Apple Mac Pro (Late 2013)

The Apple Mac Pro desktop computer.

With its top-of-the-range processing power and ease of customisation, the Apple Mac Pro desktop computer has always been sought after by professionals in the creative industry, such as photographers, video editors and music producers.

In the past, the Mac Pro desktop has been a big and heavy machine and looks like any other rectangular boxy PC desktop.

However, the new Mac Pro is different. Completely different. The design is simply revolutionary.

It has an aluminium-clad cylindrical casing measuring 16.7cm in diameter and stands only 25.1cm tall. That is one-eighth the volume of the previous Mac Pros. It also weighs only 5kg - a 13kg loss in weight from its predecessor.

If you have seen the publicity photos, you might think the Mac Pro's casing is black (below). But it is actually closer to the space grey finish you find on Apple's iPhone 5s. More surprisingly, it does not pick up much smudges or fingerprints.

At the rear of the machine, you will find a panel of neatly arranged ports - an HDMI port, four USB 3.0 ports and six Thunderbolt 2.0 ports along with two Gigabit Ethernet ports.

There is no power brick. You just need to connect a power cable to the power plug at the bottom of the panel.

A simple latch next to the panel allows you to unlock and remove the casing to reveal its beautiful innards. The intricately designed interior (right) is actually more appealing to tech geeks than its smooth exterior.

You can see the triangular-shaped unified thermal core that houses the processor and two graphics on its three sides. There are four memory slots where you can easily remove and insert up to 64GB of DDR5 ECC memory.

The thermal core maximises airflow and conducts heat away from the processors, distributing the heat across the core. A single cooling fan sits on top to extract the hot air out of the system.

Unfortunately, the Mac Pro will not power up without its casing. So, you cannot marvel at the machine's interior while the Mac Pro is on. Maybe Apple should consider a transparent casing.

The Mac Pro's price starts from $4,288. But it does not come with keyboard, mouse or a monitor.

However, the review unit has a 2.7GHz 12-core Intel Xeon E5 processor with 30MB of L3 cache, 32GB of 1867MHz DDR3 ECC system memory, dual AMD FirePro D700 GPUs with 6GB of video memory each and 512GB solid-state drive storage. The price? An astronomical $11,707.99!

The Mac Pro can hook up to six Thunderbolt displays and three 4K (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) monitors. I could not get hold of a 4K monitor in time for this review and had to make do with my full high-definition Dell Thunderbolt monitor.

The Mac Pro's performance is stellar. It boots up to OS X Mavericks in a mere 6sec, takes around 3sec to shut down and 2sec to wake up from sleep. Comparatively, the late 2013 iMac I reviewed last November took 18sec to boot up.

On benchmarking software Geekbench 3, it set an amazing score of 33,124 in the 64-bit multi-core score. By comparison, its predecessor, the mid-2012 12-core Mac Pro and my iMac scored 27,669 and 7,601 respectively.

While starting Apple Final Cut Pro X takes close to a minute on my personal mid-2011 iMac, it takes only 25sec on the Mac Pro.

You can easily render almost any effects, such as adding flare or sparkles, in real time on the 4K clips using the Mac Pro. On my iMac, it takes nearly 4sec just to apply a simple effect such as flare.

Graphics-intensive games, such as BioShock Infinite and Metro: Last Light, ran as smooth as silk with fast frame rates of around 20 to 30 frames per second.

Despite its superb performance, the Mac Pro remained very quiet during use and did not heat up much.

The latest Apple Mac Pro, with its excellent amalgamation of form, function and finesse in computing terms, is going to change how people look at desktop computers. It is undoubtedly expensive, but perfection comes at a price.

trevtan@sph.com.sg

TECH SPECS

Price: From $4,288

Processor: From 3.7GHz quad-core Intel Xeon E5

Graphics: From dual AMD FirePro D300 graphics processors with 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM each

Memory: From 12GB of DDR3 ECC

Storage: From 256GB of solid-state drive

Connectivity: 1 x HDMI, 2 x Gigabit Ethernet, 4 x USB 3.0, 6 x Thunderbolt 2.0

Weight: 5kg

RATING

Features: 5

Design: 5

Performance: 5

Value for money: 3

Overall: 5


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