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12/19/2013
11:25 AM
Thomas Claburn
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Apple Mac Pro: 9 Ways It Wows

Ignore the haters. Apple's Mac Pro is one amazing machine. Here's why.
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Apple's redesigned Mac Pro became available for order Thursday, arriving at once as a symbol of the company's capacity for innovation and as a reminder of how much the computer business has changed in the past seven years.

When the first Mac Pro debuted in August 2006, Apple was still known as Apple Computer. It would be five months later, in January 2007, that then-CEO Steve Jobs announced his company henceforth would be known simply as Apple, Inc. Among Apple's various product lines at the time -- Mac, iPod, iPhone, and the newly launched Apple TV -- he reasoned that only one represented a computer.

That wasn't entirely accurate. Each of those products contained a CPU. But apart from the Mac, Apple had moved beyond traditional personal computers. Jobs believed people would prefer the more curated, less complicated experience embodied by the iPhone ecosystem, rather than the one offered by computers -- at the time, maintaining a computer and keeping its software updated was onerous. And Apple's subsequent success proved him right.

In its fiscal Q4 2013, Apple made $5.6 billion in revenue selling Mac computers. But that's only about 15% of the company's total revenue during that period. Personal computers just don't matter that much to Apple as a source of revenue.

But they're part of Apple's history and a source of pride. As the company notes in its public relations boilerplate, "Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world." Stung by grumbling from investors about an underwhelming product pipeline and by doubts about CEO Tim Cook's ability to fill the shoes of his iconic predecessor, Philip Schiller, SVP of worldwide marketing, defied Apple's critics in June at the company's developer conference. "Can't innovate anymore, my ass!" he declared, in reference to the company's impending Mac Pro.

Though ridicule was quick to follow -- some likened the unusual cylindrical design to a trash can -- Apple has always been the target of such criticism. Recall departing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's comment about the iPhone in 2007: "There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share." Or Dell CEO Michael Dell's advice to Steve Jobs in 1997 about how to save Apple: "I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders."

The new Mac Pro represents a redefinition of the workstation, at a time when cloud computing can handle many of the number-crunching jobs that used to go to workstations. It remains to be seen whether expensive workstations like this will continue to be viable as high-end applications shift toward cloud delivery.

Apple's latest offering is not the sort of easily expandable, modular, upgradable system that many computing aficionados prefer. That may not please everyone, but Apple has never aspired to be all things to all people. Apple makes choices and insists on some limits to balance form, function, and its business needs -- make a system that's too modular, and customers won't buy new hardware.

The new Mac Pro is a blazing fast desktop computer. If you deal with sophisticated graphics, video editing, data analysis, or you simply have $3,000 or more you want to spend on a striking desktop computer -- Call of Duty: Black Ops, anyone? -- you owe it to yourself to try the new Mac Pro. Now take a closer look at its appeal.

Thomas Claburn is editor-at-large for InformationWeek. He has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and his mobile game Blocfall Free is available for iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire.

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Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
12/19/2013 | 11:59:19 AM
It's a beast
I don't know how much of the overall workstation market Apple will take with the new Mac Pro, but for film/graphics/design, this thing is a beast. For what they're throwing into it, it's actually pretty aggressively priced too (and especially so for an Apple product). A top-of-the-line system is still gonna run $10K+ once you have a professional grade 4K monitor and Thunderbolt RAID array included, but if you're actually a professional who relies on your gear for high-end work, the Mac Pro offers a more compelling value proposition than it might seem. For hobbyists and indie artists, the iMac line is still plenty capable, and PCs offer a good option now that cross-platform products such as the Adobe Suite, DaVinci Resolve and others have arguably eclipsed native Apple applications such as Final Cut. But the Mac Pro is a different kind of machine for a different customer. I expect grumbling from the Hackintosh community, but I think Apple will score with its target audiences.
NorBdelta
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NorBdelta,
User Rank: Strategist
12/19/2013 | 12:25:19 PM
Re: It's a beast
OSX can be put on quite a few much cheaper workstations with similar if not much better specs.

Whilst it may be powerful the cost is not justified. OSX being the operating system on the device is no excuse for an extortionately high cost.

