updated 03:22 pm EDT, Mon June 10, 2013
Black cannister shape, 12-core configuration, Thunderbolt 2, more
[Updated with real-world photo of the Mac Pro] Apple on Monday gave developers and the public a "sneak preview" of the next Mac Pro coming later this year -- a radical new "cannister" form factor in black that is 1/8th (by volume) the size of the previous model. It features a 12-core configuration based on all-new (E5) Intel Xeon processors, dual AMD-provided FirePro workstation graphics, new PCIe flash storage, new faster RAM, PCI Express gen 3 support, the ability to use up to three 4K-quality displays, and external outputs dominated by Thunderbolt 2.
One of the bigger surprises on the unit -- besides its overall form factor, which is pint-sized by comparison to the current models, and was kept secret until today -- is that it is the mystery Mac that will be assembled in the United States, as well as being designed in California (the latter being a major theme of Apple's presentation). The unit's IO ports include four USB 3.0 ports, six Thunderbolt 2, and two Ethernet ports at an unknown speed. There are also separate audio in and out ports and an HDMI (v1.4) port.
The small form factor does include PCIe third-gen technology, but there was no clear illustration of how that was implemented and may only refer to the built-in flash-based storage, which is some 2.5 times faster than current SATA flash storage and more than 10x conventional hard drive storage. As rumored, the innards will be more closed off and reliant on Thunderbolt 2 to handle most expansion duties. The RAM modules appeared to be upgradable, but no clear way into the machine was shown.
During the sneak preview, Apple VP Phil Schiller mentioned that a future update of Final Cut Pro X will be available that fully supports the new graphics system, allowing editors to work on multiple (up to three) 4K displays if needed. In a move that will remind some of the legendary (and equally innovative, though commercially unsuccessful) G4 Cube workstation, the entire top rim of the machine is a handle for easy transport, and relies on a single extruded aluminum "thermal core" that uses augmented convention cooling, but which also employs a single, larger fan that pulls air upwards -- maintaining Apple's penchant for nearly-silent operation.
No weight was mentioned, but the device is so dramatically smaller than the current model that its weight is likely to be comparable to a notebook. The device stands 9.9 inches tall and is 6.6 inches wide, and as expected uses 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0. Both the outside and inside are made of machined aluminum.
The company has now completely revamped its Mac Pro pages on its website to showcase the device in greater detail, revealing that it can handle up to 60GB of 1866MHz DDR3 four-channel RAM, twice the bandwidth and capacity of the existing model. A photo of the actual unit (in a glass display case at WWDC) was taken by MacObserver using an open hand as a size reference. The picture is seen below.
Schiller, who mistakenly referred to the Thunderbolt 2 ports as "Firewire 2" during the presentation, added a note of triumph as he unveiled the new machine, directly addressing critics: "'Can't innovate', my ass!"