Thoughts on The New Mac Pro

Posted by Scott

I have never owned a Mac Pro nor do I ever plan on owning one (probably, never say never). I am writing this from the perspective of a life-long PC user (which I am) who thinks very highly of Apple products (I use Macbook Pros for the Tycho live shows). I love OS X, I love Apple hardware; I just prefer PC as my desktop environment when creating music, design, and video. I don’t have any great explanation, I just do. But I’ve always envied those shiny aluminum behemoths lurking in the corners of my friend’s studios. The interior of the Pros was always what did it for me: that blue color on the PCBs, the brushed finish on the capacitors, the thermal compartments. So I too was waiting on this new machine, if only to see what Apple would come up with next.

Considering I’m not a Mac Pro user it’s not really my place to be thrilled or disappointed, I guess I’d just say I’m surprised. This was a radical step in a new direction and for that, I applaud Apple’s stones. With their dominance in the consumer sector this could have gone two ways: The Mac Pro could have just gone away, or, with nothing to really gain or lose, they could do something completely unexpected and truly innovate. They chose the latter and I think it’s a great thing for the PC industry as a whole.

I would have said let’s put aesthetics aside and just discuss the specs on this machine, but it seems the two are inexorably linked, which depending on how you view this, could be a good or bad thing. On the one hand it’s compact and sleek, on the other it seems very proprietary, further limiting the already limited list of compatible hardware. But don’t forget what’s around back: six Thunderbolt 2 ports. The first thing I thought when Thunderbolt 1 was announced was “here comes modular computing”. The first thing I thought when I saw the 2013 Mac Pro and the Thunderbolt 2 announcement was “here is the face of modular computing”. A compact central computing element with an external interconnect protocol capable of PCIx+ speeds. This opens some very large doors in terms of upgrading and/or easily and quickly adjusting your system for changing needs.

The form factor is incredibly efficient (take a look at the Mac Pro site at Apple for more on the unified thermal architecture, brilliant). For someone who transports a very large PC ATX case to and from various studios, the idea of a compact, tubular enclosure like this is a dream. I could fit this thing in a messenger bag or a small flight case. For tour it could be great too; mount two of these horizontally in a flight case so that when the case caps are removed the intake and exhaust are exposed. I’ve seen the old Mac Pros mounted two-up in 19″ flight cases on stage before, it’s a huge footprint, this would be a welcome change for many a stage manager / tech I’m sure. As I’m writing this I’m starting to convince myself this might make a good next desktop, we’ll see.

All in all I think it’s a beautiful piece of engineering with the specs to back it up, but what do I, a lowly PC user, know? What do you current Pro users think? Does this scare you? If so, why? What do you think of the look? Are you going to get one?

The New Mac Pro

51 Comments Leave A Comment


Brendan says:

June 11, 2013 at 7:05 pm

The design is fantastic. Being able to take portable Desktop power with you on the road is crazy, as is the amount of thunderbolt ports it has.

But for me, the easiness of installing new Hard drives and the easiness of customizing (and really building your own from scratch) / upgrading a PC is still unparalleled. Take into account the fact that a lot of my favorite VSTis are free on PC and not even available on OSX, PC will still win. Plus, I haven’t even looked at the price tag of the Pro and don’t really want to, haha.


Travis says:

June 11, 2013 at 7:05 pm

The only thing that I thought about, after talking to a few coworkers, was the lack of space that’d be essential to allow modifications/upgrades. Its design makes it so compact that any addition looks impossible.

Otherwise, this looks like something out of 2001. I was shocked by the design. The tech that comes out is always going to be better than the last one, which, now that we’re all accustomed to such a practice, doesn’t astound me as much as it should…since it’d take me 1000 years to fabricate such a thing from scratch, myself. But I never would’ve thought to put it in a glossy black beer can/battery. Real sleek.


Lucas Abel says:

June 11, 2013 at 7:05 pm

Absolutely getting one. I have an early 2008 MacPro. I’m a video editor and I’ve been holding out for an upgrade—The time has come!


