Apple Breaks New Ground Again with PCI Express SSD Storage In New Mac Pro and MacBook Air

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News Posted: Wed, Jun 12 2013 2:27 PM
We’ve been critical of Apple recently for being frustratingly stagnant in terms of innovation (at least with handsets), and while it’s still debatable whether the iOS 7 and Mac OS X Maverick updates are worth getting excited about, Apple’s forthcoming Mac Pro certainly piques our collective interest; it portends some of that industrial design meets superb engineering, meets high-end features flair that we haven’t seen from Apple much lately.

There’s of course the obvious fact that the Mac Pro is built as a cylinder with all the components facing inward as opposed to the big rectangular box style of most computer chassis. Presumably, this facilitates heat dissipation (we’ll need to get this cylindrical wonder tested out ourselves before we can believe that for sure), but in any case, it’s a clever way to pack a lot of powerful components into a small space.

Apple Mac Pro
Apple Mac Pro

Among the other extremely high-end components in the Mac Pro, including the 12-core Intel Xeon processor and dual AMD FirePro GPUs, there’s one that stands out: the machine’s PCIe-attached flash storage.

Macbook Air PCIe
MacBook Air with PCIe-attached storage (Image credit: iFixit--egads, they're quick on the draw)

PCIe-attached storage is so much more robust because it’s a runs on a "native" interface and offers direct-attached performance. Most SSDs rely on a bridged interface such as SATA or SAS, which pose a performance bottleneck for the actual storage media since signals have to be translated from SATA to PCI Express and back again. With PCIe, that bottleneck is no longer such a limiting factor. (It’s hard to imagine just how much this beautiful machine is going to cost by the way.) Apple also has PCIe-attached SSDs in the Macbook Airs it just announced.

Performance-enhancing features like PCIe-attached storage is the kind of real innovation and strong design chops that Apple needs to get its groove back. Cheers to the Cupertino crew on this one and we challenge others to take note and possibly a page or two from Apple's playbook.
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lipe123 replied on Wed, Jun 12 2013 3:04 PM

Wait how is apple breaking ground here?

OCZ Revodrives have been around for several years now, Loads of motherboards come with the mini PCI-e slot for a SSD cache drive.

There is almost no current SSD drives on the market on the sta interface that can max out Sata 3 bandwidth so I'm not sure where they see the bottleneck there.

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All this yap about The New Mac Pro having PCI-E SSD... This IS NOT new technology...you can add it to any computer with PCI-E 4X/8X/16X slots available, Asus, OCZ (REVO Drive?), among a few other companies been selling this tech to the masses for a few years now. (Asus just started their line this year, ROG PCI-E SSDs...750GB/s Transfers anyone?) I love how Apple markets things...just because it is new to them.....

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Dave_HH replied on Wed, Jun 12 2013 3:33 PM

PCI Express drives in production consumer desktops are basically non-existent. Yes, there are plenty of after-market offerings out there like OCZ, LSI, Micron and Intel. However, 90% of them are enterprise server solutions and none of them are installed in mainstream workstations and desktops at the OEM level. System integrator and VARs maybe but not off-the-line systems like this.

Also, SSD drives currently on the market are definitely pegged up against the 6Gbps SATA interface. Ever notice how they all max out now at 500MB/sec peak read/write bandwidth?

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Dave_HH replied on Wed, Jun 12 2013 3:33 PM

Chuck, see above. :)

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Chuck. PCI Express drives in production consumer desktops are basically non-existent. Yes, there are plenty of after-market offerings out there like OCZ, LSI, Micron and Intel. However, 90% of them are enterprise server solutions and none of them are installed in mainstream workstations and desktops at the OEM level. System integrator and VARs maybe but not off-the-line systems like this.

I hear you about the after market solutions but virtually no OEM builds with them currently that I'm aware of.

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Shadizzle replied on Wed, Jun 12 2013 3:36 PM

Im sorry, but there is nothing new here. Just more apple hype and a chassis that will double as a trash can later in life...

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Yes, Then again, OEM's are rather reluctant to try stuff like this, so in this case it is a step forward. I have to agree there.

(HP is actually now shipping a line of Gaming PCs with liquid cooling... Yes... I laughed as well.)

I will no doubt agree PCI-E SSD is pretty extreme... only way to top it is to run SSDs in RAID.

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Yes, Then again, OEM's are rather reluctant to try stuff like this, so in this case it is a step forward. I have to agree there.

(HP is actually now shipping a line of Gaming PCs with liquid cooling... Yes... I laughed as well.)

