Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Mac Pro Available to Order

Juli Clover (Hacker News):

More than two years after Apple promised a new modular high-end desktop machine for its professional users, the new Mac Pro is now available for purchase, as is its companion display, the Pro Display XDR.

Apple is accepting orders for the Mac Pro and the Pro Display XDR, with Mac Pro delivery estimates at one to two weeks after an order is placed.

So it looks like some people may receive them just before the end of the year. I’m happy that the new Mac Pro exists, but for my purposes it feels like they built the wrong product, too late. Apple has a great history of making modular desktop Macs, at sane prices, and this is not that. It’s also not the developer Mac that you might have expected given Apple’s 2017 statements about that pro market. It seems like there’s still a hole in the lineup. People will make do with iMacs and MacBook Pros, or buy the Mac Pro if they really need it, but that’s not the same as being able to buy the computer that you want. External Thunderbolt peripherals could in theory address a lot of needs, but that market just doesn’t seem to have developed very well, and Macs don’t have enough Thunderbolt ports. Meanwhile, the iMac Pro hasn’t been updated since 2017 and is likely slower than the regular iMac.

Juli Clover:

Below, we’ve listed the available upgrade options from the base machine, which is equipped with a 3.5GHz 8-core Intel Xeon W processor, 32GB RAM, Radeon Pro 580X, 256GB SSD, no Apple Afterburner, and no wheeled frame.

The base model’s SSD is half the size of the minimum SSD on the 16-inch MacBook Pro, and it can only be upgraded to 4 TB of storage (vs. 8 TB for the MacBook Pro). I wonder how the base model’s CPU will compare with the iMac and MacBook Pro, given that it only Turbo Boosts to 4 GHz.

Paul Haddad:

Just a reminder before it goes live, the Mac Pro $6k base model has equivalent performance of a < $1500 commodity system. Apple hardware/software deserves a premium, just not 4x.

Martin Pilkington:

I ended up going for a 27” i9 iMac after first seeing the price and it's faster than the base Pro will be at half the price 🤷‍♂️

Josh Centers:

If you’re an audio professional considering a new Mac Pro, be aware of how its T2 chip can mess with audio recording.

See also: High-end users on “Why I'm buying the new Mac Pro”.


Update (2019-12-12): Martin Pilkington:

Now the problem with these groups is they all have different needs. Some need a lot of CPU power but not much GPU. Some are almost entirely GPU bound in their workflows. Some can get by with a few dozen GB of RAM, but some may find even the 1.5TBs a maxed out Mac Pro can handle to be limiting. And then there are some who need all of these things at once. However, the one thing almost all of these users can agree on needing is expandability and upgradability, to be able to modify the hardware after purchase to suit their needs and to extend the life of their purchase.

Unfortunately, the new Mac Pro doesn’t really cater to all these groups. It is certainly capable of supporting the needs of any Pro user, but the budgets of these groups are often wildly different.


Remembering that these figures are for a faster chip than the base Mac Pro has, they’re not exactly painting it as having blistering performance to justify its cost. In fact you’re paying $2600 more and just getting increased expandability in return (and losing a 5K display).

Josh Centers:

Most people complaining about the Mac Pro just want an Apple gaming PC. I do, too, but they just ain’t ever going to make that.

Thomas Grove Carter:

So I’m not @MKBHD but I’ve been using the new #MacPro & #ProDisplayXDR for the last few weeks.

Here’s a thread of my thoughts....

TL:DR it’s SO f**king good. But most probably don’t need it.

See also: Mac Power Users.

Tim Hardwick:

In an interview with Popular Mechanics, Apple engineers Chris Ligtenberg and John Ternus have detailed some of the innovative cooling features included in the design of the Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR, both of which launched earlier this week.

Update (2019-12-16): Paul Haddad:

There’s some Geekbenches for the base model Mac Pro. Calling it underwhelming would be kind, a $150 CPU beats this.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

Mac Pro being good value ‘for a workstation’ doesn’t negate the obvious fact that Apple should have a modular desktop that doesn’t start with workstation components. People talk about an ‘xMac’ like it’s some mythical unicorn instead of the most basic computer Apple should offer

’But the profit margins!’ was the traditional response to the ‘xMac’ idea, but Apple could offer a $4000 non-workstation desktop tower and it would still both be a huge steal compared to the Mac Pro, and outrageously expensive compared to any other faster, better PC

