Editorial: The new Mac Pro is overkill for nearly everybody, and it hit Apple's own target...

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited June 4
The Mac Pro is expensive, and polarizing, there's no doubt. But it precisely hit what and who Apple was aiming for, and is in no way a sign that Apple has lost its way.


iMac Pro, again

When the iMac Pro launched two years ago, it met or beat Windows workstation pricing for identical hardware. And, right now, the Mac Pro at the low end, at least, looks to be about the same -- but, admittedly, it is a hard compare to hit it identically.

If you say that there are no workstations that cost this much on the Windows side, you're vastly mistaken. Go ahead and hit the custom hardware configurators from Dell, Lenovo, or other workstation manufacturers. See what you build.

But, be sure when you build, and before you complain about the Mac Pro's cost, that you're comparing like with like, as closely as you can. Select the high-end AMD cards, try to get four Thunderbolt 3 ports, make sure you're picking Xeon W processors with similar cache, and a machine that can handle up to 2TB of RAM.

If you're comparing a Core i9 to the Xeon W chips in the Mac Pro and complaining about the cost because the i9 works better for you, then you are not the target market for the new Mac Pro. That's okay, though -- because, frankly, the new Mac Pro isn't for most of the AppleInsider staff either.

The only thing here that's an off-the-shelf component in this machine, with only a driver for macOS is the (very, very expensive) Xeon processor and the RAM. Everything else is custom, everything else is designed from Apple from the ground-up.

That motherboard, there's nothing like it. The reason behind the "modular" remarks for two years, the MPX module with two PCI-E connectors that feeds the Vega II Duo card, there's nothing like it.

This isn't a $400 i9 processor jammed in a machine with a plain-as-day Northbridge, a few PCI-E slots, and a couple of I/O options. This is a $1500-and-up processor by itself, coupled with other components running into the thousands each, all aimed at a very specific, very demanding, market.

Similarly, the Apple Pro Display XDR isn't a replacement for the Thunderbolt display from earlier this decade. That niche is filled by third parties now. The new display is a replacement for reference displays that are similarly priced -- or much more expensive.

That said, we think that the $999 stand is more amusing than anything else -- and we knew from the get-go that this display isn't intended for us, and neither is the stand.

And, most of these machines will have big-time support contracts associated with them.



Incoming communications

Our phones and email boxes started blowing up minutes after the announcement of the Mac Pro, with deeply polarized messages. For every "this is awful, and Tim Cook must be fired" we had an equivalent "this is amazing, why hasn't Apple done this before."

Following up a little on some of the comments, the former group calling for Cook's head are from people who want something that the new Mac Pro isn't and never was. They want the fabled xMac of lore and rumor, an inexpensive tower with design lineage from the lower-end of the G3 and G4 plastic tower models, or even something like the $2,499 four-core 2.66GHz Mac Pro from 2006.

The latter group of folks contacting us are film industry people and the like, who need the big iron. In less than 24 hours, we've heard from the Department of Defense, NASA, animators, game developers, scientists from all fields, the energy industry, music studio engineers, radio station staff, and so many more saying that this machine is absolutely perfect for them.

On a smaller scale, we're getting contacted by small design studios, who need one and will nurse it for five years or more, spreading what will likely be a $10,000 purchase into effectively $6 to $10 a day.

They are all asking us who can they throw money at now, today, to get one. This is the target market for the new Mac Pro.

The "Pro" debacle

I said over a year ago that the Mac Pro was going to be a very good and very expensive computer. I also said that it would be the computer that it wanted to make. It is all these things. I'm glad I was wrong about what "modular" meant, though.

In that conversation, and other continuing ones, there remains a lot of debate about "Pro" and what it means as a whole. AppleInsider has a lot of self-described "Pro" users, and we aren't going to contest that because we have a pretty good handle on who most of you are based on what you've explicitly told us.

But, what we are going to contest is that there is one, true definition of "Pro" beyond "makes money with Apple hardware." All Apple has ever meant with the "Pro" name is that whatever gets the label isn't on the lower end of the product line.

