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Opinion: What tech can learn from a cheese grater

By mongeese · 30 replies
Jun 8, 2019
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  1. Let’s talk about everything the new Mac Pro is not: affordable, for one. The base model, which is underpowered for what the Mac Pro conceptually is, costs a terrifying $5,999. Apple hasn’t revealed further prices, and frankly, I don’t want to know them. Second: stylish. Apple’s designer Jony Ive might be a miracle worker when it comes to the gorgeous MacBooks, but damn, this thing looks like a cheese grater and you can’t convince me otherwise. It’s endearing in a way, and I can see Ive is trying to do the same thing he did with the AirPods; make a practical and original design that people perceive as beautiful after consistent exposure. But the Mac Pro is ugly. And thirdly, custom-built-PC upgradeable. You can’t swap out the motherboard and you’re probably not going to be able to buy the shell of the next model and slot the RAM, GPU or CPU into that to save cash.

    Most importantly, though, the Mac Pro is not the current ‘software’ and ‘fluffy-feelings’ Apple. It’s Steve Jobs’ Apple, where there shall not be thermal throttling, stupid limitations, bottlenecks, useless configurations or a locked down ecosystem. Okay, there might be useless configurations – at six grand it still only has 256 GB of storage. But you don’t have to buy features you don’t need or desire, which feels like a first.

    If I’m boring you with too much Apple discourse, let’s start with the tech talk. The flagship feature of the Mac Pro, in my opinion, is the option to run four GPUs together. Apple engineers, perhaps threatened by users’ newfound ability to swap in any old GPU, created the most powerful consumer GPU configuration money can buy. Each GPU in the system can be a new 7nm ‘Radeon Pro Vega II,’ which is an evolved version of the Radeon VII. It has 4096 cores, a 1700 MHz clock, and 32 GB of HBM2 with 1 TB/s bandwidth. A regular Radeon VII has 10% fewer cores and half the RAM. Just one of these graphics cards is likely going to be one of the most powerful cards ever for professional work.

    Now quadruple that. One system can have up to 16,384 cores and 128 GB of HBM2, for 56.8 teraflops of single precision and 112.8 teraflops of half precision. To have four GPUs requires a pair of Apple’s Radeon Pro Vega II Duo cards, each carrying two GPUs. The benefit is that those two GPUs are connected by AMD’s Infinity Fabric running at 84 GB/s, which helps reduce the issues associated with splitting a task amongst multiple GPUs. Apple says that in Maxon Cinema 4D (an ideal workload) they complete a 22.2 MB scene 4.8 times faster than an iMac equipped with a Vega 64X.

    Now, you’re probably thinking, how the hell is Apple cooling and powering four GPUs? That’s another good feature of the Mac Pro, system-wide air cooling. Three large fans at the front push air through a large chamber that makes up most of the Mac Pro by volume, and each of the GPUs gets a heatsink and fins that run the entire length of the case. Cool air in, hot air out, one straight line. All PCIe add-ins can tap into this cooling system with just cooling fins, no fans required. The CPU also gets the same treatment, which is essential because the Mac Pro can be configured up to a 300W 28-core Intel Xeon-W processor.

    For perhaps the first time, Intel’s flagship CPU is essential to prevent bottlenecking. Go figure. But there’s more to this CPU than meets the eye. It isn’t the W-3175X as many people have assumed, as Apple says it runs 600 MHz faster with a boost clock of 4.4 GHz. To go that fast you must look at Intel’s proper server line-up, but even then, not a single currently available Intel processor can match this thing’s specs. The Mac Pro’s CPU is an unannounced chip that has 75% more cache than anything currently available at 66.5 MB. Apple's footnotes confirm the chip is in preproduction. As if that isn’t cool enough, the CPU also gives users the option to install crazy amounts of RAM to the tune of up to 1,536 GB of ECC at 2933 MHz, for a total bandwidth of 140 GB/s.

    While it’s great they offer that much RAM, without third-party add-ins it can be bottlenecked by the storage. Apple will only configure the Mac Pro to up to 4 TB across two SSDs, which isn’t enough if you’re shifting terabyte-sized files from RAM to storage. Fortunately, Apple has opened the floor to third-party accessories to fill up the eight PCIe slots. With four GPUs and an I/O card, there are still three slots free, enough for 24 TB of existing off the shelf SSDs.

