More ‘Future Mac Pro’ renderings

Peter Zigich is back with more ideas for what a new Mac Pro might look like (we posted some previous work of his last September). I don’t think his ARM processor theory holds water – at least for a while – but I like the idea of a something as powerful as a Mac Pro in a less unwieldy box.

  • samdchuck

    Just like the previous ones he did: totally unbelievable.

  • gravitycollapse

    I’m thinking the Mac Pro will be discontinued and replaced with some kind of modular system based around Thunderbolt. (assuming it’s not discontinued altogether)

    • Thunderbolt doesn’t currently have the thru-put for the PCI cards that the MacPro users want the MacPro for. So a modular design is not in the cards from any rational I can see.

      • gravitycollapse

        Your bet is safer, to be sure. Admittedly, I didn’t know the exact specifications (personally I care more about laptops). I did some reading and the current iteration of Thunderbolt doesn’t seem to be too far off. The current Mac Pro apparently tops out at 13 GB/s, and current products like the Sonnet Echo Express Thunderbolt PCIe chassis are capable of 10 GB/s. So it’s slower, but still useful for many tasks you’d use PCIe for. The next generation of Thunderbolt is slated to run up to 50 GB/s, which would change the math completely. I also found Tim Cook’s answer to the question of a new Mac Pro interesting, because it was deliberately vague. He said “we’re working on something really great”. The rationale, as I see it, would be to encourage quicker upgrade cycles. People tend to keep Mac Pros around for a long time, but with a more modular system, people could swap out components but keep others. In general, though…I wonder if Apple might even get out of the desktop computer game entirely at some point. Probably not for a few years, but it’s clearly a market that’s dwindling fast.

        • The future for Thunderbolt is undoubtably promising at it’s eventual optical 100GB/s speeds, but we need to look at the actual timelines for implementation. The publicly known roadmap doesn’t point to any increase in throughput for TB until 2014.

          Thunderbolt currently supports 4-lane PCIe cards via external housings, which is fine for certain uses like video I/O cards, but if you’re getting into a PCI connected GPUs or hardware accelerators like a RedRocket card, you need 8 or even 16 lanes.

          So if we take Tim Cook at his word that Apple has something planned for this year, AND that it’s for the MacPro market [for which PCIe compatible products is essential], then there doesn’t seem to be any way around the fact that the new MacPro has to incorporate PCIe slots.

          But I agree that if TB was there, they’d probably be happy to ditch PCIe out of the core machine itself, and allow 3rd parties to build TB-based expansion chassis.

          • JohnDoey

            Thunderbolt already has the speed for most PCI cards. There are already many PCI cards for which you can buy a box from the maker that turns it into Thunderbolt. When you also compare the speed of MacBook Pro to Mac Pro, the desktop days are numbered.

          • Some PCI cards, not most, and certainly not for the most powerful uses, as I stated above. Those require 8 or 16 lane support, which TB does not at present.

            Ultimately I agree that the desktops days are numbered, but right now I still think it’s a healthy number. Xeon processors and the beefy GPUs [and option for multiple GPUs] make a MacPro valuable in “time is money” businesses.

            While a lot of people seem to be obsessing over a design refresh, honestly that’s the LAST thing people who buy a MacPro are concerned about. All Apple would really have to do to make those people happy is switch out the guts in the current design with the current best of class options, and USB3 & TB I/O and it would be a winner.

            Anything beyond that is gravy.

        • JohnDoey

          What is so special about Mac Pro users that they don’t benefit from mobility and batteries like the rest of us?

          In music we gave up PCI for FireWire even though it was a bit slower. We did it to gain mobility.

          Today you see Final Cut on MacBook Pro on film sets. The mobility is worth losing a little CPU power. And the Retina MacBook Pro is faster than most Mac Pros ever shipped.

  • I’d say the basic design is more rational than his last renderings. But it’s just a smaller version of a MacPro. Whether this is a reasonable pairing down of the form factor is the question.

  • I like the idea of a smaller form factor, but that thing looks absolutely hideous.

  • Gosh…beautiful! Resurrection of the cube

  • Marco

    This is the most hideous thing I’ve seen this month.

  • Lian Li sells cases for PCs that already look almost identical to that, though they admittedly function a bit differently (and lack the Apple branding, of course). If anything, I like Lian Li’s cases better than that.

  • So much wrong with this not even thinking about the plausibility. Okay, additional storage via external Thunderbolt, but I’ not seeing primary storage anywhere. Then you get logic like this: “cheaper CPUs – higher profit” and “increase computing power by adding more CPUs”. Right, bang goes higher profit. Just more magical “I can render stuff in 3D, so it must be possible” design. A door for occasional access to 6 ports? Really? Oh, but it’s a magical sliding-but-somehow-flush door at that.

  • Jimh

    There is no real thermal design that I can see to this. Just one fan on the outside of the box with a bunch of CPUs sitting at the bottom without an efficient air flow across them – not good at all. Looking at the MacPro lines from the onset, they were thermally brilliant. The directed use of air flow and the special work they did with the fan spin up and lower than normal velocities – nice. An Apple design must encompass the entire system, not just throwing stuff together which is what this appears to be.

    • Agreed, though it is also worth remembering that the Mac Pro’s thermal design was largely inherited from the Powermac G5, which generated a lot of heat.

  • tyr

    All they really need to do is “cube” the current Mini to make room for a cpu with larger heatsink/fan and some disks.

  • As always, the comments are more comical than the original article/renderings.

    In particular, it’s hilarious to see the inevitable “ALL they need to do is…” Spoke like someone with no clue as to what’s involved.

  • Aenean144

    That looks a lot like an aluminum ShuttlePC. Not the Mac Pro I’m looking for.

  • Dan

    Blech. Looks like an ugly windows box with an apple sticker slapped on the front.

  • That’s not a computer, it’s a NAS.

  • JohnDoey

    I doubt it has PCI cards. Thunderbolt obsoletes PCI cards — that is its sole purpose. If there is no room in the 22-inch iMac for a 3.5-inch desktop hard drive, there is no room in Mac Pro for antique PCI cards.

    A box with CPU’s that plugs into a MacBook or iMac and adds CPU’s makes more sense to me than another box with PCI cards. Thunderbolt enables the computer to be in 3 pieces but still connect at full speed as though one piece.

  • Aesthetically hideous, inside and out. Functionally half-baked (one handle, in the back…um). And that ugly CPU module, I can’t imagine the airflow would be very good.

    I definitely agree with Peter, that the idea that the next Mac Pro would have ARM cpu’s is pure fantasy. I expect that ARM can make a dent in Intel’s share of the x86s traditional markets, but it is going to start in a subset of the server market. It is going to take a while to come to compute-heavy segment where the Mac Pro has traditionally played.

    The Pro is still going to be for people who need a Mac with as much compute, RAM, storage as possible, either alone, or in combination, but it does seem like a good bet that the case will shrink to some degree. The existing design is an evolution of the Power Mac G5, which had to dissipate a lot more heat than a modern multi-core i7 CPU and SSDs offer a compact route to a lot of IO performance. On the other hand, if SSDs are providing the iOPs, the there is less reason to spread mass storage over multiple 2.5″ drives, which suggests at least two 3.5″ spinning disks for capacity. RAM DIMMs are still going to require a bunch of space on the board, and they are still going to need to accommodate heat from GPUs. So, don’t expect the case to be too small.

    My own crazy guess for the next Mac Pro: A Xeon Phi compute board option, with transparent OS-Level support via OpenCL.

  • worldwidewookie