High-end users on 'Why I'm buying the new Mac Pro'

Posted:
in General Discussion edited June 14
Apple aimed the new Mac Pro at the most demanding of all high-end users, so we went to users like that and asked what they thought. Video editors, medical experts and the Department of Defense are all considering this new Mac closely.

Tim Cook will not be the only person with a Mac Pro on his desk
Tim Cook will not be the only person with a Mac Pro on his desk


You know if you're in the market for a new Mac Pro. That does mean that you know whether you've got the budget for one, but really it means your type of work leaves you in no doubt of your needs. It's so clear that you need a powerful machine that when Apple announced the new Mac Pro, you had to check it out. You listened to Apple, you read all you could, and at each step you were comparing what you learned to what you know you absolutely must have in your work.

Apple talked to many such people during the process of designing the new machine. Now that it's out and everyone can consider it, AppleInsider talked to the very type of users that Apple has aimed at with this new machine.

Not everyone could go on the record. We spoke with people from the Department of Defense, and we spoke with people such as photographers and editors whose work is sensitive and so can't be identified.

However, we also spoke with people inside companies such as Adobe, who were happy to tell us publicly what we wanted to know. We talked with users who work in video editing, ones who already run their entire businesses on the previous Mac Pro, and ones who need to work with huge amounts of data and do so without delays.

They did not all say that they would buy the new Mac Pro. Every one of them recognized the value, each one said that it would fit their needs well, but two interviewees said they wouldn't be buying one at launch.

One of those, though, is not buying the new Mac Pro only because his current Mac Pro model "is still going strong."

The new Mac Pro plus monitors
The new Mac Pro plus monitors


To balance that, however, after one person told us what he expected his company to do, he then said that he was buying a 2019 Mac Pro for himself at home.

Needing a Mac Pro

"Basically I do a lot of video editing/compression at work, and it has to be done quickly" a video editor that AppleInsider has known for 30 years said. "I have to cut, render and output HD and 4K video very quickly. The video files can be very large and sometimes I'm running multiple programs. I need as much horsepower as I can get."

Another prospective buyer, Blake Garner, is an Automation Architect at Adobe and has been there for 15 years servicing the company's internal engineering community.

"The rack mount option is huge for Adobe," Garner said, "as we host a lot of Macs in server rooms doing Xcode builds and automated testing. Using server racks instead of bakers' racks with iMac Pros is a huge improvement.'

"Outside of the physical form," he continued, "the memory capacity is going to be a very noticeable improvement. Running large RAM virtual machines or sets of virtual machines for homelab work will eat all the RAM you can afford, let alone the large Xcode builds."

The new Mac Pro's expansion options are proving appealing to high-end users
The new Mac Pro's expansion options are proving appealing to high-end users


A photographer who wished to remain anonymous is working on sensitive projects uses some of those Adobe products. He said that the new Mac Pro was appealing because of "raw horsepower" in his workflow. "Not having to wait while rendering [is key]," he said, "especially since Adobe makes minimal use of GPU processing in Lightroom and Photoshop."

Michael Trauffer, senior video editor for a large post production facility, also hopes to see improvements with software.

"The Keynote mentioned that Adobe is one of the software providers that is on board with the new Mac Pro," he says. "I'm hoping that their software will finally be able to take advantage of all of that horsepower that is being made available. Premiere Pro doesn't [currently] utilize multiple GPU when playing/editing."

"We are planning on getting one of the new Mac Pros to test it as a possible upgrade/replacement for our 2013 Mac Pros," he continued. "I, for one, have been waiting for this announcement and am excited to get my hands on one whenever they're released."

Amongst his other work, Keith R. Sbiral is also a photographer, but he spoke to AppleInsider about how a Mac Pro is going to fit in with his managing IT for his career-development consultancy business.

"Our office is an all-Mac one," he said, "and that alone makes my work and my life easier. There is something to be said for the dependability and expandability of a Mac Pro that simply make it a great machine."

"For a vast majority of Mac users, admittedly including myself," he continued, "the specs are likely far beyond what I really need to do my job. But I love to work on a blazing fast machine, particularly when I'm working on photography projects."

Photography and imaging is a recurring need amongst all the people we spoke to, even if it's not their primary job.

"I work in product development for medical visualization," Jules Ryckebusch told us, "specifically in the minimally-invasive surgery space. I am also a long-time hobby photographer and a video guy."

As we'd mentioned before, we've been approached by high-ranking members of the Department of Defense that we've been speaking to, for some time. Without divulging specifics, use cases cited include real-time image processing, and time-sensitive audio classification and identification.

Price is always a factor

Not one of the people we spoke to is casual about the cost of the new Mac Pro, it's just that in every case the value is worth it.