The Mac Pro is absolutely a "Pro" machine. It is also absolutely not for everybody, and absolutely not aimed at the same markets that the lower-end of the G4 tower or lower-end Mac Pro towers were.

Not needing the power it brings to the table doesn't make you not a Pro. Similarly, saying that you're a Pro and you don't need it, doesn't mean that it's doomed to failure.

Apple didn't set out to make that xMac with Core i3, i5, i7, and i9 options, and just miss that target with the Mac Pro. While we won't argue that the xMac concept would be nice for us, and probably most of the AppleInsider audience, Apple set out to put the most processing power in the chassis they could, and they hit that target.

It is aimed precisely at who the $9,900 Mac IIfx was targeted back in the day, who $6199 Xserve hardware was tailored for, and who the $3299 G5 quad-core in 2005 was sold to.

The new Mac Pro is total overkill for us in every regard, and probably not for practical for you either -- and that's okay. The new Mac Pro is intentionally the biggest, and beefiest computer that Apple has made since that IIfx, and that's a good thing overall.

This is the computer that Phil Schiller should have saved the "can't innovate anymore, my ass" line for.
StrangeDayshmurchisonmacplusplusmacseekerlolliverwatto_cobra
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 73
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 667member
    Fair and balanced article. 
    jbdragoncornchipnetroxolscat52entropysmagman1979lolliverdedgeckorepressthis
  • Reply 2 of 73
    snailersnailer Posts: 51member
    When you actually have the most kick-ass computer, you don't have to say, "Can't innovate my ass".
    StrangeDaysdavenolsentropysmagman1979lolliverrepressthis
  • Reply 3 of 73
    10 years ago, it made sense to buy a Mac Pro for use with software like Adobe Photoshop. These days, that's not really a high-end software use anymore. Photoshop can easily be handled by a standard iMac. I think people who complain about what the 2019 version of the Mac Pro represents don't really understand just how much more powerful hardware is today vs. 10 years ago. The 'Pro' end for desktop is MUCH more specialized than it used to be. Only the heaviest of heavy lifting through software requires 'Pro' models anymore.
    imatlkruppjbdragonrandominternetpersonStrangeDayshmurchisondavenstompy1STnTENDERBITSSEJU
  • Reply 4 of 73
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 1,858member
    This is Apple's answer to professionals who need that much power. This amount of power was unavailable in a Mac... Anyone who needed what Apple didn't offer, moved to another system. The whining and complaining is par for the course as far as a new Apple computer being introduced. Is it for everyone? Of course not. Even a 27" iMac is more power than most people will need.

    The most expensive part in this system is of course going to be the Intel Xeon processor. Not sure what 28-core model is used in this system, but Amazon is currently selling an Intel Xeon Platinum 28-core CPU for $15k !!!
    jbdragonStrangeDaysAppleExposedStevieTcat52magman1979lollivermdriftmeyerrepressthiswatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 73
    iOS_Guy80iOS_Guy80 Posts: 155member
    The term “Pro” is a relative term. The Apple product line offers so much diversity and price points. This new Mac Pro is customizable which also allows price point diversity within jus this single product. 
    lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 73
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,035member
    I don't get the complaints.  This is clearly a workstation-grade Mac, something that has barely existed or not existed for a long time.  It's for A/V professionals, game designers, people who are heavily into CGI, etc.  Apple ignored this market for a long time, at least since the 2013 Mac Pro was introduced.  It's not for "pros" in other fields for the most part.  It's not a prosumer machine.  I myself have been a prosumer user.  I'm an educator in the arts, and need to do more than most people do with my hardware.  But this isn't something I would remotely need.  For the record, I think the new machine is absolutely awesome.  
    StrangeDaysAppleExposedcornchipStevieTstompy1STnTENDERBITScat52kuraientropysminicoffee
  • Reply 7 of 73
    imatimat Posts: 161member
    10 years ago, it made sense to buy a Mac Pro for use with software like Adobe Photoshop. These days, that's not really a high-end software use anymore. Photoshop can easily be handled by a standard iMac. I think people who complain about what the 2019 version of the Mac Pro represents don't really understand just how much more powerful hardware is today vs. 10 years ago. The 'Pro' end for desktop is MUCH more specialized than it used to be. Only the heaviest of heavy lifting through software requires 'Pro' models anymore.
    Completely agree. A further example: architects used to need the Pro version in order to run CAD software decently. Nowadays a properly configured iMac can run CAD and BIM software without any issues for some years. My father, who started the office 40 years ago and has been "Mac" since the beginning, told me the Mac Pro price is absolutely (adjusted for inflation even more so) in line with what a Macintosh with a good screen used to cost. At the time one would have to put the price of a machine against a physical person designing. And the benefit in terms of costs would be much more visibile.
    I always laugh at people who want "a more affordable option". The Mac Pro isn't about status (I own one because I think I am a real Pro but cannot afford it). It is for people that, through calculation, see that the speed and performance the system delivers allows them to work better and faster and, ultimately, recoup the investment.