    The Mac Pro doesn’t skimp out on bonus features either. The best are the inclusion of a custom-made FPGA hardware accelerator called Afterburner -- Apple makes its own mobile SoCs but in surprising fashion they developed this supposedly very powerful video production accelerator in-house while nobody was watching -- and the T2 security processor, which creates a secure boot environment and encrypts the storage. That level of security normally comes with a lot of inconveniences, but with the T2 users won’t even notice. It also comes in handy in protecting data if the Mac Pro is accessed while out and about, because it has sturdy carry handles, an option to put wheels on the base, and well-secured components. Then there’s the upgradeability, made easy by a hidden handle that pulls the top and sides off in one fell swoop. The RAM, GPUs, storage and the CPU beneath the CPU cooler can all be removed with a couple screws or less. Provided the user doesn’t want to modify anything too extreme, it’s the most user-friendly system I’ve seen from a manufacturer yet.

    The point I’m trying to make here is that the new Mac Pro is innovative. There hasn’t been much innovation in the desktop form factor in a long time. Even if you were to build your own system like this, using prosumer parts you couldn’t have four GPUs working together, that much RAM, that volume of PCIe slots and expandability opportunities. Then as a bonus, the system is small, quiet, secure and remarkably well cooled (thanks cheese grater front).

    If you’re a consumer, never spend that much money on a computer. It’s daft. Fortunately, most Mac Pros will be bought by companies to give to their employees, and if that’s you then fantastic. But if you work for a PC manufacturer, please buy one and make a Windows machine with the same features. It’d sell like hotcakes.

    It would be remiss of me not to include some criticisms on Apple’s choice of hardware. Namely not moving to AMD processors, preferably EPYC. Not only would it significantly lower costs and improve performance in most relevant workloads, but it would unlock enough PCIe lanes to support more slots and introduce PCIe 4.0, which a device like this could really use. Many professionals were also calling for Nvidia graphics cards support and finally, the storage only has 2.6 GB/s read speeds, which is paltry in a $5,999+ system.

    Permalink to story.

  2. Hardware Geek

    Hardware Geek TS Enthusiast Posts: 53   +29

    Missed opportunity to switch to Epyc. Now they are stuck with Intel for the lifecycle of this pro, which judging by the infrequent updates, is a few years minimum.

    I hope I'm wrong and they introduce an Epyc version and offer even higher end specs with more cores and PCIe 4.

    My guess, which is totally speculation, is they are far enough along in their ARM development that it's easier to stick with Intel until they completely switch. They undoubtedly will update this a time or two before then, but this is that last major overhaul for the x86 Mac pro in my opinion.
    TempleOrion likes this.
  3. Shadowboxer

    Shadowboxer TS Booster Posts: 159   +62

    Making Apple grate again .

    It’s nice to read an article on a tech website about an expensive Apple product and find that its positive. People who love tech love Apple products, this one is particularly magnificent, I’m not going to buy it, it’s a little beyond my budget unfortunately but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the engineering that’s gone on here.

    Also nice to see no mention of the $999 stand. That price tag and product is designed to grab headlines and make people talk about it. It’s just like that expensive picture book they sold. It’s a marketing exercise, Apple won’t care if they don’t sell a single one.
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2019
  4. grumblguts

    grumblguts TS Enthusiast Posts: 71   +56

    That front grill looks amazing.
    I bet it generates lots of air turbulence which is useful to cool components.
  5. seefizzle

    seefizzle TS Evangelist Posts: 414   +288

    Think about all the people who will now think that they 'need' a 6,000 dollar computer to make music, or make videos, or whatever. They'll put this cheese grater up on a pedestal and it will be an impediment to a lot of young and inspiring producers of media. In reality, they could get a 600-700 dollar pc and start working.

    Or perhaps the $2,000 PC now becomes an option for a lot of people. A $2,000 pc gets you a hell of a machine right now. It's sad how many "creative types" don't understand how incredible a $2,000 PC is in terms of performance.
    Dimitrios likes this.
  6. QuantumPhysics

    QuantumPhysics TS Evangelist Posts: 1,146   +836

    256GB for 6 Grand?

    That thing should have no less than 2TB...especially considering a 2TB SSD is less than $250.
    TempleOrion, ghostf1re and Fearghast like this.
  7. GregonMaui

    GregonMaui TS Booster Posts: 116   +36

    You missed the point. You can already do basic video and audio editing on lots of machines (including MBP, Mac Mini, iMac, iMac Pro) . I doubt your "starting out example needs Intel Xeon 24/7 ability and ECC memory, and therefore not the price tag. You should only compare Mac Pro to other Xeon systems, you Apples to Apples, and all that.

