WWDC 2013 is coming soon and hardware wise all eyes are on Mac Pro rumors. Well MacBook rumors too but who gives a damn about those.1 While the rumors sound a bit confusing or underwhelming, perhaps pointing to something like this crazy ass modular mockup, my ideal for years has been the triumphant return and redemption of the Mac Cube.

With that obsession I’ve given much thought about the cubic form factor before, but basically gave up on the dream because good GPU cards are long.2 Fine in a rectangular tower, but extending the dimensions out horizontally into a cube you end up with a big ass box, not unlike the NeXTcube. Admittedly cool in its own right, but not in the spirit of the much smaller G4 Cube.

Then I saw this:

6.7 inches of fury

After thinking about layouts and workflows a bit I grabbed my iPad and scribbled this out in SketchBook Pro:

8″ cube, dual CPU sockets, eight RAM slots, seven PCIe slots, two 3.5″ SATA bays (or four 2.5″ bays), and redundant power…mostly just because I forgot about the PSU and figured it might as well have two power connections just in case if the PSU is going to be external to begin with. The upgradable parts would be accessible by popping off the top/right door section, plop in PCIe cards from the top, HD and RAM from the side.

Then I decided to try my hand at 3D to see if it’d actually fit. Searched the Mac App Store a bit and ended up using the free Shade 3D for Unity.3 A few hours and various revisions and refinements later I ended up with this monstrosity:

No case…cause I don’t know how basically, and it ended up bigger than 8″ cubed, but I got it within a 5U (8.75″) space at least. The stuff there with no case is 8.32″ x 8.46″ x 8.48″. On to the features:

  • Dual CPU sockets
  • Four short PCIe slots, three with a double width GPU
  • Four (desktop size) RAM slots
  • Three 3.5″ drive bays, each swappable with dual 2.5″ drive carriers
  • Internal PSU
  • One big ass fan

And the caveats for each:

  • CPUs – Are those heatsinks (2.45″ x 2.95″ x 3.07″) and air flow enough for dual Xeons?4 Who knows!
  • PCIe – They’re short which limits selection, including to many useful “pro” cards. That riser board construction can’t be simple either.
  • RAM – Hey this actually seems ok. Other than the riser board implementation possibly being a pain in the ass.
  • Drives – Either the second 2.5″ drive’s ports have to be staggered, or the drive carrier itself needs some circuitry (SATA port multiplier?) to work.
  • PSU – Seems big enough to work (1.57″ x 8.15″ x 6.4″), would have to be custom but that would be nothing new for Apple.
  • Fan – Single fan enough to get airflow through everything?

Sure it’s flawed, but closer than ever. The Cube dream will never die.

  1. …I will when something points to the existence of an 11″ MacBook Air.
  2. As are many other cards, but I figure a new Cube would be a more affordable enthusiast machine, where a good GPU would be the primary use for the slots.
  3. I tried others, like Inventor Fusion but couldn’t get my head around how to use them. Probably because I am an idiot and have no clue how to use 3D software.
  4. If it isn’t, who cares! Just give me an E3 Xeon instead!