Apple finally brought a new Mac Pro design to the table. It is a return to the tower format, with some serious expandability and options.
The CPU(s) are still Xeon workstation class processors, which means far higher expandability and bandwidth to interface with the world than the consumer Core i-series CPUs. Available Xeons go from a base of 8 cores to 28 cores, each with Hyperthreading for 2x the number.
Twelve memory sockets in 6 banks means a maximum of 768 GB on the 8 – 16 core machines and 1.5 TB of memory in the top-end 24 and 28 core models. Memory is DDR4-2666 MHz or 2933MHz ECC Registered or Load Reduced DIMMs
CanadaRAM has memory for this specification, compatibility will be confirmed after the Mac Pro ships.
Bringing back the PCI-e slot is huge. This is one of the things that killed the Cylindrical MacPro design, lack of ability to install upgrades. Well they are back in a big way, eight PCI-e slots to be exact, fed by 64 lanes of PCI-e communications from the Xeon CPU. Four of the PCI-e 3.0 slots are double-width, full length so they can accommodate large video cards. Apple announced proprietary single and dual GPU (AMD Vega II and Vega II Duo) graphics accelerators for rendering and support of multiple high resolution monitors. Up to 2 of the Vega cards can be installed for up to 4 GPUs. Apple is using MPX, a proprietary extension to the slot, to provide power and additional PCI-e lanes to these modules.
Also announced is something else we haven’t seen for some time, a PCI-e hardware co-processor module (Afterburner) for high end video rendering. Apple software (Final Cut Pro X and QuickTime Player X) exploit the Afterburner module, we will have to wait and see which other software manufacturers get on board with it.
Four Thunderbolt 3 ports (on the USB-C connector style) are included, (two of them on the top of the tower) and internal storage is on two M.2-style SSD blades encrypted by the onboard T2 chip (no spinning hard drives inside this machine). These SSD slots are likely to be proprietary Apple modifications to the M.2 standard, we will see when the MacPro ships.
Expansion strategies for content producers will be two to four M.2 SSD blades on a PCI-e card, plus multidrive Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C RAID arrays. We expect OWC to come out of the gate with replacement SSD blades, PCI-e cards, plus they already have an array of Thunderbolt 3 RAID drives under their OWC and Akitio brand names.