The 2009 (Gainestown) Mac Pro: Everything We Know

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Tallest Skil, Jan 16, 2009.

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  1. Tallest Skil macrumors P6

    Tallest Skil

    Aug 13, 2006
    1 Geostationary Tower Plaza
    Slight niggle here: Please, please, PLEASE keep this discussion limited to the Mac Pro. If someone wants to make a thread for the xMac like this, I would be happy to see one, but don't post any xMac ramblings here, please. Thank you in advance.

    Updated to cleanup after Post-Release Information. All speculation will remain for historical value.

    This first post will be probably not be edited anymore. If it is, they'll be in red.

    This thread exists because I acknowledge that, while I have been very good at getting future specs correct in the past, I'm a little out of my league here. I don't know much about Intel's workstation hardware. I just want to learn more, is all! It's never a bad thing to learn. Also, it's nice to have a repository of information. Remember Multimedia's huge thread? I just hope that I don't wind up banned because of this one... :eek::(

    Points yet to be decided upon:
    FireWire: two 800 or two 400/two 800 (unlikely)
    SSD: Will we see 2.5" drives with a tray adapter?
    AirPort Extreme: Will it be standard?

    Hardware Specifications:
    2.66, 2.8, 2.93, and 3.2GHz 8-core Gainestown Xeon processors
    2 risers with 12 slots for unbuffered 1333MHz ECC DDR3 RAM. It will not be FB-DIMMs. They can be added one, two, or three at a time. Up to 96GB of RAM will be physically possible at release. Registered RAM can also be used.
    The ODDs will change to SATA.
    The three graphics options will be: up to REMOVED FOR REASONS OF NDA
    500GB HDD standard, with options for 750, 1TB, and 2TB, as well as an SSD option (potential size?) and a 300, 450, or 600GB SAS option.

    PCIe 2.0 expansion: two 16x and two 4x, or four 16x (here's something: two double-wide 16x, plus two others?)
    Bluetooth 2.1 EDR
    5 (minimum) USB 2.0
    Dual gigabit Ethernet
    Optical audio I/O
    Analog audio I/O
    RAID card option

    Things we won't see:
    USB 3.0 (2010, people)
    WiMax (just making sure you're paying attention)
    Blu-ray (see below)


    SO! It's almost that time of the cycle again! We're getting closer to the beloved 518 days since a Mac Pro update, and boy, oh, boy, are things heating up! Or at least, they SHOULD have been. In fact, Gainestown was scheduled for a November 2008 production back in the middle of last year, but, along with everything else in the Nehalem line (except for Core i7...dorks...), has been pushed back. Gainestown is out as of the last week of January. We can infer the release date from here.

    The processor, Gainestown:

    Gainestown is the two-processor variant of the Nehalem Xeon. The processor configuration in the Gainestown Mac Pro will be similar to the current setup–two 4-core chips coming to 8 total cores–but with one stylistic change: because of the architecture, we will be getting 16 logical cores, all of which will be usable with Snow Leopard. The two most likely candidates for the Nehalem Mac Pro are the W5580 and the X5570. It will also include either (both?) the X5560 or the X5550. These four processors clock in at 3.2, 2.93, 2.8, and 2.66GHz, respectively. In 1,000 count lots, these processors cost $3,200, $2,772, $2,344, and $1,916, respectively.

    That's a lot of money for the upper three, folks. I'll get into why those prices are significant later.

    Assuming the 2.8GHz chip as the standard configuration, the base model price is expected to jump to around $3,000. Assuming the 2.66GHz chip as a BTO option to make it cheaper, the lowest price for the Mac Pro would become around $2,500.

    The chipset, Tylersburg:

    Gainestown goes in the Tylersburg chipset. Tylersburg supports 36 PCIe 2.0 lanes on each of two I/O hubs, meaning that we could see up to 4 PCIe 2.0 16x slots and 2 PCIe 2.0 4x slots. That's cool. I personally refuse to believe that Apple would do that, for various reasons known only to them. I think that we might see either two 16x and two 4x or four 16x.

    Tylersburg also has SLI support. This is... certainly something. Much can be inferred from this, so I'll summarize. It's either one of two things:

    1. Boot Camp Windows SLI support. This is highly probable.
    2. SLI will be available in Snow Leopard. You will be able to get two Quadro FX 5800, SLI them, and blow the fricking crap out of every other computer on the planet in terms of non-gaming performance. This is NOT probable. Or happening. At all. But it would rock. I'm just saying...

