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Author Topic: The most impacting issue with the new Mac Pro?  (Read 6388 times)
BernardLanguillier
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« on: November 17, 2013, 08:30:45 PM »
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It has just occured to be that one potential issue may make the new Mac Pro a questionable choice for many folks with a need for a mission critical workstation...

I had somehow not realized this till now.  Undecided

I had an SSD failure on my Mac Pro a few months ago, but the downtime was no more than 10 mins since I had a recent back up HD available that I just had to swap in. I managed the SSD repair independently from my Mac Pro. It was of course a bit slower but still totally usable.

What are the options available for the new pro?
- Boot from an external thunderbolt/USB disk while the faulty SSD card is sent back to Apple for repair? This assumes that it is possible for the end user to remove the SSD card manually and that Apple is OK to fix it independently of the rest of the Mac Pro? Do we know if these 2 conditions are met?
- Have a replacement SSD card ready with a recent back up in order to swap it in in case of failure? Do we know if Apple intends to sell such replacement SSD daughter cards?
- Ship the whole Mac Pro to apple with a significant downtime?

Any visibility would be appreciated.

Thanks.

Cheers,
Bernard
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« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2013, 10:22:17 PM »
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I guess you read something I didn't, but the specs say the drive is "user accessible". Macs have been user-modifiable since the day they were introduced. Please post a link to any info stating otherwise.
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« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2013, 10:35:34 PM »
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Bernard,

have a look at this Ars article. It shows the drive mounted in what should be an easily accessible location, just underneath the outer cover, and it appears to be using the same sort of connection as the drives in the newer laptops. I'm making some assumptions based on a couple photos, obviously, I haven't seen one in real life. But it looks like it'll be a piece of cake to swap that drive out.

I just wonder why they didn't put two of those connectors in.
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2013, 01:13:09 AM »
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I hope I am wrong, but where can I currently buy an SSD drive with the right type of connectors suitable to replace the original one?

Cheers,
Bernard
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Steve Weldon
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« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2013, 02:42:34 AM »
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As a relatively new user of OsX and long time user and even part time custom PC builder I've been keeping an eye on the emerging MacPro and wondering if it will fit into my work flow, and if so at what price point and how different if any will that be from the PC.

From what we can see of the Macpro it is not your everyday computer, not for gaming, not for surfing the web, and probably not (gasp) for the overwhelming majority of still image photographers.   Not even if you stitchand own two Gigapan heads.  You just don't need a dual Xeon dual workstation GPU machine for processing your images.   I see the Macpro the domain of professional video editors (assuming the cooling design works and it doesn't melt), at least those who can afford a roughly $6000 computer and maybe another $4000 in fast TB RAID arrays.  Sure, you can get the bargain single CPU, still dual workstation GPU model for approx $1500 less.. but then you're in competition with the newest generation of Haswell Hacks..  (a dual boot Win/OsX machine with a load of internal expandability for half the price)..

Being a died in the wool capitalist at heart I fully support those of you who will be buying one just because you have the money to buy one, kinda like you'd buy the new Bugatti Veybron to do grocery shopping in..   Heck, buy 2-3 of them.  But they really aren't competition (competition meaning similar machines that can compete at a similar hardware/price point) for anything out there.  Sure, I suppose Dell and HP will be churning out dual Xeon PC's with super speed/quality GPU's towers along with a few custom builders.. but they typically don't sell enough to compete with the Macpro's fanbase..

Maybe Apple will be okay with their customers disassembling their uber-pricey fllagship machines, packing the board(s) in a 12 pak Mountain Dew box, and sending it in for exchange via parcel post..  Okay, not really.  It seems like they've been taking the "hands off our machine even if you paid for it" approach lately.  The new MBP's won't allow user accessible RAM or SSD's.. the only user upgradable parts.. so does it really make sense to anyone, considering that move, that Apple will be including screwdrivers with their machines so you can take it  a part in small pieces?  I don't know, but I don't think so.  I think the small size will help enable some equally uber-pricey support/warranty programs with next day service as the realistic repair option.

