What’s Next for the Mac Pro
of the Mac Pro that will follow the redesigned modular Mac Pro that was first released in December 2019. One of the updated Mac Pro models will be a direct successor to the prior 2019 version, and it will feature the same design with no major changes to the enclosure.
The second Mac Pro that’s in the works will be a redesigned version that has a smaller form factor. The design is said to look similar to the current design, but with a more compact enclosure that’s about half the size.
It will have a mostly aluminum exterior, and Bloomberg has suggested that it could “invoke nostalgia” for the Power Mac G4 Cube.
One of the Mac Pro models that Apple is working on will continue to feature an Intel chip inside, and in the Xcode 13 beta, there are signs of Intel’s third-generation Xeon Scalable processor, Ice Lake SP, which is the chip Apple is rumored to be using.
The Ice Lake SP chip would be appropriate for a future Mac Pro model. Apple does plan to transition its entire Mac lineup to Apple silicon, but the earliest versions of Mac Pro chips may not able to compete with Intel’s Xeon processors for heavy duty professional workloads, and there may also be concerns about software compatibility.
The other Mac Pro models will use high-end Apple silicon chip options with 20 or 40 computing cores, made up of 6 high-performance or 32 high-performance cores and four or eight high-efficiency cores. These upgraded chips are also expected to include 64 or 128 core GPUs, and at the top of the line, the graphics chips would be several times faster than the graphics modules Apple uses from Nvidia and AMD.
Hit-and-miss leaker Jon Prosser believes that the smaller Mac Pro will have a design that looks like “three to four Mac minis stacked on top of one another” with a “compute unit on the bottom” and a “big heat sink on top.”
Apple is planning to update its entire Mac lineup with Apple Silicon chips, a process expected to take two years, so the new Mac Pro models will presumably be released by 2022.
The 2019 Mac Pro
Apple in December 2019 launched an updated Mac Pro, marking the first new Mac Pro since 2013, when Apple released the cylinder-shaped “trash can” machine that never saw any updates after dual GPUs fell out of favor and focus shifted to more powerful single GPU options.
The new Mac Pro is a high-end high-throughput machine designed for Apple’s pro user base. Apple learned from its mistakes and the thermal limitations of the design of the 2013 Mac Pro and the new Mac Pro features a design that’s similar to the rectangular 2012 Mac Pro, focusing heavily on upgradeability and expansion.
While the 2019 Mac Pro features a more traditional PC shape than its predecessor, it’s still Apple-esque with a stainless steel frame and an aluminum housing that provides 360-degree access to the system. There are also optional wheels that can be added on during or after purchase.
Handles are built into the frame to make the Mac Pro easy to move around, and it adopts a lattice design that some have likened to a cheese grater. Apple says the lattice pattern maximizes airflow and allows for quiet performance.
Pricing on the Mac Pro starts at $6,000, so this is a machine that was unquestionably created for professionals who need the absolute best performance available. With all available hardware upgrade options, pricing on the Mac Pro is over $52,000.
The Mac Pro uses workstation-class Xeon processors with up to 28 cores with 64 PCI Express lanes, up to 1.5TB of high-performance memory, eight PCIe expansion slots, and at the high-end, dual Radeon Pro Vega II Duo GPUs housed in two Apple MPX Modules which Apple says offer groundbreaking graphics expansion architecture, providing Thunderbolt integration and over 500W of power. That’s four Vega GPUs total.
Apple Afterburner, a $2,000 accelerator card that enables playback of three 8K ProRes RAW video streams simultaneously, is new in the 2019 Mac Pro.
The Mac Pro is being sold alongside the Apple Pro Display XDR, a 6K 32-inch display with its own premium price point, $4,999, plus an additional $999 for the stand.
Apple is manufacturing the Mac Pro in Texas after receiving tariff exemptions from the United States. The Mac Pro is equipped with components designed, developed, and manufactured by more than a dozen American companies, with suppliers in states that include Arizona, Maine, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Vermont. Only Mac Pro models sold in North America are assembled in the USA, with other Mac Pro models sold around the world assembled in Europe.
