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Mac Pro (Late 2013) Review

The new Mac Pro and it's complete redesign is put to the test, and proves itself a computing powerhouse

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Key features

• Up to 12-core Intel Xeon E5 processors • Up to 1TB PCie-based flash storage • 4k support

Learn more: www.apple.com

Available from: store.apple.com

Price: From £2,499/$2,999

The revolution has started, and the new Mac Pro is the standard bearer for what is possible in terms of design when it comes to a desktop PC. The new Pro has been on the horizon for some time, with high-end Mac users looking longingly towards it for over a year now. When it finally did surface, what was presented surprised everyone – this is a workstation that looks like no other.

Professional workstations have, until now, been large boxes that sit under your desk blowing increasingly hot air against your shins. The Mac Pro is not much taller than an iPad, and can almost be hidden behind one. Assembled in the US, the device is crafted from a single piece of aluminium and, thanks to a unified thermal core that is hollow at the centre, is cooled by just a single fan. This sucks in air from the base of the unit and carries it up through the core and out of the top of the system. To say that the Mac Pro is quiet doesn’t do it justice; even when rendering 4K video in Final Cut we had to stop and strain to hear any noise from the hardware.

The silence of this piece of hardware is just part of the mystique – gazing upon it feels like looking at something that belongs on a space shuttle, or has been pulled from a crash sight at Area 51. The polished outer case picks up every reflection, and as you move around to examine it, shapes dance upon the surface. It’s not the jet black that images suggest either, instead it’s closer to gun metal or the space-grey that Apple now produces as an iOS device finish. The LED lights that surround the port panel burst into life when you press the power button, and the panel itself is slightly curved so as not to break the perfect cylinder, with your USB and Thunderbolt connections shooting out at slight angles as a result. The Pro looks like it won’t weigh much, but given the amount of power that resides within the sleek body, it’s not too surprising that there is a fair amount of weight to it when you lift it.

What makes all this gorgeous design such an incredible sight is the power that is housed beneath that immaculate outer shell; the unit shown here holds the latest 12-core Intel Xeon E5 processors, as well as 32GB of memory. The Mac Pro also not only has the top-of-the-line workstation-class AMD FirePro graphics processor as standard, it has two of them. This Pro also has 512GB of PCie-based flash storage that is up to ten times faster than 7200-rpm hard drives and can read up to 12GB a second and write at 1GB a second. Storage space is available up to 1TB to hold all your most important work.

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Stepping back from the internals and looking at the outside again, there are six Thunderbolt 2.0 ports, each one capable of providing 20GB/s of bandwidth; double that of the previous version of Thunderbolt. Thanks to the daisy-chain abilities of Thunderbolt, your Mac Pro can support up to 36 devices. This means that you could use the Pro as the hub for an office of people – all this from something that can sit on your desk without looking remotely out of place.

From a creative perspective, and more specifically those who work extensively with video and editing, the new Mac Pro supports 4K, and can handle up to three 4K devices at once – something even Hollywood producers would get excited about. Nicely timed alongside an update of Final Cut, the Pro serves as a stunning place to work on the highest res video, with waiting times a thing of the past. We uploaded a selection of 4K videos and began editing as normal, and there was no lag or frame-rate issues at any point, despite the size of some of the clips. Dragging and dropping effects onto clips was near-instant, and on 4K video this is seriously impressive. We turned off Background Render on purpose to see the real-time speed, and the Pro didn’t disappoint in how well it handled the editing process.

The Mac Pro then rendered the video in 4K – over 20GB in size – in eight minutes. This may not sound impressive upon a first reading, but think about how long it takes you to export a video in 1080p from iMovie, then remember that this is four times the quality, with effects. Suddenly it’s a lot more exciting. This was the only time real heat was emitted from the Pro; even when we opened every app in the Dock, and started seven software updates, it took it all comfortably in its stride. The fan got no louder or more prominent. This machine is designed to take everything you can throw at it, from extensive multi-tasking to heavy editing of 4K video.

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It even makes easy work of high-end gaming. We downloaded Tomb Raider, pushed all the graphics up to the highest spec and started playing. There was no lag or dropped frames, and an average fps of 55.

Another good comparison comes in the form of importing media from a hard drive. We dragged a HD movie over in ten seconds, and this was via USB 3.0, not even Thunderbolt 2.0. Use that, and given the potential read rate of 1GB/s, your high-definition film could be waiting for you in just three seconds.

From whatever perspective you consider the new Mac Pro, whether it be design, performance or productivity, it is impossible not to be impressed by what this machine is capable of. Described by Apple as the ultimate workstation for creative and technical professionals, the Mac Pro is essentially handing you the power to create whatever you like, faster than ever before. That’s an immensely exciting prospect that comes in a mind-blowingly small and stunning package. There are hardware and internal options to suit every need, with storage between 256GB and a whole terabyte, and your choice of between six, eight or 12 cores. Yes, the pricing is substantial, but this is a substantial workstation to invest in. A premium product for professionals unlike anything you have seen or worked with before.

It is the start of the revolution for desktops; mobile and laptops have been the spotlight darlings for some time now, but the new Mac Pro will turn attention back to the desktop powerhouses of years gone by, and will serve as the benchmark for those to come. It’s a mark that many will struggle to reach using the same amount of space, and that is why this machine is such a marvel. It’s not just a feat of PC power and performance, but also of design, and what is possible within a certain amount of space. Mac Pro has rewritten the rules – in exchange for a lot of your money, but in a lot of style nonetheless.

Buy Now?

Pros Like nothing we’ve seen before, a new powerhouse is born

Cons To get the best, you’ll need to break the bank

Verdict: 
Orange 5 Stars

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