intel Core i7, are small, efficient, and cool enough to fit inside a MacBook Pro or Mac mini while outperforming the current Mac Pro for many tasks. And Intel and other vendors are working on making higher-end workstation processors use less power and run cooler. In other words, a Mac minitower could be plenty fast enough for many users.
If you think that's unlikely, how about the rumours that have suggested Apple may be moving away from Intel chips for its Mac line-ups? Given the progress of Intel’s CPUs and the difficulty of making such a switch, it’s unlikely that Apple will abandon Intel processors in the near future, but you never know.
New Mac Pro rumours – Graphics
The past year has seen Apple transition from AMD graphics to Nvidia graphics in its iMac and MacBook Pro, the only Mac model currently shipping with graphics from AMD (ATI Radeon HD 5770 and 5870) is the Mac Pro.
This doesn't indicate that the new Mac Pro may drop AMD graphics, indeed, a recent Apple job ad for a Systems Electrical Engineer for the Mac Desktop Systems Engineering team notes that the applicant should have experience with AMD as well as Nvidia GPUs and Intel chipsets. In addition, driver support the Radeon HD 7900 series of powerful discrete graphics cards from AMD was referenced in an OS X 10.8.3 beta back in November, along with references to MacPro 6,0 models mentioned earlier. The Radeon HD 7900 series, codenamed Tahiti LE, includes both the Radeon HD 7970 and 7950. These graphic cards offer 3GB of GDDR5 memory and are based on a 28-nanometer chip manufacturing process as well as featuring AMD’s Graphics Core Next architecture.
For many pro users the graphics card is crucial. Most significant is the fact that the Mac Pro is the only Mac that allows a user to update the graphics card. According to one report, it would be a disaster for the video world if users were no longer able to upgrade the graphics processor in the Mac Pro. "With every other Mac (iMacs/Mac mini/MacBook Pro) you cannot upgrade the card. Apple wouldn’t kill the video industry by stopping the Pro…would they?" writes LogicRumours. Some users upgrade the graphics card in an old Mac Pro model to extend its lifespan.
New Mac Pro rumours – a hard drive or an SSD...
For some pro users, the biggest appeal of the Mac Pro's enclosure is that it can accommodate multiple drives. After all, many people using Mac Pros need lots of space to store huge video, audio, and image files, or other large data sets - and they want fast access to that data. But those who need the most storage and the fastest performance often end up using external solutions, such as fibre-channel storage, anyway. And the performance of Thunderbolt means you can add multiple external drives without the same performance hit you took with FireWire. (There are even Thunderbolt-fibre-channel adapters.) So it's not hard to imagine Apple making a smaller Mac Pro and suggesting that those who need more storage instead take advantage of Thunderbolt.
One thing is certain; the new Mac Pro will offer a Fusion Drive option. Fusion Drive is Apple's data storage technology that combines a hard drives with flash (or SSD) storage. The Mac operating system manages the contents of the drive so the most frequently accessed files and applications are stored on the faster flash storage, while infrequently used items are left on the hard drive. Outfitting this theoretical Mac with an SSD and a large-capacity internal hard drive will mean better I/O performance for many tasks, right out of the box, than with the current Mac Pro. Unfortunately the technology Apple uses to make the Fusion Drive work is proprietary, so any Flash storage inside the Mac Pro will have to be fitted by Apple when you buy the machine. (And Flash from Apple is more expensive than elsewhere.)
In addition Apple is said to be developing a 2TB solid state drive for the new Mac Pro with a view to maxing out the new pro Mac with 8TB of flash storage. On a tour of a Chinese factory sources claimed to see "an initial run of Solid State drives bearing a logo which is very recognisable in the West - Apple Inc," according to BSN.
The current Mac Pro can be configured with up to 8TB of storage in the form of 7,200-rpm hard drives.
New Mac Pro rumours – Networking
Apple also looks likely to add superfast networking technology 802.11ac to the new Mac Pro. Code in the second beta of Mountain Lion OS X 10.8.4 (build 12E30) includes a reference to the new, as yet unratified, standard
802.11ac, sometimes referred to as 'Gig Wifi' or 5G WiFi, is the successor to 802.11n. It promises bandwidth of up to 1.3Gbps. In comparison, 802.11n products provide connections of up to 450Mbps. The new technology will bring superfast WiFi connectivity to Macs, speeding up throughput as well as improving coverage (it can increase the distance from which you can connect to an access point), and also supercharging Apple's AirDrop features and WiFi syncing.
New Mac Pro rumours – RAM
Where the high-end iMac is capable of supporting a maximum 32GB RAM, Mac Pros can already handle 64GB. That's probably more than enough for most, but in the pro area there are already workstations offering more. Take the Dell Precision T7600 Workstation or the HP Z820 Workstation, which already offer 512GB RAM. If Apple wishes to be taken seriously in the workstation market they may need to up their capacity for RAM.
New Mac Pro rumours – Ports and extensions
One thing about the Mac Pro update in June 2012 really didn't make sense. It didn't include a Thunderbolt port. Given that it’s the pro market that is most likely to spend money on Thunderbolt accessories this was a strange omission. For example, Thunderbolt lets you connect four HD screens at a time, who, other than a pro user, would want to do that.
And yet, Apple's high-speed peripheral interface hasn't yet taken the pro market by storm, and that's probably due to the shameful lack of Thunderbolt in the Mac Pro line.
Apple cannot use the lack of Thunderbolt peripherals as an excuse. Now that Thunderbolt has been around for a few years, and has long come standard on many Macs, high-end Thunderbolt peripherals are finally becoming widely available. You can get super-fast RAID drives with Thunderbolt connections. And if you need specific PCI cards, a Thunderbolt PCI chassis will let you use many kinds of PCI cards (other than video cards) over a Thunderbolt connection. A new Mac Pro will surely have multiple Thunderbolt ports.
