Apple Engineers Explain New Mac Pro's Innovative Cooling Features

In an interview with Popular Mechanics, Apple engineers Chris Ligtenberg and John Ternus have detailed some of the innovative cooling features included in the design of the Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR, both of which launched earlier this week.

mac pro xdr display
In order to let the ridiculous processing power of the ‌Mac Pro‌ reach its potential without melting, Apple engineers had to find new ways to "exploit the laws of thermodynamics," according to the report.

For example, the active internal cooling consists of three axial fans in the front of the case and a blower in the rear, all of which had to be developed in-house because off-the-shelf fans would have been too loud.

"Years ago, we started redistributing the blades," explains Ligtenberg, Apple's senior director of product design. "They're still dynamically balanced, but they're actually randomized in terms of their BPF [blade pass frequency]. So you don't get huge harmonics that tend to be super annoying."

macprofan trans
"That [solution is] borrowed almost entirely from automobile tires," Ligtenberg says. "There's a bit of math behind it, but you can create broadband noise instead of total noise with that technique."

Something loud but pleasantly pitched can be more tolerable than something quiet but irritating. "You can have something at a certain SPL [sound pressure level] that sounds really good, but you can have something that's actually at a lower SPL that grates on your nerves and sounds really awful," says John Ternus, VP of Hardware Engineering at Apple and head of the Pro and Pro Display's development. "We want to get really great performance where, you either can't hear it, or if you can hear it, it's kind of a pleasant noise. A ton of analysis goes into figuring out how to optimize for that."

Apple hopes ‌Mac Pro‌ users won't even be aware of the fan activity inside, but it's the conspicuous grids of bored metal divots on the front and back of the case and the rear of the Pro Display that provide the passive cooling. "[The pattern] gives us a lot of surface area, which is hugely beneficial," Ternus says.

The Pro Display has fans for specific components, but the bored metal holes are what keeps that panel of LEDs cool enough to run so bright. It wasn't possible to use a traditional finned enclosure heatsink, because the monitor can be used in both portrait and landscape.

Rotating the display 90 degrees would reduce with the air flow through fins, but the hemispherical holes work the same regardless of which way is up. "[For the Display] we wanted free [air] flow through the channels, no matter the orientation," says Ternus.

macproback trans
According to Apple, the reworked "cheese grater" look achieves around 20 percent more airflow compared to the Power Mac G5 that preceded it.

Apple is accepting orders for the ‌Mac Pro‌ (starting at $5,999) and the Pro Display XDR ($4,999) on its website, with ‌Mac Pro‌ delivery estimates at one to two weeks after an order is placed.

Related Roundup: Mac Pro
Buyer's Guide: Mac Pro (Neutral)

Top Rated Comments

Kabeyun Avatar
16 months ago
This is one of the things I like about Apple; they pay obsessive attention to important background things that we tend to take for granted, from justified fontography to computer hinges to groundbreaking facial recognition systems to fan blade design. Elegance meets technology. This is one area where Steve Jobs’ DNA really does live on.
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
cmaier Avatar
16 months ago
Each fan blade is milled from an Apple Card.
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
FocusAndEarnIt Avatar
16 months ago
Pretty incredible stuff. Hat tip to Apple on finally listening to the pro user base and giving them what they wanted.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jouster Avatar
16 months ago

With the amount of emphasis and design philosophy structured towards avoiding LOUD NOISE at all cost...couldn't Apple have went towards liquid cooling? I'll never understand Apple's love for silence at the cost of adequate/bad cooling in all of their machines.a
Initial reports suggest it is very quiet.

They used liquid cooling in the G5 towers. It added complexity and cost.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
henrikhelmers Avatar
16 months ago

With the amount of emphasis and design philosophy structured towards avoiding LOUD NOISE at all cost...couldn't Apple have went towards liquid cooling? I'll never understand Apple's love for silence at the cost of adequate/bad cooling in all of their machines.a
I'm not vell versed in liquid cooling, but I would guess that a) it is less reliable and b) when a liquid solution fails it fails in worse ways.

