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back to article Ban-dodging Mac Pro to hit Blighty's shops as Apple bows to fan fears

Apple is preparing to release a new version of its high-end Mac Pro computer in Blighty almost a year after Eurocrats banned the sale of a previous model. A shipping date has been set for the new Mac Pro, which is the only fruity computer which allows any sort of upgrading. The Pro is aimed at business customers who need enough …

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The only fruity computer which allows any sort of upgrading.

I know we can't expect Mr Hammill to be funny, insightful, entertaining, or or in any way useful except for adding somebody else's shopworn catchphrases to a regurgitated press release, but he could at least attempt to be factually correct.

Mac Minis are easily user upgradeable. That's all

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Re: The only fruity computer which allows any sort of upgrading.

Mac Minis are rather more upgradable than the new Mac Pros, actually. About the only device you can upgrade on the Mac Pro appears to be the RAM. Everything else uses a custom connector, including the storage and GPUs.

On Mac Minis, you can upgrade the RAM and HDD. CPU - well, arguably, on both, as they both use normal sockets as I recall but the usual concerns about TDP make it all a bit sketchier AFAIK.

Otherwise, they share the same Thunderbolt bus as the rest of the Mac range (the exception being that the Pro has six, rather than one).

So as per Frankee, I'm not sure where that line came from!

Steven R

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Re: The only fruity computer which allows any sort of upgrading.

GPU's - I am told the idea is that external GPU boxes will be avaliable via Thunderbolt. While messy this might be quite interesting as you could have an external box containing several graphics cards in parallel. For 4K video processing this could be a real boon. Instead of handing NVIDIA 800 quid for their underwhelming Quadro, you could have 2 or more consumer GPU's working in parallel.

Memory - Do you have a source for the memory being upgradable? Last I heard it was soldered onto the board just like a Macbook.

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Anonymous Coward

MAC Pro - CPU is Upgradable

Ar reported on any number of Fanboi sites such as 9to5mac, macrumors etc

The CPU is socketed so can be replaced/upgraded.

Yes I'd like one and some of us don't care if it looks like a wastepaper bin but I'm not in the market for a new system at the moment.

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Re: The only fruity computer which allows any sort of upgrading.

Just because something uses a non-standard connector it doesn't become non-upgradeable. I would expect to see several Mac Pro specific SSD upgrades become available soon.

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Re: MAC Pro - CPU is Upgradable

By the time you'd want to upgrade the CPU the clock speeds and pinouts will probably have changed negating any worthwhile upgrade a moot point.

Just like the old days when you had Pentium board with a P150 installed but you couldn't run beyond a P200 on it.

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Re: MAC Pro - CPU is Upgradable

>A shipping date has been set for the new Mac Pro, which is the only fruity computer which allows any sort of upgrading.

Why the so demonstrably incorrect assertion?

The 27" iMac allows the RAM to be upgraded.

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Re: MAC Pro - CPU is Upgradable

LOL

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Re: The only fruity computer which allows any sort of upgrading.

It's not a non standard connector and it's not an SSD. It's PCI flash using the same connector as other PCI flash boards.

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Re: The only fruity computer which allows any sort of upgrading.

Huh? What exactly do you think SSD means?

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Re: MAC Pro - CPU is Upgradable

Sorry had to down vote that.

Upgrade is 'relative'. You could always buy a slower chip or one with less cores to start and then upgrade within the same cpu socket.

Example... buying a small i3 and then pushing up to i7 while staying within the 1150 socket.

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Re: The only fruity computer which allows any sort of upgrading.

Solid state disk. These come with drive electronics which the PCI flash doesn't require and is therefore a different component. It doesn't connect to the disk system it connects direct to the CPU via the PCI bus at far greater speed than SAS can manage and therefore also could offer higher IOPS.

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Re: The only fruity computer which allows any sort of upgrading.

Still treated like a disk by the OS - RAM disks and flash disks (however physically attached) have been part of standard PC storage options for at least 20 years.

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Re: The only fruity computer which allows any sort of upgrading.

It might show up as a logical drive but that doesn't mean it's a "disk". This is much closer to a FusionIO board than a disk which is why Apple specked it. The lack of understanding on this forum is because PC people don't understand the difference and so assume an SSD is comparable storage which it is most certainly not. Transfer speed is higher, latency lower and IOPS higher than SSD. This also has the knock on effect that less memory is required and even less CPU since it's not locked in a wait state all the time.

