Well different folks will have different opinions, but one issue with the Mac line has been a lack of power at the high end. The move to thinner and lighter has been great for laptops, but the high end really wants the power. The same with desktop systems where the older Mac Pro was beautiful but not upgradeable.
They have worked to fix this with the latest MacBook Pro which finally support 32GB of memory. (Thank you Intel) and 8-cores. That's a lot of power and the thing is still light and small.
Finally, today, they announced the new Mac Pro (2019) which, well, looks the same as the older Mac Pro cheese grater design. There are not many ways to build a tower I think. The cool things it has are:
- 1.4kW power supply. I've been building machine learning workstations for a while and it is super hard to get enough power
- Four full PCI-E slots as well. So hats off to them for doing this. What's really great is that unlike most workstation chassis for PCs, it actually has in addition to the double wide slots, three single wides and a half slot as well, so you can actually load the thing up with four GPUs and crunch away without giving away any other expandability.
- A real 28 core system is going to cost a lot, but if your workload is really scalable, this is going to be a great way to process videos for insta
- The memory itself is 2.9GHz ECC with up to 1.5TB which is pretty amazing. The memory system is 6 channels so it is going to have incredible bandwidth
- The case itself has wheels which are pretty much mandatory for cases like this. It is really hard to get these cheap plastic cases to scale like this. And it is easy to take apart and get to the stuff on the inside.
- It's also rack mountable which makes way more sense in larger configurations.
- I had not heard of the MPX module, but having a card with PCIe and PCI Express x16 on it at the same time is pretty incredible. The ability to haul data on and off a graphics card has never been better. The graphics card they are shipping is a dual GPU card connected with it's own high speed bus. And you can put two into the chassis at the same time, so you get a 4xGPU system in just two cards. Wow with 128GB of HBM memory. it is really nice that it doesn't need extra noisy fans, but they designed the box to support it with just a passive heat sink. This thing is going to be loud dissipating that much power, but wow, wow.
- They have yet another dedicated card called the Apple Afterburner, this is a dedicated hardware transcoder so you can put in three 8K RAW video streams at 30fps right into the machine. That's pretty incredible.
- On board, they also have T2 for security and there is up to 4TB of SSD storage, although most machines like this will have a direct Thunderbolt connection to a big drive array or just more SSD on all those PCI Express slots. I actually can't believe it actually has 12 Thunderbolt 3 outputs in the back.
- Finally, they have a new 6K display which looks amazing particularly if you want to manage 4K graphics output and see some other Stus
So net, net, should you get one. Well, that's not an easy question. If you are graphics professional or a machine learning professional, then it makes lots of sense, if you are prosumer, well let's just say this will cost a fortune. It may make more send to get an iMac Pro and to use AWS for all. your other batch loads.
The drool factor though is real and I sure want one 🙂
Now what about the monitor. Well, a 32" monitor that displays 6K is pretty awesome, that might be the right display to get if you are a graphics professional and are doing color grading in an enclosed room. But it doesn't make as much sense for the average user.
What I would say is that right now, the better idea is to get a 49" TV. The Sony X800F for instance is top rated as a 49" display television. That sounds like an awful big monitor for the average person, but in using a big display over the years, I've found that going to 40 to 49" really is about changing the way you use a monitor.
A display that big means that you can layout your work into tiled windows and keep them in place. With a tool like
brew install divvy you can with a single keystroke move windows into any of the quadrants you want. And with a 49" monitor that has a nice AmazonBasics stand, you can just layout every window and then when you want to work on something, just drag it so that it is in focus. Remember that with a 4K display, you can get four 1080p windows at full resolution in one place. That's right now how I'm working.
So instead of constantly tabbing between windows, just leave them all up and when you leave at night, leave it all up and running. It is like a true virtual desk now.