Five months after announcing the new Mac Pro 2013, Apple is finally shipping its ultra-small professional workstation - and we have exclusive benchmarks of how the chip inside performs.
We saw a Mac Pro for the first time at a briefing back in October and Apple managed to surprise us with just how small it was. We'd seen the photos and read the specs - and it was still smaller than we expected, having about the same circumference as one of those big tins of instant coffee you probably have in your studio's kitchen (at least for when the filter stuff runs out).
New Mac Pro 2013 price and release date
The base Mac Pro has a 3.7 GHz quad-core Intel Xeon E5 processor, dual AMD FirePro D300 GPUs with 2GB of VRAM each, 12GB of memory, and 256GB of PCIe-based flash storage for £2,082.50 plus VAT. £2,749 plus VAT gets you a Mac Pro with a 3.5 GHz 6-core Intel Xeon E5 processor with dual AMD FirePro D500 GPUs with 3GB of VRAM each, 16GB of memory, and 256GB of PCIe-based flash storage.
Build-to-order options include faster 8-core or 12-core Intel Xeon E5 processors, AMD FirePro D700 GPUs with 6GB of VRAM, up to 64GB of memory, and up to 1TB of PCIe-based flash storage. No pricing info has been released for these, but we suspect it'll be between 'ouch' and 'how much!'.
New Mac Pro 2013 benchmarks
We haven't had a chance to test a Mac Pro 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.
However, Apple expects that many pro-grade applications will perform much faster, as they'll be pushing a lot of its heavy-duty processing on thw two FirePro graphics cards using OpenCL (which is like OpenGL, but for non-3D computing such as video effects rendering). However, applications will have to be written to take advantage of this - and perhaps significantly if they want to push computing tasks onto one of graphics cards and use the other for real-time 3D and sending what's on your screen to your monitor/s.
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.