I don’t for a second think the market for a Mac tower is 0 like Apple has convinced pundits. The market for Apple’s towers for the past 16 years has been tiny because the machines have been so expensive and way-outclassed for the broader userbase

I personally don’t need Xeons, or this-many PCIe lanes, or ECC RAM, or a 1400W PSU, though I have nothing against those who do; I’m pressured into mortgaging a €8,400 Mac Pro because that’s literally the only option if I want to stay on macOS and get a desktop that fits me

Steve Troughton-Smith:

A Mac mini-specced device, with user-accessible RAM, a GPU slot, and a spare PCIe slot, would do everything I need

Michael Rockwell:

Imagine if Apple sold a desktop computer with iMac-class components in a Mac Pro-style case for $2000-3000. I would love to have that as an option.

Michael Rockwell:

Room for additional internal hard drives would be nice too. The key attributes I want in a machine like this is cool, quiet operation and the ability to keep everything internal. I don’t want a bunch of hard drives hanging off my home server.

Colin Cornaby:

The number that you’re looking at to be competitive in the prosumer tower market is a MSRP of around $1500 base.

Apple could do that, and they used to (Power Mac G4). But there is no future where they sell a consumer tower for $3000 and it’s successful.

Update (2019-12-19): Colin Cornaby:

Starting CPU in the 2013 Mac Pro (the E5-1620v2) cost $294 at introduction.

Starting CPU, from same Xeon series, in the 2019 Mac Pro (W-3223) costs $749.

Joe Rossignol:

iFixit has shared its full teardown of the new Mac Pro, calling it “beautiful, amazingly well put together, and a masterclass in repairability.”

John Gruber:

I get it that iFixit is going to be iFixit, and that they might value a just-plain-easily-replaced-SSD over the security of the T2 subsystem. But I think they conveniently avoid mentioning the security of the T2 subsystem. Merely calling it “proprietary” and leaving it at that is ignoring just how significant a system the T2 is.

John Gruber:

The problem isn’t with the $30,000–50,000 models. The people who can make good use of those machines will do so. I think what’s bothersome to many traditional Mac Pro users is the lack of a Mac Pro in the, say, $2,500–5,000 range. There are a lot of pro users who want a desktop system that’s less expensive than these new Mac Pros but more performant and expandable than a Mac Mini.


But in theory it would have been nice to have a new Mac Pro similar in scope — and pricing! — to the old pre-2013 Mac Pros, and to have these new Mac Pros occupy a new “hypercar” slot above the Mac Pro in the lineup.

See also: The Talk Show, Accidental Tech Podcast, TidBITS.

Paul Haddad:

I expected the 8 core Mac Pro to be slower than the iMac, but surprised its also slower than the iMac Pro. Also those high core iMac Pros sure are thermally constrained.

The 12/16 core Mac Pros have reasonable performance for that class of CPU, the comparable Ryzen chips are a bit faster, but probably not noticeably so. The Ryzen chips are about 1/3 the price, and that part is quite noticeable.

Francisco Tolmasky:

The Mac Pro IS a prosumer box, just sold at super high end prices. Base model has a 3 year old $169 GPU that can barely power the Pro monitor & an 8 core 3.5Ghz Xeon when at that price you’d be better served by an 8 core 5Ghz Intel 9900K. Not even proposing the audacity of AMD...

Captain Barf (via Hacker News):

The Mac Pro isn’t a symbol that Apple is serious about its platform. Quite the opposite; it’s a symbol of how unserious the company is. Serious companies don’t have to get screamed at by their big-money clients to make something that isn’t hot garbage, to actually make something “professional grade” that is actually professional grade.

Michael Rockwell:

If it was 2012, the Mac Pro would be the perfect computer for the job. There would be no question about it. I could buy the base model at a relatively affordable price with the idea of upgrading it in a year or two to increase its lifespan and overall performance. I could load it up with a bunch of internal hard drives to store our photos, media, and the Time Machine backups from my work laptop — no messy external drives necessary. And it could handle just about any task we threw at it while performing all of its other duties. I wouldn’t even need an additional display because I could simply connect the one I already use for work whenever I needed to use the Mac Pro directly.

But because of the current Mac Pro’s pricing, I’m left having to make compromises. I either buy a Mac Mini and deal with the fan noise coming from the corner of my office and the messy rats nest of cables from the external drives or I get an iMac. And that would come with its own set of compromises — the iMac comes with a built-in display that I don’t need, restricting where I can place the computer, I’d still have to deal with external drives, and I wouldn’t have the option of a 2TB internal SSD because Apple doesn’t offer it in the iMac.

