Mac Pro 2015 preview

It feels like the current Mac Pro hasn’t been with us for very long, but Apple actually introduced it a year ago (although it didn’t ship until the beginning of this year - and in some cases people were waiting until February or later before they received theirs). There had been a long wait for the new look Mac Pro before it launched last year and for that reason some are wondering whether it is really time for an update.

We think that an update is already overdue and that we were hoping to see a new Mac Pro at the October Apple event, however, as yet no new Mac Pro has been announced. Read on to find why we think it is long overdue. [To find out more about the new Mac Pro 2015 release date read this article.]

Read our range of Mac Pro reviews:

New Mac Pro 2015: processor

The current Mac Pro features Intel’s Xeon E5 V2 processors (Romley). These processors offer up to 12 cores (as a build-to-order option). We expect that the new Mac Pro will feature the new Xeon E5 V3 chips (Grantley). 

These Grantley chips are already shipping to some of Intel’s customers - the V3 chips feature in Dell’s new Xeon Precision Tower (5810, 7810 and 7910) and in the newest HP workstations. The Dell workstations use the Intel Xeon E5-2600 v3 processor series that offer 14 or 18 cores per processor, a big leap from the 12 core max of the current Mac Pro. 

For that reason our second prediction is that the new Mac Pros will offer more cores than they do currently. The existing models are configurable to 3.5GHz for a six-core option, 3.0GHz for an 8-core option, and 2.7GHz for a 12-core option. We may see a 8-core option at the low-end, a 12-core at the high end, and then a build to order 14-core options. As for the 18 core option, we’ll have to see. 

Find out what's instore for next year: Apple rumours and predictions for 2015

New Mac Pro 2015: RAM

It seems likely that Apple will add more RAM to the Mac Pro, particularly the entry-level quad-core version, which currently ships with 12GB. The new 15-inch MacBook Pro range ship with 16GB RAM as standard so by comparison the more expensive quad-core Mac Pro looks like a poor deal.

As for the current 6-core Mac Pro, that offers 16GB RAM as standard currently, could we see more RAM offered as standard on this Mac? Build to order options for RAM currently include a 32GB option for £320 or 64GB for a cool £960. Could we see 32GB option as standard on a new Mac Pro? 

64GB RAM might sound like a lot but it should be noted that some Dell workstations can accommodate up to 1TB of DDR4 RAM. We hope that the next generation of Mac Pros will be configurable to more than 64GB (four slots of 16GB). Note that it is thought that Yosemite will be able to make use of extra RAM.

It may not matter if Apple doesn’t offer more RAM as standard though, as the RAM it does offer may be faster. The new Xeon E5 V3 Grantley chips have DDR4 memory controllers, which will allow for even faster memory in the new Mac Pro. Currently the RAM is DDR3 ECC memory. 

Read: Mac Pro versus iMac

New Mac Pro 2015: graphics

The 2013 Mac Pro features dual workstation-class GPUs. The Dual AMD FirePro D300 with 2GB GDDR5 VRAM each in the Quad-Core version, and Dual AMD FirePro D500 with 3GB GDDR5 VRAM each in the 6-Core model. There’s also a build-to-order option of the Dual AMD FirePro D700 GPUs with 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM each (an extra £480).

Earlier this year AMD showcased the new FirePro W-series. The FirePro W7100, W5100 may find their way into the new Mac Pro.

New Mac Pro 2015: storage

Higher capacity storage is something that any one benefitting from the high speeds of a flash based system is likely to be wishing for. One of the major changes to the Mac Pro when it launched last year was the addition of PCIe-based flash storage across the range. The Mac Pro came with 256GB as standard, which was upgradable to 512GB (£240) or 1TB (£640).This change to flash storage (aka SSD) has its benefits - faster access speeds, a cooler system, etc.

But some power users missed the ability to take advantage of the larger capacity for storage offered by a old-school hard drive. Sure they could plug in an external hard drive to a Thunderbolt port and work from that, but in doing so they were unable to take advantage of the high transfer speeds offered by flash. The solution was to opt for a build to order 1TB SSD - adding almost the price of a MacBook Air to the price of the Mac Pro.

