MP 7,1 MPX module - a proprietary dead end?

Varmann

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Original poster
Jan 3, 2010
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I have seriously been thinking about stretching my budget to get a 7.1, mainly since my 3.1 proved to have a lifespan surpassing my wildest expectations. I would love to have something similar to gradually upgrade for 10+ years or so.

However....I have gotten cold feet.

Mainly because of the MPX module, but there may be other proprietary lock-ins as well (T2?).
The market for "non-Apple-supported" MPX modules might be very thin, and looking back at the experience of 6.1 I do not expect a healthy number of 3rd party alternatives, or even regular Apple upgrades. Even during the 3.1-5.1 era the number of GPUs Apple provided were very limited, but in those days the propriety part were not that hard to surpass or ignore.

What do this knowledgeable forum think?
Is 7.1 a possible propriety dead end, at the mercy of Apple hardware upgrades?
 

Macintosh IIcx

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Jul 3, 2014
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You don’t need the MPX modules, you can just use PCIE instead. Think of the MPX modules as a convenience thing: they provide extra power and Thunderbolt connectivity and can provide optimized airflow, but you don’t have to use them.

Also, I’m sure they are here to stay as they are a clever solution. The only downside is that it will probably only be used to create pro level solutions, so they will always be pricey.

I don’t really get the T2 angst, that chip will probably soon be in all Macs, and it has been battle tested for some time in the market already.
 

venom600

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Mar 23, 2003
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MPX is there as an option, not a requirement. Apple has built power connectors into the boards for cards that don't draw power from the MPX slot. I seriously doubt many cards will use MPX at all... Apple had the old Apple Display Connector slot behind PCI slots on the G4s that gave them more power and no one designed anything for that. The benefits of designing a card for an extremely small group of users who have MPX slots vs a card for everyone who has PCI slots seems very limited.
 
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th0masp

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Many computers come with limitations as to what hardware can be installed/connected and operated. Can e.g. power hungry aftermarket GPUs be reliably operated on that board, is there enough room to put them in or are you limited to very few models, if/how does the cooling interfere with the MP's overall design. What kind of tampering is even allowed by the security chip and is that something that might change between OS/firmware releases (thinking back to eGPU on TB1/2 support here...).

No way to know (yet). I think we can be rather sure that it'll all be designed to work with the official add-in cards and modules first and foremost and that a system without mass market appeal won't have a wide selection of 3rd party support and what's going to be there will be targeted (and priced) at the video crowd this machine seems to be aimed at.

Wait for reviews and early adopters and check what kind of loadout the MP can truly support in the real world and then think about stretching budgets...
 

DearthnVader

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Dec 17, 2015
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I like the MPX module, but it's success or failure rests solely with Apple. If Apple commissions AMD/nVidia to build upgrades for MPX and offers them for sale on the Apple store, then I could see them being a moderate success.

I don't think we are going to see any 3rd party GPU board vendors offering MPX upgrades, simply because the entry price of the mMP is so high that it will never be anything more than a niche product.

Apple can afford to supply the niche, but I don't see a lot of room for 3rd party profits.
 
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LK LAW

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May 30, 2016
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I like the MPX module, but it's success or failure rests solely with Apple. If Apple commissions AMD/nVidia to build upgrades for MPX and offers them for sale on the Apple store, then I could see them being a moderate success.

I don't think we are going to see any 3rd party GPU board vendors offering MPX upgrades, simply because the entry price of the mMP is so high that it will never be anything more than a niche product.

Apple can afford to supply the niche, but I don't see a lot of room for 3rd party profits.
All professional products are niche. Why do you think Quadros and FirePros are so expensive? Or hell, look at what it costs to put together a semi decent RED camera, just the handle they’re selling is €500...
 

saulinpa

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Jun 15, 2008
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MPX is like the 2nd video card in the 2013 nMP. Will be niche product unless developers find a mainstream use for it.
 

cram501

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Feb 15, 2016
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MPX is the IBM Micro Architecture (MCA) of today. It will be niche.

It will be interesting to see what cards support it and how expensive it will be.
 

AlexMaximus

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Well, guys usually I would join in on the cry-out, but I have already thought out a new product solution that might as well become reality.