Paul Pants says:

June 11, 2013 at 7:07 pm

This is the first time in a long time that Apple floored me with a product unveiling. You could feel the adrenaline surging through Phil Schiller when he announced it. Beautiful.


sean curtis patrick says:

June 11, 2013 at 7:12 pm

i wont be getting one, but could easily use one with what i do. that being said, the modular angle is the biggest part of this whole deal. its a deal which is somewhat contentious to some old dogs, but really, at the end of the day, shouldnt be and they will just be steamrolled by those willing to advance. look at the whole fcp 7 vs fcp x debate years ago. that was silly and overblown. people are kind of finally over that one… its a pro machine, so its made really for the “yous and mes” of the world, so maybe we actually should be looking closer at these kinds of machines. as usual, a majority of whats said about any new thing really is a bunch of wank anyway, including any apple product, so look to the actual real types looking to buy this: who in my eyes will be people who own RED cameras. people willing to throw down real money on what is essentially an experiment which may render serious productivity.


marcfolio says:

June 11, 2013 at 7:30 pm

As a Mac Pro owner I love the new design/ concept, but I worry it’s 2 years too late. Apple has really neglected the pro market and many pro users have moved on to PC, hackintosh, or iMac. I hope it can perform in day to day tasks as fast as the latest i7s and not just be a render beast.

If I have the cash when it comes out I’m totally in. My current Mac Pro has run solid every day for the last 4 years and probably will go for another 4. If the new pro’s are as solid it’ll be money well spent.


Michael Gallegly says:

June 11, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Here’s how I see it:

Many people who will never buy one and who will never need a computer with that kind of power probably loath the exterior design.

Many people who will buy one and who do need a computer with that kind of power will see the exterior design as somewhat irrelevant to their end goal.

That’s not to say that non-buyers of it can’t appreciate it good product and industrial design. Maybe my opinion is based more on the comments on a CNN article, in which absolute morons claim that they could build a computer with the same power for 1/4 the price.

I’m totally with you, though, Scott. You’ve got to hand it to Apple for having the guts to just do something completely different with that product.


Adrien says:

June 11, 2013 at 7:33 pm

As an audiovisual creator the thought of taking this for live installations and remote film work is very enticing, and also as there are no real (current) pci solutions for external GFX cards I can only hope that AMD delivers, and that thunderbolt peripherals increase in production speed (and deliver in more reasonable prices.)

Im not clear here- maybe someone can clarify- the new mac pro has no internal pci slots?? if so, would have loved to at least see at least few (2-4) hard drive slots for file interchange or specific work cards. .
Currently I own a sonnet pcie for my uad octo and OWC accelsior but the sonnet box is bulky and noisy! Would have been nice of apple to make it just a little taller to take advantage of this cooling system and frm factor…


Adrien says:

June 11, 2013 at 7:35 pm

But yes, for the most part apple still manages to bring constant style and innovation throughout their design process, so kudos to that.


Mark says:

June 11, 2013 at 7:36 pm

As a long-time user of Apple products and the Mac Pro line(for audio post and music production), I’m loving this direction. There was talk at one stage about the discontinuation of the Mac Pro which would have been tragic for Apple imo, but I think this new design is innovative and will breathe much-needed new life into the series. I’m excited about it and think it will beva great success if it’s not too highly priced.


Rusty Hodge says:

June 11, 2013 at 7:50 pm

I need the power and I like the way it looks. I just hope we can get up to 2gb of SSD in it. The SSD specs are incredible, and my really big stuff (mostly video and audio archives) lives on an external RAID5 box now.

The 4K video support is huge. The CGI and editing community will likely be all over that. (It also means that you’ll effectively have a retina display on it with the proper monitor!)


Ldom says:

June 11, 2013 at 9:47 pm

I have a Mac Pro that works fine so I don’t have an excuse yet to get the new one. The specs and design amaze me. Apple showed they have guts and still are leaders. Well done.


david says:

June 11, 2013 at 11:02 pm

everytime a new apple product is announced i start checking the web for the original design by Dieter Rams. It became a habbit and somewhat of a game. I think this is inspired by the cylindric lighter he made for Braun in 1968. But can aslo be the cofee grinder. :)


Chris Prescott says:

June 12, 2013 at 12:12 am

I’m kinda having a hard time understand all of this. (Apple) If you think of the perspective of all their products, they all kinda went “hand in hand” in their design, look and feel, etc. To see this how this has changed, I’m not sure if I like it or not. Small is cool, but round? Looks like it’s ready to take off. Perhaps it is, being that it’s faster then previous generations but I’m just not sure what to think of it, negative or positive. :/


Flavio says:

June 12, 2013 at 12:57 am

It may be modular computing, but it also would make it up for a messy desktop setup… i mean, all those cables, really? From the company that always wanted to strip those away.
Storage will be quite limited and super-expensive… I don’t want to know the starting price :D


Jesse says:

June 12, 2013 at 1:09 am

Kinds reminds me of that Cube Apple made oh so long ago. Now they are Kleenex dispensers ;)


Kamil says:

June 12, 2013 at 1:24 am

I think the Apple need change and it’s a reason to create new product.
Allegedly new MacPro will build in the USA. It’s pity that most part like processor or memory is made in China.
Design of tube is like to old Polish washer called “Frania”.
I use all time MacPro – it’s newer-failing but when you want comparison the same configuration to PC that MacPro is much expensive.


Charles says:

June 12, 2013 at 1:40 am

…yeah I’m torn on this new thing. There’s something about having 4 outboard PCIe cards with all their own enclosures and all their own power supplies that I just can’t get behind. I like what they did in a way, I like the modularity, but I also hate it. I have enough of a nightmare in wires behind my tower now, this just seems like it’ll be worse than ever. Also, I’m still confused on how they are going to get the x16 bandwidth over Thunderbolt 2. Change is good, but it’ll be a while before we see real pro solutions to this I think. Was also hoping for more processing power, as in something outrageous.


David says:

June 12, 2013 at 8:48 am

It’s Apple’s redo of the Cube, who’s form was gorgeous, but too advanced for it’s time. The components overheated and ultimately the consumer didn’t yet appreciate what Apple’s design finesse and saw the machine as a luxury. It’s great to see how much power they are able to pack into the new Mac Pro. Although, it seems to me that silver aluminum would have been more appropriate. Otherwise, it rocks. (And we can max out the RAM to 60gigs—omg.)


Charlie Potter says:

June 12, 2013 at 9:27 am

Scott, I still can’t believe you prefer designing on a PC versus a Mac.

That’s really weird man….


josh says:

June 12, 2013 at 10:01 am

im on the same page when it comes to using a pc as a desktop and a macbook when it comes to live shows.
its really nice have what i call “the best of both worlds”
im also a pc gamer and a filmmaker and its nice have the ability to buy graphics cards and other customizable features. so rock on!

and am i looking at the pictures right?
is the new macpro like a cylinder? ha


Ryan says:

June 12, 2013 at 10:32 am

Great to see Apple build these in the USA.

Personally, I’d rather have one of these with a cinema display than my iMac.

In order to get an elegant form factor and compact size, they had to defer expansion to the outside of the casing. One of the nice things about the previous behemoth was that it kept everything organized in a beautiful tower. The new Mac Pro exposes some of the mess with external hard drives and extra wires.

Size wise, it seems portable enough…but you still need to carry around a display monitor. It will be interesting to see how people use this…


Toby says:

June 12, 2013 at 4:50 pm

I’m really impressed with the shape and the internals. The only thing that I find kind of jarring is the glossy-ness; especially considering they’ve been phasing that out of all their other hardware and now also their software.

I am hoping that the final thing has a matte finish… with any luck, dark anodised aluminium, which would look perfect.


Patrick says:

June 13, 2013 at 9:21 am

I think I’m leaning towards the more optimistic side of things here. Mind you, being an Apple user, of course I’ll tend to be biased. But if there’s one thing that I’ve learned about Apple is that they’ve always bared in mind along with design, immediacy, longevity of their products, and performance. And also educated/gutsy compromise. Like with the new MacBook Pros: out went the optical disk drive to give a more ample way to a slimmer design, among other things, because the focus was portability and performance. But they’re also betting that everything with computers will be acquirable online (iTunes, App store, Steam, etc.) Really, I think most things being made into disks anymore are movies, console videogames, and music because of the existence of PlayStation and XBox, for example.