We hope that these build-to-order SSD prices will come down and that Apple will offer more storage a standard. We’d like to see 512GB as standard and an option for 2TB flash storage.

New Mac Pro 2015: ports

When the new-look Mac Pro launched last year there was some concern that the new design would rule out any upgrade options. The old style Mac Pro was admired for the ease with which it could be updated. The solution offered by the current Mac Pro is six Thunderbolt 2 ports. Apple says that Mac Pro users can get all the upgrade options they could possibly need by plugging into these ports which can be used to connect to up to three 4K displays if you were that way inclined. 

Could the new Mac Pro offer more Thunderbolt ports - probably not as that would change the design of the unit.

There are currently 4 USB 3 ports, might Apple add USB Type-C? The new USB standard it rumoured to be coming to the MacBook Air next year, might Apple add it to the Mac Pro now? If it does we could see greater USB transfer speeds more akin to Thunderbolt, but given that Thunderbolt is the standard Apple is pushing it may avoid jumping on the USB Type-C wagon for now. 

One slightly crazy (we think) rumour is that Apple could add is a Lightning port to the Mac Pro. This rumour was based on claims that the lightning port will be used for plugging in headphones which could allow for high-res audio. Of course this rumour was first associated with the iPhone and the switch to lightning port for headphones hasn’t happened yet. 

UK pricing for the new Mac Pro

It is possible that prices will drop slightly as Apple has been dropping UK prices across its range of Macs in recent months. However, we think that is is unlikely that the pricing of the standard Mac Pro pricing will change, despite the promise of new features and an increase in specs. What is possible is that there will be a decline in the build-to-order prices, which may mean that the price of the ultimately specced out Mac Pro will be less. 

Currently the 3.7GHz Quad-Core Mac Pro starts at £2,499 (£2,082.50 ex VAT) and the 3.5GB 6-core model costs £3,299.

Mac Pro build to order options 

We expect to see new specs among the build-to-order options, and hopefully some price drops among some of the upgrades. 

The current build-to-order options for the 3.7GHz Quad-Core Mac Pro are:

3.5GHz 6-core option (add £400), 3.0GHz 8-core processor (add £1,600), or 2.7GHz 12-core processor (add £2,800); 16GB (add £80), 32GB (add £400) or 64GB- (add £1,040) RAM memory; dual AMD FirePro D500 (add £320), or or dual AMD FirePro D700 (add £800); 512GB (add £240) or 1TB flash storage (add £640)

The current build-to-order options on the 3.5GHz 6-Core Mac Pro are:

3.0GHz 8-core processor (add £1,200), 2.7GHz 12-core processor (add £2,400); 32GB (add £320) or 64GB (£add £960) RAM memory; dual AMD FirePro D700 (add £480); 512GB (add £240) or 1TB flash storage (add £640).

The current fully maxed out Mac Pro, with the maximum 12-core 2.7GHz processors, with 30MB L3 cache, 64GB RAM, 1TB PCIe-based flash storage, Dual AMD FirePro D700 GPUs with 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM each currently costs £7,779 including VAT (£6,482.50 ex VAT).

When we have more information we will update these prices and note the comparisons. 

Availability of the Mac Pro

If the new Mac Pro roll out is anything like last year’s then we expect to see delays. However, at the end of 2013 when the Mac Pro launched Apple was gearing up to produce the units in the US and it is thought that is was due to getting the factories up and running out there that the shipping delays happened. Now that these factories are geared up to produce the Mac Pro there is unlikely to be any delay in shipping. So, if Apple launches the Mac Pro at the Apple event on 16 October we expect the units to ship pretty soon after. 

Other than directly from Apple, you will be able to buy a new Mac Pro from Apple Premium Resellers such as Stormfront, Square Group, Solutions Inc, iStore, Western Computer, MR Systems, KRCS, HardSoft, and PC World. You can find an Apple Premium Reseller near you by searching on Apple’s site.

Read: OS X 10.10 Yosemite - in-depth review

and: Mac OS X Yosemite and OS X Mavericks compared 

 

OUR VERDICT

We'll let you know what we think of the new Mac Pro if and when Apple launches it

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