The mid-June introduction of the new Macintosh Pro, a futuristic 10-inch-tall rocket (or silo, or trash can) of a computer with radically revised approaches to construction and operation, has added more fuel to one of the oldest fires in the history of tech-head in-fighting: customization, especially internal vs. external expansion. This new Apple model, which could join the existing version in our Mac Pro rental inventory come fall, is the perfect example of a new PC paradigm that redefines expansion, customization, and upgrading.
A little background
It was the 1970s that saw the first attempts at scaling down “computing machines” to something smaller than a commercial refrigerator. The Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Altair, and Commodore logos were among the first to decorate the “microcomputers” that flooded the market by the end of the decade. Numerous OS versions, lack of broad standards, poor build quality, and other problems abounded. We can date the beginning of standardization to the release of the IBM PC (IBM 5150) in 1981.
This IBM PC’s case was built to allow for repair, expansion, connectivity, and future developments. Essentially, IBM standardized the motherboard design, used replaceable RAM, established the serial, parallel, keyboard/mouse, and peripheral connections, and installed MS-DOS. The paradigm: Tower or box case with open slots, open drive bays, power connectors, and room for various plug-in cards. This paradigm has aged for decades now, through different case form factors, expansion card designs, and cooling systems, but the changes have been evolutionary, not revolutionary. Tomorrow’s new PC paradigm, though—an entirely different approach—is suggested by the new Mac Pro.
Apple has a plan
Through the years, higher-end PCs started getting separate (discrete) GPUs to power better graphics, and now WiFi and Bluetooth are standard in most models. As a leading supplier of Xserve RAID units and similar solutions, we at CRE know that “there’s never enough storage.” Some people want extra hard drives inside their PC case to minimize the “rat’s nest” of wires and plugs, but the iMac and other all-in-ones already make this expansion impossible. If there is room in your PC’s case, installing additional devices adds heat, the dissipation of which often requires active cooling. But wireless hard drives are available, and getting cheaper all the time. Hmmm…
The new Mac Pro, with its revolutionary “triangular core” cooling design, has no internal room for additional drives, and the PCIe card with the flash drive is proprietary (so it seems you can only get a bigger flash drive through Apple at this point). The only user-serviceable parts are the RAM modules (four slots). But with six Thunderbolt 2 connections (on three controllers), four USB 3 ports, two Gigabit Ethernet, and HDMI 1.4, external expansion is easy. Each Thunderbolt 2 port supports up to six devices, and with the USB and all the rest (don’t forget the WiFi and Bluetooth) there will be no problem connecting anything and everything.
Housekeeping issues? Okay, a few
Cable management is not that difficult, and should be eased by the number of wireless options you have. In summary, here are the main reasons that external expansion could be the new PC paradigm:
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