Mac For It Professionals


Two years ago, Apple did the unthinkable: The company gathered a select group of prominent technology journalists at its headquarters in Cupertino and essentially apologized for leaving its most powerful computer, the Mac Pro, to die a slow death over the span of four years.

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In the same conversation, Apple executives also announced they were working on a new Mac Pro, which we later learned wouldn't be launching until 2019. Well, we're just about midway through 2019, and Apple still hasn't said a peep about the Mac Pro.

Is it still coming out this year? What's it gonna look like? What kind of specs can we expect from it? How much will it cost? Apple might answer some or all of these questions at WWDC next week, but what do professionals — the people who've been waiting years and will pay top dollar — really want from a new Mac Pro?

I asked a range of professionals, from developers to video producers, to get a better picture of what they want to see in the new Mac Pro and, needless to say, it's basically the exact opposite of the current 'trash can' model.

SEE ALSO: What to expect at WWDC 2019: Power features for everyone

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Despite its compact size, the two biggest complaints about the current Mac Pro is that its design greatly limits performance. During the roundtable with tech journalists in 2017, Apple Senior Vice President of Software Craig Federighi said they designed themselves 'into a bit of a thermal corner.'

Everyone wants a more PC-like Mac Pro that's easily upgradeable.

The challenge with designing the Mac Pro is figuring who its users are and what they'll need. Are they developers who create apps and need tons of RAM, but maybe not as much graphics performance? Are they podcasters who rely on CPU performance? Are they video editors who need to be able to upgrade their graphics cards for more powerful ones down the line? Are they 3D animators who need to max out both the CPU and GPU for their workload?

Obviously, every professional is going to be different. But after speaking with a bunch of them, it's clear what kind of Mac Pro Apple needs to deliver to satisfy them: a more PC-like Mac Pro that's easily upgradeable.

Nobody's expecting Apple to bust out the old pre-2013 Mac Pro 'cheese grater' tower design and call it a day, but a compact computer with lots of room for expansion slots seems to be on everyone's wishlists.

Internal expansion is a must

Stephen Hackett, the co-founder of Relay FM, an independent podcast network where he also uploads his own podcast, and chronicler of Apple devices at his 512 Pixels blog, says he wants to see Apple prioritize internal expansion.

'I think it’s clear the 2013 Mac Pro’s demands of all expandability being external, over Thunderbolt, didn’t really play out,' says Hackett. 'Even Thunderbolt 3 can’t match the speed of internal connections for things like audio and video capture cards, let alone GPUs. The old Mac Pros (and the G5 towers before them) could be upgraded over time with things like additional RAM and storage. In a world where even the mighty iMac Pro is glued shut, the Mac Pro can still make a name for itself in long-term upgradability.'

Several other professionals I spoke to also echoed Hackett's hope for a Mac Pro that's got more upgradeable options.

'For me, the ideal Mac Pro would be a machine that can be purchased once and upgraded in the future, when new CPUs and GPUs become available,' says app developer Guilherme Rambo, who also frequently publishes Apple leaks on 9to5mac. 'I should also be able to add more SSD storage if I need it, at any time, by myself.'

'The Mac Pro should go in the opposite direction of all other computers Apple makes, all of which are optimized for portability, thinness and beauty,' says Rambo. 'The absolute top priority should be delivering a beefy, customizable desktop for people who need that type of power.'

'I want something between the tower Mac Pros of the past and the trashcan,' says Kenneth Bolido, who leads video production at Overclock Media for the popular technology-focused Austin Evans YouTube channel. 'Ideally we get more modularity, being able to upgrade the CPU and GPU in addition to RAM and storage.'

Another popular tech YouTuber, Jonathan Morrison, also said he wants to see more storage on the Mac Pro.

'I want multiple storage slots,' says Morrison. 'I miss that from the cheese grater Mac Pro. I'm a fan of internal storage when I can get it, especially with music production libraries being huge, so if I could get 20TB of SSD internal storage that would be amazing.'