The device clearly fills a specific market of users but this is no excuse for the price when compared to equally capable machines or even a server side processing system for vastly less.
stevew928
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stevew928,
User Rank: Strategist
12/20/2013 | 1:46:15 PM
Re: It's a beast
Where are you folks all getting this "vastly less" idea? Have you tried adding up the compoenets?

GPUs - ~$1000

CPU? - ?

ECC RAM - ?

SSD of somewhat equal speed and bus config - ?

I seriously doubt you're going to find a competitor system of comparable quality for all that much less than the $3k at the base level. I saw a comparison on another forum at the high end where an HP was $7800 compared to the $9600 Mac Pro, but they weren't exactly the same and everyone knows Apple over-prices their fully maxed-out configs (so we're not surprised at all).

If this were a true pro machine, most any true pro wouldn't blink at that kind of price difference for a OSX box. The cost isn't the issue.
drrjv
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drrjv,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/22/2014 | 3:28:24 PM
Re: It's a beast
Surprise, there have been several pricing comparison using the same or very similar components with Windows and the Mac Pro is $1000 or more less expensive!

http://news.yahoo.com/testing-apple-tax-cost-build-windows-version-mac-185551099.html

http://appleinsider.com/articles/13/12/24/apples-new-mac-pro-a-better-value-than-the-sum-of-its-parts

 

 
RayLeeBob
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RayLeeBob,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/19/2013 | 12:03:43 PM
Really?!?!?
Looking at the specs and price tag, it appears Apple is once again banking on customers addicted to having something with the logo vs. a product that truly wows. The last phone that had little more than a different charging plug was definitely worth waiting in line for...and this is equally impressive. Sorry, but for $3K+ there are a lot better options out there. If you want to play games get a gaming system. Cute design, kinda looks like a wallet-emptying black hole.
lenehey
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lenehey,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/19/2013 | 12:39:23 PM
Re: Really?!?!?
Yes really.  But I'm going to wait for the white one.  ;-)
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
12/20/2013 | 8:08:52 AM
Re: Really?!?!?
"A wallet emptying black hole" -- haha. The design is certainly interesting and the specs are impressive, but $3k+ is a bit too steep for my likes. No doubt people will be lining up for this, though.
stevew928
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stevew928,
User Rank: Strategist
12/20/2013 | 1:33:22 PM
Re: Really?!?!?
It seems to be aimed at prosumers... for example, people like me who do 3D work or CAD, maybe some video editing, etc. who need more than an iMac. I'd love one. If I can cost-justify it, I'll eventually get one. The problem is that many true pros need more... and the new Mac Pro doesn't match other workstation class machines in performance. This leaves the true pros with the hard decision of building a Hackintosh or switching OS. And the performance difference will probably be compelling enough to push that kind of change. Up until now, I think these folks were hoping Apple would release a true successor to the previous line. They didn't.
stevew928
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stevew928,
User Rank: Strategist
12/20/2013 | 1:34:23 PM
Re: Really?!?!?
Um, it's not a gaming system. Price out the GPUs, then get back to me. ;)
NorBdelta
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NorBdelta,
User Rank: Strategist
12/19/2013 | 12:19:21 PM
Vastly too expensive for actual hardware specifications
Apple propaganda at its finest.

Whilst the specs are quite impressive, the cost of included components and inclusive of assembly is considerably less in reality. While the case is quite attractive and the components are a made to fit format I cannot comprehend the cost of such a workstation with such mediocre components. While I am no anti-apple campaigner I have always maintained that the profit margin on their items is truly extortionate.

As mentioned, overall the Pro is a good PC but charged at too high a cost and could be easily be acquired from any other workstation with the same or roughly similar specifications or even built from scratch albeit with a different case for substantially less.

Considering that all the components are not even apple tech themselves and are practically off the shelf; the only real Apple portions of the PC are the case and OSX. So cost wise a huge downer.

No upgradability of most components is a ticket for Apple to charge even more for refits or future upgrades by themselves.