    The Little Things:

    AirPort Extreme (802.11 a/b/g/n): Will it remain optional? I thought the reasoning behind this was that some businesses didn't want Wi-Fi in their computers, but I could be way off. It's been QUITE a while since I've heard any rationale on leaving it out.

    FireWire: The current Mac Pro has two 400 and two 800. Here is the only other plausible scenario: two 800 only. I do not believe that Apple will retain the FireWire 400, given they removed it from their other pro product, the MacBook Pro, and failed to add it to the 17" model after three months' time to see the response.

    GPUs: Discussion on what GPUs will be available is open, as well, but what about Mini DisplayPort? I believe that Apple will have all models include two Mini DisplayPort ports, and include IN THE BOX two Mini DisplayPort to single-link DVI adapters (making the dual-link DVI adapter a BTO thing at, perhaps, a slight discount?)

    Blu-ray: Ugh. Here it is. Apple will be forced to add Blu-ray around 2015 to remain competitive with video media.

    400GB Blu-ray disks will be in production in 2012-3. “What’s the point?” you ask. Super Hi-Vision. Super Hi-Vision is the next video format. It’s 7680x4320. That’s 4320p. Super Hi-Vision in MPEG-2 is 600Mb/s.

    U.S. Internet speeds WILL NOT keep up with this. Heck, most of us can’t get 1080p in anywhere near a decent amount of time. To top it off, many of the major ISPs are putting monthly caps on bandwidth and time limits on the maximum advertised speed of their service.

    We won’t be able to download 4320p movies in iTunes because our ISPs will give us the freaking shaft. It’ll be days to the download, even in 2015. We’ll all mostly have the bandwidth for very quick 1080p movie downloads, so iTunes will be able to offer that, but it’ll be the same situation in the future as it is now: Instead of people having 1920x1080 TVs with their SD iTunes movies playing on them through an Apple TV, people will have 7680x4320 TVs with 1080p movies playing on them through an Apple TV.

    Where do I get my date for Super Hi-Vision adoption? Well, Japan will start 4320p television broadcasts in 2012, and the 400GB Blu-ray disks go into production in 2013… Television manufacturers are starting to make half-Super Hi-Vision TVs (4096x2160) on the highest-end already.

    Redesign talk:

    Any Mac Pro redesign would not be radical. Feel free, however to post your mockups. My iteration (excuse the crappy perspective art) is below, and other iterations in this thread can be reached by following these links.

    Explanation Section:

    Release date: Based on the pushing back of production dates and the build time required thereafter, late spring or WWDC 2009 are good dates for release. Coincidentally, WWDC 2009 takes place exactly 518 days after the release of the Penryn Mac Pro, so for those of you following my "518 days conspiracy", you know what I'm talking about. ;) The release date is independent of Snow Leopard's release; they have nothing to do with one another. In the past, the Mac Pro has been released from 6-13 weeks after production begins. Gainestown is in production with official release in March.

    $2,999: Apple should be getting a better price than that of the 1,000 lot price, because they'll be ordering more. However, the per-consumer price of Harpertown was the same as the 1,000 lot price for those chips so we'll see something very similar with Gainestown.

    SATA ODDs: Based on the change for the MacBook line. Besides, even though ODDs don't get anywhere close to saturating the SATA transfer rate, ATA is old, man! Tylersburg supports six SATA ports, so that's four for HDDs, and then the other two (which exist on the current logic board hidden behind the fans–some people use them) can be used for the ODDs. Also, Tylersburg doesn't even have support for PATA connectors, so it's a lock.

    More to be added: your input is greatly appreciated. Discussion, ho!


    Umbongo: general Tylersburg info, GPU suggestions, real-world RAM limits, RAM installation abilities, and better thread title than my unposted original
    RobLS: reminding me about AirPort
    Mattww: reminding me to add RAM clock speed and ECC
    Greenhoe: reminding me about Mini DisplayPort on the GPUs.
    rylin: for giving me the color timestamp idea
    Eidorian: Radeon 4670 correction
    J the Ninja: convincing me that they'll only use two risers. It makes sense.
    iMacmatician: multiple lowest-end GPU reminder, CPU speculation, and Blu-ray placement fix
    bradleykavin: I needed to add downtime between production and release
    BenRoethig: Tylersburg board types
    thoshino: reminding me about the "16 logical cores" bit
    hubiedubie: Finding the W5580 in stock
    Quash: Finding all of Gainestown in stock
    ncc1701d: confirming 2TB 3.5" HDD release
    nanofrog: hardware RAID clear-up, crucial hardware isn't out, RAM clear-ups, FireWire 3200 bit
    ehurtley: SATA ODD bit, Tylersburg naming convention and board info

    So! We were close.

