Thoughts on future MacPro

As Intel just released hexacore sandybridge-e chips and benchmarks started floating everywhere.

It’s clear that single core performance hasn’t improved compared to lga1155 sandybridge.

So, future quad-core MacPro (based on Xeon variant of core i7 3820 cpu) may just not worth it against 2011 iMac with core i7. Even hexacore MP performance would be questionable over sandybridge iMac.

And the price of dual socket system just gonna be a way too high for new chips.


  1. Weust
    November 14th, 2011 | 11:12 pm

    But overall the iMac is still a all-in-one laptop/huge screen combination.
    Meaning it lacks the video card performance, if nothing else, from a desktop/workstation.

    Therefore I’d love to see a desktop/workstation Mac with a i7 in it, that can be custom build with desktop grade videocards and what not else.

    But I guess it will be a dream…

    (no, no going to build a mackintosh since that makes me hobby with computers again too much. don’t want to go that way again)

  2. xoa
    November 14th, 2011 | 11:58 pm

    I personally like the idea of Apple going to a modular setup the more I think about it. This is something that wouldn’t have been really doable before Thunderbolt, but I think it has more going for it now. Effectively, a “Mac Mini Pro”, a main module that has just a highend CPU (dual socket or regular desktop), 8 memory slots, two 2.5″ bays, and then a good 4-6 TB connectors (and a few USB). No internal expansion of any other kind whatsoever, just uses the IGP by default. Apple could make such a machine quite tiny relative to something like a Mac Pro, and if someone only needed pure CPU power it’d be perfect. But the TB could be used for external PCIe chassis for those who needed it, or disk arrays, or anything else. Plenty of (somewhat surprising) benchmarks have shown that being limited to PCIe x4 has either minuscule or zero effect on GPU performance even in pretty heavy scenarios, although GPGPU might push it farther. Even so I think it’s fast enough to be workable.

    Going all-in on TB would push the standard, and creating a solid market would help peripherals just as the iMac did for USB. Importantly, all the improvements and additional stuff that comes out for TB benefits every single Mac Apple makes, and perhaps iOS devices down the road as well. That significantly helps boost the value of making a more niche device.

    100% pure grade speculation :). But I think it could be a pretty nice way to go, highly divergent from the Mac Pro or the traditional “big tower” paradigm but effective nevertheless.

  3. Yolanda
    November 15th, 2011 | 7:42 am

    Sandy Bridge-E chip itself has 8 cores, Intel enabled only 6 of them in Core i7 3XXX desktop CPUs, but Apple uses Xeon branded versions in MacPros, so maybe they release first eight core MacPro. Even 16 cores/32 threads then both CPUs installed.

  4. a Martin
    November 15th, 2011 | 4:32 pm

    The iMac is a nice computer in many ways.
    But it has its limitation. The biggest being the graphics power and not being able to choose what screen you want to use. Of course you can use the iMac screen AND an external screen, but that won’t be optimal in many situations.

    No, I’d really like to see a headless iMac with room for three hard drives and ”desktop class” replaceable graphics card. Feels like it won’t happen though. 🙁

  5. Marucins
    November 15th, 2011 | 7:02 pm


    In the core SB-E are also two QPI links, used for communication with a second processor in dual processor configurations. In desktop systems, both are disabled. The processor communicates with the south bridge by the DMI link (dedicated four lines of the PCI Express).

  6. Stanly.ok
    November 16th, 2011 | 4:34 pm

    Привет, Netkas! я не совсем согласен с твоей точкой зрения (=

    future MP will have 6 and 8 core CPUs, single and dual CPU configs*, multiple RAID-capable Sata III ports, up to 64(or even 128) GB ECC RAM, expansion slots for professional hardware, such as Quadro cards or desecrate sound cards for recording studios

    even if iMac will have same CPU performance as Mac Pro(which won’t happen), it just won’t do for professional work! A LOT of ECC RAM, powerful GPU, massive storage is crucial for video production … and it is more comfortable to have it in a single box (not an iMac + Pegasus RAID + external enclosure with GPU**) especially if you have to move or work on location

    i7 3960X is 50% more efficient, than i7 2600K and since single core performance doesn’t matter for prosumers***

    * SB-E allows 3 chips tied together, but I think Apple will pass on that XD
    ** thunderbolt doesn’t have enough bandwidth, it’ll bottleneck the performance
    *** even consumer apps are now optimized for multithreaded workload, and if not – the system will spread tasks on different cores

  7. Stanly.ok
    November 16th, 2011 | 5:07 pm

    2 xoa

    “idea of Apple going to a modular setup” – Apple was always against that idea ((= and it’s not going to change … or you think Apple could get like this few years from now:

    “good 4-6 TB connectors” – it won’t be implemented into the chipset even when Ivy Bridge comes out so u’re talking about 2-3 TB controllers, which isn’t “good”

    “benchmarks have shown that being limited to PCIe x4 has either minuscule or zero effect on GPU” – depends on the card, but even PCIe Gen2.1 x8 effects performance of high end cards, so your source is old (when cards had less power)

    and may I remind you PCIe Gen3 which will double the bandwidth is right around the corner

    “fast enough to be workable” – if your income is related to amount of work done (which is the case of being pro) – nothing is fast enough

  8. Luka
    November 16th, 2011 | 9:13 pm

    No chance in hell that iMac will be anywhere close to workstation performance. Yes, SSDs are possible, as are desktop chips, but it’s still a laptop, with the most powerful graphics chip being somewhere around a midrange desktop product.

  9. ldm
    December 5th, 2011 | 8:05 pm

    The new Sandy Bridge-E chips have six cores, but the chips are built for 8 cores. I suspect new, 8-core Xeons, soon. Along with Radeon 7xxx graphics, SATA3 connectors, more RAM slots, and thunderbolt (which will be harder to do, considering there’s not really a way to take the graphics output from a dedicated video card, and then add thunderbolt). One can only hope for USB 3.0 and Blu-Ray, but for that you can always pop in a caldigit PCI-e card, and a Pioneer drive.

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