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Anonymous Coward

The same EU regulatory panel the demanded cucumbers must be straight.

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Coat

Re: The only fruity computer which allows any sort of upgrading.

I'll consider the Mac Pro "upgradeable" when I can find some round DDR3 to fit in it...

... Mine is the one with the sarcasm sign on the back.

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Re: The only fruity computer which allows any sort of upgrading.

Lusty, are you sure about that? I thought it used a custom connector, or is that just the earlier SATA SSDs used in other mac portables?

(not trolling - genuinely think I've missed something here)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The only fruity computer which allows any sort of upgrading.

"Just because something uses a non-standard connector..."

Can anybody spell lock-in? Suddenly you can only buy the parts Apple want to sell you, from dealers Apple will let you buy from, at the price Apple will tell you to buy at.

Last century, Commodore was fined gazillions for price fixing. Why isn't Apple being investigated?

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Re: The only fruity computer which allows any sort of upgrading.

Go to an Apple store and look. They say it's PCIe 2 and it looks like a 2 lane PCIe connector. The many stories of "custom" connectors are likely from people expecting SAS connectors who didn't read the spec.

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Re: The only fruity computer which allows any sort of upgrading.

Lusty, yes it's a PCI-e device, but it's not a standard PCI-E connector (m.2) - it's Apples own proprietary connector, keyings and pinouts. If you try to connect a standard PCI-E SSD to it, it won't fit. That's the definition of proprietary; custom for no reason other than vendor lock in.

There's a reason that every single tech site under the sun describes it as proprietary or custom - they all know what M.2 looks like, this ain't it, and Apple are the only people using it.

Steven R

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Re: The only fruity computer which allows any sort of upgrading.

It looks like you're right, although the one in the Pro looked to me just like a regular PCIe slot but it's too short for a x4 connector (I thought it was a x2). It could be that they have just put 2 lanes on either side to keep the size down but either way it's different. I suspect that anyone buying this won't be bothered by expensive flash, after all the equivalent HP part is €1400 for a 410GB flash drive (FusionIO PCIe).

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Re: The only fruity computer which allows any sort of upgrading.

Fusion IO boards are incredibly overpriced compared to a RAIDed set of 6G SATA SSDs. We've testeed precisely that and both IOPs and bandwidth were better with the SATA RAID. What was this magic PCIe special sauce again?

Apple made the right choice going with PCIe, but let's not pretend that changing your flash disk interface is some huge quantum performance leap. The flash itself just isn't that fast.

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Re: The only fruity computer which allows any sort of upgrading.

Because they don't have a monopoly on PC hardware or software?

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Re: The only fruity computer which allows any sort of upgrading.

It's fast enough to saturate 6Gbps SAS interfaces. It's fast enough that I saturated 2 16Gbps FC interfaces with a Violin memory box. Since every block can be accessed effectively as fast as the interface can throw the data as long as the controller keeps up I think it actually does give a huge performance leap. Not quantum though, that means tiny :)

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Re: The only fruity computer which allows any sort of upgrading.

For what it's worth I just tested using SQLIO inside a Windows VM on my rMBP using an 8GB test file, 2 threads, 128K sequential write for 5 minutes I sustained just under 5GB/s (40Gb/s) at 36k IOPS which the 6Gb/s (750MB/s) SAS is simply not capable of. The rMBP uses 4 PCIe lanes of 2GB/s each for the controller, so you were right that the flash cannot keep up with this interface but definitely wrong that it isn't better than SAS. Mine is the 512GB module.

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A landmark moment in Apple history

With the new Mac Pro, this is the first time in the whole history of Apple that they're flogging a computer that isn't internally accessorizable*. Given that most people don't fiddle with their computers internally, I don't think that this will hurt the bottom line much - but I like mucking about inside my machine, so I don't see myself replacing my trusty last generation Mac Pro any time soon.

*I'm defining upgradable as improvements to what you already have, and accessorizable as augmenting what you already have - expansion cards, additional storage and so forth.

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Re: A landmark moment in Apple history

Indeed. I added a PC ESATA card to mine. While not officially supported it works like a charm if you can live without hot swapping.

Thunderbolt is nice but you are relying on 3rd parties coming up with the solutions. You can't even bung in a PC card like I did knowing that in theory it should work.