    And by that, I mean... on everything except the processors, GPUs, number of DIMM slots, and the slight redesign.

    Apple gave us more FireWire than we thought. That's good.
    Apple gave us...

    Okay, well, we got most of it right, anyway. Good job, everyone.
  2. jhero macrumors 6502


    Jan 10, 2005
    Not near an Apple Store
  3. Dr.Pants macrumors 65816


    Jan 8, 2009
    This is personal conjecture, but maybe the total nuber of lanes available in the PCIe bus add up to 2x 16x ans 1x 4x, just as the current MacPro has a certain number of PCIe 16x slots but not enough lanes to fill the slots.
  4. Tallest Skil thread starter macrumors P6

    Tallest Skil

    Aug 13, 2006
    1 Geostationary Tower Plaza
    I don't know. This article is from May of last year, but it is the most recent information I could find. It says:

  5. Umbongo macrumors 601


    Sep 14, 2006
    While I don't think Apple need to tie hardware launches to events this does seem plausible. One thing I'd like to say that relates to this is I don't think we will see the new Mac Pros shipping with Leopard. So if we get a better idea of a Snow Leopard release date that could help with a timeframe.
    While I think the FX 5800 is the most likely "Pro" card, the 4800 would also fit the bill here. I think if it were to come out now we would be seeing the GTX 260 as the mid card and 9600GT or maybe the Radeon 4650 as the base card. So anything comming to replace them in the next few months is a possibility I guess.
    You've ignored the 2.66GHz X5550 ($958) which myself and others believe will be the base choice, I thought I've seen you suggest that too. I figure we will see that as the base choice and probably 2.93GHz and 3.2GHz options, with Apple skipping the 2.8GHz. The 2.66GHz processors should perform as good as or better than the current 3.2GHz, so while Apple may not like having a lower number for marketing they can use the "faster than blah blah blah" speal. It'll be interesting to see how they handle the iMacs if they go quad core.
    Tylersburg can support two I/O Hubs which support 36 lanes each. This means we could see workstation boards with four x16 and two x4 slots. A Mac Pro with four PCI-E 2.0 x16 slots seems perfectly possible. This isn't limited to dual processor boards either, we could see this sort of thing in the enthusiast market too for supporting more than two graphics cards.
    In regards to the price, I originally suggested the $2,999 price after the Xeon lineup was posted here based on the following:

    The 5150 Woodcrest processors cost ~$700 each, the Harpertown 5462s cost ~$800, nothing else really changed on the 2008 Mac Pro but it went up $200. Both of these systems are roughly the price of their components at retail prices. With the 2.66Ghz X5550 processors being listed at $950 it seems likely the price will go up again, though I think $3,099 is nowhere near as palatable as a $2,999 sticker price.
  6. RobLS macrumors member

    Aug 30, 2008
    I still don't believe that it will be 3k starting. Thats where I stand on that. Everything else is pure speculation I think. Here goes the way though, tick tock tick tock. :apple:
  7. jjahshik32 macrumors 603

    Sep 4, 2006
    I agree, I have a feeling it will be priced the same if not slightly cheaper.
  8. bofar macrumors newbie

    Jan 16, 2009
    Gainestown pricing

    The wikipedia entry, List of Future Intel Xeon Microprocessors has much lower price points for the Gainestown processors. As an example, it lists $1,600 as the price of the 3.2 GHz Xeon W5580. Perhaps you are quoting the cost of two processors for $3,200?
  9. Tallest Skil thread starter macrumors P6

    Tallest Skil

    Aug 13, 2006
    1 Geostationary Tower Plaza
    Yes, I am. Apple offers dual processor models, and I am operating under the assumption that they will not offer a single processor model with Gainestown, what with potential to advertise the 16 logical cores to their fullest with Snow Leopard.
  10. RobLS macrumors member

    Aug 30, 2008
    My reasoning behind this, is because the price of the base increase last time was that it was going from 4 core standard to 8 core standard, and it wasn't charge a full core extra either. And when you look at the current setup, you can get knocked down to 4 core if you want and save 500$, even though the cost of the core itself is 700. Apple keeps it competitive to a degree right off the bat, they just don't adjust the prices really as the product life cycle goes on, look at ram prices for example.

