Mac Pro’s CPU upgradeability confirmed

By , Jan 3, 2014

Mac Pro (swapped CPU, OWC 001)

Despite what some would call a steep asking price, Apple’s desktop powerhouse – the new Mac Pro - has been universally regarded by reviewers as the dream machine for content creators who desperately wanted a reasonably priced monster workstation that would make real-time 4K video editing a reality. And despite scarce availability – online orders slipped to February and in-store availability is not expected before March – the new Mac Pro never ceases to amaze us.

Some power users have voiced their concern that Apple would, as is often its wont, lock down the system to allow only for memory upgrades. As it turns out, the new Mac Pro is one of Apple’s most expandable Macs, if not the most expandable one.

A teardown analysis by iFixIt has revealed a socketed Intel CPU, accessible RAM and no proprietary Torx screws (go figure!), giving the workstation an eight out of ten for repairability.

Earlier in the week, Other World Computing (OWC) has confirmed that the Mac Pro’s Intel Xeon E5 processor was socketed and removable. Today, the OWC team said it’s successfully swapped the stock CPU with an eight-core Xeon E5–2667 V2 chip not offered as the Online Apple Store’s built-to-order option…

What OWC did was it replaced the machine’s stock 3.5GHz Intel E5–1650 V2 six-core chip with a 3.3GHz E5–2667 V2 eight-core variant. That processor model comes with 25MB of L3 cache and is not offered as a custom-built option by the Online Apple Store.

OWC then put the workstation through its paces using Geekbench benchmarking tool, revealing a 30 percent boost in multi-core performance over Apple’s standard eight-core CPU. OWC ran tests using 64GB of its own branded memory installed.

Mac Pro (Geekbench, original CPU, OWC 001)Mac Pro (Geekbench, swapped CPU, OWC 002)
Left: original Mac Pro CPU with a Geekbench score of 27004. Right: the faster eight-core CPU showing a 30 percent better multi-core score of 24429.

In other words, the 30 percent improvement courtesy of an eight-core CPU upgrade bests even the twelve-core performance of the previous-generation Mac Pro, OWC said.

So there you have it: the new Mac Pro indeed sports a socketted, removable CPU that allows for user upgrades, even if we don’t know how tinkering with the CPU would affect your warranty.

Nevertheless, this development is kinda big deal for intrepid fixers as RAM and CPU upgrades on Apple’s web store are somewhat overpriced so you’ll be doing yourself a favor and saving sizable amount by upgrading the system yourself.

Note that these high-performing Intel workstation chips don’t come cheap: the 3.3GHz eight-core Xeon E5–2667 V2 variant OWC used is a $2,000 value! By comparison, $2,000 will buy you the slower 3GHz eight-core Intel Xeon E5 with 25MB of L3 cache over at the Online Apple Store.

Mac Pro (CPU upgrades, Online Apple Store)

With that in mind, you could (and should) opt for a cheaper $2,999 stock Mac Pro configuration knowing you could safely perform DIY upgrades at a later date, if need be.

iFixit’s teardown praises the Mac Pro’s compactness and modularity – nearly everything is user-replaceable and the workstation is easy to disassemble.

The Mac Pro is both small and repairable. In fact, it’s the most repairable Apple product we’ve seen all year. The hood pops off with the flick of a switch. There’s not a proprietary screw in sight and the RAM can be replaced without any tools.

SSD could potentially be expanded – with more storage options available via external Thunderbolt drives - and several components can be replaced independently, the iFixIt team discovered. I’d guess user-installable GPU upgrades would arrive later this year.

The machine’s AMD FirePro dual-GPUs are custom-made to deliver “unprecedented levels of performance”, in AMD’s own words. Specifically, the AMD FirePro D300/D500/D700 dual-GPUs have the ability to edit full-resolution 4K video and simultaneously render effects in the background, in real-time, and still have enough oomph to power up to three 4K displays.

Late-2013 Mac Pro (sideways, The Verge 001)
Image via The Verge’s Mac Pro hands-on video.

Just don’t call it overpriced: AnandTech concluded in its monster review that the machine is indeed price-comparable to equivalent Windows workstations.

Notable exception: DIY systems that cost slightly less to build, but don’t look pretty and are not as integrated and fluid as the Mac Pro. Besides, you don’t get to run Final Cut Pro.

The new Mac Pro also uses uses 68 percent less energy than the previous-generation model, an Apple scorecard reveals, and is safe to operate horizontally.

Rack-mount options supporting horizontal operation coming in 3…2…1…

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  • Ben

    That Mac Pro is a tad too expensive for me.

    • fastasleep

      Thanks for letting us know.

  • onebyone_

    and Yep. it’s for professionals. May be some people with extra money will want one of those to open facebook more fast. :S

    • Franck Kamayou

      it’s for people that make money with a computer.

