Apple will finally get an Apple silicon Mac Pro to market in 2023 – but what can we expect?
Out of time
The Mac Pro, with Apple silicon inside, is, as we know, overdue.
If we head back to June 2020, that is when Apple first announced that they were to transition away from Intel, to their own processors. As we come towards the end of 2022, not only is the Mac Pro still running on Intel, but so too the higher end Mac mini.
Although Apple has been fairly quiet about what stage they are at with the development of these Macs, there is some indication that we will finally see these new Macs in 2023. The ever reliable Mark Gurman has reported that Apple is actively working on both the all-new Mac Pro, and an M2 Mac mini.
Why the delay?
Firstly, whatever Mac Pro we finally get, it will not be a mass production machine. The very nature of it means it will forever be a niche Mac. So, resources have been shifted to keeping pace with the more in-demand Macs, such as the MacBooks, and Mac Studios.
It seems also, that there has been some discord, and constant changes in the direction that the team believe that the new Mac Pro should take. Couple to that, the manufacture of this new Mac 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.
Initially, the intentions had been to base the Apple silicon Mac Pro on the M1 infrastructure. The plan was to have two configurations – one with dual M1 Max processors, and the other on quad M1 Max processors. The M1 Max is the same chip as the one currently used in the high-end MacBook Pro’s.
In the interim, Apple developed, and brought to market, the Mac Studio, which actually housed the dual M1 Max configuration, and was met with high praise. At that point, Apple realised they had bought themselves some time with the needs of professional users, and the decision was taken to knock-back the Mac Pro to the next iteration of Apple silicon – the M2.
Although the final specs are still a little way off, some figures being bandied about for the ‘basic’ M2 Ultra are mighty impressive…with 24 CPU cores, 76 GPU cores, and having the ability to be spec’d with up to 192GB of memory. The M2 Extreme, would have been double that, but those plans have now been parked – for now at least.
The price for, what would essentially, have been four M2 Ultra chips, an M2 Extreme, was proving troublesome to manufacture, and also prohibitively expensive. It also came back to the earlier point about these being a niche Mac, too. If TSMC were to produce that volume of chips, then Apple figured they could be better used in their higher-volume machines, and thereby, keep up with demand.
The economic future is also turbulent, and uncertain. The Mac Pro, with the high-end M1 Ultra chip, would already push the price for that Mac Pro to around $5000. That is only $1000 less than the current Mac Pro, and $3000 more than a Mac Studio with the M1 Max inside. Based on those calculations, and M2 Extreme, in a basic config, would have weighed in at around $10,000, which is pretty hard to both stomach, and justify.
What to expect
Apple knows that the Mac Pro has to retain the all important upgrade-ability, or modularity. That has always been the calling card of the Mac Pro. It must continue to be easy to expand for additional memory, storage and other components.
Production of the Mac Pro will also shift from China, to Vietnam. AirPods are already produced there, and it will be another sign that the company are keen to rely less on China, with each passing year.
The Mac mini will probably launch before the Mac Pro. That, again, will be available in two models – a more basic M2 and an M2 Pro version.
The M2 Mac mini should be ready to be unveiled at Apple’s spring event, with the Mac Pro finally coming to market in Q3 of 2023.
But, it doesn’t stop there – next year could truly be the year for the pro’s, with some monitors on the horizon too.
New on the scene
The Pro Display XDR, first released in 2019, looks like it is likely to get a refresh, and that could be augmented with an upgrade for the Studio Display.
Much like this year’s Studio Display, these new monitors will both house some form of Apple silicon. This will mean they can support certain features like Center Stage, spatial audio, and “Hey Siri” voice commands. Also, with the monitors having their own Apple silicon, it would mean they would draw less from the Mac that is driving them.
Ross Young believes a new model of the Studio Display is planned for Q1, 2023. It will have a 120Hz refresh rate, ProMotion display, and be a mini LED panel. The price for the new Studio Display is likely to start at around $1599.
The Pro Display XDR, may be released as a 7K, 32-inch panel, and if it does have Apple silicon inside, that too would be a first for this display. Earlier this year, I saw prices of around $7000 be spoken about for a 32-inch 7K Pro Display XDR.
Although the wait has been long, it looks as if 2023 could be the year of the Pro for Apple.
The decision was clearly taken not to rush these machines and panels to market, rather to prioritise getting every, last detail correct. The demands and expectations will be high. Although niche, these users have always been core to Apple and the Mac in particular.
Few will ever own, or use one of the new Mac Pro’s, but the need to have a flagship model, showcasing what Apple silicon is capable of, is hugely important to the Cupertino giant.
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