The new Mac Pro packs in 28 Xeon cores, 1.5TB of RAM, and quad Vega GPUs


If you know me—and if you've been reading this site for the last few years, you know me well enough—then you know that I am just about as strident an Apple-hater as any. Knowing that should give you important context for the next thing I'm about to say: I think Apple's new Mac Pro looks fascinating.

"Fascinating" isn't necessarily a good thing, and FruitCo made some very curious choices in the design, to be sure. For starters, as our beloved drfish put it, "I didn't think they could make it look any more like a cheese grater than the old Mac Pros." Indeed, this writer thinks the new Mac Pro looks like something you'd find in a kitchen circa 1960. It's "industrial design," except without the "design" part. That's not to say that I think it's ugly; I think it has a certain engineer chic.

All those holes offer a lot of ventilation for the three big fans up front, and all that ventilation is quite necessary. You see, the new Mac Pro comes with a 1.4-kW powerplant. That in and of itself doesn't necessarily mandate massive airflow, but there's a few reasons it has such a powerful supply. Namely, a 28-core Intel Xeon-W chip running at up to 4.4 GHz, 1.5TB of ECC DDR4 memory at 2933 MT/s, and no less than four full-fat AMD Vega GPUs. That's not even to mention the Afterburner video transcoder or the plethora of Thunderbolt 3 ports.


The new Mac Pro's CPU cooler.

Apple is still Apple, of course, so there's not a lot of technical data available about exactly which parts are going into the Pros. Given the specifications offered, the top-end CPU is almost certainly the Xeon W-3275M, which is a close relative of the Xeon W-3175X that Intel launched early this year. All of the CPUs that Apple will offer are Xeon W-family chips, but if you don't need that many cores you can opt for chips with 24, 16, 12, or 8 cores.

Memory is similarly-configurable, from 32 GB on up to 1.5 TB—although that top-end option will require a 24- or 28-core CPU. On the storage side of things, you can pick options ranging from a single 256GB SSD on up to dual 2TB drives. Notably, Apple is only offering solid-state internal storage for the new Mac Pro, and the drives so-offered include Apple's T2 security chip. The company doesn't offer any specifications on the drives beyond that they're capable of 2.6 GB/s in sequential reads and 2.7 GB/s in sequential writes.


The block in the top-left that says "Mac Pro" is the CPU cooler.

That's all good and well, but far and away the most interesting part of the new Mac Pro is in its expansion slots. The machine comes with eight PCIe 3.0 slots, seven of which are wired up to x16, and the last of which is an x4 slot used for Thunderbolt 3 and audio output. Two of the PCIe x16 slots have a second, even larger connector placed in-line; those are used to support Apple's "MPX Modules." That's what Apple is calling its custom-designed Radeon cards. They come with passive cooling that runs the length of the case, and use the aforementioned second connector to deliver 8 more lanes of PCIe 3.0 and up to 475W of power. After all, Apple can't be running wires to graphics cards.

The cards themselves can be the Polaris-based Radeon Pro 580X, a Radeon Pro Vega II, or the very impressive Radeon Pro Vega II Duo, which is exactly what it sounds like. The Vega II nomenclature is all-new for the Mac Pro, and I probably don't have tell an audience of gerbils that it is fundamentally a Radeon Instinct MI60 with four Thunderbolt 3 ports and a single HDMI jack. It seems like it's been detuned slightly compared to the Instinct MI60, no doubt for efficiency's sake; where AMD puts the Instinct down for some 14.7 TFLOPs, the Vega II is apparently good for "only" 14.1 TFLOPs.

Good thing you can stuff four of them in a single Mac Pro, then. Each GPU gets 32GB of HBM2 memory running at the usual 2 GT/sec, providing them with 1 TB/sec of memory bandwidth. On the Radeon Pro Vega II Duo cards, the GPUs are connected by Infinity Fabric, which Apple says is five times faster than connecting them using PCIe. All told, a Mac Pro using a pair of Radeon Pro Vega II Duo cards can apparently provide some 112.8 TFLOPS/sec of half-precision compute. That should please some AI programmers.

AI isn't the workload that Apple is pushing for the new Macs, though. As usual, the company seems to be emphasizing the workstations' content creation performance. The company says its Logic Pro X software supports 1000 audio tracks and 1000 instruments. Meanwhile, the company demoed Final Cut Pro X playing back HDR 8K ProRes RAW video, adding effects and color correction in real-time, and even changing video effects without pausing playback. Much of that is no doubt due to the Afterburner FPGA accelerator card that can be slotted into one of the Mac Pro's PCIe x16 slots. Apple says the card can allow you to play back twelve raw 4K video streams simultaneously.


Apple remarks that you'll be able to stuff your own cards in the Mac Pro as well.

Other notable features on the new Mac Pros include a pair of 10-Gigabit Ethernet connections, a 3.5-mm analog headset jack, and even a couple of old-school USB-A ports. As for the price, well, we don't know what the beautiful beast above will run you. However, Apple did say that the base configuration—with an 8-core CPU, 32GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD—would cost you $6000. Yeah. If you're a FruitCo devotee, keep your eyes out this Fall, when the new Mac Pro becomes available.

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