Let's examine this claim of mine that the Macpro will be serious overkill for still image photographers.  If you haven't used one of the latest Haswell or Ivy Bridge machines I think you'd be very surprised by just how fast they are when properly paired with even a decent video card and fast SSD's.  Sure, a dual Xeon 24 core (48 threads) new Macpro against a paltry single Haswell 4 core (8 threads) just doesn't seem close.  And in pure computing power it isn't.  But in terms of still images, if the Haswell will process a 36mp RAW image in 1.2 seconds, how much will you really benefit from a 24 core machine doing it in .2 seconds?  What I'm saying is the point of marginal returns has been reached, stepped on three times,  and put away wet.. with a Haswell (or IvyBridge) 36mp RAW based computer, much less the new Macpro dual Xeon 24 core based machine.  If you haven't tried one please go take one around the block before busting out your Black AMEX for the new Macpro.  Unless you are a video professional where suddenly (I say suddenly because it will really be a fast machine) the Macpro makes perfect sense.  And as a professional I'm sure you'll have two of them on hand just in case..  Right?

Allow me a fair analogy.  I love fast cars and I regularly Autocross and track race a very fast modified Cobra Mustang. It's great.  Very fast, exciting, and guaranteed to max your adrenaline levels in 2.8 seconds flat. People ask  me why I don't race modified Ferrari's, after all they're faster machines.  Well folks, a modified Mustang Cobra of this caliber is roughly a $70,000 machine.  A race prepped Ferrari?  Probably closer to two million a pop.  And I'd bet my body won't produce even a full drop more adrenaline.  I just don't need the faster machine to get my redneck on..  Do you?
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2013, 03:57:32 AM »
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Let's examine this claim of mine that the Macpro will be serious overkill for still image photographers.  If you haven't used one of the latest Haswell or Ivy Bridge machines I think you'd be very surprised by just how fast they are when properly paired with even a decent video card and fast SSD's.  Sure, a dual Xeon 24 core (48 threads) new Macpro against a paltry single Haswell 4 core (8 threads) just doesn't seem close.  And in pure computing power it isn't.  

Steve,

I don't disagree in general, but the new mac pro is a single CPU machine, you are "limited" to 12 cores Xeon.

Now, there some extremely power hungry applications these days, starting from DxO in Prime mode. Talking several minutes per raw image processing on pretty recent hardware.

Another example of power need is Nik Silver eFex that just takes forever to render large panoramic images (100~300 mega pixels) on my 8 cores 6 years old Mac pro (like in 5-10 mins and sometimes more).

So I personally very much feel like I need a faster box and the new Mac pro is in fact not expensive when compared to workstations from HP and Dell of similar specs. Give it a try on their online configurators, you'll reach 6~7,000 US$ in no time. It is possible to do a bit cheaper if you tinker a box yourself or use a no brand local integrator... but that's for those guys who are into PC tuning or don't really mind not being well supported, that's IMHO not for photographers.

I am really not sure that the Mustang vs Ferrari analogy applies here.

Cheers,
Bernard
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Steve Weldon
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« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2013, 08:45:26 AM »
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Steve,

I don't disagree in general, but the new mac pro is a single CPU machine, you are "limited" to 12 cores Xeon.

Now, there some extremely power hungry applications these days, starting from DxO in Prime mode. Talking several minutes per raw image processing on pretty recent hardware.

Another example of power need is Nik Silver eFex that just takes forever to render large panoramic images (100~300 mega pixels) on my 8 cores 6 years old Mac pro (like in 5-10 mins and sometimes more).

So I personally very much feel like I need a faster box and the new Mac pro is in fact not expensive when compared to workstations from HP and Dell of similar specs. Give it a try on their online configurators, you'll reach 6~7,000 US$ in no time. It is possible to do a bit cheaper if you tinker a box yourself or use a no brand local integrator... but that's for those guys who are into PC tuning or don't really mind not being well supported, that's IMHO not for photographers.

I am really not sure that the Mustang vs Ferrari analogy applies here.

Cheers,
Bernard


1.  Bernard.  Sorry, the article I was reading was misinformed.. they were claiming it was a dual core machine.  I should have looked directly at the Mac site.

Yet, I feel my price estimate is very close, maybe spot on.  Probably closer to $6000 for a 12 core with 32gb and $8000 with 64gb  and maybe approaching $10,000 with their max capacity SSD's..   Now I feel worse, that's very expensive for what you're getting.  I hope I'm wrong, but for the sake of conversation how many percent more than a equiv PC box are you willing to pay for something you probably won't be able to expand once it's purchased or self repair when it breaks and has such hardware limitations (no hard drive bays, no way to update video cards, such limited number of ports, etc)? 

