Jun 062013

I’m writing my prediction for the Mac Pro replacement on my home-made Mac Pro replacement, which has four 3.4 GHz cores with hyperthreading, 16 gigs of RAM, NVIDIA GTX 650 GPU with 1 gig GDDR5 memory, one SSD and three HDD drives, in a black Fractal Design tower case with beveled edges. It’s a Hackintosh I built for about $600, and it works great. However, it’s just a stop-gap to what I hope is a new desktop Mac.

Heading in to WWDC 2013 it’s pretty clear that Apple’s Mac Pro replacement will not be a tower computer with a bunch of slots and drive bays. Based on the comments from Apple and bolstered by this week’s announcements from Intel, I think we’re going to get a sealed cube. With rounded corners, of course. Just like the WWDC logo.

Late last year, in a reply to an Apple user’s e-mail, Tim Cook said there would be something coming later in 2013 for the pro users. Having paid attention to all the rumors and discussions about it since then, here is what I predict it is:

  • A cube, smaller than a mini-tower. Think ‘Tall Mac Mini’. Expansion components may ‘stack’ underneath it.
  • One or two CPU sockets, with the new E3-1200 V3 series Xeons Intel just announced.
  • ECC memory, up to at least 64 gigs, probably 128 gigs, possibly 256 gigs
  • Probably no GPU slots. If present, they won’t be a standard form factor
  • Thunderbolt 2, announced this week. Double bandwidth (20Gb), backwards compatible. To be used in lieu of slots for connecting GPUs
  • No other card slots
  • Room for 2.5″ disks only, up to 4 of them

It will probably be previewed at WWDC, but not be ready for sale till the Fall. Apple will talk up the Thunderbolt 2 bus the same way they talked up the Mac serial bus in 1984, as a direct replacement for internal expandability. Pro users will howl, because regardless if they need them or not they want giant machines with at least two top-end graphics cards and 12 terabytes of internal storage. Other than the graphics issue I think they are wrong. I’d love a small powerful desktop Mac. But Apple is wrong if they think an embedded Intel GPU, no matter how much it’s improved, can replace a good discreet GPU card. It can’t, and an externally-connected Thunderbolt GPU is just weird and will be overpriced and underperform compared to current solutions.

I think Apple will basically say this new computer is as powerful as the Mac Pro in 1/10th the space. Problem is, the Mac Pro is already behind in performance, both CPU and GPU, and simply reaching parity with that in less space is not good enough.

But I can’t wait to buy one anyway. Maybe they will call it Mac.


Post-Keynote Update: Half wrong about just about everything. Story of my life.

Darth Vader Tissue Dispenser

  • A TUBE! A TUBE!. Expansion components won’t stack at all.
  • Unclear if there are one or two CPU sockets, but using new E5 series Xeons. That’s nuts. They did it wrong.
  • ECC memory, unknown capacity, but only 4 slots.
  • Two custom GPU locations – I don’t think they can be called slots. Definitely not a standard form factor.
  • Thunderbolt 2. Could be used in lieu of slots for connecting GPUs but that will suck.
  • No card slots
  • Room for ZERO 2.5″ or 3.5″ disks. PCIe SSD Only, up to 2 of them.