Support for NVIDIA graphics cards

Beyond easily upgradeable components, the most-asked for feature every professional I spoke with wants is better graphics card (GPU) support. Specifically a Mac Pro that works with NVIDIA's GPUs.

While I wouldn't go as far to say the AMD discrete graphics chips in Macs are bad at all — the iMac Pro's Radeon Pro Vega GPU is a beast — NVIDIA's are considered the best in the business as they offer better performance and compatibility with a wider range of professional software.

Mashable Senior Motion Designer Malik Yusuf who's using a 2013 Mac Pro at work to animate videos told me NVIDIA support would greatly improve his workflow. 'Nearly all modern third-party 3D renderers such as Octane and Redshift for the 3D program I use, Cinema 4D, require NVIDIA cards.'

'A lot of 3D motion designers have been moving to PCs over the years as a result,' says Yusuf. 'I think I might have to eventually as well if i get more into 3D stuff.'

When asked, most video creators and animators were fine with a Mac Pro supporting the latest NVIDIA RTX 2080 GPUs, but for true workstation performance, Bolido says he thinks Apple should support even beefier NVIDIA GPUs, such as the Quadro series that starts at $4,000.

'I think it would be cool to see options for NVIDIA Quadro cards,' says Bolido. 'Especially for workflows in Davinci Resolve and other programs that can utilize graphics, having internal GPU support — especially with workstation class — would be killer.'

Beefy, but reasonably priced

We're calling it now: the new Mac Pro will be expensive. How do we know? Because the trash can Mac Pro has a hefty price tag with a starting price of $2,999 and a maxed-out configuration price of $6,599.

Also, the iMac Pro is extremely pricey, too. It starts at $4,999 and balloons up to $15,699 with every upgrade option checked off.

Sure, the new Mac Pro won't come with a 4K or 5K display, which will save you a couple of hundred or thousand dollars, but anyone who buys a new Mac Pro is probably gonna want whatever color-accurate-Retina Mac Pro Display Apple creates for it.

'I'm most excited for an Apple display,' says Morrison. He said LG's 4K and 5K displays, which are sold from Apple, are 'great, but just don't truly do it.'

Still, there's nothing stopping professionals from wishing for a Mac Pro that won't break the bank.

'Personally, for a long time I've wanted Apple to offer a viable desktop tower that isn't a $4000+ workstation,' says app and game developer Steve Troughton-Smith who's long been one of the most vocal about Apple neglecting Macs and professionals.

'What I need most is expandability, upgradeability and replaceable parts — an NVIDIA-class GPU, removable storage, and slots that let me upgrade the device to take advantage of hardware that hasn't yet been invented,' says Troughton-Smith. 'So much of what I need would be served by Apple merely putting an Intel CPU in a box and calling it a day, and it's so frustrating that they feel like they need to change the world with their design instead.'

The dream Mac Pro

Like I said, every professional is going to have an opinion on what kind of Mac Pro they'd like from Apple. Specs will vary based on each person's line of work, but the general consensus is that they should be comparable to the iMac Pro at the low-end and blow past it at the high-end.

'In terms of performance, the new Mac Pro will have steep competition from the iMac Pro, which to date is the most powerful Mac ever sold,' says Troughton-Smith. 'I have to imagine there will be overlap in both price and power between these two machines, but I think that’s fine. Some users will want the all-in-one design and will be willing to trade upgradability and expandability for that, and others won’t.'

If anything, here's a Mac Pro wishlist for what based on the conversations I had:

  • 'Modular' design with user-replaceable components

  • Swappable CPU

  • More powerful Intel Xeon processors with at least 18-cores at the highest-end

  • Swappable graphics cards

  • NVIDIA graphics cards support

  • Boatload of internal storage (preferably all flash-based for insane read/write speeds)

  • Tons of RAM options with configurations more than iMac Pro's max 256GB

  • Lots of I/O ports for accessory expansion such as eGPUs

  • A bomb-ass new Apple display

  • Pricing that won't cost a fortune

Apple: If you're still open to ideas, here's a good list of features to consider for the Mac Pro.


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