How about an MPX aftermarket heat sink for regular standard PCIe Video cards such as the AMD Vega 7 ??

A swappable passive heatsink in the same design such as the APPLE VegaIIV modules, but - a stand-alone upgrade to seamlessly fit in the Mac Pro 7.1. Hey, even if it goes for a 149,- it would be way cheaper then the 1499,- MPX Module from Apple.

OWC, Sonnet, .. any volunteers ??

Screenshot 2019-06-23 at 15.23.18.png
 

deconstruct60

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What would a Thunderbolt I/O card do that the four built-in Thunderbolt 3 ports wouldn't?
It would provide more Thunderbolt sockets. Or possibly future Thunderbolt sockets with substantively higher bandwidth.

Only two of the TB v3 ports are "built in". The second could could be pulled if someone needs that x4 of slot 8 for something else that is x4 PCI-e ( e.g., some legacy Firewire card they has some hard requirement for ). Slot 8's x4 PCI-e v3 bandwidth may not be able to feed a future version of TB.

Similarly, anyone who has invested in 6-7 thunderbolt devices that needs direct bandwidth then 4 won't do. (e.g., the last MP 2013 had 6 ports. So if there are 5 TB streams to feed then the current system defaults may not be enough. For example 5 Thunderbolt Displays. Each new of the standard pairs of TB sockets only get two DisplayPort streams. So that is four displays (presuming not pumping the multiple display DP protocol). ).

There a several use cases where there is a new for more TB sockets . They aren't mainstream use cases but this system isn't priced or provisioned for mainstream cases.
 

deconstruct60

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Mar 10, 2009
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....

How about an MPX aftermarket heat sink for regular standard PCIe Video cards such as the AMD Vega 7 ??
There is about zero need for that. Since you if don't use the MPX bay for MPX modules, then it can be used for "regular" add in cards. The larger critical issue is whether are drivers or not for the cards that Apple doesn't do. Gyrations over the card's coolers form factor is a secondary issue.

The other issue is there probably has to be some semi-automatic feedback link between the video card and the host fans in the Mac Pro. Cards say "I'm hot, blow fans harder" and the fan increase its throughput. Pragmatically, the heat sink on the Apple's MPX card is not completely passive. It is highly likely a subcomponent of a system. [ If it isn't then Apple's cards will probably have similar drama issues like the MP 2013 did over time. ]
 
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deconstruct60

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Mainly because of the MPX module, but there may be other proprietary lock-ins as well (T2?).
There is a very substantive difference between MPX modules and the MPX bay that the modules fit into. The MPX modules may turn out to not get adopted except for Apple's "best buddies" card vendors. That is somewhat conditional on how open Apple is willing to work with 3rd part folks and on how many of these systems get sold ( and whether anyone else adopted the format).

MPX bays are dual purpose. They allow both MPX modules and PCI-e cards. So "lock in" is not an accurate adjective at all.


As for the T2 the primarily "lock in" that has is locking you into Apple's Mac firmware. It is a Mac. So the system will have certified Mac firmware.

The market for "non-Apple-supported" MPX modules might be very thin, and looking back at the experience of 6.1 I do not expect a healthy number of 3rd party alternatives, or even regular Apple upgrades.
The analogy that the 6.1 made about whether 3rd party solutions would show up or not was on Thunderbolt ( not the single specialized socket GPU cards). There was one implementer of Thunderbolt controllers and there were many "doom and gloom" folks in this sub-forum who have declared that TB was just about dead and "going to die in next couple of years" . The question to ask is did folks show up with Thunderbolt solutions?

That "very thin" aspect will impact non MPX Modules also. If hardly anyone buys the Mac Pro then the market for even just regular PCI-e add-in card's drivers will be small. MPX or not doesn't really change that factor if the Mac Pro 7.1 run rate is relatively very small.

