Hands-on with Apple’s all-new Mac Pro

Apple hasn’t just redesigned the desktop computer, it has totally reimagined it, and before we write our full review, we’re spending some time with the shiny black tube that is the new Mac Pro.

If you didn’t know what it was, you might call it a large ash tray, or a desktop garbage bin, or even, as one person remarked, a mighty impressive router.

But even though it’s not the sort of computer a regular person is likely to buy, Apple’s all-new Mac Pro is a sight to behold.

Built inside a metal chassis that closely resembles a tall cylindrical black garbage bin is a computer, with parts like what you’d find in a high-powered workstation, many of which not only put the recently retired silver Mac Pro towers to shame, but also many of the computers built for this purpose.

For those caught unaware, the Mac Pro isn’t really built for just the web surfing, document writing, and light game playing individual. There are plenty of other computers for that.

No, the Mac Pro is the new high-end machine built for your video editor, animator, and/or the person that needs the ultimate specifications for churning out processes, whether they be creative, based in science, or merely computational.

Inside this beast is a minimum four cores of processing goodness, with support for oodles of memory, hyper fast storage, and expandability with six Thunderbolt 2 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, and more than the partridge in a pear tree could ever have imagined for.

Our review unit isn’t the starting price model, but rather something closer to mid-range, with a 3GHz eight-core Intel Xeon E5 processor, 32GB RAM, 512GB PCIe-based flash (like solid-state drives, but a little faster again), and dual AMD FirePro D700 6GB graphics chips.

When you remove that shiny platinum casing surrounding it, you’ll see the boards standing neatly unlike any other computer you’ve seen before, and that’s part of what makes the Mac Pro so special.

Rather than recreate the Mac Pro tower the way Apple did when it moved from the PowerPC G5 to Intel’s chips, the new Mac Pro is a complete reinvention of a tower computer, transcending any design before it.

Apple has essentially carved up a computer and resized it to match this new form-factor, building a computer around a triangular prism heat-sink, with three distinct board sections, flanked by four sticks of memory, and encased in a cylinder.

If that doesn’t sound like any computer you’ve seen before, it’s because it’s not, and the Mac Pro can’t be built at home like your regular tower, regardless of how small a motherboard and video card you’ve packed inside.

The new Mac Pro is a totally redesigned and reimagined piece of art, and is the sort of evolution the desktop needed.

It’s not like a traditional computer, with a motherboard and chip installed, and several boards protruding from the side. No, this is something a little different, something special and spectacular, where the boards have been designed and configured for this purpose, and while there are the traditional parts, they form a new look and feel.

Importantly, Apple hasn’t made the Mac Pro to be hard to replace, with the flash-based memory easily unplugged and replaced, and the memory able to come out and be changed with the flip of a switch.

Representatives for Apple told us that later on, customers should be able to replace the graphics chip and main processor, making this more upgradeable than even Apple’s own iMac desktop.

Testing the performance early on has been a real treat.

We’ve yet to pump a large animation render or a 4K video graphics conversion through it, but benchmarks have shown that our eight-core box is almost as fast as the high-end 12-core model, with a single frame animation render revealing speeds much, much, much, much, much faster than anything our desktops can perform at.

Stickers for all! Well, two stickers anyway. Black Apple stickers.

It’s also the little things that Apple has thought about that make the Mac Pro a treat, such as the fan system which is next to impossible to hear in action, the lock switch which is easy to undo and offers a quick glance into the beauty that lies within, the free Apple logo stickers that come with every product and are black with this computer, and the fact that when you nudge the Mac Pro slightly, the borders of all the ports light up to tell you where they are and make it easier to plug things in.

It’s impressive already, and we’re not even at the stage where we have a review ready, but with a starting price of $3999, we’re not surprised.

The metal casing is so thick that it approaches the thickness of the metal on our Samsung Ultrabook.

Still, even though it’s an expensive piece of kit, if you need it, we suspect it will be worth it. And if you don’t, well, it’s just one of the most beautiful computers you’ll ever see. Ever. Ever ever.

Look for a full review in the coming weeks.