Why is the new Mac Pro a cylinder?

By Dmitry Sheynin , Jun 12, 2013 10:59 AM EDT

Probably the first thought that crosses your mind when you see Apple's new Mac Pro will be something to the effect of "whoa, that's different. It's a cylinder." The second thought will likely be, "why?" As it turns out, that's a good a question with a couple interesting answers.

"This is a machine unlike anything we've ever made, inside and out," said Phil Schiller, Apple's senior VP of marketing.

That much seems clear, but the question remains: why? Well, for one thing, Apple has barely done anything to the Mac Pro line in several years save for a few RAM and CPU upgrades here and there. The company has recently faced mounting criticism that it no longer innovates and Apple stock has fallen considerably following the passing of Steve Jobs. It makes sense that Apple would choose now to revamp its flagship desktop computer in a big way.

"With the latest Xeon processors, dual FirePro GPUs, ECC memory, PCIe-based flash and Thunderbolt 2, all built around a revolutionary thermal core, the next generation Mac Pro is the most radical Mac yet," Apple said in a press statement. "All this performance and expandability is packed into a dramatic new design that's one-eighth the volume, and best of all, it will be assembled here in the USA."

First off, what's a thermal core and what makes it revolutionary? We'll need to see the hardware in action, but the company's description of the new technology sounds very encouraging. Essentially, the center of the new Mac Pro cylinder is hollow and heat from its components is shunted into the thermal core where cooler air from the bottom of the cylinder helps cool the entire machine.

Whether or not the thermal core technology works as advertised, perhaps the most obvious advantage to the cylinder design is that it takes up very little space. You read that right: the new Mac Pro takes up one eighth as much volume as its cheese grater predecessor. Additionally, it's also extremely portable. According to Schiller, the entire top of the new Mac Pro is a handle.

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