2.  I use Nik Silver Efex and love it.. but I don't do large panoramic images.   Yet, the 100mb images I do take mere seconds to render.  For the sake of curiosity if nothing else, would you be willing to upload a couple of your files and give me an exact workflow (or action) and let me run it on my new Haswell?  I can do this on CS6 or CC and PS will time it..  If it took me 2-3 minutes to run an action I regularly ran I'd probably be in your camp.. provided my budget allowed.. 

As extreme as it sounds, I know cash limited photographers out there currently using 6-7 generation old Core Duo configured machines and run such files.. and are willing to go eat dinner while a single file processes.  Do you ever feel because current boxes have such power, those hand in your pocket and another in your automatic payments might not be doing enough in the way of efficiency when writing their code?  We sure have jumped a LOT in pure computing power over the last 6-7 generations, yet I'm running the same programs and doing the same things..

3.  Maybe you're right, maybe it should be one Mustang vs. two Ferrari's..  Roll Eyes

I really wish Apple would just put their configurator with prices up.. give us ample time to do comparisons and consider.. but we'll probably get the configurator when the product can be ordered and told something like the first orders will be filled soon.. but if you wait the backlog might set back your order months.. 
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RobSaecker
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« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2013, 11:31:07 AM »
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I hope I am wrong, but where can I currently buy an SSD drive with the right type of connectors suitable to replace the original one?

If it really is the same connector as the laptops, then here.
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« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2013, 11:44:34 AM »
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Steve,

I can't say your arguments are without merit. OTOH, how many times in the history of computing have we heard, "Nobody will ever need more than X?" Yet somehow, we keep managing to find ways to use the excess capacity. You may be right that we've finally reached the stage where the next increment of better is not worth the cost, but history suggests otherwise.
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Steve Weldon
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« Reply #9 on: November 18, 2013, 04:47:46 PM »
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Steve,

I can't say your arguments are without merit. OTOH, how many times in the history of computing have we heard, "Nobody will ever need more than X?" Yet somehow, we keep managing to find ways to use the excess capacity. You may be right that we've finally reached the stage where the next increment of better is not worth the cost, but history suggests otherwise.

Sure is hard to argue with history..   Cheesy   

I think you're right in that we manage to keep using more power as it's made available.  And probably most of this is progress in our ability to do a better job (of whatever we do) in a more attractive environment.   But history also shows we progress in cycles where we're computer heavy and then software heavy.. and lately it's  been mostly hardware heavy.  And software developers take advantage of this by writing sloppy or inefficient code.. which if you think about it is very much like stealing a portion of the computing power we're paying for.

As an example, lets say a fictional software developer decided to stop selling perpetual licenses and forced it''s vested customers into expensive subscriptions.  Not nice.  But now, you find out their code is sloppy and inefficient and where if written efficiently you would have been perfectly happy with the software's performance on a MBP.. but because it isn't you will now need $10,000 worth of new Macpro stuff to run at a satisfactory speed?    History suggests this is happening pretty much with most major developers. 

Sometimes sloppy inefficient code is rushed to market to compete with another fictional character.. and we notice glitches, install problems, sticky sliders, maybe a certain brush is very slow, miscslow performance.. but we can make up for most of that with pure computational power (that we pay for).  And then the next non-release version comes out and performs much better. 

How much did this fictional company save by not bringing on enough programmers to meet their competition imposed deadline.. that of course was never passed on to the consumers who blunted the effects of their negligence with the power of their hardware.. or worse their limited patience stores of today's stressful world.

This is all part of doing business for modern software developers and I'm okay with it.  At least until they get too damn greedy and take advantage from even more fronts.  Eventually it breeds ill will and even anger and general distrust.  Not what you want your customers feeling.

But back to is the new MacPro overkill for the overwhelming majority of still photographers when we have such wonderful and economical tools as Haswell and Ivy Bridge available at a fraction of the price and in a much more expandable and user serviceable platform?  Hmm.. Let me ask you this.  How many still photographers have spent the  money on workstation GPU's?  Some I'm sure, but how about TWO of them?  See how I'm getting the "overwhelming majority" level? 

A more common bit of advice we're telling still photographers is with today's integral graphics (to the CPU) they can get by with just the integral graphics for average workloads.. and a wonderful example of this is the new 4 core Mac Mini. 