    Now, I am not the one to make a case for an Intel Xeon machine, ask one of the many people who buy and use them. But for a fair comparison, the Mac Pro (basic anyway) is priced below others that I've seen configured, and has better specs to boot. As was mentioned in the Keynote the reference monitor is better than the competition and priced $10 of thousands less (even with the stand included), and has better specs. At the total investment you are making, your revenue steam must be pretty good already to need the Intel Xeon builds.
    Shadowboxer likes this.
  8. netman

    netman TS Addict Posts: 280   +87

    Apple missed something!...

    A 21-karat gold version with a price tag of $49,000 for the gold worshipers!
    wizardB and Dimitrios like this.
  9. Fearghast

    Fearghast TS Addict Posts: 120   +78

    You are forgeting not pure 21 karat gold, you remember "golden" Apple watch? ;)
  10. m4a4

    m4a4 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,426   +983

    Fixed it.
  11. Shadowboxer

    Shadowboxer TS Booster Posts: 159   +62

    Lol. No I do mean tech. Although they are also quite fashionable. They have some great engineers who do make some rather fantastic devices. It’s also nice to have an alternative to windows/android etc.
    TempleOrion likes this.
  12. m4a4

    m4a4 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,426   +983

    Well then, speak for yourself. Apple gets (rightly) bashed a lot because they deserve it, not because they are so "loved" by those of us who love tech.

    They've done some things I can appreciate, but I'd rather save on the Apple tax and buy something worth more bang for my buck...
    Fearghast likes this.
  13. CrisisDog

    CrisisDog TS Booster Posts: 145   +38

    Looks like a great machine, but with an insane price tag. My 2009 Mac Pro was less than $2000 and still in use because I would never be able to afford a newer model.
    TempleOrion likes this.
  14. toooooot

    toooooot TS Evangelist Posts: 750   +366

  15. Nobina

    Nobina TS Evangelist Posts: 1,893   +1,406

    I watched enough videos of Louis Rossmann to know that Apples engineering is pure dog ****. Their laptops are infamous for heavy throttling, keyboards are absolutely terrible, fragile and break all the time and they have almost no ports and require dongles to properly function.

    What Apple has that others don't is good software, specifically OSX because it's Mac exclusive. If it was released to every PC tomorrow MacBooks would quickly fade into oblivion while OSX would gain major market share.
    Fearghast likes this.
  16. Shadowboxer

    Shadowboxer TS Booster Posts: 159   +62

    I’ve owned enough to know otherwise. Their products aren’t perfect and when they have issues they are well covered, throttling is infamous however the keyboards aren’t terrible, I love mine and know many others who do too, yes some don’t like it, we have different preferences. But in general their devices are well built, ergonomic, made from decent materials. They have little touches like all their laptops open one handed, have big touch pads etc. They aren’t the best but amongst the best. I think the complete package of software and hardware that Apple deliver is quite unique and allows for some really good experiences, albeit with some annoying limitations, it’s interesting to see a different way of doing things compared to the mainstream windows/chrome/android/Linux etc. Il continue to buy Apple. Although I only really bought my MacBook because it was by far the cheapest laptop that has a colour accurate screen that I prefer for photography.
    TempleOrion and Dosahka like this.
  17. Lew Zealand

    Lew Zealand TS Guru Posts: 584   +481

    Not neecssarily defending Apple but I'll just assume that nobody commenting about throttling has watched a Jarrod's Tech video. If you *do* watch one, you will find that all PC laptops with 6-core chips also throttle. Just like Apple's.

    They cost less so you could argue that's excusable, but really that misses the point. Intel says you get a 45W 6-core chip that can do, say, 2.8GHz all core and it certainly does in PC and Apple laptops. But everyone wants their all-core boost clock otherwise they cry "throttling!" Well, you simply don't get the all 6-core turbos at 45W on Intel chips. That has zero to do with Apple, MSI, or anyone else. Now MSI, Apple or anyone else can allow the chip to consume more than 45W and build a cooler which can handle that, and some do, including Apple. Their cooling solution can handle over 55W but that still doesn't get you sustained all-core turbo.

    The advantage to most PC laptops is you can undervolt the CPU and get the all-core turbo at a wattage that the cooling solution can manage, but not in all models and probably not with all chips (silicon lottery). Again, see Jarrod's Tech videos.

    People like to bash Apple for throttling and you may justify it for the price they ask, but that doesn't mean there are any PC laptops that don't throttle.
    TempleOrion and Shadowboxer like this.
  18. ypsylon

    ypsylon TS Booster Posts: 158   +48

    To anybody saying why Apple didn't switched to AMD, PCI gen 4 yada, yada. Well answer is very simple. In at most next 2 years Apple will move permanently to ARM. It is certainly last major generational Intel-powered release from Apple.