I think they’re also betting on the same kind of mentality with the new Mac Pro, where expandability will generally not be much of a concern, because of how much power they’re packing in it; thus, turning the attention to expediting the creative process, or any other kind of work. IMO, pretty much akin to what Ableton intended with Push and workflow with Live.

I know my view seems a little broad, but that’s my general perception. It’ll be interesting to see what they do with the pricing…

I am a bit turned off about the glossy finish, though. @Toby, dark anodized aluminum WOULD be sick! But at 1/8 the size of the current Mac Pro with that much going on? wow. And the cooling system, brilliant!


Andy says:

June 14, 2013 at 2:05 am

Longtime Apple user but not fanboy. I thought the unveiling was great, and you have to give it to Apple for not being afraid to innovate. Once again Apple making waves in the industrial design world.

However, One of the first things I did after digesting it all was to go and check out the various Hackintosh options, and considering a switch to Windows or dual boot.

I’m just not sure about this new mac pro, and the AMD GPUs worry me as I’ll specifically be needing Nvidia for my apps (among others, doesn’t Adobe performance mostly benefit from Nvidia?). I like the idea of modular thunderbolt expandability, but I think it could get messy and irritating in real life. Keeping the devices, power and cables inside the box seems to be a nice neat solution.

I wont be an early adopter but will be watching with interest – perhaps Apple have thought all this through and this is their best-case scenario.


ALISON says:

June 16, 2013 at 7:00 am

How much is this gonna cost?

And what will be the base RAM?

I have a feeling it will cost more to upgrade the new Mac Pro than to get the older one.


Tim Morrison says:

June 16, 2013 at 11:44 pm

I think these new Mac Pros look pretty cool. Love the layout of the components and the way the heat dissipates up and out through the top of the ‘tube’. Reminds me a little of the old dome iMacs in the early 2000s. Makes me wish I was an Industrial Designer instead of a Graphic Designer.

I guess we will just have to wait and see how much this little beast will cost…


Johnny says:

June 18, 2013 at 4:41 pm

There’s an initial shock to the system for those who have been utilizing the Mac Pro’s existing expandability. I’m a CG artist in a Mac Pro studio and I was a little concerned about it myself. But if I, like some other workstation users, don’t entirely care about a smaller, sleeker form factor, what do I care about a few outboard enclosures and a couple extra wires? That’s if you need them. I don’t, all my work is accessed from the network, except for rare occasions when I bring it local. In a mixed environment of MacBook Pros, iMacs, and Mac Pros, it can be an advantage to have consistent external storage, ingest, and interface enclosures. Easier to share hardware and repurpose work stations as the need arrises. We use NVidia cards right now, so we’ll loose some CUDA advantages, but FCPX will take advantage of OpenCL on AMD’s chips for sure, and hopefully other companies like Adobe and Autodesk will better support it as well (and w/ Creative Cloud, it should be easier to deploy). No one likes having to upgrade or purchase new peripherals, but if you haven’t come to expect that when Apple reinvents one of their products, you haven’t learned yet.


SamuraiArtGuy says:

June 19, 2013 at 8:57 am

As a working Graphic & Web Designer I’ve been very interested … and invested in the Apple side. I am a little insulated from upgrade fever, having recently gone in with Mac Pro… thanks, Adobe.

But a couple of thoughts first occurred to me. A moment of silence for Firewire and optical drives. Apple is just plain DONE with optical media, and is ALL IN with Thunderbolt.

As many folk have noticed that there is are advantages and downsides to zero internal expandability, other than RAM, and SSD, Processor and GPU configuration options. The guys with big investemnts of niche PCI cards are the most upset. But I realize that as a Designer, I have my stock GPU, and yes an internal RAID, but two external Firewire Drives too… Many pros won’t need the internal slots. What we DON’T know yet is how modular the GPU panels on the new wee beasite might be.

Apple is asking us to “Think Different” in a pretty big “Try it. We think you’ll love it” way. But I remember the howling when iMacs debuted with USB and Firewire and did away with Floppy Drives, Serial and SCSI connections, and had CD drives on board. There were virtually NO FW or USB devices on the shelves at the time.