  • Brian Kieffer

    What’s with the oogling over being able to replace a CPU? Mac heads are extremely sheltered.

    • Rowan09

      It’s just a confirmation when people thought you couldn’t.

      • Brian Kieffer

        Understood, but the general theme of this article is very, very Apple fanboy.

    • Falk M.

      Yupp, should go without saying.
      I don’t get the party about the Mac Pro being user serviceable.
      A computer that expensive better be. I know we’re not used to this anymore, look at their love for glue and soldering, just to make stuff thinner, but come on.
      Apple should get a nod and not a parade for something that is the right thing to do on this level.

      • Brian Kieffer

        Exactly my thoughts.

  • babiloe

    never interested since all the my FEA software runs at windows. Only some CAD has ported to mac. now using asus as windows and hackintosh.

    • Rowan09

      You can install Windows on a Mac so problem solved.

      • Brian Kieffer

        Except it won’t run programs anywhere near as fast as native Windows.

      • Chuck Finley

        What in the hell are you talking about?

        Have you never heard of Bootcamp? Bootcamp is a proper installation of Windows that uses the hardware itself, instead of being a virtual machine. Bootcamp installed Windows on a Mac will run anything at the same speed as a Windows installation on equivalent hardware.

      • Rowan09

        You must not own or used a Mac to make that statement. As stated below Microsoft allows Mac owners to install Windows on Macs.

      • Brian Kieffer

        Yep. I’m wrong.

      • Falk M.

        Welcome to 2006… :S

  • Decio Arruda

    I don’t care if it’s made for the professional market. When I go to college I’ll save up for it. This is something that’ll last 6 years and then, if something fails or there’s better stuff out there, you can just upgrade everything!

    • Andrew von Pikrt

      If you are as a college student able to save up about $3.000 in a time that the machine doesn’t get its replacement, then I envy you your social background…

  • Matt

    So pretty much the whole Mac is replacable
    that’s good now how about the GPU?

  • Vivek Raja

    What? How does this make sense?

    • Andrew von Pikrt

      It doesn’t. Theres a typo ;)

  • Chuck Finley

    So, in essence all the Mac fanboys are sitting around slackjawed, gawping at something PC owners have been able to do since the dawn of the PC?

    And serious question, is there really any software for professionals that is /only/ available on Mac, that would justify buying this thing?

    I’m seriously interested in hearing from professionals. You can buy such a better PC workstation with that amount of money. In my opinion Macs as mobile computers are amazing, I’ve got a MBP. But why would you waste that much money on a desktop Mac when you can build a far superior PC? What technical advantages does a Mac have?

    • Rowan09

      Every heard of Final Cut Pro, Logic, etc. If your a Music producer, Movie Producer, etc Mac is the computer of choice. Liking Mac doesn’t mean you hate Windows PC I have both.

      • Chuck Finley

        I’m not sure about movie production, but in music production Logic vs Cubase vs Pro Tools is all a matter of opinion. Personally I’ve always thought Cubase is better than Logic, but like I said, that’s just opinion.

        And maybe I sounded a bit sarcastic, but I use both systems as well. I like both, I was honestly asking why professionals would choose a high-end Mac over a high-end PC.

      • Rowan09

        Oh ok. I believe it’s because Macs are always the choice for specialized multimedia. Check out any music studio and you’ll Macs in majority because Pro Tools actually runs better on a Mac and if all fails you can install Windows OS. I would never buy this Mac just because, anyone would says that is a fanboy and has a lot of disposable income.

  • Chuck Finley

    You sound slightly mad, and also like a Mac fanboy.

    I wasn’t attacking your superior Mac computers or even implying Windows PCs are superior, I was asking why for the same price would someone pick a Mac over a PC. I don’t know much about PC building but I’m pretty certain you can build an equivalent system very easily with the same level of technology.

    I use both systems daily and I enjoy using both systems.

    And “Forward Thinking”? Christ you really are a moronic sheeple.

    You’re not really making a good argument there either, if the software isn’t system specific then why would you pick a Mac? Why would you want to run that software on a Mac is the question I’m asking, but you’re too blinded by being a moronic fanboy iSheeple to actually answer the question.

    And most computer scientists hate OS X because it’s a simplified, bastardised version of Unix. If a computer scientist wanted to use Unix they’d, shockingly enough, use Unix or Linux. Linux is the preferred OS of computer scientists because it’s so easy to get at the system itself, unlike OS X where everything is protected by about a thousand layers of Apple saying “No, you’ll use your computer OUR way”.

    And you’ve only sourced ONE article. You’re the kind of idiot who looks at one article and takes that as the truth are you? Did YOU even read the whole article that you posted, including the comments? Because there’s a lot of good discussion there regarding the pricing and how ONE article can be misleading. Depending on where you buy, where you source etc etc etc either machine can be cheaper.