Even during the 3.1-5.1 era the number of GPUs Apple provided were very limited, but in those days the propriety part were not that hard to surpass or ignore.
Right. And this will be even smaller. The entry price is raised over 100%. That isn't going to spur high volume sales at all. But that impact spread past the MPX Bay. The offset about this somewhat is the TB external PCI-e enclosure market that the rest of the Mac product is helping to drive. If a MPX module external closure shows up that will help in the MPX space, but the PCI-e card space is in better shape because there are TBv3 external space is better for classic standard cards.
 

jeanlain

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Mar 14, 2009
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It would provide more Thunderbolt sockets. Or possibly future Thunderbolt sockets with substantively higher bandwidth.

Only two of the TB v3 ports are "built in". The second could could be pulled if someone needs that x4 of slot 8 for something else that is x4 PCI-e ( e.g., some legacy Firewire card they has some hard requirement for ). Slot 8's x4 PCI-e v3 bandwidth may not be able to feed a future version of TB.

Similarly, anyone who has invested in 6-7 thunderbolt devices that needs direct bandwidth then 4 won't do. (e.g., the last MP 2013 had 6 ports. So if there are 5 TB streams to feed then the current system defaults may not be enough. For example 5 Thunderbolt Displays. Each new of the standard pairs of TB sockets only get two DisplayPort streams. So that is four displays (presuming not pumping the multiple display DP protocol). ).

There a several use cases where there is a new for more TB sockets . They aren't mainstream use cases but this system isn't priced or provisioned for mainstream cases.
Since Apple themselves provide a PCIe card for thunderbolt 3 ports (+ USB and jack), they may offer the option to configure a Mac Pro with more than one such card. Having several audio jacks would be a waste though.
 
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Slash-2CPU

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What would a Thunderbolt I/O card do that the four built-in Thunderbolt 3 ports wouldn't?
That’s the problem. There aren’t 4 built in ports. There are two on the communications card. That’s it.

If you swap your MPX GPU for something else later or have the factory RX 580 option, you don’t have any more TB ports on the card, just the two on the I/O card.

The I/O card is on a x4 slot, so you will run into a bottleneck fairly quickly with the speeds that will easily be available from SSD’s in the near future if that’s your only TB ports.

Forget running an eGPU and a couple SSD’s on that one I/O card without performance penalties.

The 15” MacBook Pro has four TB3 ports. Three of you assume one is lost to charging.

Mini has four TB and two USB3.
 

Manzanito

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That’s the problem. There aren’t 4 built in ports. There are two on the communications card. That’s it.

If you swap your MPX GPU for something else later or have the factory RX 580 option, you don’t have any more TB ports on the card, just the two on the I/O card.

The I/O card is on a x4 slot, so you will run into a bottleneck fairly quickly with the speeds that will easily be available from SSD’s in the near future if that’s your only TB ports.

Forget running an eGPU and a couple SSD’s on that one I/O card without performance penalties.

The 15” MacBook Pro has four TB3 ports. Three of you assume one is lost to charging.

Mini has four TB and two USB3.
Why would you want to use an eGPU instead of an internal one? Same thing with the ssd’s.
 

Zdigital2015

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That’s the problem. There aren’t 4 built in ports. There are two on the communications card. That’s it.

If you swap your MPX GPU for something else later or have the factory RX 580 option, you don’t have any more TB ports on the card, just the two on the I/O card.

The I/O card is on a x4 slot, so you will run into a bottleneck fairly quickly with the speeds that will easily be available from SSD’s in the near future if that’s your only TB ports.

Forget running an eGPU and a couple SSD’s on that one I/O card without performance penalties.

The 15” MacBook Pro has four TB3 ports. Three of you assume one is lost to charging.

Mini has four TB and two USB3.
There are two Thunderbolt 3 ports on the top of the Mac Pro case along with the Apple I/O card.

There is a Titan Ridge controller on the I/O card and there should be one on the motherboard itself, but until a teardown occurs, no one can say with 100% certainty.

I also don’t see any reason why Sonnet Tech couldn’t build a 4-port or even an 8-port Thunderbolt 3 PCIe to go into one of the x8 PCIe slots depending on whether or not enough wattage could be allocated to the PCIe card to provide the requisite power for bus-powers devices.

As others have stated, why would I care about adding an eGPU when the Mac Pro has 8 PCIe slots? That is an edge case at best.
 
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Manzanito

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Apr 9, 2010
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Well, guys usually I would join in on the cry-out, but I have already thought out a new product solution that might as well become reality.

