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Apple refreshes Mac Pro to handle 4K video, 20Gb/s file transfers

It's been a long time coming, but Apple this week showed its next-generation desktop Mac Pro computer designed for professional-level video and graphics production. The introduction was made at the Apple World Wide Developer Conference 2013 in San Francisco.

Featuring a futuristic, cylindrical look, Apple’s new Mac Pro is a radical departure from past models. Designed around a unified thermal core, the computer introduces a completely new architecture and design that is optimized for fast performance. With next-generation Intel Xeon processors, dual workstation-class GPUs, Thunderbolt 2, PCIe-based flash storage and ultra-fast ECC memory, the new 9.9in-tall Mac Pro is the most powerful Macintosh ever built.

Standing next to the current Mac Pro, the new computer looks almost tiny in comparison. Apple is positioning it as the ideal hardware to run the latest version (10.0.8) of its Final Cut Pro X video editing software.

“With the latest Xeon processors, dual FirePro GPUs, ECC memory, PCIe-based flash and Thunderbolt 2, all built around a revolutionary thermal core, the next generation Mac Pro is the most radical Mac yet,” said Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple. “All this performance and expandability is packed into a dramatic new design that’s one-eighth the volume, and best of all, it will be assembled here in the USA.”

Intel Xeon E5 processors (based on Intel’s Haswell micro architecture) with up to 12-core configurations deliver double the floating-point performance, according to the company. With two AMD FirePro workstation-class GPUs, the Mac Pro is up to 2.5 times faster than the current Mac Pro and delivers up to 7 teraflops of computing power. It can run three 4K displays at one time.

The machine features PCIe-based flash storage that is up to 10 times faster than conventional desktop hard drives and includes the latest four-channel ECC DDR3 memory running at 1866MHz to deliver up to 60GB/s of memory bandwidth. The company said the new computer can be used to edit full-resolution 4K video while simultaneously rendering effects in the background.

Even without expansion slots like in the current model, Apple said the new Mac Pro is the most expandable Mac its built. With six Thunderbolt 2 ports that can deliver up to 20Gb/s of bandwidth to each external device, the Mac Pro can connect to external storage, multiple PCI expansion chassis, audio and video breakout boxes, and the latest external displays, including 4K desktop displays.

Thunderbolt 2, the newest iteration of Intel’s Thunderbolt technology, supports bidirectional data rates of 20Gb/s. It offers sufficient bandwidth for raw 4K video transfer and backward compatibility with existing cables and connectors.

Thunderbolt 2 enables video streaming to a single 4K monitor or dual QHD monitors — enough to both view a live 4K stream and save it to disk simultaneously. Each of the six Thunderbolt 2 ports supports up to six daisy-chained devices, giving the user the ability to connect up to 36 peripherals.

Apple said the Mac Pro will be available later this year. No price has been announced.