Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference keynote touched on many products today, but for some of the developers in attendance, the most exciting reveal wasn’t the new versions of iOS or macOS, but rather some new hardware — Apple’s updated Mac Pro.
Professionals that need more horsepower than a MacBook or iMac can provide have been waiting for years to get a great replacement to the Mac Pro. As high-performance users have clamoured for more powerful processors and upgradeable graphics, Apple’s failure to support this sort of upgradability has been a huge source of frustration for a lot of power users.
The new Mac Pro should fix all of that, with a stunning new modular design, upgradeable graphics hardware, and a companion 6K monitor that might just be the best display ever. But it’s not all praise and longing for the powerful Mac Pro. The desktop’s base price barely scratches the surface when compared to configurations that cost tens of thousands of dollars, and the display has people pretty riled up with it’s sold-separately stand.
Mac Pro price and release date
Unfortunately, Apple was not very specific with the release date for the Mac Pro. The company said that the system will be available this fall.
The starting price for the Mac Pro is $5,999. That model will have an 8-core Intel Xeon processor, 32GB of memory, Radeon Pro 580X graphics and a 256GB solid-state drive for storage. No pricing details have been given for higher-end configurations, but a safe estimate would suggest you can easily outpace the $13,199 max configuration Apple offered for the iMac Pro. (Analysis by The Verge suggests that top configurations could easily surpass $35,000.)
Mac Pro Tech Specs
|Base Specs||Top Specs|
|CPU||Intel Xeon W
8 Cores, 3.5GHz
|Intel Xeon W
28 Cores, 2.5GHz
Four 8GB DIMMs
12 128GB DIMMs
|Graphics||AMD Radeon Pro 580X||2x AMD Radeon Pro Vega II Duo|
|Video Processing Hardware||none||Afterburner
ProRes and ProRes RAW accelerator card
|Storage||256GB SSD||4TB SSD|
Sleek new looks
The new Mac Pro gets a major redesign, ditching the all-in-one stylings of the iMac Pro and moving past the cylindrical design of the 2013 Mac Pro. The new design calls back to the older Mac Pros from the early aughts, with a tower design made of stainless steel, and a machined lattice front on the tower offering plenty of airflow for the tower’s three internal cooling fans.
The tower design is distinctive, thanks in part to the chunky steel handles on top and feet on the bottom, raising the Mac Pro a good inch or so off of your desktop surface. And if you want to set the Mac Pro on the floor, but still be able to easily move the tower, you can attach optional wheels.
Crazy power inside
But the most drastic changes are under the hood, with an upgradeable, expandable design that will let users not only access all of the internals – something the 2018 iMac Pro didn’t do – and providing room for upgrades and configuration changes, which were difficult (and sometimes outright impossible) on the compact Mac Pro 2013.
The new Mac Pro boasts PCI expansion, and a lot of it, with 8 internal PCI slots, including four double-wide slots, three single-width slots, and a half-width PCI slot that is used for I/O ports. The port selection includes two Thunderbolt 3 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, a dual 10-Gigabit Ethernet port.
The hardware specs range from reasonable to insane, starting with an 8-core Intel Xeon processor, but scaling up to a massive 28-core Xeon in top configurations. This is supported with 300-watts of power for the processor alone, and a giant heat-sink that ensures the CPU will stay cool without throttling performance.
Memory support goes even farther, with 6 channels of 2933MHz ECC memory and 12 DIMM slots, letting you outfit the Mac Pro with a mind-boggling 1.5 terabyte of RAM. (That’s not a typo).
Graphics support is similarly outsized, with Apple introducing a new graphics module that combines a 16x PCIe connection, ports for DisplayPort and power, and a giant fanless heatsink, all combining into what Apple calls the MPX Module. These modules can be configured to support a basic AMD Radeon Pro 580x card, a single AMD Radeon Pro Vega II card, or two Radeon Pro Vega II cards running in tandem. And the Mac Pro will support two MPX modules, potentially letting you outfit one Mac Pro with four Radeon Pro Vega II cards for unprecedented graphics power.
To enhance video processing – a major boon to video pros – Apple is also adding the option of a custom hardware accelerator called Afterburner. Designed exclusively with video processing in mind, Apple says Afterburner will support up to three simultaneous streams of ProRes raw footage at 8K resolution. At 4K resolution, it can handle 12 streams, pushing up to 6 billion pixels per second.
All of this is powered by a giant 1.4 kilowatt power supply, and cooled with a trio of fans that pull cool air in through the front of the tower and exhaust out the back.
Apple Pro Display XDR: A 6K monitor to match
The Pro Display XDR will begin selling this fall alongside the Mac Pro. The standard model will sell for $4,999, with the matte-finish option selling for $5,999.
The Pro Display XDR’s physical design matches the new Mac Pro, with a machined aluminium chassis that serves as a giant heatsink for the internal components. With a full-array backlight and tightly focused local dimming, Apple promises that the monitor has a peak brightness of 1,600 nits, with the capability of displaying 1,000 nits of sustained brightness uninterrupted for as long as you need it. In true Apple fashion, the company decided this was worthy of branding, and are calling it Extreme Dynamic Range (XDR).
The display is factory calibrated and features super wide viewing angles, a specialized polarizing filter that maintains off-angle color quality, and a glare-reducing glass surface with an optional matte finish. That matte finish isn’t just an extra glare-reducing coating, it’s a nanoscale etching into the surface of the glass, which should stave off reflections and glare and never wear off.
The Pro Display XDR connects with Thunderbolt 3, and using Thunderbolt’s daisy-chain capability, Apple says that you can connect as many as 6 of the new displays at once.
We had a chance to see the Pro Display XDR in action against some of the best screens on the market, including a reference OLED panel from Sony that costs over $20,000, and the iPad delivered a brighter image with even more accurate colors. This is an amazing display period.
The monitor sits on a beefy L-shaped stand ($999) with a dual-hinge design so that you can adjust the height and angle. It’s also rotatable, providing a portrait mode for the first time on an official Mac display. For other mounting options, there is a quick attach VESA mounting bracket ($199) that will let you hang the monitor on the wall or attach a more flexible mounting arm.
That thousand dollar price tag on the stand has even the Apple faithful up in arms. While Apple waxed poetic about the stand’s dual-hinge adjustable design, all-metal construction and counterbalanced weighting that makes positioning the monitor almost effortless, others baulked at the fact that the stand wasn’t included. Given the Pro Display XDR’s $4,999 price tag, it’s jarring to hear that there’s no stand in the box, and even more upsetting when you consider that the stand costs more than an iPhone X ($749), a device already derided as unnecessarily expensive.
To stay on top of every announcement Apple made today, check out our WWDC 2019 hub page.