Additionally all the upgradable component options are an extreme case of extortion, upgrading the CPU/GPUs/RAM/SSDs/e.t.c. are in order of magnitude more expensive than reality cost. And to put it bluntly the base cost is another exercise in extortion let alone upgrading it with them. 

Only four USB ports is a bit of a restriction and six thunderbolt ports is overboard. Dual gigabit ports is also an unnecessary inclusion.

Whilst you can judge it on software quality (i.e. OSX e.t.c), the hardware side is vastly too expensive and Apple should be ashamed of this.
mamichaeldb
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mamichaeldb,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/19/2013 | 4:30:06 PM
Re: Vastly too expensive for actual hardware specifications
I read your post and although I do agree that the machine is fairly expensive, I have to wonder, did you just "learn" the word extortion and not look up the definition, because well nothing that you claim is extortion is anything close to extortion, as extortion requires force or threats or coersion. What you are lamenting in your post is ridiculous, despite your claims about how one could build a similar machine that is just as good if not better, for less, I highly doubt that you could build one machine for less that is as good or better. Like it or not, Apple makes machines that are expensive at first glance, but actually much less expensive than their competitors when one factors in the life span of the machine. From my experiences, Apple's desktops operate functionally two to three times longer than Windows based machines made by Dell and the like. I have had three Apple desktops in my life and every single one had to be replaced because the hardware became obsolete after over a decade of regular use, compare that to the five PC desktops I built myself and the workstations I have had custom made which last about two years before they get clunky and have to be replaced in the third year. Bottom line Apple makes machines where all the internal hardware is designed to work together in an electrical ecosystem, Windows and other companies machine fail to use this methodology in their designs of the internal hardware and instead try to take the best of what can work together and create an electrical ecosystem around that. Both manners work well, but the method in which the internal hardware is designed to work with specific internal hardware will always be "better" than hardware that is designed to work with almost everything.
stevew928
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stevew928,
User Rank: Strategist
12/20/2013 | 1:27:59 PM
Re: Vastly too expensive for actual hardware specifications
I'm not sure it's all that overpriced. Considering that even in the base model, the GPUs alone would cost you over $1000... add the CPU and higher-end RAM and SSD, etc. It starts to add up pretty quickly. I saw someone on another forum try to get close in configuration with an HP and it came to like $7800 in comparison to Apple's $9600. I'm sure that margin would substantially narrow on the entry level model (and anyone who has ever followed Apple hardware doesnt' buy the top-end unless they REALLY need it... as they know it's overly-expensive maxed out.)

My concern is if it really fits the true Pro market. The folks who do video editing and rendering, or 3D animation, need as many CPUs/cores as possible and gobs or RAM. They also like to keep up with any moves in the GPU industry as soon as they come out. Since Apple only went 1 CPU, they are automatically 1/2 other high-end workstations, and the DIMM slots are less as well. With built-in GPUs, as awesome as they are, they will be 'out of date' to the true pro in a year or two. And since they are AMD instead of nVidia, they won't work with CUDA acceleration until software does well with OpenCL. If you use such a package, you're talking days instead of hours to finish a project. That's the concern I'm hearing.... NOT pricing.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
12/19/2013 | 12:26:58 PM
Design reactions?
What do people think of the design? Interesting aesthetic. Makes me think of a castle tower.
NorBdelta
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NorBdelta,
User Rank: Strategist
12/19/2013 | 1:45:17 PM
Re: Design reactions?
The case is quite beautiful, the shape also is very thermal efficient. All the heat being extracted vertically from  the top is a good design choice.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
12/19/2013 | 4:08:50 PM
Re: Design reactions?
It really does look like a trash can, at least when you can't see the ports. But it's a nice looking trash can. If I had one, I'd be tempted to run it with the cover removed, since the circuitry just looks cooler. But I expect that would make dust more of an issue.
stevew928
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stevew928,
User Rank: Strategist
12/19/2013 | 8:40:04 PM
Awaiting the 'here's why"...
I think there are some nice aspects of the new Mac Pro, but the article never really answered the, "here's why" claim. It basically said how Apple has done cool things in the past (I agree), often pushing the envelope to the complaint of some of the user community (I agree), and then several pages of specs and machine details. So, why does that make it compelling or 'wow'?

