Apple has long said that it is committed to its Mac lineup and pro users. However, the company’s lack of attention to its Mac Pro and iMac lineup suggested otherwise. That changes today as Apple is finally refreshing its Mac Pro lineup — four years after it first unveiled it.
Before you get too excited though, this is not a radical refresh that you were expecting. This is simply a spec bump to ensure that prosumers are getting more bang for their buck. That means that there is still no USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 support on the latest Mac Pro. This is more of an “interim” solution from Apple as the company is working on “completely rethinking the Mac Pro.”
In the meantime, Apple is today releasing meager speed-bump updates to the existing Mac Pros. The $2999 model goes from 4 Xeon CPU cores to 6, and from dual AMD G300 GPUs to dual G500 GPUs. The $3999 model goes from 6 CPU cores to 8, and from dual D500 GPUs to dual D800 GPUs. Nothing else is changing, including the ports. No USB-C, no Thunderbolt 3 (and so no support for the LG UltraFine 5K display)
Apple’s Phill Schiller says that a team at Apple is working hard on the redesign of the new Mac Pro. Sadly, this new Mac Pro will not release this year. The wait will be worth it though since the new Mac Pro will be modular in nature and will be designed with upgradability in mind. And that’s not all: Along with the new Mac Pro, Apple will also be doing a pro display as well.
As part of doing a new Mac Pro — it is, by definition, a modular system — we will be doing a pro display as well. Now you won’t see any of those products this year; we’re in the process of that. We think it’s really important to create something great for our pro customers who want a Mac Pro modular system, and that’ll take longer than this year to do.
During the interview, Apple’s Craig Federighi also hinted at Apple working on an iMac for its pro users with high-performance internals.
That is a pretty incredible evolution that we’ve seen over the last decade. The original iMac, you never would’ve thought as remotely touching pro uses. And now you look at today’s 5K iMac, top configs, it’s incredibly powerful, and a huge fraction of what would’ve traditionally — whether it’s audio editing, video editing, graphics, arts and so forth — that would’ve previously absolutely required the Mac Pros of old, are being well-addressed by iMac. But there’s still even further we can take iMac as a high performance, pro system, and we think that form factor can address even more of the pro market.
The complete redesign of the 2013 Mac Pro from Apple reaffirms that the company put itself into a corner with its design. While the Mac Pro was good to look at, it had very limited thermal headroom and provided no option for future upgradability.
While Apple did not acknowledge that the design of the 2013 Mac Pro was a blunder, Schiller and Federighi both agreed about the design being a limitation.
I think we designed ourselves into a bit of a thermal corner, if you will. We designed a system with the kind of GPUs that at the time we thought we needed, and that we thought we could well serve with a two GPU architecture. That that was the thermal limit we needed, or the thermal capacity we needed. But workloads didn’t materialize to fit that as broadly as we hoped.
Being able to put larger single GPUs required a different system architecture and more thermal capacity than that system was designed to accommodate. So it became fairly difficult to adjust. At the same time, so many of our customers were moving to iMac that we saw a path to address many, many more of those that were finding themselves limited by a Mac Pro through next generation iMac. And really put a lot of our energy behind that.
As we’ve said, we made something bold that we thought would be great for the majority of our Mac Pro users. And what we discovered was that it was great for some and not others. Enough so that we need to take another path. One of the good things, hopefully, with Apple through the years has been a willingness to say when something isn’t quite what we wanted it do be, didn’t live up to expectations, to not be afraid to admit it and look for the next answer.
The current Mac Pro, as we’ve said a few times, was constrained thermally and it restricted our ability to upgrade it. And for that, we’re sorry to disappoint customers who wanted that, and we’ve asked the team to go and re-architect and design something great for the future that those Mac Pro customers who want more expandability, more upgradability in the future. It’ll meet more of those needs.
So, that’s about it. The interim upgrades to the Mac Pro are really not that beneficial, but if you are a pro user, you will be happy to know that Apple is working on a redesigned Mac Pro that should launch next year.
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