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Mac Pro (late 2013) review

Verdict

Compact and quiet, despite a huge helping of horsepower, the Mac Pro's revolutionary design is set to turn the workstation market on its head

Review Date: 24 Jan 2014

Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray

Price when reviewed: £5,616 (£6,739 inc VAT)

Buy it now for: £3067
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
6 stars out of 6

Features & Design
6 stars out of 6

Value for Money
5 stars out of 6

Performance
6 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

When Apple puts its mind to a task, it's a safe bet that the end product will be something pretty impressive; but the new Mac Pro is beyond even that. After years of research and design work at Apple's labs, what has emerged is radically different to any serious PC you'll ever have seen – a high-end workstation packed with cutting-edge components, which looks more like a hi-tech bin than a desktop PC.

In keeping with much of Apple's aesthetic ethos, the Mac Pro is a minimalist affair. Its unusual cylindrical shape, finished in a dark, polished gunmetal grey is blemished by not a single mark – not even an Apple logo – until you reach the "rear" of the device, where all the Mac Pro's connections are housed on a single panel.

Mac Pro

Even this panel has been meticulously designed, with all Thunderbolt, USB and Ethernet ports all stacked in two columns. Cleverly, the labels and lines surrounding each individual group are backlit, illuminating when the system fires up, or whenever movement is detected – if you happen to have your Mac Pro stowed under a desk, it's a nice touch that makes it easier to locate the port you're looking for.

The Mac Pro's party trick, however, is how easy it is to open up. Flip a single catch next to the port panel, and (assuming all cables have been disconnected) it's possible to pull the entire exterior sheath up and off, with a satisfying, Star Trek-esque whoosh. It reveals a suitably exotic interior, with four RAM sockets sitting in two spring-loaded banks on either side, and the system's two graphics cards between them, one of which plays host to the system's single PCI Express-based SSD.

Internal design

The Mac Pro is certainly eye-catching, but what's really clever about the design of the Mac Pro is the way Apple has deconstructed the traditional desktop design. Instead of everything sprouting from a single, monolithic motherboard, Apple has opted for a modular approach, with each major component mounted on a separate board.

You might think that squeezing a clutch of powerful components into such a small chassis (it really is compact, rising a mere 251mm from the desk and measuring 167mm in diameter) would be a recipe for disaster. However, while shrinking everything down, Apple has also seen fit to redesign the traditional cooling system.

In a high-end workstation, it is usual for there to be a fair amount of heat to expel, which entails multiple fans to cool the power supply, to draw air into the box, cool the graphics cards and CPU, and further fans to pump the hot air back out of the box again, which often results in lots of noise.

Mac Pro

In the Mac Pro, the main heat-generating parts – the CPU and graphics cards – are attached to a single, Toblerone-shaped heatsink that runs up the centre of the tubular chassis, with one component to each side. Apple calls this the "thermal core", and it requires only a single fan to keep things cool; it's mounted at the bottom of the heatsink. This sucks air in from outside, pushes it across the surface of the heatsink and vents it out of the hole you see on top of the Mac Pro.

It's an incredibly efficient system, and the result is, despite the cramped nature of the chassis, the Mac Pro barely ever registers more than a quiet hum. Even with all 24 logical cores of our test system at full utilisation, we had to put our ear right over the vent located at the top to hear it over the steady rush of the office air conditioning.

Internal specification

The hardware inside the Mac Pro is, inevitably, a touch less exotic than the exterior design. Nonetheless, the sheer amount of power it's possible to pack into it remains impressive. Our review unit came with a 12-core 2.7GHz Intel Xeon E5-2697 v2 CPU (complete with HyperThreading, Turbo Boost capability up to 3.5GHz, 30MB of L3 cache and a QPI of 8GT/sec). It also had 32GB of DDR3 RAM, a 512GB PCI Express SSD with a claimed throughput of 1GB/sec and a pair of AMD FirePro D700 GPUs.

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User comments

Really...?

The thick end of £7000 and 5 stars for value...?

By dahawthorne on 24 Jan 2014

****dahawthorne ****

dahawthorne ---This is not Dell's refurbish bargain store

By invalidscreenname on 24 Jan 2014

Windows

Although I don't like Apple I can appreciate what they have done. Even I can see that it's a sweet machine.
You can't fault them with how it looks and performs.

By Sliced on 25 Jan 2014

29 images for this review?