    So yeah, theres my reasoning, even if the new xeon is more expensive, I think it can be competitively dropped. They did that when the G5 turned to Mac Pro, apple does compete lol.
  11. J the Ninja macrumors 68000

    Jul 14, 2008
    Well, assuming the new boards also support running with one socket empty, there should be a single proc variant, probably priced around $2,400.

    Something I want to mention is the possiblity of a lower end line using the the 3500 Xeons. Before you form your reactions to this, I need to give a little background. Intel's server line, as of the last few years, has been split into 4 groups:

    3*** - Essentially desktop chips with a different name on the box

    5*** - Dual-processor workstation/server chips

    7*** - "Multi-processor" x86 (or x86-64) chips

    9*** - Itanium, what remains of Intel's attempt at replacing x86 back around 2000. It lives on as a high-end multi-proc server chip. We were supposed to have this in all our computers, even things like laptops. That never happened, you can visit Wiki for the story on why (short version: It was at least as hot and slow as what it was meant to replace).

    In the past, Intel has used a different platform for all 4, but they seem to be cutting it down to 2-3. During the Core 2 era, the 3*** chips used Socket 775 (since they were rebadged desktop chips), but the 5*** used Socket 771. So using both in a line got pretty complex and expensive, as you'd need two completely different board designs. Not to mention, I'm not aware of any 775 board that supported FB-DIMM, much less mountains of it. So, mixing the lines would've produced two ENTIRELY different machines, hence why we never saw a Core 2 Quad-based Mac Pro. Not feasable. Only the top 3 or so chips could be used without cannibalizing iMac sales, and there were very little cost savings.

    This time around, things are a little different. i7 and Gainestown both use socket LGA 1366. They use the same kind of RAM*. Gainestown has some extra Quick-Path links for the additional CPU, but that's it. As far as I know, given the right firmware, you could build a board that could accommodate either one. The prices are cheaper, at least for the lower-end two. It's a little shakey, but it could allow Apple to sell a base model for just under $2k, which would look good to those staring down $3k for the 8-core.

    *The only real hiccup is that the 3500 series doesn't support ECC, although that is something that could be given up for a low-end line.
  12. Mattww macrumors 6502


    Jan 11, 2008
    Everything in Tallest Skil's post is what I am expecting. It would be nice if they made the stock model the 2.8GHz but price is definitely an issue unless they want to push the Mac Pro away from the prosumers.

    I'm not sure what speed the DDR3 RAM will be but I think it is safe to say it will be ECC.

    FireWire 3200 would be really nice as would e-SATA - I'd imagine the worst case is FW800 only and spare SATA ports on the logic board again.

    USB 3.0 would be nice but sounds unlikely to be ready in time.

    It would be nice if they fit one of the new quiet Pioneer SATA DVD writers as the optical drive on the current machines is probably the loudest thing!
  13. Umbongo macrumors 601


    Sep 14, 2006
    I understand where you are comming from but it's basically the same argument as to why Apple do / don't make an "xMac". In the end it's another computer line and one it doesn't seem Apple are interested in. I would love to see it though.
  14. Dragonforce macrumors 6502a


    Apr 9, 2008
    London (Ealing) UK
    Thank you for setting up this thread.
    Kudos to you :cool: and keep it updated :apple:
  15. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    The X5550 (2.66GHz) is the likely candidate. It's the lowest cost part that supports 1333MHz ECC DDR3. I agree Apple will likely skip the 2.8GHz part.

    The memory does not have to be added in sets of 3. It can be operated in single, double, and triple channel modes. Due to cost, I'm hesitant to think Apple will provide a triple channel configuration in the base model.
    As they're server parts, it will be ECC.
  16. Tallest Skil thread starter macrumors P6

    Tallest Skil

    Aug 13, 2006
    1 Geostationary Tower Plaza
    Which of the three do you think is most likely? Silly question, so...

    Is dual or triple more likely?

    Apple could offer either 2x2GB or 3x1GB and still have more RAM standard.

