When the cylinder-shaped Mac Pro was announced back in October many scoffed that it was just another glitzy, even odd Apple product, that was no doubt over-priced for what it could potentially deliver in value proposition. At first glance, it’s easily dismissed as such I suppose but customers at the heart of Apple’s target market for the product probably knew better. The first time I saw the product I was intrigued to say the least. The mechanical design alone made a lot of sense to me. PC chassis designers have known for a long time that, since heat rises, arranging components vertically in a chassis, with cooling fans pushing cool air up from the bottom and pulling warm air out from the top, makes a lot of sense. Boutique system builder Maingear Computers was one of the first to take advantage of the concept years ago when they launched their SHIFT line of PCs based on a Silverstone chassis design that arranges the motherboard and card cage vertically with directed airflow to the top of the case. So maybe Apple took a cue from this design concept but in grand Apple fashion, they took took it one step further.
The Mac Pro’s chassis is not only super compact at barely 10-inches tall and 6-inches in diameter, its cylindrical design delivers a vertically oriented thermal solution that accommodates true workstation class horsepower. The top-end model of the new Mac Pro can be configured with a 12-core Intel Xeon E5 Ivy Bridge-E based processor with 30MB of L3 cache. Also on-board you can configure a pair of AMD FirePro D700 graphics cards with 6GB of GDDR5 each, up to 64GB of 1866MHz DDR3 RAM, and up to a 1TB PCI Express SSD. Yes, this build-out will run you about $9600 but holy mother of geek goodness, that’s a boatload of bandwidth and processing power inside something the size of toaster. Okay, so maybe it’s a larger toaster but really? A 12-core Xeon, dual flagship FirePro graphics and 64GB of RAM? In that thing? I love it.
Yes, it’s expensive as all get-out but you have to remember the target market here. This is a true workstation professional product with workstation class components and pro app certification to go with them. You can configure a base model for as little as $2999 with lower-end specs of course, but what’s perhaps more surprising is that some folks have discovered that, compared to a similarly spec’ed PC, if you did it yourself, you can’t built it any cheaper than Apple did. Chew on that a bit, especially if you’re from the PC DIY set. When is the last time you’ve looked at any PC build from a major OEM and its MSRP is actually competitive versus its bill of materials if you built it yourself? Before folks come out of the woodwork here, I’ll try to keep things in perspective. We have to remember that these are workstations-class components. Intel Xeon processors, as well as AMD FirePro graphics command a stiff premium obviously, as does a high-end small form-factor PC chassis. Regardless, Apple’s mechanical engineering prowess is obvious with this design. You have to give them there due on that as well. When it’s all said and done, those premium components (included things like blazing-fast PCI Express SSDs) add up.
Again, however, Apple delivered something unexpected with the new Mac Pro; as it turns out, the product is actually very serviceable as well. In a recent tear-down at iFixit, the new Mac Pro scored high marks for design, ease of upgrades and component access. And so it appears IT department folks have something to like in the new Mac Pro as well, in addition to the product’s early success in the benchmarks.
So while Chromebooks might be selling by the pallet this holiday season and some may criticize Apple for lack of innovation in handsets, Apple once again showed it still has the design chops to deliver something truly unique and compelling with the new Mac Pro.