How about an MPX aftermarket heat sink for regular standard PCIe Video cards such as the AMD Vega 7 ??

A swappable passive heatsink in the same design such as the APPLE VegaIIV modules, but - a stand-alone upgrade to seamlessly fit in the Mac Pro 7.1. Hey, even if it goes for a 149,- it would be way cheaper then the 1499,- MPX Module from Apple.

OWC, Sonnet, .. any volunteers ??

View attachment 844572
But why do we need that? What’s the benefit over simply adding a regular vega to the pci slot?
 

th0masp

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Mar 16, 2015
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Assumes that passive cooling would be sufficient on a standard card designed with active cooling in mind. Perhaps Apple is going to underclock theirs again though?
 

AidenShaw

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Feb 8, 2003
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Assumes that passive cooling would be sufficient on a standard card designed with active cooling in mind. Perhaps Apple is going to underclock theirs again though?
The GPU is actively cooled - but by the case fan, not by a fan on the GPU card. This is quite common with server-oriented GPUs.

data-center-tesla-v100-pcie.jpg

Look Ma, no fans!​
 
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ZombiePhysicist

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May 22, 2014
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You don’t need the MPX modules, you can just use PCIE instead. Think of the MPX modules as a convenience thing: they provide extra power and Thunderbolt connectivity and can provide optimized airflow, but you don’t have to use them.

Also, I’m sure they are here to stay as they are a clever solution. The only downside is that it will probably only be used to create pro level solutions, so they will always be pricey.

I don’t really get the T2 angst, that chip will probably soon be in all Macs, and it has been battle tested for some time in the market already.
T2 is near useless. It locks in a proprietary SSD tech that is hugely over priced and slow. Almost any NVMe SSD is orders of magnitude cheaper, and is significantly faster. For example, you can now buy a 15TB micron NVMe driver for under 2800, or less than the cost of an 4tb SSD upgrade locked into the T2. Booting off external drives can be a pain, and pulling your data off if you have a motherboard problem is basically super difficult if not impossible. The T2 chip in theory has accelerated H.264/5 encoding but it sucks in that its output is worse than what is done by the CPU (much less afterburner like hardware). So it's pointless. So the only value is the secure enclave, and yes, that's great. But for the rest of it, it's either a waste of silicon (the mpeg encoding) or a tethering deadweight causing worse performance and data migration problems.

I suspect almost every mac pro user will find getting a $400 PCI NVMe card and their own NVMe drives and booting from that will be superior to apple's craptacular T2 tied storage options.

As for MPX I like the tech. At the very least someone will come out with an MPX slot insert that junctions out into two 8pin/6pin wires that can power standard cards.

As for cold feet, I kind of have them but not because of MPX. If anything, MPX is making me warm to the Mac Pro because it is optional and gives some nice high performance options. But it's that PCI 4 is out now. PCI5 has just been ratified, and PCI6 will be ratified I think by end of next year. Each one of those doubles the performance of it's predecessor. Or in other words, PCI6 is 8x the speed of what the Mac Pro will come with. It's tough thinking about spending 15k on a computer and know it will be that far out in just a couple of years. It's annoying because PCI3 has been stagnant for over 7 years, and all the sudden the standards body is shooting out new doublings seemingly every year.

If I KNEW that apple would be competent and release one next year and the year after that, then yea, I might wait. But for all I know this will be the last mac pro or no update might come for years. Their operations output on macs has just been garbage inconsistent, so it just renders everything muddy in both directions of buying it now, or waiting. Very frustrating.
 
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AlexMaximus

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But why do we need that? What’s the benefit over simply adding a regular vega to the pci slot?
Most likely there is no market for an upgrade because the % of folks that have a Vega 7 in their 5.1 is too small. I am dreaming here.

But I am worried about all those third parties, that used to provide really good solutions and upgrades for the Mac Pro. Since the new 7.1 is so expensive, the future upgrade market will shrink to a hand full of real pros. This will put pressure on those companies because the market for mac pro upgrades will be limited to the now smaller client base of that new 7.1. Maybe the near future of the current Apple third party looks like this:

.. Screenshot 2019-06-23 at 22.46.21.png
 
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