Intel has launched it's Xeon E5 processors, just in time – perhaps – for Apple to launch new Mac Pros tonight alongside the iPad 3.

It's been 18 months since Apple last updated its Mac Pro workstation for creative pros working on high-end projects. While rumours of its demise have dogged it for the last six months or so, the release of Intel's Xeon E5 chips marks the point where Apple needs to brings it up to date or drop the line an concentrate on those with more modest demands (or innovate and do something new for creative pros, which would be great).

Here's what the Mac Pro would get from the Xeon E5. First off, access to the Sandy Bridge architecture underpinning the current generation of iMacs and MacBook Pros with smaller components than the previous generation (using a 32nm production process rather than 45nm). Intel's E5 uses this to get up to eight processor cores on a chip rather than six – so that would make for a 16-core Mac Pro, rather than the 12-core current flagship model.

There's more cache, four memory channels instead of three for faster memory access, and support for faster memory to boot. There's also support for soon-to-appear graphics cards that use the PCI Express 3.0 bus, plus other innovations, but the bottom line is more power for your creative applications. The new chips come at quite a price, though, so they're best suited to high-end CG/VFX projects.

To see how the chips measure up, read our review of the first two workstations to offer Intel Xeon E5 chips.