Is it any wonder that readers think PC Pro lose objectivity whenever they review Apple products?

By grimerking on 25 Jan 2014

I don't think they've lost objectivity at all, it's a expensive, powerful and fast machine aimed at high end professionals with the need for such power - and those who appreciate design. 29 images: well it's a great piece of design, I'm not sure I could say the same for all the other generic PC boxes on the market, even my Fractal Design case is a nasty piece of metal when compared to my beautiful designed Pro (and I would want more than a couple of pics of it), let alone this new MacPro, so I can see why they put in more photos. No different to photographing a beautifully designed car from various angles vs a bog standard supermini.

By isofa on 25 Jan 2014

Bias again.

@grimerking

I've been posting for a while now that PcPro are seemly bias towards Apple products and this article just reinforces this.
I subscribe to PcPro and view their website frequently but this article along with the others that mention Apple products are putting me off reading or wanting to view any article online by PcPro as this brings into question their objectivity.

By finn1974 on 25 Jan 2014

@invalidscreenname

Dell's workstation machines are pretty sexy so I'm not too sure what you're trying to say?

Anyway... If it takes longer to replace a part when compared to the competition then forget it. These things need to stay running 24 hours a day, in some cases, so I'd personally prefer something that can be fixed and back working within minutes.

Fashion or function rules again.

By rhythm on 25 Jan 2014

?

"the Mac Pro's revolutionary design is set to turn the workstation market on its head"

Hardly. "How can we change something that already works to look different?" I'm thinking that the Workstation market will simply carry on like before with ZERO change.

That's about it. I'm also pretty sure that someone has, previously, made a PC case that's Cylindrical

By rhythm on 25 Jan 2014

@finn1974

Pot. Kettle. Black.
If you don't want to read articles about Apple kit, here's little hint for you.

Don't read them, dummy.

By QPW2012 on 25 Jan 2014

@rhythm

Dell workstations? Sexy?

Reeeeelly?

There are about a dozen Precisions in my design office. Solid, reliable, fast. If a customer wants our advice on what machine to run our software on, it's a Precision every time.

But sexy? I don't think so.

I have zero use for a Mac Pro, so it's nowhere near my shopping list. Doesn't stop it being a superb bit of kit though. It's not all anout fashion over function either. Presumably you've read the article and seen its specs?

By QPW2012 on 25 Jan 2014

@QPW2012

Go read the final paragraph in this recent review... http://www.pcpro.co.uk/reviews/laptops/386227/asus
-zenbook-ux301la

And explain to me the difference between that review ant this review? Scores. PCPRO actually say "achingly desireable" about the Asus machine, but it's scores are nowhere near anything apple.

By TigerUnleashed on 25 Jan 2014

There is no doubting the design / performance but anyone who thinks that this is good value needs their head examined. 2/6 more like.

By metaman on 25 Jan 2014

Very good Value

I just went on the apple site and for £3467 had a 6 core E5 with dual D700s and 16gb memory and 256Gb pci'd ssd. I went on the dell site during their 30% sale and a 4 core E5 with dual mere K4000s would cost £2692! For just £800 more I am getting a better cpu, very fast ssd AND far better graphics cards with double the memory and a radical design thrown in. You may not like the design but if you are buying a workstation for video editing, it is great value. To upgrade your workstation with similar dual graphics would cost £5000 - more than the whole new mac pro with pretty much those cards inside!

By Geddy3001 on 25 Jan 2014

More

It looks so good, it is a shame lower spec models aren't available without the graphics cards.

By tirons1 on 25 Jan 2014

@tonythetiger

Can't say I speak for the PC Pro team, but for the benefit of the hard of thinking, let me quote you a piece from the end of that review.
"For our money, the Lenovo Yoga Pro 2 and Dell XPS 12 are by far better buys"
Way to compare a not-best-in-class laptop to a video editing workstation by the way. Derp.

By QPW2012 on 25 Jan 2014

******rhythm*****

rhythm--The popular image of Dell is cheap bargains of questionable reliability--I wouldn't mind an ATX case like the one in the review

By invalidscreenname on 25 Jan 2014

******rhythm*****

rhythm--The popular image of Dell is cheap bargains of questionable reliability--I wouldn't mind an ATX case like the one in the review

By invalidscreenname on 25 Jan 2014

@tonythetiger

Can't say I speak for the PC Pro team, but for the benefit of the hard of thinking, let me quote you a piece from the end of that review.
"For our money, the Lenovo Yoga Pro 2 and Dell XPS 12 are by far better buys"
Way to compare a not-best-in-class laptop to a video editing workstation by the way. Derp.

