Introduction and Vision
We all know that Apple's Mac Pro designers spend a lot of time creating custom-built desktops with intricate custom form factors and exteriors inspired by household items found in kitchens. Some have criticized the 2013 Mac Pro for looking like a trashcan and the soon to be released model for looking like a grater, but while it is fun to poke fun at their exterior designs, they are very high-end machines with top of the line hardware. However, they have many downsides. We can build a workstation with faster and bigger specifications compared to their entry-level offering, using the same platform and CPU generation, and still come way under budget compared to their cheapest model.
Supermicro came to us a few months ago and asked us to build a machine similar to the new Mac Pro, and we took on that challenge. Our configuration will use a CPU with 50% more cores than their entry-level machine, with more DRAM in a faster configuration, an SSD with double the capacity, and a much faster GPU. We will also come in thousands of dollars cheaper than the $6K Apple is asking for their new Mac Pro.
Apple is sticking with Intel for their new workstation CPUs, specifically the Intel® Xeon® 3000 series with up to 28 cores. We will be using a 12-core, as that is what Supermicro lent us for this project. The new CPUs utilize Cascade Lake microarchitecture on the latest 14nm node. If you are looking at Apple's specifications for the offered CPUs and notice a mismatch in cache sizes compared to Intel's site, that's because Intel's site only lists L3 cache, while Apple's adds up L3 and L2 caches.
Base pricing of the new Mac Pro will be $5,999, and that's for only an 8-core CPU with 32GB of RAM in quad channel, a Radeon Pro 580X GPU, and a 256GB SSD. We will build a system that will take full advantage of the CPU, including hexa-channel DRAM, expanded PCI-E slots using a PEX chip, and full room for expansion. Like the Mac Pro, our workstation will utilize the Xeon W CPU, which requires high-end enterprise grade hardware such as RDIMMs.
Let's take a look at what we did.