Apple has finally announced a refresh of the Mac Pro at its WWDC keynote. The last time the Mac Pro had a model refresh was many years ago when we got the older gen Mac Pro with that garbage can chassis. This time, Apple has taken an entirely new approach and the new Mac Pro looks like a classic cheese grater. This is ‘grate’ since it allows the Mac Pro to have plenty of room for expansion and also lets Apple take a rather unorthodox approach when it comes to cooling.
The Mac Pro, without any doubt, is a total beast. It has top-of-the-line specs paired with the efficiency of MacOS to provide the ultimate workstation experience for professionals. While these things are true for the higher-end Mac Pro variants, things start to fall apart when we look at the lower end models.
However, let’s put that aside for a while and talk about the things that the Mac Pro does right. The cheese grater chassis is easy to open and comes right off giving easy access to the parts inside. The insides have a ton of potential for expansion with multiple free RAM and PCIe slots. The Mac Pro also manages to pair this with essentially zero cables using its proprietary connectors for power delivery. You can even use other graphics cards and upgrade yourself if you wish to do so. The slot selection is great as well with multiple thunderbolt 3 ports and dual 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports. So, from the looks, it seems like the Mac Pro is the ultimate machine for professionals.
The cooling philosophy that Apple has taken is also rather different and it might actually work. There is no active cooling for the processor or the graphics card. Instead, Apple has opted for radiators and chassis fans to guide the airflow. These are supported by the massive openings in the chassis on both sides that potentially mean unrestricted airflow through the body. Yes, there is a risk of dust being collected between the chassis holes but the fact that the outside of the body is so easy to take off and clean essentially negates that risk.
The Mac Pro is a Beast
The Mac Pro is an absolute beast when it comes to performance. The top of the line model for Mac Pro has a Radeon Pro Vega II Duo graphics card which is essentially two Vega II GPUs combined. The graphics expansion architecture called MPX Module adds another slot next to the PCIe with thunderbolt integration that can deliver over 500 Watts of power to the graphics card without any cables. There are two MPX Modules in the Mac Pro meaning one could use two Vega II Duos GPUs at the same time. This would make it one of the most powerful professional machines around with almost 56 teraflops of graphics performance and 128 GB of video bandwidth. To put this into perspective, these numbers are higher than two Nvidia Quadro or Titan GPUs.
The top spec model also has a 28-core CPU making it an insanely capable machine. There is also some special attention to detail for the video editors. Apple has introduced a new accelerator card that video editors can opt for called the Apple Afterburner. This can decode up to 6.3 billion pixels per second and is capable of playing back 3 full 8K ProRes RAW video streams at the same time. The Mac Pro is also somewhat portable with a handle at the top that can be used to pick it up and move it around. However, if you want to get the top-spec model with all of these bells and whistles, it is going to cost you a whopping $35,000 or even more.
The base line model that costs $6,000 does not have any of these capabilities and still costs a lot. According to a lot of people, it should not even exist as the value it offers is laughable. Why? Let’s take a look.
How Much Does the Mac Pro Actually Cost?
Apple has generally been pretty good with offering good value for money when it comes to their PCs. For example, the $5000 iMac pro, when assembled separately, comes roughly at around $4500 which is a pretty good value considering the addition of all the extra costs on top of just the manufacturing process of the PC. However, it looks like Apple has completely thrown that philosophy out and has taken a very problematic approach. The Mac Pro does not even come close to offering the same value proposition as the iMac pro and the situation is rather perplexing.
Let’s take a look at how much the $6000 Mac Pro actually costs if you bought the internal parts separately and assembled them. We’ll also add the R&D and other overhead costs just to make things a bit fairer.
Let’s take a look at the processor first. The $5999 variant of the Mac Pro has an 8-core Intel CPU which we assume is an Intel Xeon W-2145. The choice is rather peculiar as it is not really what you’d call a ‘beast’. Even the consumer option i9-9900K is pretty much the same as the Xeon W-2145. One would expect a professional machine to be better than an ordinary consumer machine. I wonder why Apple could not have used AMD’s Threadripper processor as it is notorious for being extremely well-suited for productivity focused tasks. Anyway, the Xeon W-2145 costs around $1,200 so let’s add that to the pile.
The GPU being used in the base-line Mac Pro is a measly Radeon RX 580 ‘Pro’ which is not exactly what you’d call a powerhouse either. Apple should have at least used a Vega graphics card as RX 580s are being used in mid-ranged laptops as well. So, why would you use something so low-powered in a professional grade machine? The RX 580 costs around $200 when bought separately.
The Mac Pro uses 4 modules of 8 GB DDR4-2666 ECC RAM. However, we don’t know if the base line Mac Pro has other expansion slots or not. The RAM for the Mac Pro costs in the region of $200.
As far as the storage is concerned, you won’t like this one. The base variant of the Mac Pro has a 256 GB PCI-E SSD. I mean, seriously, what year is it? 256 GB is laughable even for low-ranged laptop standards. It costs around $200.
Motherboard, PSU and Chassis
A good high-end motherboard which I assume is being used in the case of the Mac Pro as well costs around $750. Other than that, the 1200W Power Supply in the Mac Pro costs in the region of $300. As far as the Chassis is concerned, an EATX Chassis costs $300.
The Total Cost
Now, let’s add all these parts up.
|Xeon W-2145 Processor||~$1,200|
|Radeon RX 580 GPU||~$200|
|4x 8 GB DDR4-2666 ECC RAM||~$250|
|256 GB PCI-E SSD||~$200|
|High-end Workstation Motherboard||~$750|
|1200W Power Supply||~$300|
Just for the parts alone, the cost comes out to be around 3200 Dollars. If you add some additional assembly, R&D and other costs which, even if we’re being generous come out to be around $500, the total cost comes out to be around 3700 Dollars. The actual price for the Mac Pro is $5,9999. The price difference of $2300 is massive and no amount of goodwill is worth a mark-up as much as that. We’re not even considering the cost of buying the monitor, which, while being one of the best displays on the market, still costs around $5000 and does not even come with a stand. You’ll have to buy a separate VESA mount for around 100 bucks or if you feel like flexing on your colleagues, you could get the ‘pro’ mount for a whopping $999.
We should be thankful though because Apple includes a cleaning cloth with the monitor free of cost. I don’t exactly know why Apple would change its philosophy so much since it had already formed a good reputation for offering good value even. Maybe they’re hoping that people do not notice the abrupt change and just buy the Mac Pro just based on brand loyalty. Whatever it is, I wish them the best of luck. People would still buy the Mac Pro, Apple would still rake in the massive profits. None of this will make any difference and I don’t see the trend shifting anytime soon. The whole thing is just absurd.