By QPW2012 on 25 Jan 2014

Dusty....

Yes it's beautiful but let me get this right - it sucks air in the bottom and shoves it out the top. I guess it can't stand on the floor then or it'll be full of dust in no time. Luck it looks pretty as it's going to have to take up part of your desk....

By bubsybubsybubsy on 27 Jan 2014

Value

In a rare event of Apple, it apparently is quite good value, for a top end workstation. Looking at the list prices for just the processor and dual graphics cards in a custom build takes you to about £7k. That's without a case, motherboard, power supply, RAM, Storage etc.

By RSKG2 on 27 Jan 2014

iMac or Mac Pro

c't magazine came to the conclusion that the average user is better off with the top end iMac 27" than a Mac Pro, because it is faster and cheaper for normal tasks.

It is only the high end multi-threading and OpenCL enabled tasks that benefit from the raw power. Encoding in iTunes, compiling etc. are all faster on the iMac, because it has a faster clocked processor, even if it is only 4 cores with hyperthreading.

By big_D on 27 Jan 2014

Mac Pro or Dell Precision T7610

Cannot help but want one of these, beautiful, light and small.
However the spec does not add up. 64Mb memory limit, only one processor and only AMD graphics option. The T7610 allows upto 512Gb, 2 E5 proceesors and NVidia graphics cards, Plus you can always add an SSD PCI. Not as pretty but a lot more flexible. Also I would but the Dell under my desk, not sure I would be so keen with the Mac Pro.

By GeoffClark007 on 27 Jan 2014

Mac Pro or Dell Precision T7610

Cannot help but want one of these, beautiful, light and small.
However the spec does not add up. 64Mb memory limit, only one processor and only AMD graphics option. The T7610 allows upto 512Gb, 2 E5 proceesors and NVidia graphics cards, Plus you can always add an SSD PCI. Not as pretty but a lot more flexible. Also I would but the Dell under my desk, not sure I would be so keen with the Mac Pro.

By GeoffClark007 on 27 Jan 2014

Mac Pro or Dell Precision T7610

Cannot help but want one of these, beautiful, light and small.
However the spec does not add up. 64Mb memory limit, only one processor and only AMD graphics option. The T7610 allows upto 512Gb, 2 E5 proceesors and NVidia graphics cards, Plus you can always add an SSD PCI. Not as pretty but a lot more flexible. Also I would but the Dell under my desk, not sure I would be so keen with the Mac Pro.

By GeoffClark007 on 27 Jan 2014

Mac Pro or Dell Precision T7610

Cannot help but want one of these, beautiful, light and small.
However the spec does not add up. 64Mb memory limit, only one processor and only AMD graphics option. The T7610 allows upto 512Gb, 2 E5 proceesors and NVidia graphics cards, Plus you can always add an SSD PCI. Not as pretty but a lot more flexible. Also I would but the Dell under my desk, not sure I would be so keen with the Mac Pro.

By GeoffClark007 on 27 Jan 2014

Mac Pro or Dell Precision T7610

Cannot help but want one of these, beautiful, light and small.
However the spec does not add up. 64Mb memory limit, only one processor and only AMD graphics option. The T7610 allows upto 512Gb, 2 E5 proceesors and NVidia graphics cards, Plus you can always add an SSD PCI. Not as pretty but a lot more flexible. Also I would but the Dell under my desk, not sure I would be so keen with the Mac Pro.

By GeoffClark007 on 27 Jan 2014

Repeat posts

As someone has already commented, can PC Pro staff not code the site to prevent these multiple identical posts? I've done it accidentally myself, refreshing the page to see what my post looks like when submitted, and by the time it appears it's too late to realise that every refresh is posting another copy...
Given the title of the magazine & site, plus the fact (already mentioned to Barry Collins a few years ago) that the response times are appalling, it really doesn't present a favourable image.

