After nearly six years of dealing with the trash can (along with a fair share of criticism), Apple announced a proper successor to the Mac Pro today. The downside (with Apple there’s always a downside) is that the new Mac Pro is quite expensive with a starting price of $6,000.
The core design takes us back to the popular cheese grater tower from 2006-2012 and internal specs received a substantial bump from the 2013 Mac Pro design.
The processor configuration ranges from an 8-core to 28-core Intel Xeon W processor. There are 12 user-accessible DIMM slots for up to 1.5TB of DDR4 ECC memory. In order to use the full 1.5TB of RAM, you’ll need the 24-core or 28-core processor.
There are eight PCI Express slots for additional expansion. Four are single-width and three of those can handle full-length cards.
The half-length slot up top is preconfigured with the Apple I/O card featuring two USB 3.0 ports with USB-A connectors (up to 5Gb/s), two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports (up to 40Gb/s and 10Gb/s, respectively), and a headphone jack. There are also two Thunderbolt 3 ports on top of the Mac Pro’s case. Additionally, there is a pair of 10Gb RJ45 ethernet ports directly attached to the PSU bay.
There are four double-wide PCIe slots on the bottom half of the logic board. Alternatively, you can use the bottom half of the PCIe slots for up to two MPX Modules and up to four GPUs onboard.
The MPX Modules are essentially quad-wide GPUs based on AMD Radeon Pro 580X, Radeon Pro Vega II, and Radeon Pro Vega II Duo graphics cards. The AMD Radeon Pro 580X configuration is a half-height MPX Module fits in an MPX bay and enables PCIe slot 2 for additional expansion.
In addition to the standard PCIe x16 slot, the MPX Modules use a second PCIe slot in line with the standard slot. Notably, this second slot provides up to 475 watts of power to the card. This gets past the limitation of the need for external power from the PSU since high-end GPUs are power-hungry and traditionally require an additional six- or eight-pin PEG cable directly from the power supply.
However, this could spell doom for dreams of dropping in an off-the-shelf GPU in the new Mac Pro. If there’s no way to get power to it, there’s no need to even worry if MacOS will support it. That leaves a big looming question of whether Apple will work with NVIDIA to support a dedicated Mac Pro GPU that accesses the secondary PCIe slot for delivering power.
Along with the MPX Modules, Apple also introduced a new FPGA card dubbed Afterburner, which is capable of decoding up to 6.3 billion pixels per second. It fits into one of the single-wide PCIe slots.
With Afterburner, video editors using high-quality cameras that require the conversion of native file formats into proxies for easy editing can now use native formats right from the camera and decode up to three streams of 8K ProRes RAW video and 12 streams of 4K ProRes RAW video in real time, virtually eliminating proxy workflows.
The Mac Pro can be internally configured with up to a 4TB SSD. There appear to be no other storage options such as internal RAID array options found on the prior Mac Pro tower. Apple touts its new T2 Security Chip as follows, “Data on Mac Pro is protected by the Apple T2 Security Chip. It integrates discrete processors into a single chip. It also ensures that the lowest levels of software aren’t tampered with and that only operating system software trusted by Apple loads at startup.”
Apple makes that out to be a wonderful feature; however, I read a little more of Apple walled-garden concerns into that statement. Perhaps a little more elaboration into “only operating system software trusted by Apple loads at startup” would ease my concerns but Apple doesn’t necessarily have a great track record playing with third-party developers.
Alongside the new Mac Pro, Apple announced its new Pro Display XDR, which stands for “extreme dynamic range.” It’s really more of a high-end reference monitor.
The Pro Display XDR features a 32-inch LCD panel with a 6016 x 3384 Retina 6K resolution with more than 20 million pixels. It offers a P3 wide color gamut and true 10-bit color for over 1 billion colors. It features an anti-reflective coating and offers a new matte option called nano-texture, with glass etched at the nanometer level for low reflectivity and less glare.
All this comes at a cost though.
The new Apple Pro Display XDR retails for $4999 and doesn’t come with a stand. The dedicated stand offers height and tilt adjustments, along with rotating into portrait mode, at a cost of $1000. The new Mac Pro supports up to six displays for a total of 120 million pixels and $36,000 total (if you want the stands too).
While there are still questions about just how expandable the new Mac Pro will be, there’s no doubt that it is a professional-grade machine. Whether it is worth the asking price, however, will be a considerable subject of debate since $6,000 gets you the base configuration with an 8-core processor, 32GB RAM, Radeon Pro 580X GPU, and a 256GB SSD. We don’t have the complete pricing picture for the rest of the configuration options yet; however, I suspect a fully decked out Mac Pro will be in the neighborhood of $30,000 to $40,000 without even getting to the monitor.
You’ll be able to pick up a Mac Pro (or two) for yourself in Fall 2019. Check it out for yourself on Apple.com.