Apple’s new Mac Pro and the Apple Display XDR became available for purchase
starting on December 10, and orders started arriving to customers on December 16.
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Ahead of the release of the Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR, Apple gave several of the machines to prominent tech YouTubers to test out, and their first impressions, overviews, and unboxings of the Mac Pro are now available.
MKBHD, iJustine, and Jonathan Morrison were each able to spend a couple of weeks with the Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR, using the setup for video editing workflows. YouTubers were provided with higher-end machines featuring the 28-core Intel Xeon W processors, 384GB RAM, 4TB SSD, an Afterburner Card, and two AMD Radeon Pro Vega II GPUs. Below, we’ve shared their videos for those interested in a hands-on look at the Mac Pro.
iFixit has also done an initial first impressions overview of the Mac Pro, providing a look inside the aluminum casing of the device.
Apple’s new 2019 Mac Pro features an entirely new design that’s modern, but also harkens back to older Mac Pro models. Learning from past lessons, Apple built the new Mac Pro to be modular, upgradeable, customizable, and able to handle some of the highest-end components available on the market.
It uses a traditional tower-style design, but with an Apple flare. Apple says that the Mac Pro was built to change with a person’s needs, and it starts with a stainless steel frame that supports the overall system and offers mounting points for the interior components.
Apple designed the Mac Pro so that when the aluminum housing is removed, complete access to the system is available. Apple made the logic board dual sided to make it simple to add and remove components to the Mac Pro. The processor, graphics, and expansion are located on one side, while the storage and memory are on the other.
The Mac Pro uses high-end components that draw a lot of power, so Apple built the machine with an impressive thermal architecture. There are three impeller fans that push air across the CPU and GPU, and on the opposite side, there’s a blower to pull air across the memory, storage, and through the power supply, venting it out of the back.
Covering the Mac Pro is an aluminum housing that Apple designed to be more than just a decorative shell. It acts as a seal for the internal cavity, and paired with the fans and blower, it helps maintain the air pressure that keeps the Mac Pro cool. With this system, the Mac Pro operates quietly, and Apple says it’s even quieter than the iMac Pro when placed under a desk.
The aluminum housing is covered with a lattice pattern of three-dimensional interlocking hemispheres, which Apple based on a naturally occurring phenomenon in molecular crystal structures.
The lattice pattern increases the surface area of the Mac Pro’s enclosure, which optimizes the airflow while also providing a rigid structure. Around the processor, a massive heat sink keeps everything cool, and heat pipes direct air away from the chip.
Stainless steel handles at the top make removing the housing easy to get to the internals. Apple designed the handles to be part of the frame, so the Mac Pro is stable when lifted or moved. The top of the Mac Pro houses a twist latch that secures the enclosure to the frame, and there’s a power button and two Thunderbolt 3 ports for easy access.
There are optional wheels that can be added to the Mac Pro to make it easy to transport from one location to another, but potential buyers should be aware that there are no wheel locks included.
The Mac Pro measures in at 20.8 inches tall, 17.7 inches long, and 8.58 inches wide. With its optional wheels, it’s a total of 21.9 inches tall. The Mac Pro weighs in at 39.7 pounds.
The Mac Pro features the most powerful components Apple has ever put into a Mac, and the design of the device makes it customizable and upgradeable to meet every pro user’s needs.
It supports up to two MPX Modules or four PCI Express card slots, plus there are three full-length PCI Express Gen 3 slots and one half-length PCI Express Gen 3 slot with Apple I/O card, for a total of eight PCI Express expansion slots to work with.
Mac Pro Expansion Bays
The Mac Pro supports two Mac Pro Expansion Modules, or MPX Modules that house the Mac Pro’s GPUs. Each of the two MPX bays for the MPX Modules supports x16 gen 3 bandwidth for graphics, x8 gen 3 bandwidth for Thunderbolt, DisplayPort video routing, and up to 500W power.
