The Apple Mac Pro Is Back, Doing What It Does Best…Costing A Fortune?
Ahh, the good ‘ol days of Apple are back again. …And, by “good ‘ol days”, I mean, back when your Mac cost more than your “starving artist” car, and you had to keep it for 10+ years for the investment to be truly worth it.
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, as you’ve likely already heard, the Mac Pro tower is back. The infamous cheese-grater, the 2003-2006-esque Mac desktop tower computer, in all its upgrade-able glory.
(Do YOU remember the 1st-gen Mac Pro? The Powermac G5? Have you left Apple since then, or stuck with them? Leave a comment below!)
Of course, you’ll have to fork over at least $5,999 for a bare-bones configuration, and that is not including their new 32″ 6K XDR (HDR) display, ($4999) …or the most controversial item of all: the $999 stand for that display!
So, if you’ve got a lot more money to spend, just how crazy can this thing get? Here’s the potential configuration:
2019 Mac Pro Specs
- Up to 28-core (56 thread) Xeon processor
(2.5GHz, Turbo Boost up to 4.4GHz)
- Up to 1.5TB of RAM (12 DIMM slots)
- Expansion: 8 PCI-E slots
Okay, that’s a lot of room for “stuff”, in fact, it’s twice what the previous Mac Pro tower offered. You can currently fit up to 4TB of SSD storage, for example, and that’s only going to consume two slots!
Mac Pro Graphics
The graphics in the new Mac Pro deserve their own category in the spec sheet. Simply put, the specs are insane, just as their add-on prices are going to be insane.
There’s a new Mac Pro Expansion Module, (MPX Module) which is touted as the “world’s most powerful graphics card”. It can handle up to 4 Radeon Pro Vega II GPUs. (56 teraflops, 128GB HBM2)
There’s the “Afterburner” accelerator card, which boosts the performance of ProRes video, allowing for up to 3 streams of 8K or 12 streams of RAW 4K video.
Simply put, this is not your average “famous Youtuber” or “wedding cinematographer” workstation. This machine is made for a whole different level of professional video production. One where the jobs pay five or six figures, not three or four.
Last but not least, there are a handful of (though not tons of) Thunderbolt, USB3, DisplayPort, and Ethernet ports.
Oh, and the thing weighs about 40 lbs and has a 1.4-kilowatt power supply. Since we’re partying like it’s 2003, I’ll just say it: Yowza!
What You Get For $5,999
By the way, all of those crazy “up to” specs will indeed cost a whole lot more than the “starting at” price tag. The configuration page isn’t even available yet, (comment below if you find it!) and this machine isn’t going to be shipping until the fall of 2019.
So, what do you get for the base price of just $6K? You get the 8-core CPU, a “mere” 32GB of RAM, and a single, dare I say paltry by today’s standards, 256GB SSD hard drive. (That’s not even enough space to work on a single 30-second TV commercial in 4K RAW, is it?)
But, here’s the thing: remember, you’re back to the old days; meaning you can go on Newegg or pop over to your local Fry’s Electronics, and pick up 1TB SSDs for just a few hundred bucks, or 10-terabyte HDDs or whatever you want. RAM, graphics, …it’s all interchangeable. And storage/RAM get cheaper ever year.
What Apple Got Right With The 2019 Mac Pro
Before the dark days of soldered-in RAM, hard drives, and other parts, (I’m still running a 2012 Macbook Pro partly for this reason) the Mac Pro and indeed even its laptop counterpart was impressively customizable. Many a “photographer friend” of mine would tell me about how their 2006 Mac Pro Tower was still going strong in 2010, or even 2016, as their computer reached its 10th birthday.
When a computer lasts that long and continues to offer smooth operation and reliable performance, it really is a thing of beauty, both for your long-term business expense budget, and your general stress level in day-to-day work.
Let’s be honest, the “trash can” Mac Pro was a flop. Its unconventional design caused it to be nowhere near as upgradeable as its predecessor, and Apple themselves neglected it for years.
The 2019 Mac Pro tower is, simply put, a strong “we’re back!” statement from Apple. Price tag and all.
Is Apple “Out Of Touch”? Maybe Not.
The computer hardware is impressive, yes, and the external shell is downright sexy looking. However, the price tag immediately puts the whole thing out of reach of most types of artists.
The general consensus on the internet seems to be that Apple is too late to redeem themselves, and the $999 display stand in particular is just a slap in the face to anyone who thought they might actually be able to dive wholeheartedly back into the Apple sphere again.
Honestly, though? Even if you’re a full-time professional photographer or videographer, even if you’re shooting thousands of 40-50 megapixel raw files, or editing 4K video, …this computer is still total overkill for you. The display is likely overkill, too.
What Apple has offered is much like what Canon used to offer in their $8,000 flagship 1Ds series DSLRs: a professional workhorse that only a few actually require, and a status symbol that only a few non-pros will actually afford.
If you can’t afford it, yet you still love the Mac operating system, well, that’s what an iMac or MacBook Pro is for. Or, if you’re not OS-obsessed, building a PC of similar high-end spec, (especially the graphics and the 6K HDR display) will still cost you a small fortune.
Why Is Everyone Losing their Sh*t, Then?
Most of the internet loves to be critical of things it can’t obtain. If money were truly no object, you’d drive a fancy sports car that can do 200 MPH, even if you’re not a Nascar winner. You’d own a huge mansion, even if you only have one or two kids. And, you wouldn’t bat an eye at buying this computer, even if all you ever do is toy around with your 4K GoPro footage, or your 45-megapixel landscape photos from your recent trip to Patagonia.
Of course, if you’re a working pro in an industry where these types of computer specs are actually necessary, then you also invest in good quality computer equipment. If you’re working with 8K and/or 4K RAW/HDR video, (and getting paid good money to do it) then spending $10-20K on a computer system is likely a good long-term business investment. Well, hopefully, a good long-term investment. That is what brings us to our last point of discussion, Apple’s quality control in recent years. (Uh-oh!)
What Apple Needs To Focus On From Now On
Unfortunately, asking Apple die-hard fans to spend $6K (Well, $12K if you also want the XDR display and its stand) is still a very bold request, given Apple’s overall trend of quality products in recent years. We have had extensive experience with Apples’ quality control, or lack thereof, and to be blunt, we would feel downright foolish to throw that much money at Apple again right now.
So, here’s what Apple really needs to focus on delivering with this new high-priced machine: Prove that they’re not just back in the game with regards to the outward visuals and the user-upgradeable factor that we missed so much. First, they need to prove that they’re committed to professional-grade quality control and customer support. Because, if the user experience isn’t silky-smooth, the price tag is going to sting.
Even though this computer is something that the masses will never be able to afford, it is still the new benchmark by which Apple will be judged in the public eye, and the eye of serious photographers and videographers who at least dream of owning such a machine, even if all they really need is a decently spec’d Macbook Pro or iMac.
So, what do you think? Is Apple totally out of touch, or is this an exciting new chapter in their proud line of impressively spec’d, beautiful looking computers?