I recently threw a 256gb Samsung 840 Pro into a 2.5g model (with the help of OWC's kit) keeping the 1tb HDD as storage, upped RAM to 16gb for under $100.. and what a screaming machine that is!  It's an Ivy Bridge 4 core, 8 threads... everyone who used it couldn't believe the speed from a now $900 mini..  One client wouldn't take no for an answer and ended up taking it home.  He didn't want to build his own, or have me do it.  He wanted that specific one like it was magical..   This was the sort of reaction I was getting when current MBP users tried this machine.. they haven't had that level of Mac Power available outside of a pricey Macpro..

So I really think.. Video Professionals will be well matched and served with a new Macpro.  But still photographers?  There will be exceptions with their gigapan heads and who stitch a zillion images at a time.. but for the vast majority of still photographers it's up, over, on, and just plain beats down the point of marginal returns.  These people would be better served, overall (economics and performance) by a Haswell or Ivy Bridge platform at a fraction of the cost.  And get a much more expandable and user serviceable platform in the bargain.

We live in great times.. Smiley
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« Reply #10 on: November 18, 2013, 05:26:38 PM »
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A more common bit of advice we're telling still photographers is with today's integral graphics (to the CPU) they can get by with just the integral graphics for average workloads.. and a wonderful example of this is the new 4 core Mac Mini. 

I recently threw a 256gb Samsung 840 Pro into a 2.5g model (with the help of OWC's kit) keeping the 1tb HDD as storage, upped RAM to 16gb for under $100.. and what a screaming machine that is!  It's an Ivy Bridge 4 core, 8 threads... everyone who used it couldn't believe the speed from a now $900 mini..  One client wouldn't take no for an answer and ended up taking it home.  He didn't want to build his own, or have me do it.  He wanted that specific one like it was magical..   This was the sort of reaction I was getting when current MBP users tried this machine.. they haven't had that level of Mac Power available outside of a pricey Macpro..

As it happens, my current box is a Mini with a 2.3GHz i7/ 120GB Samsung 840EVO/ 16GB RAM, and yeah, the performance is pretty unbelievable. Smiley  But who know’s what’s coming next? Camera makers aren’t likely to just stop and rest on their laurels; a 24MP APS-C sensor scales to something like 54MP full frame, right? How well is that Mini going to hold up when Bernard starts stitching images from his D4X?

Re sloppy code: I don’t know jack about programming, but I’ve read enough comments from people who do to believe that there’s a lot of sloppy coding going on. I suspect that’s not likely to change, though, unless something happens to make us resource constrained so that it matters to make code efficient. With the excess of resources available right now, there’s not much reason to tighten things up.

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We live in great times.. Smiley

Indeed.
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BJL
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« Reply #11 on: November 18, 2013, 05:39:31 PM »
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Two comments on the new Mac Pro:

1) It uses PCIe SSD's, as do some recent MacBooks, so the connector needed should just be that PCIe one.

2) It has only one CPU card, but two GPU cards, and from what I have read, the idea is that many users will use one GPU as a parallel processing tool via OpenCL programming. I look forward to processing benchmarks that take this option into account.
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #12 on: November 18, 2013, 10:55:15 PM »
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Two comments on the new Mac Pro:

1) It uses PCIe SSD's, as do some recent MacBooks, so the connector needed should just be that PCIe one.

OK, thanks for the confirmation, one less problem to worry about.

Cheers,
Bernard
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« Reply #13 on: November 18, 2013, 11:53:14 PM »
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Two comments on the new Mac Pro:

1) It uses PCIe SSD's, as do some recent MacBooks, so the connector needed should just be that PCIe one.

2) It has only one CPU card, but two GPU cards, and from what I have read, the idea is that many users will use one GPU as a parallel processing tool via OpenCL programming. I look forward to processing benchmarks that take this option into account.

1.  What Macbooks use PCIe SSD's?  I know some use the MSATA standard which is just a different connector on a SATA port..  MSATA is an established standard, if the Macpro were using MSATA I'm sure they'd say so.. 

2.  I've been reading about all the extra power in CUDA cores for years now.. and there have been some obscure benchmarks that access them.  But until your mainstream software gives you the option to use them they're mostly useless to end users like you or me.  It's an interesting concept that could be a game  changer, but it seems like Apple would have talked about it in the hundreds of interviews and press releases to date.
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #14 on: November 19, 2013, 12:38:29 AM »
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1.  What Macbooks use PCIe SSD's?  I know some use the MSATA standard which is just a different connector on a SATA port..  MSATA is an established standard, if the Macpro were using MSATA I'm sure they'd say so.. 