Alternatively, MPX bay 1 supports one full-length, double-wide x16 gen 3 slot and one full-length double-wide x8 gen 3 slot. MPX bay 2 supports two full-length double-wide x16 gen 3 slots. Both offer up to 300W auxiliary power through two 8-pin connectors.
Each MPX Module, which fits inside the MPX bay, features an industry-standard PCI Express connector with additional PCIe lanes to integrate Thunderbolt, a first for graphics cards. The 500W of power each MPX Module has is a power capacity equivalent to the entire previous-generation Mac Pro.
The Mac Pro uses Intel’s Xeon W processors, ranging from 8 cores to 28 cores. 28 cores is the most ever that Apple has ever made available in a Mac, but there are also several other lower-end options.
Specific details on each processor option are listed below:
8-core – 3.5GHz Intel Xeon W, 8 cores/16 threads, Turbo Boost up to 4.0GHz, 24.5MB cache.
12-core – 3.3GHz Intel Xeon W, 12 cores/24 threads, Turbo Boost up to 4.4GHz, 31.25MB cache.
16-core – 3.2GHz Intel Xeon W, 16 cores/32 threads, Turbo Boost up to 4.4GHz, 38MB cache.
24-core – 2.7GHz Intel Xeon W, 24 cores/48 threads, Turbo Boost up to 4.4GHz, 57MB cache.
28-core – 2.5GHz Intel Xeon W, 28 cores/56 threads, Turbo Boost up to 4.4GHz, 66.5MB cache.
The base version of the Mac Pro comes with the 8-core chip, with the other chips available as optional upgrades for an additional cost.
Based on Geekbench 5 benchmarks, the new 8-core, 12-core, and 16-core Mac Pro processors offer performance similar to the processors in the 2017 iMac Pro models.
The base Mac Pro with an 8-core Xeon W chip, for example, has a single-core score of 1008 and a multi-core score of 7606, which is beaten out by the 8-core 2017 iMac Pro’s single core score of 1076 and multi-core score of 8120.
Similar scores can also be seen in the higher-core Mac Pro models as well. The 12-core Mac Pro earned a single-core score of 1090 and a multi-core score of 11599, while the 16-core machine earned a single-core score of 1104 and a multi-core score of 14285.
The higher-end Mac Pro models outperform the iMac Pro models, however, as the iMac Pro does not offer 24 and 28-core options.
The Mac Pro features a T2 Security Chip that makes sure that the lowest levels of software aren’t tampered with and that only macOS loads at startup. There’s a Secure Enclave that provides encrypted storage and secure boot capabilities.
The Mac Pro supports up to 1.5TB of DDR4 ECC memory in 12 user-accessible DIMM slots, configured in different ways depending on the included amount of RAM.
32GB – Four 8GB DIMMs
48GB – Six 8GB DIMMs
96GB – Six 16GB DIMMs
192GB – Six 32GB DIMMs
384GB – Six 64GB DIMMs
768GB – Six 128GB DIMMs or 12 64GB DIMMs
1.5TB – 12 128GB DIMMs (24 or 28-core processor required)
Apple’s 8-core processor operates at 2666MHz, while the 12-core to 28-core processors operate memory at 2933MHz. All RAM is easy to access for upgrade purposes thanks to the dual access design of the Mac Pro. At the high end, the Mac Pro offers up to 140GB/s memory bandwidth.
RAM is user upgradeable and additional RAM can be added after purchase for those who don’t want to purchase Apple’s stock RAM options.
In August 2021, Apple
introduced three new high-end graphics options for the Mac Pro, meaning that the Mac Pro’s two Mac Pro Expansion (MPX) Modules can now be configured with up to ten GPUs. Apple offers the AMD Radeon Pro 580X, the AMD Radeon Pro W5500X, the AMD Radeon Pro W7500X, the AMD Radeon Pro W6800X, the AMD Radeon Pro W5900X, and the AMD Radeon Pro W5800X Duo. The AMD Radeon Pro Vega II and the AMD Radeon Pro Vega II Duo graphics options are no longer available.