Thunderbolt (previously called Light Peak) is a peripheral-connection technology, developed by Intel with collaboration from Apple, that combines data, video, audio, and power in a single connection. Based on the PCI Express and DisplayPort architectures, Thunderbolt allows for high-speed connection of peripherals such as hard drives, RAID arrays, video-capture solutions, and network interfaces, and it can transmit high-definition video using the DisplayPort protocol. Each Thunderbolt port provides up to 10 Watts of power to connected peripherals, and up to 10 Gigabits per second (Gbps) of data throughput (faster than USB 3).
USB 3.0 and Firewire
Speaking of which, the new Mac Pro doesn't even offer USB 3. Apple's pro Mac is still stuck in the dark ages of USB 2. Another reason for the assumption that Apple is waiting for the Xeon E5 V2 processor to launch is that it will support USB 3. The current Sandy Bridge chipsets do not support USB 3.0 natively.
One thing that the current Mac Pro has that future Mac Pros may not is FireWire. It seems likely that by in gaining Thunderbolt and USB 3, that FireWire will be culled. The standard has already disappeared from all of Apple's other Macs, with the exception of the Mac mini, although the first time Apple attempted to remove it the creative world was in uproar.
PCI expansion cards
One thing that Apple's Mac Pro offers that no other Mac offers is PCI expansion, and that is a key reason for the appeal to professional users. These PCI cards can be used for faster RAID performance and transcoding of video, high-end networking, complex audio/video connections, and many other things the average consumer will never need.
Such expansion slots are essential for users who wish to add high-end video cards, sound, networking, RAID arrays, and other connectivity options to their Mac. There are currently three such slots. However, there are some fears that Apple could reduce this to two PCI ports in its desire to make the machine thinner. Apple may also update to the PCIE3 standard, which will offer 40 lanes per socket, rather than the usual 36.
Many folks who in the past required PCI slots can these days make due with other solutions, thanks to Thunderbolt.
We've also seen reports that claim that SATA III/SAS connectivity will be native in the new Mac Pro.
Will there be a SuperDrive in the new Mac Pro
Another potential for culling is the Mac's optical drive. We aren't completely convinced that Apple will remove the optical drive from the Mac Pro, however. The pro Mac user is probably the one and only Mac user remaining that could honestly say that they require an optical drive. For one thing, some professional creative software isn't widely available as a download.
Will Apple update the Mac Pro, or will Apple discontine the Mac Pro?
The Mac Pro is a classic tower computer, offering owners the opportunity to open up the case and tinker around, taking stuff out, replacing parts with other components of their own choosing. Apple hates that. The latest iMacs are literally glued down. Apple has fused the iMac’s glass front panel and the LCD together, where they used to be attached with magnets. Given this, is it surprising that many believe the Mac Pro is doomed?
Even if Apple is still interested in the professional Mac market, it may well be that Apple has simply lost the workstation market, as it did the server market with the Xserve, either because it wasn't competitive enough or dedicated enough. Is Apple ready to abandon the higher-end of the desktop market to Dell and HP? Does it really need a workstation? Or to put it bluntly do we need a workstation from Apple?
Maybe it doesn't really matter enough. We spoke to some Apple resellers about the removal of the Mac Pro in Europe, one told us: "The Mac Pro removal is not really going to be that huge of a problem, it was a very small seller in the APR channel so much so that it was removed along with the Mac mini off the stores display."
The fact is that most consumers and even professionals switched over to the iMac a long time ago. As our reseller said: "While customers have been waiting for a serious upgrade on the Mac Pro, the iMac is a better all round machine and still has great upgradable ?options on it."
Although as another Apple reseller pointed out: "It does highlight that Apple is heading into an entirely consumer world and business customers have to compromise if they want to stay Mac. I guess it highlights that as a business group the Mac Pro team generate less profit per head than other areas of their business."
The proportion of Apple's revenue that comes from the Mac Pro line has been steadily declining as iOS devices and MacBook sales have surged, and as the iMac has become one of the most popular desktop computers on the market. There is one way in which Apple could make the Mac Pro unit more profitable - the company could start manufacturing them in the USA.
New Mac Pro Rumours - Produced in the USA
Apple CEO Tim Cook last year announced that Apple would shift production of one Mac to the USA. Most industry watchers expect this Mac to be either the Mac Pro or the Mac mini. The odds are good that it is the Mac Pro though for a number of reasons. For one thing, shipping the Mac Pro from China is expensive because it's such a bulky item. The other reason why moving production of the Mac Pro to the USA makes sense is that Apple sells fewer than one million a year (it makes sense to manufacturer the high-demand products where labour is cheaper and voluminous. In addition, any extra labour costs associated with manufacturing in the US can be more easily absorbed by a £2,000+ Mac Pro than by a MacBook or an iMac that sell for £999, as noted by Fortune.
Will the new Mac Pro live up to expectations?
It's been a long time coming and the traditional user base has a hell of a big wish list. Many fear that the update will not meet their needs. Many of these pro users - particularly the ones who need the absolute best performance and the most expandability (and, it should be said, who were once Apple's bread and butter) – already believe that Apple has abandoned them. It is likely they have already bought specialized workstations from other vendors.
There are also fears that Apple runs the risk of cannibalizing the iMac if it builds a reasonably priced Mac minitower.
We know that Apple has plans to produce a Mac for its professional users, but Apple CEO Tim Cook never actually said that it would be a new Mac Pro. His words were: "Our Pro customers like you are really important to us. Although we didn't have a chance to talk about a new Mac Pro at today's event, don't worry as we're working on something really great for later next year."
We'll just have to wait to see what this something really great turns out to be.