I am guessing that they are hoping to nudge Thunderbolt peripherals along with this move. Heaven know that TB devices are damn costly, and hopefully with more volume and acceptance, this may change.

What has everybody twitchy, is that we don’t know configurations or pricing. “Later this year.”

Thanks, Intel.


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Connor says:

June 25, 2013 at 6:25 am

Hi Scott,

I am a big fan of your work both as Tycho and as ISO50 for your Graphic Designs and your blog. I am an artist myself, who has done a lot of film, 3D animation, and graphic design projects via the Mac. I want to share with you how I feel about The New Mac Pro, as well as what I would want in the next version.

(1) Thoughts on the new Mac Pro

When designing the future of the pro desktop, the team at Apple chose to go the route of creating something that can recognized as a feat that only Apple could have designed. They wanted something to beautiful, from the inside out, that’s their mission for their company. They don’t want to make something out of plastic anymore, their done from that idea with the death of the plastic white MacBook, which was discontinued with the release of OS X Lion on July 20, 2011. They want to make something that would make the people over at Microsoft faint.

The internals are pretty nifty, but there are a couple things that I would have wanted to see:

1st: DDR4 SDRAM. 1866MHz is a good improvement from 1333MHz and even 1066MHz but something that would have blown the competition our of the water would have been introducing 32GB of 2500MHz DDR4 SDRAM, *Standard.

2nd: Removable PCIe Flash Storage. Just like the Retina MacBook Pros, the flash is soldered onto the motherboard. Isn’t the whole point of buying a Mac Pro is to upgrade it over time (internally), it seams that Apple gave 6 Thunderbolt 2 ports for external expansion, not internal. Cluttered desks here we come!

(2) Successor to the Mac Pro?

I’m guessing that Apple isn’t going down the iPod Touch route of skipping a generation, so we might see a product announcement for the successor December 2014. What I want to see as follows:

1st: The return of FireWire, (Firewire 800, as well as the next generation of FireWire codenamed: IEEE P1394d running at 6.4Gbit/s)

2nd: DDR4 SDRAM – 2500MHz or GDDR5 RAM

3rd: Skip Quad-Core and go full-out 8-Core Processing with 30MB of L3 Cache, if people wanted a good Quad-Core machine they would have bought an iMac.

3GHz Speed and Beyond, people like me do not understand why at a price-point of
$1,299, you are paying for a 2.7GHz Quad-Core iMac, with only 8GB RAM, and 512MB of GPU.

4th: The next Mac Pro should offer a 3.5GHz 8-Core Processor with 60MB L3 cache and 32GB of GDDR5 RAM.

Any other ideas?



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John T says:

July 3, 2013 at 8:02 am

I work as IT manager in an all Mac audio post pro shop with 5 studios in central London and we have spent a ton of money on Avid/Digidesign PCI/e hardware. We’ve been waiting on a Mac Pro upgrade for a couple of years and have budgeted for several machines to replace our 3-5 year old towers. However, we now also need to work out how to pay for audio interfaces, HD enclosures, bespoke rack mounts etc etc. I love the look of this thing but am absolutely dreading the potential cost, downtime and installation which is going to be required to upgrade. And our studio computers sit in a machine room in a rack anyway. We may well be looking at the option of PC towers to go into our racks if we don’t see suitable (and suitably priced) peripherals. Combined with the latest Pro Tools 11 upgrade and AAX64 plugin costs, it looks like it might be almost as expensive as equipping from scratch. We are doing well but no small business in this industry is going to be comfortable putting out the amount of money required. We’ll definitely keep iMacs and Mac Minis for reception and client computers, though. Although I consider myself platform neutral, they just look sleeker and more professional (look that is) to our clients. For our small vid edit suite, we use a bespoke PC with a Quadro and that’s my favourite machine.


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SEAN says:

August 28, 2013 at 11:13 pm

Figures… this comes out when I get my switch new Lenovo. I think it’s cool, but I feel like I’m much more productive on windows. This isn’t meant to say that production on the Mac is not possible, that’s just my deep-seeded emotions when comparing my personal workflow preferences subjectively. I work in downtown Manhattan as a web/graphic designer when I am talking about “work.” Oh well, I’ll just keep my old mac as a Bitcoin station ;) 0~o


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