Apple, It’s Time to Take Your Mac Lineup Seriously

Apple CEO Tim Cook looks at a new IMac after presentation at Apple headquarters in Cupertino

In 2011, I switched over to the beautiful world of OS X after being frustrated with just how unstable Windows was. Things have been rosy for me inside Apple’s walled garden over the years, and I was happy paying the ‘Apple tax’ for its hardware since it worked flawlessly and without any issues.

Early last year though, my workflow changed and I dived into video editing work. Since my 2011 Mac Mini and 2012 MacBook Air were not cutting it, I decided to get a 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro hoping it would be enough for my relatively basic video editing work. Six months down the line, I realised I needed a more powerful PC — a desktop, and not a laptop. I started looking for options and realised Apple did not offer anything compelling. I decided to wait for the Skylake refresh of the iMac line up before buying one of them up. When the refresh did arrive, I realised none of the variants featured flash drive, and since Apple did not offer its customisation options in India, I was out of luck.

The Mac Pro was not an option for me because it was too costly, and simply not worth the price. Apple was selling the same configuration for the Mac Pro that it had unveiled in December 2013.

Frustrated by the lack of options from Apple, I decided to build a Hackintosh. It has been over six months since I did, and I have been extremely happy. Beside getting a lot more value for my money, the PC itself has been rock stable for me and the ability to add new hardware as and when I need has been extremely handy.

Intel Skylake Hackintosh

But is it not ironic that Apple, a company that promotes its products for creators and professionals, does not have something powerful enough to meet their needs?

Right now, if someone needs the most powerful Mac that Apple offers, they will have to look at the Mac Pro, which has not been been updated since late-2013. The CPU and GPU options offered for the Mac Pro are simply not enough in this day and age. Yes, the second generation Mac Pro was a powerful PC when it launched, but things have changed since then. There are more powerful and efficient processors from Intel in the market right now, and more importantly, AMD GPUs have made huge strides in performance since then.

I do realise that releasing a refreshed Mac Pro model every year makes no sense because it is a significantly more powerful computer than Apple’s other offerings, and professionals don’t really update their machines every year or two. However, they do appreciate a noticeable boost in performance, and are willing to pay for it. So, if Apple cannot update key components of the Mac Pro at least once every 18 months, it can at least make the GPU user replaceable so that users can install a more powerful GPU themselves.

Image Courtesy: iFixit

Considering that Apple’s iOS devices are always at the top of computing performance in their respective categories, it is disappointing to see company’s Mac offerings lag behind in this regard. Macs are widely regarded as the best OS for professionals and creators because of the suite of applications available for it. So, it is ironic that Apple itself fails to offer the appropriate hardware for them to take advantage of. Ask any professional or creator and they will tell you how important it is for them that their PCs crunch the data they throw at it as quickly as possible. After all, in their line of work, time saved equals money saved.

And what if someone does not have enough money to spend on a Mac Pro and is looking for a desktop replacement? What then? Well, then their only option is the Mac Mini that was last updated by Apple in late 2014. And for some strange unexplained reason, the 2014 model offers lower CPU performance than the high-end 2012 model, so it actually makes more sense to buy the latter if your work is going to be CPU intensive. I am not even going to consider the updated Skylake iMacs from Apple here simply because of the mechanical HDDs that they come with. The same company is pushing the boundaries in terms of NAND read/write speed in smartphones, and here it is offering a PC that comes with an ancient and slow mechanical HDD.

Apple has been refreshing its MacBook Pro lineup from time to time. While some people are likely going to be frustrated by the lack of a Skylake upgrade and a dedicated GPU for the 15-inch rMBP, I understand that Apple is waiting for AMD’s 14nm based Polaris GPU before releasing the refresh. Barring the rumored design update, the performance improvement — at least CPU-wise — is going to be hardly noticeable after the update.

I am not the only one who is frustrated by the lack of a Mac Pro and Mac Mini refresh from Apple. Many popular YouTubers have switched over to a custom Windows-based PC or Hackintosh after being frustrated by the lack of updates to the Mac Pro from Apple. Online forums are filled with complaints about potential customers who are tired of waiting for a Mac Pro refresh to come out from Apple, and many have already started looking at alternative options.

If Apple does not plan on upgrading the Mac Pro once in a while, it should provide users with the option of upgrading the GPU themselves, like it was possible on the first generation Pro. There have been negligible improvements in CPU performance over the last 4-5 years, but GPUs have improved tremendously and will continue to do so. And with more professional apps moving to GPU for all their computation, a powerful GPU is of utmost priority for most creators and professionals.

Apple, it’s time you start taking your Mac Pro line up seriously and start treating professionals and creators the right way. Giving them excellent software for developing apps and creating videos is only one part of the equation, the other part involves providing them with capable hardware for doing so.