Apple Completes Its Transition to Its Own Processors With a Weird New Mac Pro


Mac Pro delivers the groundbreaking performance of M2 Ultra, plus the versatility of PCIe expansion, taking the most demanding workflows to the next level. While the Intel-based Mac Pro started with an 8-core CPU and could be configured up from there, every Mac Pro has Apple’s most powerful 24-core CPU, an up to 76-core GPU, and starts with twice the memory and SSD storage. The new Mac Pro can also be configured with up to a massive 192GB of memory with 800GB/s of unified memory bandwidth. […]

Apple can compare this new model to the Intel-based Mac Pro all it wants, but its main competition is the updated Mac Studio. It is a Mac Studio with twice as many Thunderbolt ports, and lots more internal connectivity and space, with a hefty $3,000 price premium. Unlike the Mac Studio, the Pro comes with a keyboard and mouse, which explains the cost difference.

And, if you do choose to compare this Mac Pro to the Intel model it replaces, there are some changes which are difficult to swallow. It is $1,000 more expensive than the one it replaces. The outgoing model was endlessly upgradeable with dedicated video encoding hardware, graphics processors, and up to 1.5 terabytes of memory. The M2 Mac Pro appears to support none of those things. Apple has tried to preempt criticism by claiming this version effectively has the power of seven Afterburner video encoding cards built in, but there are no known differences between the M2 Ultra in the Pro and the one in the Studio. Even its PCIe slots are being marketed for comparatively less demanding workflows:

[…] From audio pros who need digital signal processing (DSP) cards, to video pros who need serial digital interface (SDI) I/O cards for connecting to professional cameras and monitors, to users who need additional networking and storage, Mac Pro lets professionals customize and expand their systems, pushing the limits of their most demanding workflows.

There is nothing about graphics or video expandability here. While the Mac Pro was rumoured to support memory upgrades, that did not pan out. One maybe good argument for buying a Mac Pro instead of a Studio is that you do not have to pay Apple’s abhorrent rates for storage upgrades: the company wants $2,200 (U.S.) to upgrade to eight terabytes of storage in either model, but you have other options with the Mac Pro.

Stephen Hackett:

The number of 2019 Mac Pros sold cannot be huge, but the new one’s numbers are going to be even smaller. As a Mac Pro fan that worries me. Yes, there are users who are reliant on PCI solutions and I’m sure those folks will upgrade to this new machine at some point. Those who purchased a Mac Pro in the past to have a machine they could keep current over the long haul are seemingly out of luck.

Are some extra Thunderbolt ports and a bunch of open PCI slots enough to justify the Mac Pro’s $3,000 premium over the Mac Studio? For most users, my guess is no. The days of the Mac Pro being the most powerful, most capable Mac are over, at least for now.

This is a worrisome sign that feels like a product which went horribly awry at some point. Mark Gurman reported a configuration with two merged M2 Ultra chips was scrapped, but maybe it — or a similar configuration differentiating it from the Studio — will be introduced in the future. But I fear that is not what will happen. It looks like this type of Mac could be on its way out in favour of the external extensibility. The pendulum is swinging back to the 2012 “trash can” Mac Pro in the form of the Studio.

Update: In an interview with John Gruber, John Ternus argued that comparisons to the Intel Mac Pro are difficult to make. I guess we will see what the truth is when these things are in the hands of reviewers and professionals.