    Buying one for our office would be completely overkill. And our wallet is happy about that. We cruise along with our correctly configured 27" retina display iMacs and no one is complaining. :-)
    StrangeDaysstompycat52magman1979dedgeckowatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 73
    wallymwallym Posts: 11member
    If you are questioning your need for the 2019 Mac Pro, you are not the intended target.  The marketplace for the Mac Pro is fairly small, but vocal.  If you are editing a 2hr 15 minute 8k video, you need the Mac Pro.  If you are compiling Microsoft Office for Mac, you probably need it.  If you are Oracle, you probably need it.  There are some use cases and they will pay for it gladly.  I'm not the intended target for it.
    StrangeDaysgenovelleAppleExposedmagman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 73
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,032member
    I was going to comment on the other article but this one states exactly what I was going to say. There are people on this forum who can't see the forest for the trees. The housing/rack is a straightforward and secure method of housing the modular components for a Mac Pro that all pro users wanted. It's been a real long time since I saw a Mac that could be opened so easily. Twist the lock and lift off the cover, that's it. Full access to everything inside in a couple of seconds. I like Apple's idea instead of the Lego-type ideas tossed around for stacking the MP.

    Apple lists it as weighing 39.7 lbs but I have to wonder if that's with a basic configuration and how much a fully loaded configuration would weigh. For those who have seen it in person does it appear like the CPU board is replaceable or are you stuck with your initial configuration? As for starting at 256GB SSD, it all depends on the anticipated workflow. For some people all your data storage will be on massive RAID or NAS storage so why waste the money of 2TB internal storage if you're not going to use it. 

    For the first time, I wish I hadn't retired because this Mac would be one I would have ordered several of. I can also see a bunch of them being ordered by several departments even though some might end up being loaded with a version of linux.

    I can't wait for someone to max out the xMP (extreme Mac Pro) and run LINPACK and HPCG benchmarks against it. I'd like to see how it compares to the massive cluster systems in the TOP500 list (https://top500.org/lists/2018/11/ DOE supercomputers back at the top 2 spots). #500 is 874 Tflops so it won't be in the top 500 but we're talking about a legitimate supercomputer in a very small package.

    One thing many people might not realize is each of these systems (xMP, display, some peripherals) will require a dedicated 120V 20A circuit, most likely through its own UPS system along with an air conditioned room. Apple's talking about 1280W and I hope that's fully loaded. I could see this workstation rack mounted in a desk with a RAID rack and UPS connected to a 220V 20A circuit. I'd roll this desk/table around instead of just the Mac Pro. 
    randominternetpersonStrangeDaysStevieTkuraimagman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 73
    pakittpakitt Posts: 156member
    This new Mac Pro is for “Pixar”, and the such. By that I mean the true professionals out there that need all this “beef” to do whatever they need that an iMac Pro cannot do. And have the money for it. 

    I am more interested about people like “NASA”: will macOS be the right OS to support their needs? An OS that is anything but “Pro” and hardly has a Finder fit for the 21st century?...

