Largely ignored by the media outside of a few tech journals, the 3rd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable Processors were announced. Operating under the pretense that Bloomberg's reporting was accurate after predicting the latest Apple event, we can expect at least one more iteration of x86 Mac Pros along side Apple Silicon Mac Pros. Many Mac Pro enthusiasts lamented the Mac Pro's lack of PCIe 4.0, even if there isn't a massive point to it beyond future-proofing. There also was a bit of a disconnect. Intel has not had a PCIe 4.0 chipset until very recently, and Mac users were expecting the impossible out of Intel. GPUs simply do not benefit from PCIe 4.0 as the bandwidth requirements just do not require the increased bandwidth (AMD has shipped 8x PCIe 4.0 GPUs, which is equivalent to 16x 3.0), and there's barely a speed penalty still running the latest GPUs in PCIe 2.0. That leaves mostly SSDs as the sole component that benefits from PCIe 4.0, although I'd argue two things:
- While not ideal, ASM2428 chipsets have allowed NVMe SSDs (based on the 4x standard) more bandwidth by address more lanes. Currently, in the PCIe 2.0 realm, users can achieve 3.0 speeds using an 8x or 16x slot (as well as multiple SSDs on motherboards that do not support bifurcation). It's likely we'll see similar chipsets allowing PCIe 3.0 cards that address more PCIe lanes to attain PCIe 4.0 speeds in regards to SSDs.
- Latency and random read/write and caching mechanisms will have more perceivable benefits for daily use than increased bandwidth at this point, considering 3000 MB/s is only going to be a prohibited speed in extreme transfers.
The interesting specs
So what will the new Mac Pro specs look like?
- 10 nm, "up to 40 cores per processor" - This is using the Sunny Cove instead of the Cypress Cove variant, which is 14 nm.
- "46% more performance" - As of late, Intel has taken to dubious stats, and it is sad to see. Considering they're moving from 28 -> 40 core maximum, roughly 40% more cores, this isn't a surprising or impressive claim.
- " 8 channels of DDR4-3200" - Same as previous Xeons.
- "64 lanes of PCIe Gen4 per socket" - There's a lot of ways that PCIe lanes can be handled, but this is a beast amount of bandwidth, and with bandwidth switching certainly enough for workstations (servers are a different beast). Each CPU can negotiate a theoretical 128 GB/s of throughput via PCIe, although that might not be entirely accurate.
It's pretty easy to extrapolate that we're going to see a PCIe 4.0 Mac Pro with up to 40-Cores, roughly the same memory ballpark max-memory cap that'll still have the blistering prices we've seen before. I don't expect Apple to expend much energy redesigning the case, but we'll see the (likely) the final x86 Mac Pro setting a very high bar for Apple Silicon to follow. Still, mostly, the consensus is users want PCIe + upgradable memory and storage to continue.