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Could There Be a New Mac Pro Coming?

With SATA III 6 Gbps in the 2011 MacBook Pro, along with Thunderbolt, the question begging for an answer is whether Apple will release a revised Mac Pro sporting multiple SATA III 6 Gbps ports and at least one if not two or more Thunderbolt ports. And maybe (if Intel comes up with a new part), a new processor.

MPG Pro Workstation
Tune up a Mac Pro as an
MPG Pro Workstation

It’s natural to expect a 2011 Mac Pro with all the trimmings like SATA III 6 Gbps and Thunderbolt. Apple last released an updated Mac Pro in August 2010, which wasn’t much of an update, other than moving to 4/6/8/12 cores instead instead of 4/8 cores, and a new graphics card. The practical difference there was modest for 95% of Mac Pro users. So perhaps that’s an argument for a leap forward, except that gains are going to be incremental, barring a hot new processor from Intel.

Mac Pro is an afterthough for Apple

But with Apple intent on selling iPhone and iPads, and with the Mac Pro forming a tiny fraction of Apple sales, what’s the hurry for Apple? There is no compelling new processor yet, and so revving the Mac Pro for a few goodies that few users need would be nice, but hardly compelling. Especially since the Thunderbolt port at present remains a place to stick excess chewing gum.

Motherboard redesign needed for fast SSDs

For that matter, the existing Mac Pro motherboard is nearly maxed-out with two existing 3G SSDs. What would be the point of a new Mac Pro motherboard unless it at least doubled the bandwidth for SATA devices? A lot has to happen to make more than one 6G SSD worth bothering with for the Mac Pro.

Thunderbolt and PCIe offer much more potential in the short term

The Thunderbolt port does better, since it’s on the PCIe bus, which has tons more bandwidth, good for things like PCIe cards with onboard SSDs. But eSATA and miniSAS and Fiber Channel already handle I/O needs nicely.

Real-world benefits exist now

Could Apple could have a Mac Pro update waiting in the wings? Sure. But it won't make a real-world difference to 95% of the MPG Pro Workstation customers I work with. Nice yes, but not compelling unless major bandwidth advances are made for SATA devices, and multiple Thunderbolt ports appear, and the processor type and/or speed goes up significantly.


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