    Another question upon which to base our judgement, even though I'm pretty sure the answer is, "No.": Can the current Xeon line run in single channel mode? Can it do so in PC models?

    If it cannot, then–and maybe it's just me–I would think that Apple would only provide 3xDIMM upgrades themselves (and therefore supply us with 3xDIMMs from the beginning), even if you can add single or dual DIMMs on your own later.
  17. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    Given the increase in the CPU pricing, single channel is likely IMO. Say 2x 2GB/CPU.
  18. J the Ninja macrumors 68000

    Jul 14, 2008
    It's not worth it though. The savings would be tiny. 3x1GB runs around $150. 2x1GB about $75-$100, and 2x2GB around $150-$200. Not much, unless the premium for ECC turns out to be outrageous (those numbers are for non-ECC) My guess is they'd do 3x1GB just to put "tri-channel" in the marketing literature.

    Also, I may be wrong on this, but wouldn't you need to do tri-channel to get a higher effective speed than the last machine with quad channel?
  19. m1stake macrumors 68000

    Jan 17, 2008
    Triple channel is locked in.

    Also ECC DDR3 is very, very expensive.
  20. Tallest Skil thread starter macrumors P6

    Tallest Skil

    Aug 13, 2006
    1 Geostationary Tower Plaza
    I can imagine that it will be... :( No immediate third-party RAM upgrade for me...

    So tri-channel is a lock, then? And upgrades must be done in threes?
  21. J the Ninja macrumors 68000

    Jul 14, 2008
    I just did a bit of Googling and Amazon searching, and ECC looks to be around double the cost of an equivalent non-ECC piece, unless you buy Kingston, which seems to oddly be about the same price as the non-ECC ones....weird.

    Although that might come down once Gainestown is released, as that should push demand up.
  22. Umbongo macrumors 601


    Sep 14, 2006
    The 5400 chipset that the Mac Pros use only supports single channel when running a single 512mb stick for testing purposes. It isn't clear what the memory configuration limitations of the dual socket Tylersburg platform is yet. My guess is it will support 1+ DIMMs.

    Yeah the memory configuration will probably be purely about marketing, either tri-channel or having 4GB as standard I guess. Seeing as the macbook Pros have 4GB I hope they go with 2x2GB DIMMs as that is surely the best for consumers. It's also worth bearing in mind that Apple have shipped the bare minimum amount of memory on their workstations for a long time.
    I think the on chip memory controller of Nehalem should make all memory configurations on the Nehalem platform better than what was previously available.
  23. Umbongo macrumors 601


    Sep 14, 2006
    I posted this yesterday on memory pricing. It's for DDR3 PC3-10600 (1333MHz) DIMMS:

    Registered ECC is currently $95/GB from Crucial and Unbuffered ECC is $55.50/GB in 2GB DIMMs. I don't know if non-ecc unbuffered will be supported, but it is currently going for $35/GB. For comparison sakes Crucial charge $34/GB for the current Mac Pro and OWC are now at $24/GB. OWC were $50/GB when the Mac Pros launched if I remember right.
  24. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    Currently, Crucial has pricing up for DDR3-1333 ECC Unbuffered memory. (Keep in mind, Apple, or any other system vendor doesn't pay these prices). ;)

    1GB is $56.99
    2GB is $110.99
    2GB Kit (2x1GB) $113.99
    3GB Kit (3x1GB) is $170.99
    4GB Kit (2x2GB) is $221.99
    6GB Kit (3x2GB) is $332.99

    Yes, you get the maximum throughput from triple channel, and is the way to go if at all possible. :D

    But 2 3GB Kits would be needed at a minimum for triple channel for both processors, and I just can't see Apple putting $342 (current e-tail) worth of memory in the base. :(
  25. J the Ninja macrumors 68000

    Jul 14, 2008
    All that really gives you though is a "memory throughput" benchmark you could use to paper over the clock drop. You'll still have people wondering about it, even though it isn't actually a real world issue. Remember, big numbers sell. 3 channels is better than 2. Then again, so is 4, so they'd have to throw that benchmark up there anyway. Might as well just go with 2x2GB in that case. (or 2x1GB, after all, this is the tower Mac we're talking about here).

    If you think that wouldn't be an issue, I'll point you to those "DDR3 has more bandwidth than DDR2 but is slower (wut?) since it has CL7 instead of CL5!" people.
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