I will no doubt agree PCI-E SSD is pretty extreme... only way to top it is to run SSDs in RAID.

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My only quip with it is the way they are marketing it, kind of sounds like there was no such thing as PCI-E SSD prior to the ne Mac Pro.

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lipe123 replied on Wed, Jun 12 2013 3:55 PM

I don't think apples top of the line latest flagship is really something you can compare to the bazillion other PC OEM system builders out there.

Honestly PCI-E flash storage makes sense on laptops, but I don't really see it being cost effective on a desktop. I also dont think its fair to call it breaking ground with a new idea since the idea is clearly already used in practise.

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sevags replied on Wed, Jun 12 2013 4:14 PM

I mean good for apple for still trying... But it's a Mac Pro! A desktop! How many of these do they normally sell anyway? Only professionals buy them as the iMac is the default apple desktop for the average consumer. They need to innovate products hat will actually penetrate the market. I am happy for those who are actually in the market for a Mac Pro though.

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actually, I have 3 SSD's that actually max out the sata 3 interface.

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Gotta also think about a preconfigured boot drive on a PCIe connection. There used to not be a way to boot from them

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Gotta also think about a preconfigured boot drive on a PCIe connection. There used to not be a way to boot from them

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voll hässlich der MAC SCHROTTI!!!!!!!!!

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AKnudson replied on Wed, Jun 12 2013 6:41 PM

This new innovation ( The case, as well as the PCie Drive) along with top of the line hardware performance in an incredibly small form factor is really incredible. 9.9" with good heat dissapation is fantastic.

Hopefully apple doesnt charge 4 grand for the base model or completely fudge the cooling system.

Short of those two extremes i wouldn't mind owning one of these at all.

Even if it means installing windows 8 on a mac.

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SBN replied on Wed, Jun 12 2013 11:14 PM

Until Apple announces the pricing on the new Mac Pro, no one knows how much they'd want for it. However, my co-worker paid $3700 for a Mac Pro about a year or so ago. It loaded with 1 Radeon 5770, a Xeon, 3 gb of ram, 750 gb Hitachi 7200 RPM hdd...disgusting for the price. Recently, he spent over 3 more grand to add 3 512gb ssds, another Radeon 5770, and ram to 12gb and it is still sucked compared to my less than 1k Ivybridge custom build (he does have more ssd storage for sure-but now his Mac Pro is like $6700+)

And finally, Apple starts using some pro-grade graphic cards in their pro lines again. The Macbook Pro still need the changes BTW. Also, I'd say Quadro is nicer than Firepro atm...especially when one is working around Adobe suite a lot.

I love innovation. But seeing the way they build the new Mac Pro, I can already tell how expensive it is going to cost to upgrade that thing, since every single part would have to come from Apple. Look at the rMBP upgrade option: from 256gb ssd to 512gb: $300, to 768gb: $700

I think that I am alright with a big nice PC case and a pocket full of money! thanks Apple, nice try!

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Diggity0 replied on Wed, Jun 12 2013 11:58 PM

I like it and if I had a bucket full of money to throw away on a pc, I would get one. The specs alone scream big money - add in the apple design premium and I think that this box, uh, I mean cylinder might set a new record for highest priced workstation ever.

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realneil replied on Thu, Jun 13 2013 3:25 PM

It will be expensive, but for those with the money and need for one, they'll be worth it.

I don't think I would get one,............money enough or not,........

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You can still build a superior PC. So, yeah cute, but no.

Also PCI SSDs are not new to those who build their own.

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basroil replied on Wed, Jun 19 2013 10:54 AM

Mac pros are NOT consumer devices, so the PCI SSD idea is outdated. Not to mention the NUC can use them too, though aside from the new Samsung one none fit in the box.

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The inovation is not about PCIe SSD like other computers already can use, it's the fact that with the Mac Pro it will be STANDARD. all those machines you mention, like the ASUS are originally for HDDs, and you can update them to PCIe SSD, BUT it's not their standard, atcually you could update that way a current Mac Pro, now that those Macs also use PCIe expansion, so yes, you can have PCs like those Asus with PCIe SSD... But also you can do the same with the current and a couple of old models from Mac Pro, only they (all of them, the current and older Mac Pros, the Asus, etc., etc.) don't have it as standard.

Also most of the PCIe SSD that are already on the market are around 800-900 mbps, only some X2 models are over one gbps, and again, the standard PCIe SSD for the upcoming Mac Pro will be over that 1gbps.

So yes, it is something that is not already on the market as a standard equipment.

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