OK, I want one, but I'm not the target market. The target market seems to have concerns about expandability, especially upgrading the GPUs. That's a pretty big thing for most 'pro' users. It seems more like this would be a great machine for the prosumer... but will they spend that much money?

Yes, it's a nice case design. That's about the only place I see innovation. The specs are OK. They do a few things maybe not yet common amongst generic PCs, but not uncommon in workstations or built-up performance oriented systems. A friend who built a Hackintosh a couple years back believes his machine will outperform the new Mac Pro (yes, something he built a couple years ago!).

It's fast... compared to the previous Mac Pros, but not necessarily that fast in comparison to current pro systems. It's on-par with some of them. The biggest thing is probably the quiet and lower power usage. But, these are just modern trends with the CPUs used and the case design. I'd love that, but I'd guess most 'pros' need other aspects more.

Ultimately, I think this design is a bit too far ahead of its time. Once Thunderbolt goes optical and we possibly acheive a true external bus (though internal bus won't sit still waiting either), this might work well. But currently, the only thing external is going to be storage and maybe some I/O devicese... and these will all add substantially to the cost (which is high, though not as crazy as many of the responses claim). It's certainly cool... I'm just not sure about Pro.
mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
12/20/2013 | 8:29:44 PM
innovative design, good specs?
I heard someone called the new mac pro: Dark Vader's trash can. In a serious note, I wonder how much trash you can put in the top hole.

Well seriously, and forgive my ignorance, but isn't the Xeon E5 already an old processor. I mean, it's not a Haswell, is it?
GlennG185
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GlennG185,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/22/2013 | 5:30:49 PM
Re: innovative design, good specs?
Please excuse the fact that I am going to sound like a grouchy old man. You see, I am a grouchy old man. I am 65 years old and my first Mac was purchased in 1990. It cost me over $3000. Of course PCs were cheaper back then too. And that is why PCs became the favorite of business, buying them in mass quantities for a 200 employee firm was of course cheaper. However, Apple produced products that were consistently of a higher quality and a higher longevity. As new Intel chips emerge and Microsoft Upping the ante as to computer power requirements it became necessary to upgrade your PC every two years. A Macintosh was built for the future. My first Mac, an LC II was replaced by a Quadra to which I added a G3 processor and then a G4 processor. That Quadra was replaced in the year 2007. That is 16 years using only two computers. The cost about $8000 total. In order to have stayed current using a Microsoft PC unit it would have necessitated purchasing at least seven computers at a cost of approximately $15,000. The short-term gain mentality is for MBAs. I will be purchasing the new Macintosh Pro. I hope to have to replace it when I am 75 years old.

And by the way, how do I get, "apprentice" off of my sign on? If I am in apprentice you people are embryos. 
samicksha
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samicksha,
User Rank: Strategist
12/23/2013 | 3:04:01 AM
Re: innovative design, good specs?
Apple at its best, for layman end user it's more than enough to learn that Mac Pro is available with a 3.7 GHz quad-core Intel Xeon E5 processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.9 GHz, dual AMD FirePro D300 GPUs with 2GB of VRAM each, 12GB of memory, and 256GB of PCIe-based flash storage, i guess this statement and configuration is enough to attract user but cost is still on high part.
Susan Fogarty
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Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Author
12/23/2013 | 8:40:45 AM
Re: innovative design, good specs?
GlennG, as a grouch middle-aged woman, I empathize with you. I have owned several computers, and bought many for my children, and can't say I have noticed any longevity difference between the PCs and Macs. I come from a family of Mac lovers, but have always used PCs at work, so I feel like I have a fairly objective opinion and I really don't see that much upside to the Mac (maybe with artists and designers that's a different story). In my opinion, Apple has just developed a very devoted customer base.
Tronman
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Tronman,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/23/2013 | 7:24:25 AM
Meh
Anything that can be done on a Mac can be done on a PC for far less $$$. Plus, if you know how to buy PCs (and I'm not talking about stock HPs or Dells), you can get better components than those used by Apple.
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