Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 18th Dec 2013 20:47 UTC
Apple

Apple today announced the all-new Mac Pro will be available to order starting Thursday, December 19. Redesigned from the inside out, the all-new Mac Pro features the latest Intel Xeon processors, dual workstation-class GPUs, PCIe-based flash storage and ultra-fast ECC memory.

This thing is so damn awesome. I don't need it, but I still want one.

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RE[2]: Comment by smashIt
by smashIt on Thu 19th Dec 2013 13:19 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by smashIt"
smashIt
Member since:
2005-07-06

the problem with those gpus is that they use consumer-chips
so apple has the option to use regular tahiti xt chips (like in a 7970) add 6gb of ram and just call it a firepro

and i doubt that it will be a hawaii xt based card
if it were it would have a 512bit interface and much more FLOPS

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[3]: Comment by smashIt
by galvanash on Thu 19th Dec 2013 13:53 in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by smashIt"
galvanash Member since:
2006-01-25

the problem with those gpus is that they use consumer-chips
so apple has the option to use regular tahiti xt chips (like in a 7970) add 6gb of ram and just call it a firepro

and i doubt that it will be a hawaii xt based card
if it were it would have a 512bit interface and much more FLOPS


Your right, I didn't think about it that way...

It may be that AMD is simply selling Apple the GPU silicon and the right to use the firePro branding - leaving it up to Apple to support it on their platform as a "professional" card and all the bs that goes with it (maintaining certification status with the various apps that require it).

So yeah, ok - the price discrepancy is fairly easily explained. Assuming AMD is ok with Apple possibly mudding up their branding a bit, these GPUs won't be available outside of Apple's platform economy so they won't really compete directly with AMD's cards.

Still though, they really are pretty cheap at the high end (for the 6 core Xeon anyway). Assuming their cooling solution works...

Just to illustrate, this is the kind of stuff they seem to be aiming to compete with:

http://www.boxxtech.com/products

Apple is very price competitive... Remains to be seen though if Apple can put the support required behind the platform - professionals don't buy this kind of hardware because of the hardware - they buy it for the support and guarantees that it will work with their tool chain.

Edited 2013-12-19 14:04 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[3]: Comment by smashIt
by galvanash on Thu 19th Dec 2013 14:31 in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by smashIt"
galvanash Member since:
2006-01-25

Another thing this brings to mind...

Assuming they are not "officially" AMD cards, will Catalyst drivers even work if they are booted into Windows?

This probably won't affect people who actually buy these things for what they are (i.e. professional graphics workstations), as if they aren't using OSX they wouldn't buy them in the first place. But there were a lot of people who used to buy Mac Pros as high-end "swiss army knives", as you could do quite a lot of different stuff with them (including gaming in Windows if you were so inclined) - and they were a "relatively" cheap way to get a high core count machine.

Just saying I wonder how they will work in bootcamp considering the "unique" nature of their GPUs... It may turn out that Catalyst drivers work fine, but then again it may turn out they don't work at all - and Apple's bootcamp drivers likely won't go to a lot of trouble to tune for gaming performance on Windows.

Will have to wait for reviews I guess.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[3]: Comment by smashIt
by Drumhellar on Thu 19th Dec 2013 18:42 in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by smashIt"
Drumhellar Member since:
2005-07-12

the problem with those gpus is that they use consumer-chips


That's not really a problem. It's not like the Pro designs were simply replaced by consumer chips, and that's-that.

When chips were fixed-function, it made sense to optimize a piece of silicon for gaming or for workstations. Since chips are so general-purpose now, there's really no point in doing the optimizing on the chip - instead, it's done on the driver.

Some workstation-only features are now part of the architecture as a whole, and are exposed via driver + extra connectors - features like genlock/framelock, ECC memory, and stereoscopic. These are workstation features, and the silicon is also present on consumer chips.

One could also say consumer products use workstation chips. 10-15 years ago, both this and the converse would have been meant something, but it hasn't been true in a while.

So, the real question is, are the drivers on the new Mac Pro actual FireGL drivers? FireGL drivers are a different beast from consumer drivers. They are optimized heavily for geometry over texturing, tend to handle basic untextured views better, and handle wireframe views better. At the same time, gaming performance isn't as good as the consumer counterparts.

Other features exist in workstation drivers, like being able to partially render only part of a window (Say, when a viewport is partially obscured by another window), multiple clipping planes and slices, etc.

Finally, validation occurs. Apps are certified to run on a specific driver level, and driver development happens with close communication with ISVs. Accuracy of the rendered image is far more important than performance.

These things are what makes a FirePro a FirePro. Is Apple doing these things?

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[4]: Comment by smashIt
by Drumhellar on Thu 19th Dec 2013 19:39 in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by smashIt"
Drumhellar Member since:
2005-07-12

I left out a big feature of workstation cards, and that is 10-bits-per-channel color.

Now that the MacPro is available to order, they've got a Sharp 4K screen for sale. The screen supports 10-bits-per-channel, but they aren't advertising it as a feature on the Apple site, because MacOS X doesn't support 10-bits-per-channel. This is a limitation of the OS. Mac compatible NVidia Quadro cards can support 10-bit color channels under Windows but not OSX.

I'm surprised Apple hasn't added this along with their Retina displays. Sharpness is nice, but added color fidelity is just as good.

Edited 2013-12-19 19:40 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE[4]: Comment by smashIt
by galvanash on Thu 19th Dec 2013 20:44 in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by smashIt"
galvanash Member since:
2006-01-25

These things are what makes a FirePro a FirePro. Is Apple doing these things?


Yeah... That is kind of what I was getting at with my questions. Lets say the D700 really was a w9000, i.e. the hardware is 100% the same and the w9000 drivers would actually work on Windows in bootcamp...

An entry level Mac Pro outfitted with 2 D700s costs $3999. At that price, you are saving about $2000 off the costs of buying the 2 GPUs all by themselves - its like getting a 33% discount on the GPUs and hey, we'll even through in a free workstation as a bonus...

I find it highly unlikely AMD would go along with this, as it would undercut their own pricing severely. So I suspect it won't be a functional replacement for a w9000. Maybe it is virtually the same hardware, but there is no way it is going to work the same way in bootcamp as a real w9000...

In short I don't think any of the things that traditionally make a FirePro card carry it's pricing premium really apply to the Mac Pro. Its probably going to be optimized for use with Apple's software stack (Arpeture, Final Cut, etc.) and that's it. Its a 7970 with a boatload of VRAM on it, nothing more. It kind of makes sense too because most of the apps you care about having certified support for don't exist on OSX.

Its two roughly $500 GPUs, which turns the deal of the century into "meh"...

Edited 2013-12-19 20:49 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2