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WWDC19 | Return of the Cheese Grater: Apple announces new Mac Pro desktop

All images via Apple
All images via Apple
Announced today, the new 2019 Mac Pro looks like an updated "cheese grater" Mac Pro. Featuring a massive spec bump over the current Mac Pro, the new desktop features 8 PCIe slots and Apple's new Mac Pro Expansion (MPX) Module system. MPX Modules use a proprietary connection that allows for enough PCIe lanes to deliver 500 Watts and support dual Radeon Pro Vega Duo GPUs with a total of 56.8 teraflops of computing power and 128 GB of HBM2 VRAM.

Apple’s WWDC 2019 event came out of the gates running with the announcement of a new desktop computer designed for professionals. The 2019 Mac Pro desktop is a far departure from the much-maligned “trash can” Mac Pro that debuted in 2013. But more than that, the 2019 model is a reinvention of the Mac Pro line, borrowing design elements from the “cheese grater” Mac Pro that debuted in 2006.

On paper, the 2019 Mac Pro packs a serious punch. The default configuration features an 8-core Intel Xeon CPU (3.5 GHz w/ boost up to 4.0 GHz), an AMD Radeon Pro 580X GPU, 32 GB of RAM, and a 256 GB SSD. The desktop can be maxed out with a 300 Watt, 28-core Xeon CPU (2.5 GHz w/ boost up to 4.4 GHz), 1.5 TB of RAM (across 12 DIMMs), two Radeon Pro Vega 2 Duo with 64 GB of HBM2 VRAM each (total 128 GB HBM2 VRAM), and two 2 TB SSDs. Powering everything is a power supply that can deliver up to 1400 Watts of juice.

While the spec bumps are definitely welcome (and expected, given the age of the current Mac Pro), perhaps the most important change is the desktop’s design. The 2019 Mac Pro is all about modularity. To that end, the desktop has eight PCIe slots, four of which are double-wide for bigger cards. The inclusion of so much potential expansion clearly addresses the primary criticism of the 2013 Mac Pro and its reliance on proprietary connections. However, Apple isn’t giving up on proprietary expansion cards.

The 2019 Mac Pro has a custom expansion slot. Dubbed the “Mac Pro Expansion Module,” or MPX Module, users can connect specialized cards (think ASICs) using an integration Thunderbolt 3 connection. It appears that the MPX module will primarily be used for the desktop’s graphics solution and can be used to connect a Radeon Pro Vega 2 or Pro Vega 2 Duo GPU. Apple will even sell an MPX Module with dual Radeon Pro Vega 2 Duo GPUs with a whopping 128 GB of HBM2 VRAM. There will also be more specialized cards available, like the Afterburner card made specifically for video editing. The Afterburner card is a custom Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) that can process up to 6 billion pixels per second.

Apple also hopes that the 2019 Mac Pro addresses a primary concern with most of Apple’s computing lineup - thermal management. A new three-fan array sits in the front of the grated chassis. Apple claims these fans, along with an integrated blower, and flush up to 300 cubic feet of air through the case every minute. It remains to be seen how noisy these fans are.

The new Mac Pro won’t come cheap. For the base model specced out above, Apple is asking a massive $6000 USD. Obviously, the maxed-out model will cost a pretty penny. If you’re shelling out that much cash for a desktop without a display, you might as well drop an additional $5000 for Apple’s new 32-inch, 6K Pro Display XDR monitor as well.

The new Mac Pro will be available sometime this fall.


Apple WWDC 19

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2019 06 > Return of the Cheese Grater: Apple announces new Mac Pro desktop
Sam Medley, 2019-06- 3 (Update: 2019-06- 3)