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Re: A landmark moment in Apple history

>Given that most people don't fiddle with their computers internally

.... disagree - most pro users want a rectangular 4u with a hinged lid....industrial design my arse.

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Re: A landmark moment in Apple history

Yeah. See what you did there. You conflated 'Most Users' with 'Most Pro Users'. Actually, even 'Most Pro Users' is a woolly definition. I would say that graphic designers, scientists, video editors and so forth, who demand vastly powerful CPUs, count as Pro users. Most of these don't want to augment their machines internally.

If by Pro users you mean hackers, programmers, sys-admins and wannabe IT pros, then yes. Most of these demand internal augmentation. We are, however, the minority.

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Not falling for the hype

On the upside it's very powerful. On the downside the only way to expand it is with external Thunderbolt devices.

Some of us bought Mac Pros to fill them with hard disks (all 4 of my bays are full + have 2 DVD writers). The new Mac Pro will not let you upgrade either the boot hard drive or the memory.

As someone who had upgraded his boot hard drive twice since 2008 and also purchased all barring the very base spec of memory from Crucial, I'm not very impressed by this. Not least because you are forced into buying at Apple prices for more memory and hard disk space instead of doing what people used to do and buying the base spec and upgrading 3rd party. Seen to recall £150 being the figure I saved just buy buying my memory from Crucial!

At least they are suggesting that graphics cards upgrades might be upgradable via Thunderbolt. Small blessings!

I get the feeling that if I buy one it will end up looking like my old Amstrad CPC 6128 with expansions hanging off of every port and cables everywhere! So much for new improved sexier design. Nice and neat providing you don't plug anything into it!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not falling for the hype

With the right Thunderbolt cable, you can put everything in a (ventilated) cupboard or a different room and just have your display, keyboard and mouse on the desk.

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Re: Not falling for the hype

RAM is available at crucial ~$ 439.99 USD for 2x 16 GB 1866MHz DDR3 ECC memory, $500 USD for the Apple equivalent

http://www.crucial.com/store/listparts.aspx?model=Mac%20Pro%20(Late%202013)&Cat=RAM#

its been some time since you've bought a new Mac, I think a few things have changed!

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Re: Not falling for the hype

If you are going to be sticking it in a cupboard you may as well buy a rack mount server and turn it into a workstation!

It's the kind of design over function decision that makes me wonder if a certain ginger bearded inventor hasn't been doing some consultancy in Cupertino......

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Re: Not falling for the hype

My friend is buying one soon, and he isn't bothered for a moment by the inability to add harddisk space. This might be because his workflow (video production, 3D rendered motion graphics etc) is exactly what this machine is designed for. Its a tool that will save him time, allowing him to earn more money.

He'll shunt current projects to the internal SSD from a cabinet of external redundant storage via ethernet or Thunderbolt, and back out again as required.

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Re: Not falling for the hype

That's still 60 dollars which probably works out at about 60 quid given the usual pricing on these items. Still an amount of money I might wish to save given the trivial effort involved if you have the old chassis. Indeed in terms of servicing the old Mac Pro is one of the nicest chassis I've worked in outside of high end servers. Even the bits you aren't supposed to get at (e.g. the wireless card) are a doddle.

Perhaps its different when you are spending someone else's cash?

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Re: Not falling for the hype

As Dave126 says, I think the expectation is most users will be working with massive datasets and files - big project files that are stored on a NAS/SAN, not on the local box.

Have enough storage locally and the rest will be stored separately, with lots of external connectivity for BMD stuff, Red Rocket boxes, 4K/8K/16K graphics cards as required. A fair few PCIe breakout boxes are popping up with a thunderbolt cable hanging off a box containing one or two double-width PCIe slots and a chunky PSU. Self contained in that it doesn't affect the cooling or power drain on the Mac Pro.

As others have mentioned, if your Mac Pro fails, or you go on the road with a laptop, being able to simply unplug your TB chassis and move your Red Rocket / [insert other expansion here] over to the MacBook is incredibly useful.

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RAM

I hope he realises the new Mac Pro maxes out at 64GB of RAM which will put a severe crimp on doing anything memory-intensive. The older Mac Pro boxes could go as high as 96GB I think and the server-level Hackintosh community believe OS/X has a hard 128GB RAM limit as they have problems running it on anything with more memory (not a problem with Windows 8 though).

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Re: RAM

>Perhaps its different when you are spending someone else's cash?