Update (2019-12-26): Steve Troughton-Smith:

The base model Mac Pro’s GPU gets an OpenCL Geekbench result of 80% the performance of the GTX 1080 in my 2014 gaming PC The upcoming BTO optional Radeon RX 5700 XT beats the GTX 1080 by 14% though. Still. That’s a lot of money in 2020 just to par with a 2016 graphics card

Quinn Nelson:

I know I likely open the Mac Pro more than the average user, but this stupid piece of aluminum that requires me to remove every single cable every time I want to open it is the most infuriating design decision ever.

See also: Accidental Tech Podcast and The Talk Show.

Update (2020-01-10): Captain Barf (via Eli Schiff):

Mac Pro isn’t a symbol that Apple is serious about its platform. Quite the opposite; it’s a symbol of how unserious the company is. Serious companies don’t have to get screamed at by their big-money clients to make something that isn’t hot garbage, to actually make something “professional grade” that is actually professional grade. If Apple were changing, we’d see a big mea culpa over what a piece of junk the Macbook Pro has become. We’d have a come-to-Jesus moment over the embarrassing degradation in iPad quality. We’d see some serious overhaul in QA for new iOS and OSX updates. Instead, all we see is Tim Cook dragging his feet and begrudgingly throwing the professional community the machine they’ve been begging him to let them pay for.

Ben Szymanski:

There’s been a lot of despondency amongst loyal Mac users in the last five years or so, and recently it came to a blistering wildfire across Twitter, MacRumors and HackerNews, with members of this “community” bickering with each other over the intended audience of the extremely pricey 2019 Mac Pro. Even though I have no plans to buy a Mac Pro, these events are influencing - and cementing(!) my decision to move off the Mac platform.

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If all these devices do is make people buy more iMacs instead of waiting for Apple to make an actual Mac Pro, I guess it's still a win for Apple.

What about a Mac mini? They could have been renamed Mac mini pro, looking at the most recent configs...

Only $120 CAD extra per wheel!

*Half* of that $52,000 price tag is for the 1.5TB of RAM - 12 128gb sticks. Amazon will sell you a 128gb stick for $1000, but it's the wrong speed.

The CPUs all appear to be custom SKUs - I can find matching core/speed CPUs on Intel's site, but they all have far less cache. A 28 core Xeon with the same speed but half the cache of the the top end CPU costs $4,500.

The GPUs are also custom, and I don't have the energy right now to ferret out close-to-equivalent GPUs that you can actually buy at retail.

So it looks like Apple is "only" charging double the retail price for most of the components. For which you get custom parts that are simply unavailable at exactly those specs anywhere else.

Sören Nils Kuklau

Apple has a great history of making modular desktop Macs, at sane prices, and this is not that.

This line quotes a tweet:

The last PowerMac G4, and Apple’s last true desktop line, started at $1,299 not so long ago…

That Power Mac G4 he’s presumably referencing started at $1,299 because it was the obsolete previous-generation model next to the Power Mac G5. Its predecessor started at $1,499, and the one before that at $1,699. I can’t find any other model in Mactracker with such a low starting point. Why exaggerate this point when the more honest one, that the Mac Pro used to be below $2k and now starts at over thrice that, is equally valid?

Also, if we’re going to (rightfully) mock Apple for taking over 2,000 days to release a new Mac Pro (apparently in part because they had, in the interim, considered not ever releasing one again at all), calling sixteen and a half years “not so long ago” also seems dishonest to me.

Those were different days. Today, a “computer” is typically a laptop (and increasingly, just a smartphone or tablet). At the time, it was a desktop. The Power Mac thus had to serve a much broader slice of the market: basically anyone who wanted a midrange-to-high-end computer to get stuff done.

Laptops had to make the case that they were not only portable but also somewhat affordable and fast enough. Nowadays, laptops are the overwhelming default, and desktops have to make the case that they are justified.

A Mac mini does that by having guts roughly comparable to a low-end 16-inch MacBook Pro buy much cheaper. And an iMac, iMac Pro, and Mac Pro do it by also being faster. Compared to the mess that was the Mac line-up a few years ago, it’s actually quite an improvement how you can spend anything between $800 and, well, ungodly five-figure amounts and get vastly different levels of performance.

