First re­view: Mac Pro

Ap­ple’s new flag­ship PC is an in­stant de­sign clas­sic, but is the mac pro style and sub­stance?

Australian T3 - - CONTENTS -

Pedal bin, Darth Vader’s hel­met – what­ever you think it re­sem­bles, there’s no ig­nor­ing Ap­ple’s über-com­puter. We get test­ing…

Af­ter months of se­duc­tive pre-hype, Ap­ple’s new top-ofthe-line desk­top com­puter was un­leashed on the un­sus­pect­ing Christ­mas-rush pub­lic. Look­ing like Darth Vader’s new play­thing, the Mac Pro’s sud­den pre-or­der an­nounce­ment gave those search­ing for a power up­grade some­thing to con­tem­plate, and now it’s fi­nally ready to ship.

Armed with an all-new ex­te­rior aes­thetic that’s hard to ig­nore, it’s the lat­est ex­am­ple of Sir Jonathan Ive’s united hard­ware and soft­ware ap­proach to de­sign. The Pro feels pre­mium, its alu­minium shell re­as­sur­ingly pris­tine, yet is a prod­uct built to be di­vi­sive. Early im­ages on our so­cial net­works led to a va­ri­ety of com­par­isons, from bis­cuit jars to cof­fee ma­chines, but we’d ar­gue it’s Ap­ple’s most iconic de­sign in years, part Har­mon Kar­don Sound­sticks, part Death Star.

This isn’t style for the sake of it, though. The cylin­dri­cal de­sign aids heat dis­per­sal, cre­at­ing a cen­tral tri­an­gu­lar vent that the cir­cu­lar base fan uses as high-tech chim­ney, push­ing ther­mals out of the top and keep­ing the pre­cious in­nards cool. The 16.7cm di­am­e­ter and 25cm height also means its im­print is small, a com­pact desk­top built to do ex­actly that: sit on top of your desk, rather than be tucked away out of sight.

A soli­tary power but­ton and a streak of con­nec­tions are con­cealed round the back of the cylin­der, which can be spun round for ease of ac­cess, and which lights up dra­mat­i­cally and use­fully when work­ing late. You get four USB 3.0 ports, a whop­ping six Thun­der­bolt 2 ports – 20 Gb/s through­put apiece – two Eth­er­net ports and an ul­tra-HDMI out.

As is al­most uni­ver­sally the way now with Ap­ple, there are no built-in me­dia drives, so it’s a good job there’s 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Blue­tooth 4.0 on hand, plus a slim range of pricey pro­fes­sional Thun­der­bolt 2 ac­ces­sories; hope­fully a few more will ap­pear soon.

It’s pos­si­ble to run three 4K mon­i­tors off of one Mac Pro if you feel the need, and when net­worked the Pros

look im­pres­sively/un­set­tlingly like a nest of Alien pods. Each “pod” can be opened with a click of the lock switch, the outer metal cas­ing slid­ing off to re­veal a tri­an­gu­lar struc­ture of adapt­able pro­ces­sors and mem­ory. It may be com­pact, but there’s 5kg of com­put­ing power packed un­der that gloss-black hood.

That power, of course, will vary mas­sively depend­ing on what setup you’re rock­ing, as a raft of cus­tom op­tions are avail­able. At the en­try level of $3,999 you get a none-tooshabby 3.7GHz quad­core Xeon pro­ces­sor, a pair of AMD FirePro D300 graph­ics pro­ces­sors with 2GB of VRAM apiece, 12GB RAM and 256GB of flash stor­age. How­ever, if your wal­let’s as deep as your love of raw com­put­ing grunt, you can get into eight-core and 12-core set­ups with­out break­ing sweat.

Our test ma­chine proved to be nearer the top end of the spec­trum, with the 3GHz eight­core CPU, AMD FirePro D700, 64GB RAM and 1TB hard drive giv­ing it a to­tal worth of $10,229. At that level, we’re not sur­prised to re­port that it’s a bit of a pro­cess­ing beast. It ranked in the top per­centile in a wide va­ri­ety of pro­fes­sional bench­marks tests, prov­ing it­self over five times more pow­er­ful than the T3 of­fice’s Mac­Book Pro Retina. Our 64-bit, eight-core rig ranked in Geek­bench’s top five per­form­ing Mac set­ups of all time, while Ap­ple’s new 12-core Pro cur­rently sits on top of the pile.

Run­ning the now fa­mil­iar OS X Mav­er­icks sys­tem soft­ware out of the box, the ba­sic run­ning speed boost is pal­pa­ble, with soft­ware in­stantly re­spon­sive and lag non-ex­is­tent. The Mac Pro is able to han­dle all kinds of pro­fes­sional cre­ative me­dia tasks si­mul­ta­ne­ously with­out draw­ing breath, or mak­ing any dis­tin­guish­able peep. Ev­ery­thing drags and drops with ease, even in per­for­mance-in­ten­sive ap­pli­ca­tions.

Fi­nalCutProX was specif­i­cally up­graded to make the most of the new Mac Pro’s prow­ess and it’s a dream for film edit­ing, at one point see­ing us cut be­tween six­teen 4K videos all in real time, with no ren­der­ing or stut­ter. The dual FirePro graph­ics cards en­able some neat tricks of their own, from in­stant 11,000% time lapses with a sim­ple click to real-time mul­ti­ple-ef­fects ad­di­tions with­out any wait­ing time. We were able to ex­port fil­ter-laden 1080p video footage more than ten times faster than from our Mac­Book Pro; it’s rev­e­la­tory.

Our gam­ing hands dab­bled with Metro: LastLight, Am­ne­sia and the new Sky Gam­blers, with vi­su­als su­per-smooth and frame rate su­per-tight. We could get used to in­stant 1GB Pho­to­shop file open­ing, too.

To be frank, the Mac Pro swat­ted away all tasks we could throw at it, even those of our in­cred­i­bly de­mand­ing video team. This is an ex­pen­sive ma­chine, but the money is

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