WWDC19 | Some notable aspects of the new Mac Pro design include a dual-sided mobo
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Apple's last standalone Mac Pro desktop was launched to considerable hype in late 2013. It adopted a striking tubular design built around an innovative central thermal core that focused solely on delivering bandwidth and processing power. At the time, it the thinking was that with Thunderbolt 2, storage and other bits and pieces could be added on. This didn't go down well with a lot of people who complained that it made their work spaces messy, preferring the modularity of the previous tower design. Another major downer was that it was made of plenty of bespoke components which meant that it there was no upgrade pathway for the design, which was a much less forgivable transgression.
Apple, apparently listened, and has created a much more satisfying professional workstation that is not only incredibly powerful, but is still relatively compact, highly modular and eminently upgradeable and expandable. One of the key sales pitches of the new design is that it offers 360-degrees of user accessibility which in and off itself is a clever breakthrough. Rather than entering the enclosure from just one side, which can make it tricky to access components, Apple's new Mac Pro uses a bespoke dual-sided motherboard. This splits the components over two sides making it a snap to access the internals.
On one side of the motherboard you will find the CPU, PCI Express slots and GPU/s. On the other side you can easily access the storage slots as well as the 12 DIMMS that can be fitted with up to an incredible 1.5TB of system RAM. Keeping the CPU cool is a massive custom heatsink that works together with the three large impeller blades to draw air into the system. This is supplemented by a blower that forces hot air out through the rear. And that weird cheese grater-like lattice in the front panel? That creates a spiral-like airflow as the cool air is drawn in by the impeller and pushed through the system. Clever.
Another notable innovation is Apple's new proprietary Mac Pro Expansion Module (MPX Module). The module integrates two connectors to a single graphics card along with Thunderbolt 3. This allows two GPU chips to be fitted to the one card. One of the connectors is a standard PCIe type that delivers 75 Watts of power while the second is a proprietary MPX connector that delivers up to 475 Watts of power for a combined 500 Watts. This is enough to power the two GPU chips which are then linked together using AMD's new Infinity Fabric Link to deliver a whopping 28 teraflops of performance to create the Radeon Pro Vega Duo MPX Module. What's more, the Mac Pro can support two of these modules for a total of four Vega II GPUs for a combined 56 teraflops of compute power. For comparison's sake, an Xbox One X produces 6 teraflops.
Starting from US$5,999, the Mac Pro might be expensive, but it loaded with plenty of power and the kind of innovation we used to see much more regularly from Apple in the past. It is good to see Apple can still deliver when it chooses.