    Although based on Unix, macOs is far from being a Linux-like OS.... 
  • Reply 11 of 73
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,096member
    I am glad to see AI attempt a preemptive strike to counter the “overpriced” rants that will surely follow. Those who wanted an “almost pro” headless Mac with slots that started at $2499 are of course disappointed but then that crowd is always disappointed. It’s now clear that the machine they want will never exist as a Macintosh. Most lower level pros and “prosumers” (what is a prosumer anyway)) will do just fine with the iMac Pro, Mac Mini or standard iMac. In Apple centric tech forums we are led to believe the headless Mac with slots has a giant, untapped market to be served but I disagree. The typical Mac prospect is looking for simplicity, design, and ease of use, not a tinkerer’s machine to play with. Get ready for the barrage of complaints about the so-called market gap between the iMac Pro and the Mac Pro. We already knew that whatever the new Mac Pro turned out to be it would be savaged here.

    That the new Mac Pro will be available in a rack mount configuration was a bit of a welcome surprise. That should make it even more popular with the big pro studios. Get ready for movies produced completely on the Mac Pro.
    edited June 4 StrangeDayshmurchisonAppleExposedmacplusplusmagman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 73
    I bought a Mac IIFx back in the day. It was a little too much for me then and the Mac Pro will be too much for me now. I have two trashcan Mac Pros and they work well, and I will keep them.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 73
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,032member
    10 years ago, it made sense to buy a Mac Pro for use with software like Adobe Photoshop. These days, that's not really a high-end software use anymore. Photoshop can easily be handled by a standard iMac. I think people who complain about what the 2019 version of the Mac Pro represents don't really understand just how much more powerful hardware is today vs. 10 years ago. The 'Pro' end for desktop is MUCH more specialized than it used to be. Only the heaviest of heavy lifting through software requires 'Pro' models anymore.
    It depends on what size Photoshop file you're working on and what you're doing. Try working on a 300-dpi file that's 6-ft by 20-ft with multiple layers and all sorts or crazy filters. Next combine data from multiple visualizations systems into one file. How long are you willing to wait just to import the data? I'm not talking about an 8x10 glossy, I'm talking about dealing with massive data sets. Yes, the iMac Pro can handle a lot of these but when you're getting visualization data from a supercomputer and want to work on it outside of the supercomputer, the new Mac Pro looks like the type of device you'd be using.
    AppleExposedStevieTwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 73
    danvmdanvm Posts: 755member
    I don't think that that Mac Pro is overpriced.  Compared to a similar HP, Dell or Lenovo workstation, it's a little bit higher (considering that the Mac Por only have 1-year warranty vs 3-3-3 in Dell, HP and Lenovo).  What Apple is missing is a low cost Mac Pro.  You can buy a HP Z4 starting at $900 and add the options that match your needs and budget.  Compare that to a Mac Pro that starts a $6000.  You may think that a Mac Mini or iMac Pro as options, but there are users that benefit, or may even need the internal expansion the Mac Pro offers.  
  • Reply 15 of 73
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,617member
    sdw2001 said:
    I don't get the complaints.  This is clearly a workstation-grade Mac, something that has barely existed or not existed for a long time.  It's for A/V professionals, game designers, people who are heavily into CGI, etc.  Apple ignored this market for a long time, at least since the 2013 Mac Pro was introduced.  It's not for "pros" in other fields for the most part.  It's not a prosumer machine.  I myself have been a prosumer user.  I'm an educator in the arts, and need to do more than most people do with my hardware.  But this isn't something I would remotely need.  For the record, I think the new machine is absolutely awesome.  
    sdw2001 said:
    I don't get the complaints.  This is clearly a workstation-grade Mac, something that has barely existed or not existed for a long time.  It's for A/V professionals, game designers, people who are heavily into CGI, etc.  Apple ignored this market for a long time, at least since the 2013 Mac Pro was introduced.  It's not for "pros" in other fields for the most part.  It's not a prosumer machine.  I myself have been a prosumer user.  I'm an educator in the arts, and need to do more than most people do with my hardware.  But this isn't something I would remotely need.  For the record, I think the new machine is absolutely awesome.  

