62,648 euros. That is what the most powerful configuration of the Mac Pro that Apple finally put up for sale in December 2019 cost. That equipment, still based on Intel processors, had a huge price even in its base version (5,999 euros at launch), but at least it offered something unusual in this manufacturer’s equipment: the ability to easily interchange its internal components.
This team has ended up becoming a sticky subject. When Apple announced the M1 chips, it did so with the promise that in two years it would complete the transition of all its computers to these new chips. More than three have passed and the Mac Pro is the only one that has not been renewed. And the worst of all is that at this point it may no longer make sense to do so.
In Cupertino it seems that they actually had a new Mac Pro in the works – probably based on the M1 Ultra chip – for a while, but decided to wait for a theoretical M2 Extreme chip.
It seems that those intentions were just that: more recent rumors indicate that Apple canceled those plans because that chip and that configuration were too special even for Apple.
Let’s say nothing happens. It does not matter that in the end they are not going to release a model with the hypothetical M2 Extreme. Does not matter. Having a version with the (also hypothetical) M2 Ultra would be interesting, and in fact there is talk that this chip will have 24 CPU cores and 76 GPU cores, as well as 192 GB unified memory.
That configuration is certainly remarkable, but the point of the Mac Pro was not even that. Or at least, it wasn’t “only” the most important thing. That team was the great asset for those who were looking for another advantage of these teams: their expansion capacity.
In the current Mac Pro it is possible to change memory, storage or use any of the eight PCIe slots to connect new peripherals such as graphics cards to the computer. The renewed Mac Pro was expected to retain (despite the conceptual designs) at least part of that modularity, but everything indicates that the options will be minimal.
The next Mac Pro may lack user upgradeable GPUs in addition to non-upgradeable RAM. Right now Apple Silicon Macs don’t support external GPUs and you have to use whatever configuration you buy on Apple’s website. But the Mac Pro GPU will be powerful with up to 76 cores.
— Mark Gurman (@markgurman) January 26, 2023
In fact, Mark Gurman, an analyst at Bloomberg, was pointing these days to how those Mac Pros would not have the ability to change the graphics card. It was already evident that it would not be possible to expand the memory because it is unified and integrated into Apple chips, but now it does not even seem that it will be possible to expand the equipment in the future with more powerful GPUs.
That leaves these Mac Pros with —at least in theory— only one possibility to be expanded: that of their storage system, which we can expand. “The big difference between the Mac Pro and the Mac Studio in addition to the jump from the M1 Ultra to the M2 Ultra,” he explained in another tweet“it should be more performance thanks to more space for cooling.”
The question, of course, is whether that is enough.
The Mac Pro has definitely been left behind
Time passes very quickly in technology, and the dizzying advances mean that equipment that seemed prodigious at launch is especially affected by the changes.
This is what has happened to the 2019 Mac Pro, which has not aged too well. This is demonstrated by a simple comparison with the Mac mini M2 in its basic version that has just been released.
When compared to the Mac Pro in the Geekbench 5 test (Mac mini, Mac Pro, Mac Studio) the result is cruel: the Mac mini M2 doubles the performance in the single-core test, but also achieves an increase of almost 27%. % in multicore performance.
We’d better not even mention efficiency, but it’s even more painful when you look at the price tag: that the 719-euro Mac mini outperforms a computer that continues to be sold at Apple for a whopping 6,499 euros (without wheels) is terrible. And it is precisely because Apple continues to sell the old Mac Pro at that price.
The comparisons can be more odious if what we are looking for is more multicore performance: the starting Mac Studio has some M1 Ultra that in single-core performance are somewhat worse than the M2, but which win the game in the other test due to their greater number of cores. In fact, they easily crush these other two teams for a price that is even reasonable when compared to that of the Mac Pro.
Does a Mac Pro make sense at this point?
The answer to that question is tricky. The truth is that the appearance of the Mac Studio has made the answer difficult, since these computers give fabulous performance even for the most demanding users.
The Mac Pro was already a niche product, but that segment has already been very well covered with these Mac Studios, and precisely these teams could be used to upgrade to those theoretical M2 Ultra. It would be the natural evolution of these models, and that would basically make a Mac Pro redundant with an M2 Ultra.
Gurman’s proposal, which claimed that the Mac Pro would allow for more performance by being larger and more leeway with cooling, doesn’t sit well with the fact that the Mac Studio has no problem cooling the M1 Ultra. It doesn’t seem like the theoretical M2 Ultra was particularly different in this area: does Apple need a Mac Pro just to cool this chip?
Things get even more complicated, because that theoretical Mac Pro with the M2 Ultra would “cannibalize” the Mac Studio with the M1 Ultra. Unless the price and performance of the Mac Pro are vastly different, this team doesn’t seem to have much of a reason to enter the scene. Now, of course, it remains to be seen what Apple ends up deciding.
By the way, we have another question for Mr. Cook. What happened to the iMac Pro? Don’t these teams also have a renewal more than pending? The current iMacs are decent, yes, but the 24-inch screen falls short depending on what scenarios. A 27″ with a good M2 Pro or an M2 Max seems like a logical proposal for this 2023.
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