Wed, 11 Dec 2013 Mac Pro preview: launching on 16 or 17 December?
We've had a first look at the Mac Pro which Apple says will launch 'later this year', read our hands-on review below
- Manufacturer: Apple
- Pros: Beautifully designed.
- Cons: Single chip (and possibly not as powerful as it dual-chip predecessor). Out later than Windows-based rivals.
- Price: From £2,499
- Star rating:
Months after announcing the new Mac Pro for 2013 back at WWDC in June, Apple still hasn't finally announced when the new Mac Pro will start shipping (beyond reiterating "by the end of the year". However, Apple did give us a chance to take a look at the new Mac Pro. Here are our first impressions of the new Mac Pro, in our Mac Pro hands-on review.
If you are wondering when the new Mac Pro will launch the latest rumours point to Monday 16 December or Tuesday 17 December, one week before Christmas. However, while the UK takes almost two weeks off to holiday over the Christmas break, the US will continue to work, so don't rule out a Christmas launch. Read more about the Mac Pro launch date here.
Above: the Macworld team discuss the new Mac Pro, as well as the other Mac-related announcements from Apple's launch event on Tuesday night
New Mac Pro 2013: first impressions
The photos we had seen of the Mac Pro had lead us to expect a matt black machine but in reality, and under spotlighting, the new Mac Pro looked glossy. So glossy in fact that it was quite difficult to get a good photograph in the conditions we were in, our camera wasn't too keen on focusing on the shiny surface.
Some of the people around us were surprised at the size, it seemed that there was no general consensus on how big people had expected it to be, but everyone seemed to think it was smaller than they had expected. It was actually exactly the size we expected since we had already built ourselves a Mac Pro out of paper, to get a realistic idea of how it would sit on our desk.
It is constructed out of aluminium, but in the room, under the lighting it was under, the shiny surface made us think of plastic. Let's hope it looks a bit better in a normally lit environment.
The other thing we noticed was that when we wanted to twist the unit around to see the ports at the back, the Apple person doing the demonstration had a bit of trouble moving it around on account of it being plugged into a monitor. This struck us as it's exaclty what a number of video pros we spoke to about the Mac Pro were worried about - the fact that with no opportunity to upgrade on the inside, everything will be plugged in the back and very difficult to get to.
Speaking of non-upgradability, it's not as bad as some had thought. We were told that the RAM and flash memory will be user upgradable. This news will please many as there was a lot of concern about this.
New Mac Pro 2013 price and release date
We were expecting the Mac Pro to be formally launched at the Apple 22 October event, or at the very least a launch date, but Apple simply repeated the "by the end of the year" delivery date.The latest rumours point to 16 or 17 December, the week before Christmas.
We think that Apple is keen to avoid the delays its customers experienced getting their hands on new iMacs last autumn. Added to that the fact that the new machine is being built in the new USA plant, and you can expect that it will take a bit of time.
This is despite the fact that Intel has formally announced its 'Ivy Bridge'-based Xeon E5-2600 V2 processor - this announcement came at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) event in California back in June. Unlike competing solutions from the likes of Dell and HP, the Mac Pro 2013 is a single chip machine – which allows it to be a lot smaller than its rivals. Buyers will likely a choice of chips including the the 8-core, 3.4GHz Xeon E5-2687W to the 12-core 2.7GHz Xeon E5-2697W
We now know the Mac Pro will start at £2,499 in the UK for a quad-core 3.7GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon E5 processor, 12GB RAM, Dual AMD FIrePro D300 and 256GB flash storage. There is also a 6-core model with 3.5GHz Xeon E5, 16GB RAM, two AMD FirePro D500 cards, and 256GB flash storage for £3,299. We expect that there will also be build to order options that will push the price higher.
There has also been an announcement that Jony Ive has designed a Product RED version of the Mac Pro which will be sold at auction by Sotheby's. That one of a kind Mac Pro is listed as the Mac Pro value is listed at $40,000 to $60,000. The charity auction is scheduled for 23 November. If the unit is available at that date the owner will be the first to own a Mac Pro as the new Mac won't be on sale until December.
Please read on for our original preview by Neil Bennett.
New Mac Pro 2013 benchmarks
We haven't been able to test a Mac Pro ourselves yet, but we have seen another system with a single 8-core, 3.4GHz Xeon E5-2687W processor. This is a Windows-based workstation, but we've seen comparable scores between Macs and Windows PCs in the past using the Cinebench benchmark – which is based on Maxon's Cinema 4D 3D animation suite.
Running Cinebench's 3D rendering test – which is almost exclusively a measure of CPU performance – we saw a score of 14.04 points (a measurement that only applies to Cinebench scores and has no wider context). This is actually 6.8% slower than the 12-core Mac Pro we reviewed back in 2010, which obtained a score of 15.07– though we expect the 12-core Mac Pro to be significantly faster. It's also 47.5% slower than the 26.78 score that the same Windows workstation with two Xeon E5-2687W chips installed.
We'll give the Mac Pro 2013 a full review when we get our hands on a review sample.
New Mac Pro 2013 specs
Being from Intel's 'Ivy Bridge' processor line, the Xeon E5 V2 chips give support for up to an as-yet unknown amount of 1,866MHz ECC RAM – up from 1,333MHz in the previous generation of Mac Pros and up from 1,600GHz on the previous generation of PC workstations. ECC RAM uses error correction to be more stable that the RAM used by consumer PCs and Macs – which is important for longer processes such as video encoding and 3D rendering.
Storage-wise, the new Mac Pro features PCIe flash storage, which with a data transfer rate of 1,250MBps is 2.5x faster than the fastest SATA-based flash storage, according to Apple, and over 10x faster than a 7,200rpm SATA drive. We expect these to be very expensive and small in capacity, so you'll likely need to pair these with an external drive for your projects.
For graphics, the 2013 Mac Pro has dual graphics chips from AMD's FirePro range. It hasn't said which cards are included, but from the quoted specs they appear to be the same chips as found in AMD's top-of-the-line FirePro W9000 graphics card – which feature 6GB of graphics RAM (and ECC RAM at that), a 384-bit memory interface and 264GBps memory bandwidth.
Apple says that the cards will allow you to do VFX and editing work on full-res 4K video – and output the three 4K displays at once. Unlike the PC-based FirePro W9000 though, there are no DisplayPorts on the 2013 Mac Pro – instead the three of the six Thunderbolt 2 ports can be used as mini-DisplayPort outputs that output to DisplayPort monitors using an adapter, as with Apple's MacBook Pro and iMac.
There's also an HDMI output on the back of the new Mac Pro, along with four USB 3.0 ports and two gigabit ethernet. The Thunderbolt 2 ports offer up to 20GBps of data transfer, and can also be used to attach devices from PCI arrays to external RAID storage devices. Apple says that the all-black exterior lights up to show you these ports when you rotate the Mac Pro towards you.
Other features include 801.11ac wireless and Bluetooth 4.0.
New Mac Pro 2013 design
Apple's completely redesigned Mac Pro workstation is about an eighth of the size of previous model and features a design that has already been compared to a bin (or Dusty Bin in a Daft Punk helmet, according to Jonathan Barnbrook on Twitter), something Dyson would create, and to an air-conditioning unit. This last comparison is more accurate, as the design of the new Mac Pro is all about getting airflow through to its top-spec components.
For the new Mac Pro, Apple has arranged all of the components around a central wind tunnel with a single big fan, which it has engineered to keep everything cool while apparently keeping noise to a minimum. The full chassis measures about 25cm tall and 16cm in diameter.