The one thing the Mac Pro gives you that nothing else does any more is upgradeability. I do miss the days when I could open up my MacBook Pro and replace the HDD, upgrade the RAM, and even replace the battery just by removing a few screws. (The initial white MacBook, which I never had, seemed particularly good at this.) On the mobile side, it’s a clear trade-off — these changes make the device thinner, lighter, less prone to failure. On the desktop, I do wish there had been more of an outcry over just how little you can do to upgrade an iMac Pro’s internals.

They’ll probably unify the iMac/iMac Pro internals eventually (if only to get rid of internal hard disks once and for all), and maybe use that opportunity to also make bigger changes. With the design management shake-up, there’s a shimmer of hope that that redesign makes the RAM and SSD socketed and somewhat reasonably accessible. Under Ive, I would have seen zero chance (just look at that 2013 Mac Pro!), but it seems a bit of a possibility now. The pessimistic take is that they made the new Mac Pro more accessible to set it apart from all other Macs. I hope that’s not the case.

There was no need to make the iMac this thin.

It’s also not the developer Mac that you might have expected given Apple’s 2017 statements about that pro market.

I would’ve liked to see a review from a developer perspective; most (all?) of them seemed audio- or video-production-focused. But the gist would’ve been the same anyway:

1) you probably don’t need this many cores, and most of them are probably idling much of the time
2) the Swift compiler in particular (quite unlikely, say, the C#) compiler does seem very slow and very optimized towards multithreading, though

Comet Lake-S will bring ten cores, and come in spring. If they update the iMac then, you’ll be able to configure that with up to ten cores, and the current six-core standard config will likely instead have eight. That’s plenty cores.

As pilky says, just get an iMac!

@Glaurung: the CPUs are just standard Xeon W-3200 series, Apple is just listing the combined L2 and L3 cache (for example, they say the 28 core has 66.5MB of cache, Intel lists 38.5MB, the difference is 28MB and it just so happens the 3200 series has 1MB of L2 cache per core). They do seem to be using the more expensive M variants though. For example the 28 Core is the $7500 W-3275M rather than the W-3275, as the latter only supports up to 1TB of RAM

Let's be fair.

If you put a HP Z Workstation, or a Dell Workstation in similar spec + Warranty, you will be surprised Apple does come out cheaper past the $6-7K range. It is only the entry price which is more like a rip off, but then you are paying the extra for a much better designed and constructed casing, and Thunderbolt.

The $1299 PowerMac doesn't make sense, that price as suggested by other were a last generation price tag when G5 were released. And in real terms that is closer to $1899 dollar.

So I decided to spec out a $1899 Mac mini and see what I come out with.

3.2GHz 6‑core 8th‑generation Intel Core i7 (Turbo Boost up to 4.6GHz)
32GB 2666MHz DDR4
256GB SSD storage

While I do believe there is a gap to be filled, more likely to be a $2K Machine with 8+ Core, 1TB SSD, and more Memory, I think this role will eventually be Mac mini, and I will not be surprised if we are going to see iMac and Mac mini update next year.

Personally though I really do wish they update the Trash Can Mac Pro Spec with consumer parts and call it a day.

@Sören I think the context for “not so long ago” is that people were quoting the base Mac IIfx price, which was much longer ago. As far as I can tell, the PowerMac G5 was $1,999 (later reduced to $1,799) and the original Mac Pro was $2,199.

@Ed The gap I see is not the specs but the upgradability. You can’t add RAM to the Mac mini or iMac Pro. No Macs other than the Mac Pro can accept additional internal storage or graphics cards.

@Michael You absolutely can add/upgrade RAM in the late 2018 Mac Mini.
I ordered an 8GB model, and have since upgraded it to 32GB using that guide and buying 2 16GB sticks off Newegg.

@Josh Does that void the warranty? Apple says “Mac mini (2018) does not have user-installable RAM.”

After reading that thread, it seems kind of up in the air. Probably safe to assume that doing your own RAM upgrade voids your warranty, but it's not spelled out explicitly.

A shame Apple had to price it in the stratosphere, but even if they didn't, the trajectory of macOS would have given me pause.

I'm currently trying out Windows 10 again. AMD's Zen 2 and newer Radeon GPUs mean you can get an incredible amount of power at a fraction of the Mac Pro's price.

Maybe Apple thinks this "hole in the lineup" is too small or unimportant.

Same for the iPhone SE. Sad.

Sören Nils Kuklau

I think the context for “not so long ago” is that people were quoting the base Mac IIfx price, which was much longer ago.

Ah, that makes more sense.

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