The AMD Radeon Pro 580X features 8GB of GDDR5 memory, two HDMI 2.0 ports, four DisplayPort connections, and it supports up to six 4K displays, two 5K displays, or two Pro Display XDRs. The Radeon Pro 580X comes in a half-height MPX Module that fits in an MPX bay and enables PCIe slot 2 for additional expansion.
The AMD Radeon Pro W5500X features 8GB of GDDR6 memory, offering up to 5.6 teraflops of single-precision performance or 11.2 teraflops of half-precision computing. It supports up to four 4K displays, one 5K display, or one Pro Display XDR. The Radeon Pro W5500X comes in a half-height MPX Module that fits in one MPX bay and enables PCIe slot 2 for additional expansion. Up to two Radeon Pro W5500X MPX Modules can be installed in the Mac Pro, with one in each MPX bay.
The Radeon Pro W5700X with 16GB of GDDR6 memory is a full-size MPX Module with four Thunderbolt 3 ports and one HDMI 2.0 port, and features up to 9.4 teraflops of single-precision or 18.9 teraflops of half-precision computing. It supports up to six 4K displays, three 5K displays, or three Pro Display XDRs.
The AMD Radeon Pro W6800X with 32GB of GDDR6 memory is designed for workstation-class graphics and demanding pro applications delivers up to 512GB/s memory bandwidth and up to 16.0 teraflops of single-precision or 32.0 teraflops of half-precision computing. It is a full-height MPX Module, meaning it can offer four additional Thunderbolt 3 ports and an HDMI 2.0 port on the card.
The AMD Radeon Pro W6900X with 32GB of GDDR6 memory is designed for maximum workstation-class graphics and demanding pro applications, offering up to 512GB/s memory bandwidth and up to 22.2 teraflops of single-precision or 44.4 teraflops of half-precision computing.
The Radeon Pro W6800X Duo MPX Module is designed for the most demanding multi-GPU pro applications. The module has two W6800X GPUs, each with 32GB of GDDR6 memory delivering up to 512GB/s memory bandwidth. The Radeon Pro W6800X Duo is a full-height MPX Module and supports up to eight 4K displays, four 5K displays, or six Pro Display XDRs.
Apple has included a ProRes and ProRes RAW accelerator card that it calls Afterburner. The PCI Express x16 card is designed to accelerate ProRes and ProRes RAW codecs in Final Cut Pro X, QuickTime Player X, and other third-party apps that use ProRes.
Afterburner supports playback of up to 3 streams of 8K ProRes RAW or 12 streams of 4K ProRes RAW.
As of March 2020, Apple is offering the $2000 Mac Pro Afterburner Card as separate purchase, allowing it to be bought after purchase. Previously, the Afterburner Card had to be purchased as a build-to-order option when configuring a new Mac Pro.
The Mac Pro can be configured with up to 8TB of SSD storage that offers up to 2.6GB/s sequential read and 2.7GB/s sequential write performance. All Mac Pro storage is encrypted with the T2 chip.
The base Mac Pro comes with a 256GB SSD, which can be upgraded to 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, or 8TB. Apple says that SSD replacements must be done at an Apple Store or by an Apple Authorized Service Provider, but additional SSD storage space can be added alongside the built-in SSD, as demonstrated in the video below.
Apple in June 2020 introduced
SSD upgrade kits for the Mac Pro with 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, and 8TB storage modules, allowing users to upgrade their SSDs without needing to rely on a service provider. Kits are priced starting at $600.
The Mac Pro features two USB-A ports (up to 5Gb/s transfer speeds), two Thunderbolt 3 ports (up to 40Gb/s TB3 and 10Gb/s USB-C) with support for DisplayPort, and two 10Gb Ethernet ports available through an I/O card in the half-length PCI Express slot.
There are an additional two Thunderbolt 3 ports at the top of the Mac Pro’s enclosure. With the MPX Modules, there are a total of up to 12 Thunderbolt 3 ports available at the high-end.
The total number of available Thunderbolt 3 ports depends on the graphics configuration of the machine.