No, it's his money; he's the MD of his own video production / motion graphics company. He has done the sums, and is buying one. Since his business has grown steadily since he started it, I'm inclined to believe he knows what he is doing.

>I hope he realises the new Mac Pro maxes out at 64GB of RAM which will put a severe crimp on doing anything memory-intensive.

Not really. He currently uses the older Mac Pros and a 32 GB Hackintosh, and hasn't come close to running into RAM limits. His workflow is mainly video - compositing, editing, colour grading etc - but also ray-trace rendering of 3D models and compositing the results into the above. RAM is just not the current bottle neck, and again, he knows what he is doing.

It is not the machine for me - I'm a PC based CAD jockey. My level of CAD work just doesn't require the extreme storage IO that video work does, and intensive tasks like rendering can be distributed across any CPUs/GPUs across the network.

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Re: RAM

Not with Mavericks as it uses compressed memory.

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Re: Not falling for the hype

"Some of us bought Mac Pros to fill them with hard disks (all 4 of my bays are full + have 2 DVD writers). The new Mac Pro will not let you upgrade either the boot hard drive or the memory."

What you appear to have missed though is that even if you used 16Gbps FC to add disk to the old one it would not have been as fast as using the full Thunderbolt capability in the new Pro. Since you appear to have added disk internally probably with SCSI or SAS that would suggest you either don't understand disk performance or just needed capacity. In either case a NAS is the modern way to achieve what you have done while a SAN would be the way to achieve high performance if you decide you need that. Nobody with up to date knowledge would think of upgrading a machine in this class with internal drives for anything other than system disk which is upgradable on the Pro. Using Thunderbolt you could even add external PCI flash if you wanted to.

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So 4K at 6 grand.

They will sell you the matching 4K monitor making for a minimum outlay of £6000.

It could be worthwhile to get away from a competing pair of Dells at £1000 total.

£5000 to get a way from Windows 8 is a bargain in my books.

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FAIL

Re: So 4K at 6 grand.

One wonders why DELL still sell their 32" 4K monitors for $3500, could it be that these new models are smaller and lower quality?

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Re: So 4K at 6 grand.

A few £ to get the start menu back, the knowledge that you have to search for File History to do incremental backups - much cheaper than £5000 to escape from the unwanted features of Windows 8.

But in fact you can't get a pair of Dells with the same spec for the money. If I needed one, I would pay for it.

Apple has basically reinvented the SGI workstation in a prettier case.

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Anonymous Coward

Mac mini, Macbook Pro and iMac are all user upgradeable

You can increase the RAM on the mini, Macbook Pro 13" (non retina display) and 27" iMac

13" Macbook Pro owners can also upgrade their storage without voiding their warranty.

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Re: Mac mini, Macbook Pro and iMac are all user upgradeable

The newer Macbook Pro's do not have upgradable memory. For example my 2012 model does not.

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FFS

" which is the only fruity computer which allows any sort of upgrading"

Demonstrably false.

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Anonymous Coward

I agree. The old Mac Pros let you have internal raid arrays, any expansion cards of your choice etc etc. This new one relies on thunderbolt, and you can't even place those external devices on top of the computer case!

The requirements for "pro" users who can fork out the cash for this are very very different. Most will need the ability to customise the setup. Maybe not right away, but in a year or two. So you are limited to Thunderbolt only (which hasn't been adopted by a lot of manufacturers), can't upgrade a lot...

The Mac Pro is totally flawed. They were looking at people with Macbooks and iPhones and forgot that "Pro" is a different league with different requirements. The "sexy" bit is debatable. My guess is this will be the last Mac Pro.

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I think the shift that you're missing is that once you decouple the 'expansion chassis' from the computer you can use a number of different his machines to drive your fixed peripherals. I would expect to see multiple TB2 interfaces on the next MacBookPro.

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Megaphone

Ooh, it sounds like "Apple's dropping Floppy Drives" all over again.

Namely a lot of people will make a lot of noise, Apple will end up being right and we'll all be expanding our computers mostly externally in five years time.

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>I think the shift that you're missing is that once you decouple the 'expansion chassis' from the computer you can use a number of different his machines to drive your fixed peripherals.

Indeed. Since some of those expansion cards cost upwards of £2000, being able to use the same card in a thunderbolt chassis in the studio with a Mac Pro, as well as with a Macbook when shooting video on site is very useful.

Should a host machine go belly-up, a new machine can be swapped in more easily.

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