We have been waiting for the showcase Mac for what seems an eternity – but, it looks as if the wait may soon be over
Better late than never
Mac Pro – not for everyone, but it’s still a critically important machine. Mac Pro represents the extreme of what Apple is capable of.
When Apple silicon was announced at WWDC 2020, we began to see what roadmap Apple had for the future. Apple silicon changed what we could reasonably come to expect from even entry-level Mac’s. This inevitably led us to wonder what may be achievable when their chip finally came to Mac Pro.
As of writing, there are two remaining Macs that are still running Intel processors – we have the high-end Mac mini, and of course, the Mac Pro.
Whilst there are at least versions of Mac mini that are running on Apple’s own chip, the same cannot be said of Mac Pro. That makes it unique, in that it is the only model in the line-up that has never run on Apple silicon.
The direction that the new Mac Pro should take has caused, it seems, some confusion. Of recent, there were plans to bring out an M2 Extreme, but economics won the day, and scuppered those plans.
If the M2 Extreme had gone ahead, it would, essentially, have been four M2 Ultra chips. It was proving troublesome to develop, manufacture, and also prohibitively expensive. Being a niche Mac, it was also hard for Apple to justify the resources it was demanding. This is a time that finds Apple heavily focused on their headset – and that is where they feel their engineers attention needs to be.
And, if TSMC were to produce that volume of chips (four times the amount don’t forget), then Apple figured they could be better used in their higher-volume machines, and thereby, keep up with demand.
And, on top of all that, the manufacture of the new Mac Pro has come at a time of upheaval for Apple, as they look to relocate some of their manufacturing and address their plans for sourcing high-end processors.
This year, economically, looks set to be turbulent, and uncertain. A Mac Pro, with an M2 Extreme chip inside, even in a basic config, could easily have weighed in at around $10,000, which is pretty hard to both stomach, and justify.
Where are we at?
Last year, the chat was all about the Apple silicon Mac Pro, having a smaller footprint, and even possibly being hexagonally shaped.
The smaller size, seemed to make sense as we know that Apple silicon processors are way less power-hungry, more efficient, and run much cooler.
A question mark had also hung heavy over how Apple would make the new Mac Pro modular – something core to Mac Pro users.
Mac Pro reality
So, we now know the plans to have a Mac Pro with a high-end 48 core CPU and 152 graphic cores has been scrapped.
It’s quite possible that the delay in not releasing the Mac Pro to market late last year, was where we found ourselves in the M1/M2 cycle. After the wait, there would be no point in placing an M1 Ultra in the Mac Pro, and the M2 chipset had not yet been fully iterated.
It would now seem certain, though, that this version of Mac Pro will be running an M2 Ultra. Where they may meet some blow-back, though, is over why should anyone buy a Mac Pro, over a M1 Ultra Mac Studio?
So, due to the nature of the architecture, even on the Mac Pro, the RAM will not be user upgradeable – that you will still have to decide, and configure at the point of purchase. That’s because the memory is tied directly to the M2 Ultra’s motherboard.
Apple will claim that the Mac Pro is modular due to the fact you can add extra storage via the two SSD slots. That will not be the only difference to the Mac Studio, though – on this new Mac Pro, the networking cards, and media cards can be swapped out too.
The hardrive, I’d imagine, will be upgradeable, via an upgrade kit, only available from Apple, and exclusive to the Mac Pro. Using the PCIe slots, you’d give Apple the relevant information about your Mac Pro, and then spec out the new storage that you want.
Will the graphic cards be able to be upgraded using the Mac Pro Expansion Modules? That remains unclear. If the MPX does remain, will you be able to insert external graphics cards? Again, using those available PCIe slots, would you also be able to add extra ports? Many questions…
All of these points are, as yet, are unclear. Apple will be more than aware that they need to offer some solid reasons for buyers to be tempted with the Mac Pro as against plumping for the impressive, and cheaper Mac Studio.
As you can see from my exclusive render at the top, the outside case will look identical to the existing Mac Pro, but why it still needs to be so big, again, is hard to understand. Is just because Apple are going to push the M2 Ultra as hard as possible, and they want maximum cooling – who knows…
It could simply just be a cost-saving decision, of course, removing any expensive re-tooling. But, I have to admit to being a little disappointed. It’ll retain the cheese-grater design, with the lift-off body, providing access to the swap-out elements mentioned above.
And we think that even the decision to spec the Mac Pro with feet, or the $400 wheel option will still be a choice. There really is precious little different in how this Mac will look – surely, that must be a missed chance. The performance will be better, even than the highest spec’d $52,000 Intel Mac Pro, but, in real-world use, will it be that much better than a highly spec’d Mac Studio?
Part of the kudos of buying the latest Mac, is that everyone knows you have it. Don’t you want it to look new and different? If I was buying a 2023 Mac Pro, I’d sure want the savvy clients to know I had spent my hard-earned cash on it. Odd – all very odd…
The Mac Pro will be released in spring, and will be running macOS Ventura 13.3. Generally, version three of the macOS updates comes out around spring, so my guess is, the Mac Pro will be released with that update in mind.
But, as already mentioned, with this year’s resources, and attention very much being on the AR/VR headset, the Mac Pro, after all this wait, could feasibly come out via a press release. On the face of it, it seems little more than a chip swap, and nothing radically new at all.
The Mac Pro, looks like it will be technically the most powerful Mac out there, but will it tempt many away from the more contemporary, and fresher design of the Mac Studio?
Yes, it will be in some ways modular, but is it the Mac Pro you had imagined that we have waited two years for?
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