By dahawthorne on 27 Jan 2014

@QPW2012

Firstly, slyly putting some internet insulting slang as your last comment is pretty childish. Not something I'd associate with an expert, so that rules you out as an expert. Secondly, I was making the point that anything apple that is listed as "most" or "highly" desirable is automatically given fantastic ratings. Other hardware no matter how desirable isn't given the same treatment. Two years ago, count 'em, myself and a number of readers asked for clarity in the reviewing structure on PCPro - it was clarified by the editor that the particular piece of hardware by Apple was given high scores because it was, and I quote, "so desirable". I was merely pointing out the inconsistency with the other review. I would expect someone who does their research to get that.

By TigerUnleashed on 28 Jan 2014

@finn1974: It's a review of an Apple product. If you're fed up of reading stuff about Apple products, perhaps avoiding any reviews of Apple products might be a starting point?

Helpfully, they're usually easy to spot: PC Pro usually has a prominent picture of the Apple product, along with a mention of "Apple" in the description.

Hope that helps!

By IanBetteridge on 29 Jan 2014

"I've been posting for a while now that PcPro are seemly bias towards Apple products"

Sigh, we know.

"brings into question their objectivity"

The new Mac Pro is newsworthy, whether you like it or Apple or not. Perhaps you should question your own objectivity?

By BliksemPiet on 30 Jan 2014

So how about a comparative desktop review?

Forgive me for not joining in the Apple/other brands slanging match. It's too boring.
However, I have a five year old Dell Precision T3500 which has been reliable and easily powerful enough for video and photo editing.Probably the most reliable computer I have ever owned.
I am mystified why PC Pro never does a top end workstation comparative review. Those of us who use these machines may be a niche but this lack contributed to me not renewing my magazine subscription this year after more than 15 years. Most PC Pro comparative reviews are obsessed with what is cheapest (if your machine lasts you five years, cost differences are much less significant) and with gaming performance (my first action with any new computer is to wipe all games from it).
Could PC Pro please do one decent comparative review of desktop machines which are not about how cute they are, but how they perform for (say) video editing or CAD and that look at the cost over five years use, including sturdiness and reliability. And don't bang on about Age of Wasted Time, War with your Neighbour or other games. I'll do you a deal. If PC Pro provide a decent comparative review I will subscribe again! And yes I am beginning to think about replacing my desktop machine!

By PeterMcIntyre1 on 30 Jan 2014

Apple Pro

@PeterMcIntyre1

Like you I work at a high-end workstation every day. I wear several hats. I'm a programmer, database designer, website builder, app developer. I've been tapping at a keyboard for a living since 1988.

Like you I was a long-term PC Pro subscriber (since its launch in 1994).

This year I did not renew my subscription.

The reviews are no longer trustworthy. A disturbing tendency towards red-top journalism.

There is far too much anti-PC and anti-Microsoft sentiment for a magazine aimed at (to quote the magazine) "IT professionals, IT managers and power users"

Critical journalism is one thing, emotive mud-slinging is quite another.

Oh dear...

By GlynPress on 30 Jan 2014

Apple Pro

you may need to rename the Magazine as Apple seem to be filling the A List !

all i can say is since converting to the iMac, iPad & iPhone i have been impressed everything just works

By Sapper979 on 30 Jan 2014

"all i can say is since converting to the iMac, iPad & iPhone i have been impressed everything just works"
By Sapper979 on 30 Jan 2014
.
Except the sat nav, the alarm clock, etc

By grimerking on 30 Jan 2014

impressive, certainly but not 5 stars for value please!!!

Scan 3XS with almost identical configuration can be found for less than £4000.. so I do not think it deserve 5 stars for value. Plus if something goes wrong I guess you cannot just open it, go the PC shop next door and buy parts, need to go back to Apple to fix it.

By rvboutin on 5 Feb 2014

impressive, certainly but not 5 stars for value please!!!

Scan 3XS with almost identical configuration can be found for less than £4000.. so I do not think it deserve 5 stars for value. Plus if something goes wrong I guess you cannot just open it, go the PC shop next door and buy parts, need to go back to Apple to fix it.

By rvboutin on 5 Feb 2014

@rvboutin

I disagree, this is actually very good value... IF you purely do video work, and IF you don't need a clear upgrade path.

That single CPU (stuck with Ivy Bridge Xeons because of the Haswell socket change) and two non-upgradable Firepros can be a big limitation for some workstation requirements. No Nvidia choice is also a bit concerning - CUDA is still quite relevant.

By TheHonestTruth on 6 Feb 2014

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