Apple promised that it would ship the new Mac Pro in December, and it appears that it's kept that promise: The distinctively cylindrical power machine will be available for order on Thursday, December 19, the company announced on Wednesday. Customers can place their orders via the Apple Online Store, at Apple retail stores, or select Apple Authorized Resellers.
The new Mac Pro, first announced to much fanfare at this year's Worldwide Developers Conference, will be available in two configurations: A $2999 configuration that comes with a 3.7GHz Intel Xeon E5 processor, 12GB of DDR3 RAM (filling three of four memory slots), 256GB of flash storage, and two AMD FirePro D300 GPUs (with 2GB of VRAM each). There's also a $3999 model, which has a 3.5GHz Xeon E5 CPU, 16GB of RAM (filling all four slots), 256GB of flash storage, and two AMD FirePro D500 GPUs (each of which have 3GB of VRAM each). Those graphics chips are stout enough to drive three 4K displays at the same time.
There are, of course, numerous customization possibilities. You can upgrade the CPU to an eight-core 3GHz Xeon E5 or a 2.7GHz Xeon E5. The RAM is upgradeable to 64GB, and you can expand to 512GB or 1TB of on-board flash storage. The graphics can be upgraded to dual AMD FirePro D700 cards, each with 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM. At the time of this writing, prices for those upgrades had yet to be confirmed.
As we've reported previously, the unique tower design--the machine is essentially a squat black cylinder, measuring about 10 inches high and 7 inches in diameter, about one-eighth the size of an old Mac Pro tower--leaves little room for internal expansion. (Extravagant room for expandability has long been one of the Mac Pro's marquee features.) Instead, Apple expects users who need more storage or other expansion options to use external devices, connected via the new machine's six Thunderbolt 2 and four USB 3.0 ports. (Each Thunderbolt 2 port supports up to six daisy-chained devices, so the Mac Pro can support up to 36 Thunderbolt peripherals--if you can find that many.)
The RAM is more user-upgradeable: You can remove the machine's metal sleeve to get access to the Mac Pro's four memory slots. The internal flash-storage card should also be upgradeable in theory, though it will likely require storage designed to work specifically with the Mac Pro.
The new design is based around what Apple has called a "unified thermal core", to help pull heat away from those components and keep the machine cool.
Though the new design will likely be welcomed by many professional users looking for the most horsepower in a Mac, prosumers may be put off by the high price tag and lack of internal expandability.