    Topping out at a reported $50K or thereabouts it certainly is NOT intended for prosumers. The market for these is niche and quite specialized IMO. 
    "These are not the Macs you are looking for" would be the normal answer unless dedicated to professional video production, and/or special effects, or certain engineering/modeling/scientific needs.
    edited June 4 chemengin1dedgecko
  • Reply 16 of 73
    EsquireCatsEsquireCats Posts: 567member
    It's interesting to read about the Pro discussion, because there are certainly many people who feel offended by being told that they don't need "pro hardware". (Or those that equate gaming PC's with pro hardware.)

    Apple make a range of "pro" devices: the iPad, MacBook and iMac all come in pro varieties. You can see how these scale in performance and capability as you move up in price, and each represents a one-design solution for different kinds of professionals.

    Apple like their one-design-to-fit-many business model it's simple and removes the need for the consumer to decide between minutia. But at the top end of the market this approach doesn't work because Apple can't make a single pro machine that would suit everyone from film makers to scientists, nor can they reasonable market a range of machines to suit each professional user. So instead we have the new mac pro, with the ability to customise the internals to suit the minutia of your workflow and for that apple have already prebuilt additional hardware to service certain pro users. (e.g. afterburner.)

    The new mac pro is easily one of apple's most informed designs. It's clear that real world data-heavy users were consulted and the machine built around the various workflows that each use. This is why simple and seemingly unimportant design choices are present and highlighted during the keynote, such as the ability to add wheels, or how quickly the monitor can disconnect from the mount.

    In the earlier days of computing Apple solely made devices which everyone could picture in their lives. As technology has diverged that era is over and people should get used to the idea that not everything Apple makes is for them, and that is not just limited to hardware, but also software and services (and price.) It's not a reason to bemoan the company or claim a misfire, it's just apple shining a light on another kind of user. There are a lot of people out there today who are very excited by how the new hardware will change their workflow for the better, and that includes the reference monitor, to these users and businesses: this is *jaw-droppingly* low prices.
    edited June 4 StrangeDaysStevieTstompywatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 73
    boboliciousbobolicious Posts: 552member
    "Similarly, the Apple Pro Display XDR isn't a replacement for the Thunderbolt display from earlier this decade. That niche is filled by third parties now."

    I would respectfully disagree & find the build quality, materiality, auto-adjustment and aesthetics of the Apple displays that 'just worked' worthwhile...  

    Is there a desktop monitor now that can use Apple's own Facetime app (staff could not confirm @ Apple store) and if not how crazy is that ?

    Is this similar to the fragmentation of a touchbar keyboard that only exists on the macbook pro, or a mouse designed to be unusable when the battery dies ?

    Was the LG 27" discontinued (perhaps experiencing poor sales) for good reason?

    Would a 27" 4K or 5K Thunderbolt 3 Apple Display be of value, easily qualifying as a 'pro' display alongside iMacs and iMac Pros, for the mini and portables ?  Add VEGA graphics to the mini and suddenly there is a mac option to compete with the HP Z2 workstation, incidentally targeted at 'pro' design office types...

    I am getting flashbacks to the mac era of beige where fragmentation became a problem Steve Jobs consolidated upon his return...
    edited June 4
  • Reply 18 of 73
    RishioblueRishioblue Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    The problem is not with the Mac, but calling it “Pro.” The 11” iPad is called Pro, but it’s in a completely different category. Same with MacBook Pro. Perhaps this Mac should have been called the “Lord of the Mac.”
    MetriacanthosaurusAppleExposedcornchiptyler82watto_cobraurahara
  • Reply 19 of 73
    There is nothing such as "referenc3 display". Author makes up this term. Those are professional displays that have proper gamut. They are made by EIZO and NEC.
  • Reply 20 of 73
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,604administrator
    There is nothing such as "referenc3 display". Author makes up this term. Those are professional displays that have proper gamut. They are made by EIZO and NEC.
    Feel free to tell that to the people inside Sony and Disney that I talk to. And, to Apple too.
    edited June 4 StrangeDayshmurchisongenovelleAppleExposedmacpluspluspscooter63tyler82chiamagman1979repressthis
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