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Mac Pro 2019: new modular design for professionals

Posted on: Saturday 15th of June 2019

At the beginning of June Apple unveiled its 2019 Mac Pro, marking the first new Mac Pro since 2013, when Apple released the shiny ‘trash can’ replacement – much derided by production pros for its lack of expansions slots – a model which Apple failed to update after dual GPUs became unfashionable and computer designers prioritised powerful single GPU options.

The new Mac Pro is a high-end, high-throughput machine designed for Apple’s pro user base. Apple has learned from its mistakes and the thermal limitations (which it admits) of the 2013 ‘trash can’. The new Mac Pro features a design that’s similar to the rectangular 2012 Mac Pro – hot-rodded versions of which are still to be seen in many studios –  focusing heavily on upgradeability and expansion.

 

The new ‘cheese-grater’ offset two-layer circular lattice design serves as an extremely high-surface area heat sink for use with the trio of fans moving airflow through the tower horizontally. The rectangular design means that GPUs and other additional hardware can be easily slotted in on one of its broad sides. Once the cover is removed using a simple twisting lock mechanism, you have complete 360-access to all the internals of the computer, and the frame can be fitted with wheels. The 2019 Mac Pro features four double-wide PCI slots, three single-wide PCI slots, and one half-width PCI slot, allowing the machine to accomodate any form factor that a supplemental GPU or RAM card may assume. It gives users many options for external peripherals, with two USB-A ports and two Thunderbolt 3 ports.

 

The base model is equipped with an 8-core Intel Xeon processor, a Radeon 580X graphics card, 32GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. The 2019 Mac Pro is capable of scaling up dramatically, with enough slots to pack in 1.5TB of RAM, and options to swap the Radeon 580X for four Radeon Pro Vega II GPUs working in two pairs. These GPUs, which together offer 56 teraflops of computation, are connected with Apple’s proprietary Infinity Fabric Link, which reportedly allows data transfers faster than current standard PCI buses are capable of. Apple’s proprietary Afterburner FPGA will enable the computer to simultaneously play back three streams of 8K video, or 12 streams at 4K resolution.

The starting price for the Mac Pro is $5,999: an 8-core Intel Xeon processor, 32GB of memory, Radeon Pro 580X graphics and a 256GB solid-state drive for storage. No pricing details have been given for higher end configurations, but with top-of-the-line specs, the high-end Mac Pro could cost upwards of $20,000: 28 cores, 1.5TB of memory, 2x AMD Radeon Pro Vega II Duo and Afterburner. Availability is “fall 2019”.

The news of this computer should be welcomed; for production pros in busy post houses and in facilities where audio integrates with video, it will be well worth the investment. But, aside from any considerations about this particular model, it indicates Apple’s commitment to the media production community – a retreat from the idea that creative professionals must live with consumer design, and an acceptance it is worth building products for professionals because of the reputational cachet –  a welcome marker for all of us who depend on Apple’s hardware and software for our daily work.

 



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