Of course it would also open up for the sale of magical Apple coolant, probably a missed opportunity ?
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jaytv111 Avatar
16 months ago

With the amount of emphasis and design philosophy structured towards avoiding LOUD NOISE at all cost...couldn't Apple have went towards liquid cooling? I'll never understand Apple's love for silence at the cost of adequate/bad cooling in all of their machines.a
Liquid cooling still uses fans.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

imac pro featured black

Apple Confirms iMac Pro Will Be Discontinued When Supplies Run Out, Recommends 27-Inch iMac

Saturday March 6, 2021 7:33 am PST by
Apple on late Friday evening added a "while supplies last" notice to its iMac Pro product page worldwide, and removed all upgrade options for the computer, leaving only the standard configuration available to order for now. We've since confirmed with Apple that when supplies run out, the iMac Pro will no longer be available whatsoever. Apple says the latest 27-inch iMac introduced in August...
bloodoxygenapplewatch

Apple Watch Series 7 to Gain Breakthrough New Health Feature

Friday March 5, 2021 5:34 am PST by
Apple is reportedly planning to bring a new, first-of-its-kind health technology to the Apple Watch Series 7, in what could be a breakthrough for managing conditions such as diabetes more easily. According to a recent report from ETNews, the Apple Watch Series 7 will feature blood glucose monitoring via a non-invasive optical sensor. Measuring blood glucose levels, also known as blood...
Top Stories 48

Top Stories: iPhone 13 Leaks, OLED iPads and Macs, New AirTags Evidence

Saturday March 6, 2021 6:00 am PST by
iPhone rumors are heating up, with noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo this week releasing a wide-ranging report outlining his expectations for the iPhone lineup over the next three years. This week also saw rumors about OLED displays potentially coming to iPad and Mac starting next year, increasing signs of AirTags functionality in iOS 14.5 betas, and more, so check out all of the details below! i...
apple products refurbished store banner

Class Action Lawsuit Over Apple Providing Refurbished Replacement Devices Proceeding to Trial in August

Friday March 5, 2021 9:53 am PST by
Initially filed in 2016, a class action lawsuit that accuses Apple of violating the Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act, Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, and other U.S. laws by providing customers with refurbished replacement devices is set to proceed to trial August 16, according to a notice this week from law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP. Apple's repair terms and conditions state that,...
Oled iPads and MackBook Pro

OLED 10.9-Inch iPad Rumored for Early 2022, 12.9-Inch iPad Pro and 16-Inch MacBook Pro Could Follow

Thursday March 4, 2021 8:37 pm PST by
Earlier today, DigiTimes shared a preview of an upcoming report claiming that Apple is working on both iPad and Mac notebook models with OLED displays that could launch starting in 2022. The full report from DigiTimes is now available, and it includes several new alleged details about Apple's plans. According to the report, the first of these devices to adopt an OLED display is likely to be...
iPhone 13 Notch Feature2

iPhone 13 Rumor Recap: Smaller Notch, Larger Batteries, 120Hz for Pro Models, Improved 5G, Wi-Fi 6E, and More

Friday March 5, 2021 8:20 am PST by
While we are likely at least six months away from Apple unveiling the so-called iPhone 13 lineup, rumors about the devices are starting to accumulate, so we've put together this recap of everything that is expected so far. The upcoming iPhone 13 lineup will consist of the same four models and the same screen sizes as the iPhone 12 lineup, according to reputable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo,...
imac pro while supplies last

iMac Pro No Longer Custom Configurable, Available 'While Supplies Last'

Friday March 5, 2021 10:14 pm PST by
Apple appears to be on the verge of discontinuing the iMac Pro, with the store page for the high-end all-in-one Mac including a "While supplies last" tagline and only the base model with no custom configurations available for purchase. The iMac Pro launched in December 2017, and while there have been a few tweaks to the available configurations over the years, it has received no substantial...
hlh030121feafutureoffitness012 1614286673

A Look Inside Apple's 23,000 Square-Foot Fitness+ Studio

Friday March 5, 2021 10:59 am PST by
Apple Fitness+, the latest service to join the Apple family, integrates tightly with the Apple Watch to offer a comprehensive and growing selection of workout and exercise videos made by a team of professional trainers. Apple Fitness+ Studio (via Men's Health) Apple curates and records all of the videos at a location in Santa Monica, California, and each video features a similar background...
maxresdefault

What's on Your iPhone Home Screen?

Thursday March 4, 2021 10:31 am PST by
Over on our YouTube channel, MacRumors videographer Dan has a new video up where he shares his Home Screen, wallpaper, and all of his current favorite widgets. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Check out Dan's video to see his setup, and then comment below and show us your own Home Screens. It's always fun to see other peoples' Home Screens, and with widgets and...
microsoft edge vertical tabs

Microsoft Edge 89 Brings Vertical Tabs and New History View

Friday March 5, 2021 4:06 am PST by
Microsoft has officially released version 89 of its popular Chromium-based Edge browser, bringing its long-trialed vertical tabs feature to Mac for the first time. Vertical tabs are intended to make more efficient use of screen space, and should prove a welcome addition for users browsing on 16:9 ratio displays in particular. Users can click vertical tabs to switch between them and...