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The New Mac Pro

new Mac Pro
“Can’t innovate anymore, my ass” – Phil Schiller

published by Chand Bellur
July 22, 2013 at 6:10 p.m. PST

Apple unveiled the long-awaited Mac Pro update at their World Wide Developer Conference. The new Mac Pro, designed for professional users, is far more powerful than its predecessor, yet only a fraction of the size. Standing at 9.9 inches tall and only 6.6 inches in diameter, the new Mac Pro isn’t much bigger than a Mac Mini. It features a bold, new, cylindrical design unlike any other computer on the planet. This new high-performance machine is destined to be the platform of choice for professional video editors, recording engineers and animators.

Overall Design

The new Mac Pro features a revolutionary cylindrical design. A few people have joked that it looks like a garbage can. I don’t think anyone will be tossing their banana peels in this thing. Compared to the current Mac Pro, the new one is a fraction of the size. Thanks to new technologies, like Thunderbolt 2 and flash storage, it is no longer necessary to include drive bays. Optical drives are virtually obsolete. While this accounts for the smaller size, the cylindrical shape allows the new Mac Pro to stay cool under pressure.

The new Mac Pro is built around a thermal core. This core features a single piece of aluminum, designed to conduct heat away from the processors. There is one large fan at the top of the unit, strategically placed to draw cool air from the bottom. The single fan is supposed to be dead quiet, which is critical for audio editing. The current Mac Pro model is also quiet. I’ve accidentally turned mine off at the power strip, because I thought it was off. It’s that quiet. The new one is supposed to be even quieter.

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The Guts

Apple crammed an enormous amount of power inside the new Mac Pro. It features dual GPUs which provide 7 teraflops of graphics processing power. This is twice as powerful as the previous Mac Pro. The new Mac Pro has full support for the new 4K video standard. Users can connect up to three 4K monitors. While this is superfluous for most users, it is essential for video editors. The new Mac Pro will be the work horse of the motion picture and television industry.

Heavy lifting is accomplished using the newest Xeon processors. Supporting up to 12 cores, the new Mac Pro can easily execute complicated algorithms necessary for audio and video effects. Internal hardware is connected via the new PCIe bus, featuring 40GB/s bandwidth. This is twice as fast as the previous model. Memory speed has also doubled, running at an astonishing 60GB/s.

A look inside the Mac Pro reveals the absence of key components — the hard disk and optical drives. With recent advances in flash storage, hard drives are no longer necessary. Most users download software and media, making optical drives obsolete. The new Mac Pro uses PCI Express flash storage, exclusively. The Mac Pro’s solid state drives are faster than others, connecting with PCI Express instead of a SATA bus. This allows for 2.5 times greater speed, which is necessary for high performance 4K video editing. Storage is 10 times faster than any previous Mac Pro model.

Thunderbolt

External

With the advent of Thunderbolt, it is no longer necessary to use internal devices connected to PCI or SATA busses. External devices can now offer exceptional performance. The new Mac Pro features Thunderbolt 2 technology. This new standard supports 20 GB/s bandwidth and the ability to chain up to 36 devices. USB 3 is also supported on the new Mac Pro. The new USB standard supports up to 5 Gbits/s, which is over 10 times faster than USB 2.

Networking has improved. The new Mac Pro has Gigabit ethernet. It also has wi-fi built-in. This is a huge improvement, because wi-fi used to be a special order upgrade for the Mac Pro. Users could not do this upgrade themselves, and there is a lack of quality USB wi-fi adapters for Apple products, since wi-fi is standard on all other models. Apple assumed that professionals would not use wi-fi, but would instead use a wired ethernet connection. It’s amazing that the standard Mac Pro did not come with wi-fi until now. Sometimes Apple makes assumptions that prove to be false. I had to re-arrange my networking setup and hard-wire my Mac Pro. It was a very frustrating situation. The new Mac Pro also supports the latest Bluetooth 4.0 standard.

The new machine features HDMI 1.4 ports, allowing users to easily connect the computer to a flat screen TV. This enables video editors to see how the final cut will really look for viewers at home.

The new design is not just pretty, but functional. When you rotate the new Mac Pro, the i/o panel illuminates, making it easier to connect external devices. They thought of everything!

Born in the USA

The new Mac Pro is made in the United States. It is not only assembled in the U.S., but many key components are made in the U.S.  Some people who live abroad may feel it is xenophobic to be proud of making something in the United States. The reality is, we’re still climbing out of the Great Recession. A lot of people here need jobs. Apple is doing a good thing.

The new Mac Pro is assembled in Texas, with components constructed in over a dozen other states. Apple is also building a huge “spaceship” corporate campus in Cupertino and continuing to hire people in California. Unlike other tech companies, Apple doesn’t offshore much of its design and software development work overseas. They do have brick and mortal Apple stores throughout the world. They are an international company. However, unlike other tech companies, they’re not looking for the cheapest intellectual labor market they can find.

