Mac Pro (2013) vs Mac Pro (2012): What's the difference?

Apple has announced the release date and pricing details for the new, cylindrical Mac Pro. It looks nothing like the 2012 Mac Pro, and the price hike it comes with is just as drastic too.

Apple has explained away the £2,499 price tag for the base model by emphasising it reinvented the Mac Pro from the inside out and designed it to tackle the most demanding workflows. Phil Schiller, Apple's senior VP of worldwide marketing, said: "The new Mac Pro is our vision for the future of the pro desktop, everything about it has been reimagined and there has never been anything like it."

But how does it set the bar higher? We've quickly broken it down, so you can see the exact differences between the 2013 Mac Pro and 2012 Mac Pro.

Completely redesigned

The "cheese grater" look of the old Mac Pro, which debuted in 2003 with the Power Mac G5, is gone forever. The desktop has adopted a new design - which many have compared to a Braun coffee maker. The entire enclosure is cylindrical, sleek, lighter and smaller at just 9.9 inches tall with a diameter of 6.6 inches. For comparison, the 2012 Mac Pro is a 20.1-inch-tall rectangle box.

Look and feel aside, one of the unique aspects to the 2013 Mac Pro is its unified thermal core and cooling system. The thermal core will come in handy when one processor isn’t working as hard as the others are, because the extra thermal capacity will distribute equally among all of them.

"Rather than using multiple heat sinks and fans to cool the processor and graphics cards, we built everything around a single piece of extruded aluminum designed to maximize airflow as well as thermal capacity," Apple said. "It works by conducting heat away from the CPU and GPUs and distributing that heat uniformly across the core."

Apple also engineered a single, larger fan that pulls air upward through a bottom intake, allowing air to pass vertically through the center of the device, absorbing heat and carrying it out the top. This subsequently lowers the 30dBA acoustic level of the 2012 Mac Pro to just 12dBA for the 2013 Mac Pro.

Amazing performance

The 2013 Mac Pro comes with 3.7GHz quad-core Intel Xeon X5 with 10MB L3 cache (configurable up to 3.5GHz 6-core processors with 12MB L3 cache). The 2012 Mac Pro has a 3.2GHz quad-core Intel Xeon W3565 processor with 8 MB of L3 cache (or two 2.4 GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon Westmere-EP processors with 12 MB of L3 cache).

So, what does all that mean? The 2013 Mac Pro packs "amazing performance," Apple said. Specifically, the new Mac Pro has "double the floating point performance" of the 2012 Mac Pro.

Better memory and storage

The 2013 Mac Pro starts at 12GB of 1866MHz DDR3 ECC memory (configurable up to 16GB) - compared to 6GB of 1066MHz DDR3 ECC SDRAM memory in the 2012 Mac Pro.

Because the ECC DDR3 runs at 1866 MHz with a four-channel memory controller, the 2013 Mac Pro has up to 60GBps of memory bandwidth. That's twice what the 2012 Mac Pro offers. In addition, since the new Mac Pro sports ECC memory, transient memory errors won't stop rendering, video exports and simulations.

Apple also removed the ability to replace hard drives in the 2013 Mac Pro by forgoing the four 3.5-inch drive bays for proprietary PCI-based flash storage. The 2013 Mac Pro has 56GB PCIe-based flash storage (configurable to 512GB or 1TB), delivering sequential read speeds up to 1.2GBps, where as the 2012 Mac Pro has 1 TB Serial ATA with 32 MB cache.

Apple wanted the Mac Pro to deliver the faster solid-state drives with up to 1TB of storage, so you could boot up and launch apps quickly: "We’re talking storage that’s up to 2.4 times faster than the fastest SATA-based solid-state drive and up to 10 times faster than a 7200-rpm SATA hard drive," the company said.

More powerful graphics

With the 2013 Mac Pro, Apple said it engineered an even more powerful GPU architecture with two AMD FirePro workstation-class GPUs. Each is available with 2GB, 3GB, or 6GB of dedicated VRAM and up to 2048 stream processors.

"With all that power, you’ll be able to do things like seamlessly edit full-resolution 4K video while simultaneously rendering effects in the background — and still have enough power to connect up to three high-resolution 4K displays," Apple said.

The 2013 Mac Pro specifically has Dual AMD FirePro D300 with 4GB to 12GB of VRAM, while the 2012 Mac Pro has an ATI Radeon HD 5770 with 1GB of GDDR5 memory.

Modern I/O connections

The 2013 Mac Pro has ports for Thunderbolt 2, HDMI 1.4, USB 3 and Gigabit Ethernet, while the 2012 Mac Pro has ports for FireWire 800, USB 2.0, Mini DisplayPorts and dual-link DVI.

Thunderbolt combines PCI Express and DisplayPort, providing twice the throughput with up to 20Gb/s of bandwidth to each external device. With the 2013 Mac Pro, you can also connect storage, add a PCI expansion chassis and even hook up a 4K desktop external display. Each Thunderbolt 2 will also allow you to daisy chain up to six peripherals, equaling up to 36 external devices.

Here's what is really neat though: when you rotate the 2013 Mac Pro to plug in a device, it senses the movement and auto-illuminates the I/O panel. This allows you to see the ports more easily.

Additional bits

The 2013 Mac Pro has no optical drive, but the 2012 Mac Pro has an 18× SuperDrive with double-layer support. What else? Oh, the wireless specs didn't change. And the 2013 Mac Pro will ship with OS X Mavericks, the latest OS from Apple, though that's a free download also available to anyone with an older Mac Pro.

Conclusion

So that's it. A lot of changes for both the inside and outside of the 2013 Mac Pro, including a new enclosure, better processor and graphics, faster storage, the list goes on. You can't buy the 2012 Mac Pro directly from Apple any more, but even if you could, the 2013 version is such a better value for your money. That's taking into account the new price hike, too.