The 2013 Mac Book air and Pro both use PCIe SSDs.

I was not aware that they were use replaceable, but it seems they are.

Cheers,
Bernard
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« Reply #15 on: November 19, 2013, 01:21:19 AM »
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haha… my thinking is we can expect the SSD(flash) would fail once for 3 or 5 years( or less or longer Smiley). I will backup everything to the external 1 T SSD(the OS _maybe less than one day interval)…to very important files(about 15 M BU interval).
In the worst case, with the down time about 1 month for fixing the main computer, I think I can figure it out with the external BU …with like a backup computer or renting….
This would be a difficult time but at the same time, a very proud time sine it would pay off the all the trouble went through for the BU Smiley
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« Reply #16 on: November 19, 2013, 02:27:26 AM »
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The 2013 Mac Book air and Pro both use PCIe SSDs.

I was not aware that they were use replaceable, but it seems they are.

Cheers,
Bernard

I love this forum, we learn new stuff almost daily.  After taking a quick look through the googlesphere and reading a bunch of articles, Apple's site, and more..  there are surprisingly few technical details available.   Apple does this and it's irritating.  Everything has to be a show.   In contrast a product release for a PC based product would have videos, part numbers, where it was sourced, all kinds of information.

Well.. no doubt PCIe flash access is desirable.  But the only new or innovative part of this.. is that it's going in a laptop, we've had PCIe flash memory available for years for our desktops.                                                                                                                                                                 
I saw a claimed speed of 750mbps..  I have a PCIe Revo in one of my workstations here running the same speeds (approximately). Very reliable and 3-4 years ago when we bought it, it blew away the SATA II based SSD's, but seems pretty much equal to the faster SATAIII's we're using now. If you've used a lot of SSD's you'll know that it's very hard to feel a difference between two SSD's unless the specs on one are a great deal faster.  You can measure it with benchmarks easily enough, but feeling it while working is a different matter entirely.

There was also a hassle factor when using PCIe drives, some didn't take TRIM, others couldn't be boot drives, the driver installation was complicated for many..   So while we've had reasonably priced PCIe drives available at speeds exceeding 2200mbps.. they really haven't taken off in the market in a big way.  Or with me.  When a client suggests using one on a new build I'll go over what's involved if they ever need to change, update, or reformat on their own, and 9/10 times they'll think a fast SATAIII based SSD is more desirable overall.  A child can install/repair/replace/format SATA SSD's.

I'd imagine Apple will have sorted all this out.. standardized things, built drivers into their newest OS, that sort of thing Apple does very well.   Yet, there's no real information we can sink our teeth into.  Like pictures of connectors.  Why?  Perhaps because its not user serviceable so why bother along those lines?  Generally desktop devices have different connectors than laptops.. laptops because they're smaller often use small less robust connectors while desktops with the room have more robust connectors.   Also, desktops connectors and device mounting specs tend to be standardized very quickly.. laptops are often all different between models. 

Without a picture from apple saying this will be it in both machines. I wouldn't count on it..  Or maybe someone had one already?  There's just very little they're saying along the technical likes which leads me to believe they won't be making it user serviceable.   User serviceable parts are usually touted as a sales feature.

Regardless, I'm sure we'll see soon enough.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
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« Reply #17 on: November 19, 2013, 10:23:36 AM »
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Hi Steve,

Here is the teardown of a 2013 MBP with pci-e ssd.

I suspect the connector and drive and proprietary to Apple.

http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/MacBook+Pro+15-Inch+Retina+Display+Late+2013+Teardown/18696
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« Reply #18 on: November 19, 2013, 11:03:08 AM »
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Without a picture from apple saying this will be it in both machines. I wouldn't count on it..  Or maybe someone had one already?  There's just very little they're saying along the technical likes which leads me to believe they won't be making it user serviceable.   User serviceable parts are usually touted as a sales feature.                                                                                           

No need to speculate. http://www.apple.com/mac-pro/specs/:

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PCIe-based flash storage

User accessible
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« Reply #19 on: November 19, 2013, 11:05:36 AM »
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I suspect the connector and drive and proprietary to Apple.

Depending on your definition of proprietary; as I’ve noted up thread, there are already aftermarket replacement drives available.

Edit: mini PCI-e is an industry standard, so not proprietary.
« Last Edit: November 19, 2013, 11:17:23 AM by RobSaecker » Logged

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