Mac Pro made in the United States of America

There are a lot of intelligent people throughout the world. That said, I have seen a lot of horrible software developed by disconnected teams spread throughout the world. They save money but often create terrible products that aren’t profitable. Time and cultural differences make it harder for international teams to work together. One team will have to work late nights in order to have meetings with another team. Some cultures have many more holidays and vacations, and the notion of working 60-80 hour weeks is simply unacceptable and often illegal. Sometimes unscrupulous overseas consulting firms will promise more than they can deliver.

Offshoring was trendy for a while. Most software engineering has come back onshore, because it didn’t end up saving money. A very large corporation I worked for outsourced some software development to India. It cost half as much but projects took twice as long to complete compared to domestic developers. It only created inconvenience, as domestic management had to conduct virtual meetings in the early hours of the morning.

It’s good to see some manufacturing come back as well. I don’t mean to sound xenophobic. Detroit has just gone bankrupt, and, like many Americans, I don’t want to see other major cities go “belly up”. Not everyone in America is a rocket scientist. There should be good jobs for regular people. Retail and the service sector don’t pay a living wage.

It’s impressive to see Apple making hardware in the U.S. This is something that is usually done overseas, as the labor is cheaper. Apple does the vast majority of their manufacturing overseas. Historically, Apple held out on offshoring manufacturing for quite some time. In the 1980s, most Apple products were made in the United States. The higher cost of their products was a major factor in their decline. Why would anyone spend a few thousand dollars on a Mac, when they could get a Windows PC for a fraction of the price? The PC ran more software titles.

Will Apple continue this trend of on-shoring manufacturing? It is possible. Very little of the iPhone 5 is hand-made. The phone is almost entirely constructed by machines. There is little manual labor involved. If offshoring saves on labor costs, it may no longer prove a cost savings as more devices are made with complete automation. If the government provided a little nudge in the right direction, with some tax benefits, corporations like Apple could bring all of their manufacturing back to the United States. There are still humans involved, even with fully automated production lines. Humans need to design, manufacture, calibrate and maintain the machines. These are good jobs, not the repetitive boredom of the assembly line.

Do you need a Mac Pro?

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I own a Mac Pro, and I regret it. It is the first Mac I have owned. I should have bought a MacBook Pro or an iMac. Why? The Mac Pro is way more machine than I need. After using Windows machines for more than two decades, I bought a Mac Pro based on the specs I would want in a Windows machine. Windows is a slower operating system. You need a faster computer to run Windows smoothly. I also wanted to use my Mac for video editing and home recording. All of that can be done on an iMac, even a Mac Mini.

The Mac Pro is for professionals

If you are a professional video editor, animator, or recording engineer, you can probably make good use of a Mac Pro. Time is money, especially in these professions. A faster computer can help the professional meet their deadlines. A software engineer or middle manager does not need a Mac Pro. Even many video editors and recording engineers can do just fine on a top-of-the-line iMac. If you are an audio-visual professional working with the new 4K video format, the new Mac Pro is essential.

There is one advantage to buying a Mac Pro, even if you aren’t an audio visual professional. You can keep the machine for a long time. With great power comes longevity. Mac Pros can be upgraded for several years. Mine is already 4 years old, and I expect to keep using it, with the latest OS, for at least another 3 years. Let’s face it — getting a new computer is a pain. Migrating everything to a new computer isn’t fun. For those who want to buy a top-of-the-line computer and keep it for years, the Mac Pro could prove to be a good deal. You also have the advantage of lightning-fast performance. That said, for every day use, there isn’t much difference in performance between a Mac Pro and a Mac Mini. The Mac Pro is only slightly faster at booting up, opening apps, etc. When it comes to the heavy lifting — rendering video, applying complicated audio effects, or even compiling millions of lines of code, the Mac Pro will triumph over all other Mac models. The vast majority of users, however, will do just fine with an iMac, MacBook Air, or even a Mac Mini. A Mac Pro won’t send email or play Netflix faster than any other model.

The new Mac Pro is not only a bold new design, but features state-of-the-art technology. It will be the platform of choice for 4K video editing. The new machine will be available for purchase later this year. No one knows for certain how much it will cost. I expect it to be inline with the current price of the Mac Pro. Even though it is two-to-ten times faster and better than its predecessor, computer technology becomes faster and less expensive over time.

I personally would never buy another Mac Pro. It’s a great machine. In fact, it’s too great. It is far more machine than I need. People moving from a PC to the Mac need to understand that OS X is much more efficient. You can’t compare the two machines, even if they both have the same Intel processors and the same amount of RAM. There’s a reason why it’s called a Mac Pro — it is for professional video editors, recording engineers and animators. If you use a Mac for work and write code or work on office documents, you don’t need a Mac Pro!

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