    Even today iPadPro can encode and export 4K video without breaking a sweat. And all of that on 8GB RAM and totally passively cooled device with a screen which is work of art. Music creation easy-peasy. Move to ARM has one purpose in mind. To control everything about hardware built into every Apple product.

    Of course new MacPro is retarded product. Ancient 580X and hilarious 256 GB SSD in a computer which cost 6000 USD... Need brain transplant if you want to purchase it. I totally expect that maxed-out MP will be easily in the region of 100k. Still it isn't Pro by any stretch. Leaving out nVidia support, that alone cuts 90% of rendering (CUDA-powered) engines market.

    And stand... OK enough mocking of that idiocy...

    Monitor is nice, but vastly overpriced. Dell 8K for anyone not into HDR is right now logical choice or 2 Asus Pro Arts 32" for HDR which both will cost less combined and you get X-rite X1 with each of those in the BOX!

    There is only one word right now for new Apple product release - Extortion.
    TempleOrion and wizardB like this.
  19. Shadowboxer

    Shadowboxer TS Booster Posts: 159   +62

    The iPad Pro actually has only 4GB of RAM or 6GB if you have the 1tb version. It really is very impressive as will run rings out of even some core i7 laptops when it comes to video editing and even gaming. Apples in house mobile chips are remarkably impressive. Id love one but iOS is too limited for an iPad to replace my MacBook just yet. I do think in a couple of years il be buying an iPad Pro to replace my MacBook, provided Apple improve upon iOS. Also the screen on the iPad Pro is the best screen I have ever seen on a mobile device.

    Also I wouldn’t call Apples prices extortion. Extortion implies that Apple forces people to buy their stuff. But they don’t, no one has to buy Apple, there are scores of cheaper alternatives out there. If that’s what you want.
    TempleOrion likes this.
  20. Fearghast

    Fearghast TS Addict Posts: 120   +78

    Considering recent changes to iOS 13 I might buy another iPad Pro. I bought first gen. right when it was announced, but finally now I fell I won't regret decision to own an iPad Pro.
    I gave my "old" iPad Pro to my parents to play with (year or two years ago, 128GB model, with Apple styplus and case), I was not able to look at it with anything but disgust.
    Got myself Samsung Tab S4 instead ... but I do not use it either, sure it can do many things much better than anything on iOS, but there few things I do not really like ... DeX is not that impressive, I do miss 4K support big time, idle battery is pathetic compared to an iPad grade etc.
    I might even consider something like a new iPhone if they won't f*it up again, but that is where I draw my personal line. If I ignore iMacs as a nifty all-in-one all of their non-ARM solutions are pretty much garbage.
    Macbook 12 is something I personaly can't even stomach - it's probably the worst Apple device I ever touched - garbage keyboard, slow as sin, overheats like crazy and no IO to speak of.
    I do not have much more optimistic view on any other Apple PC, it would result in a TL;DR paragraph.

    It's super great there is Hackintosh for those who need MacOS but refuse to use overpriced, poorly designed, machines.
    Too bad the are no Macbooks Pro 17 anymore :'(
    Shadowboxer likes this.
  21. Kashim

    Kashim TS Booster Posts: 89   +76

    "The flagship feature of the Mac Pro, in my opinion, is the option to run four GPUs together." Yeah, sounds great. If the base model is $6k then to get the four GPU option we're talking what, the price of a new car?
  22. wizardB

    wizardB TS Booster Posts: 145   +47

    Remember they did add the $1000 dollar bent piece of plastic to use as a stand....and that extra.
  23. Dosahka

    Dosahka TS Booster Posts: 136   +53

    Search for iPad OS on youtube, Apple basically replaced iOS on iPads to make it more useful for video/audio editing (native support for external storage devices e.g harddrives and SD cards, mouse support).
    New iPads this years will probably be more powerful and might be worth to replace some cheat MacBook (12"-inch one) for the same price.

    That is not plastic, but aluminium and most of the users will have desk mount arm so VESA will be the one they choose.
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2019
    TempleOrion and Shadowboxer like this.
  24. HyperPete

    HyperPete TS Enthusiast Posts: 70   +35

    This is typical of crapple. Selling something for more than 3 times what it's worth, or, rather, TRYING to sell something for more than 3 times what it's worth.

    Of course, there will be plenty of foolish crapple "fanbois" who want to run right out and buy one (or have mommy buy one for them) because of the "status" of buying crapple products. Most will use them for browsing the web and playing games, too.

    I will stand at the sidelines watching, amused.
    wizardB likes this.
  25. QuantumPhysics

    QuantumPhysics TS Evangelist Posts: 1,146   +836

    You don't get to be a $1 Trillion company building exploding phones, exploding washing machines or folding phones with displays that break.

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