updated 07:50 am EDT, Fri June 24, 2011
New Mac Pro to range from 6 to 16 cores
The upcoming Mac Pro could have one of the largest spreads in performance in recent memory based on internal Apple documents obtained late last night. Shown as "Mac Pro (Mid 2011)," it should have four main models using Xeon chips, starting with a single-processor, six-core model and moving to an eight-core system, a 12-core (two times six) system and a 16-core (two times eight) flagship. The tip to 9to5 couldn't prove whether the designs would use a new rackmountable design.
The use of eight-core processors on two of the systems virtually dictates the use of processors that Intel hasn't unveiled yet. None of the current Xeon 5000-series processor family used by Apple can go to eight cores, and the new Xeon E7 is intended for large-scale server environments and priced accordingly. Apple may instead be using the as yet unannounced Xeon E5, a direct replacement for the 5000 series, and could have it early since roadmaps have put these later in 2011.
Any new model would come preloaded with Lion, and it's presumed Apple will have custom graphics cards using Thunderbolt. Apple is likely to update to modern AMD Radeon HD 6000-series graphics with the option of NVIDIA GeForce 500 or Quadro cards. Rumors have had the drives difficult to hot-swap but also stacked to allow for more room inside the likely smaller enclosure.
Earlier discussion of a late July or early August launch has reportedly been accurate, with Apple in the middle of producing the manuals that usually wait until the system is virtually ready.