The Mac Pro ships with a silver and black Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad and a silver and black Magic Mouse 2. A silver and black Magic Trackpad 2 is available as an add-on.
The Mac Pro also ships with a power cord, a USB-C to Lightning cable, and a 1.4-kilowatt power supply.
The Mac Pro features built-in speakers along with a 3.5mm audio jack.
Build to Order Options
The Mac Pro has several available upgrade options, including processor, RAM, GPU, and SSD. Below, we’ve listed all of the available upgrade options that can be added to the entry-level Mac Pro, 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.
3.3GHz 12‑core Intel Xeon W, Turbo Boost up to 4.4GHz – +$1,000
3.2GHz 16‑core Intel Xeon W, Turbo Boost up to 4.4GHz – +$2,000
2.7GHz 24‑core Intel Xeon W, Turbo Boost up to 4.4GHz – +$6,000
2.5GHz 28‑core Intel Xeon W, Turbo Boost up to 4.4GHz – +$7,000
48GB (6x8GB) of DDR4 ECC memory – +$300
96GB (6x16GB) of DDR4 ECC memory – +$1,000
192GB (6x32GB) of DDR4 ECC memory – +$3,000
384GB (6x64GB) of DDR4 ECC memory – +$6,000
768GB (6x128GB) of DDR4 ECC memory – $14,000
768GB (12x64GB) of DDR4 ECC memory – $10,000
1.5TB (12x128GB) of DDR4 ECC memory – +$25,000
1TB SSD storage – +$400
2TB SSD storage – +$800
4TB SSD storage – +$1,400
8TB SSD storage – +$2,600
All of the components in the Mac Pro can be upgraded after purchase, so there is an option to purchase third-party parts. When it comes to the SSD, though, installation must be done by Apple or an AASP because it is tied to the T2 chip in the machine.
Adding an Apple Afterburner card to the Mac Pro costs an additional $2,000. The Apple Afterburner is a PCIe accelerator card that offloads the decoding of ProRes and ProRes RAW video codecs in apps like Final Cut Pro X. The Afterburner can be added to the Mac Pro when configuring a new purchase or purchased on a standalone basis at a later date.
Other Upgrade Options
Adding a stainless steel frame with wheels to the Mac Pro costs $400, as a frame with feet is the standard option. The wheels do not lock in place, which is something to be aware of.
Purchasing wheels after a Mac Pro has been ordered can be done with the wheel add-on kit, which is priced at $700. For Mac Pro owners who purchased wheels and would rather have feet, Apple offers a $300 feet kit.
For those looking for a more affordable Mac Pro wheel option, OWC offers the Rover Pro wheels kit, which is priced at $199. The wheels are designed to attach to the stock Mac Pro feet rather than to replace them, and they’re able to install in just a couple minutes.
The Mac Pro comes with a Magic Mouse 2, but can be upgraded to a Magic Trackpad 2 for an additional $50. Mac Pro buyers can get both the mouse and the trackpad for $149.
A rack mount option for the Mac Pro costs an additional $500, starting at $6,499. Apple released the rack mount Mac Pro in mid-January.
As of June 2020, Apple offers 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, and 8TB SSD upgrade kits designed for the Mac Pro, allowing users to upgrade the internal SSD storage capacity of the machine. Upgrade kits range in price from $600 to $2,800.
Pro Display XDR
To go along with the Mac Pro, Apple designed the Pro Display XDR, a 32-inch 6K display with a resolution of 6016 x 3384 and more than 20 million pixels.
The display offers 1,600 nits peak brightness and 1,000 nits sustained brightness, it features a super-wide viewing angle, and a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio for what Apple calls extreme HDR.
The Pro Display XDR was designed to look similar to the Mac Pro with a lattice pattern that doubles as a thermal system. It features edge-to-edge glass with a 9mm border and it is sold alongside a Pro Stand that can shift from portrait to landscape mode.
For more on the Pro Display XDR, make sure to check out our Pro Display XDR roundup.