"Price is not too much of a concern," said the photographer. "I'm expecting to spend around $9,000-$10,000, depending on the pricing menu of configuration upgrades."

Apple unveils the new Mac Pro -- and its price
Apple unveils the new Mac Pro -- and its price


"Personally, cost is a factor," says Adobe's Garner. "I'll likely go with the bottom end GPU and enjoy using third party storage and RAM. Adding upgrades over time is a great way to get value from a high-end system like this. In the work context, teams will pick configurations that are optimized to save time, and high-end configurations will be worth the cost."

"Price always matters," agrees Sbiral, "particularly to a small business. I'll likely buy the base unit and go from there."

The video editor is not planning to get one on launch day either.

"I won't buy it right away," he says. "My current Mac Pro is still getting the job done. I [also] want to take it for a test drive and see how well (or poorly) it performs with Adobe Premiere."

Medical product developer Ryckebusch feels the same, but he is certain that he will get one soon.

"I expect it will be in the $10,000 - $20,000 range when I purchase," he says. "The other thing to take into account here is where the rest of it is going. We will need a 10gig LAN to really take advantage of the whole ecosystem. I remember when I put a wired gigabit network in my house over a decade ago. That allowed for a lot of things we take for granted now. All of that also will need to catch up."

Longevity

Alongside the ability to save time in their work now, every person we interviewed sees the Mac Pro as an investment that will pay off over years.

"The reality is that each of these machines will last years, allowing monitor upgrades, storage upgrades and expansion that a mini or iMac just wouldn't permit," says Sbiral. "A running average for Mac Pros in my work... has been 6-8 years. They get recycled down and used for different purposes, but they are certainly a long-term purchase."

"Systems like this tend to be in service for at least five years for primary use," says Garner, "and often get a second life for another two to three years for non-critical tasks."

Remember this?
Remember this?


"I usually replace my iMac every three to four years," says the photographer, "so I'm expecting this new Mac Pro to last me at least six to seven, but hopefully ten. It's a system I plan to own for twice as long as I normally keep an iMac."

Ryckebusch says that it this longevity, and especially because of the expandability, that makes him want a new Mac Pro.

"Expandability and robustness [are important]," he says. "I owned a 2008 Mac Pro for quite a long time. When I moved on from it I had all four drive bays full and was on a third graphics card with the RAM maxed out. This one needs to last five to seven years to make it financially viable. Longer if there is a clear upgrade path along the way."

Expansion

AppleInsider has revealed before how surprisingly few owners of an expandable Mac actually expand it. With these high-end users, expandability turns out to be essential -- but sometimes just as future-proofing.

"Having to rely on Thunderbolt for expansion was a pain at first," says Trauffer, "[though] we've made it work. It's nice to see Apple putting everything back into one chassis again. It'll clean up the workspace by consolidating all of these external devices into a single chassis."

Asked specifically what PCI-E cards they intended to install, the answers started with the very specific.

"NVMe storage cards and RAID controllers," said Garner. "At home I have an external Thunderbolt chassis with two slots to hold those cards. The NVMe storage already hits the 1200MB/s Thunderbolt 2 limit of the Mac Pro 2013."

Sbiral represented the opposite end of the scale when asked about cards. "At this point, none," he said, "but I'm glad the option is there."

Somewhere in the middle was Ryckebusch, who expects to begin with a Mac Pro and then steadily expand it.

"I can see this machine easily growing over time," Ryckebusch said. "Are you going to need a terabyte of RAM today? Would it be nice to add that later as a need arises? Absolutely! I am hoping for some future expansion cards that address future expandability."

The expandability needs for the Department of Defense are less important than the case's accessibility, even rack-mounted. Existing commercial off the shelf, or COTS, gear still has regular maintenance required in challenging environments including clean-outs and other actions, sometimes involving the unit's crew.

First impressions last

Nobody we spoke to has been involved in Apple's testing of the Mac Pro and so none of have had the machine to test yet. All of them studied Apple's launch, though, and every one had similar first impressions -- plus second impressions too.

"I was super excited to watch the announcement and at the same time a bit caught off guard with the pricing," says Ryckebusch. "From a technology standpoint it is very impressive. I like the expandability but am wondering how proprietary it will actually be."

"I think it is great," says Sbiral. "I was never one that trashed the 'trash can' Mac Pro. I've had most every pro-level Mac since the 840AV, and I think the one fantastic part about the product is the longevity of use. I had a 2008 Mac Pro and a 2013 Mac Pro and now I'm ready for the 2019 version. I'm really excited about the power, graphics, and upgradability."

As certain as he is that he and Adobe will be buying Mac Pro machines, Garner is also waiting for more details. "Thoughts will evolve once the third-party MPX modules and pricing is posted to the Apple Store," he said.

Nonetheless, Garner knows that he wants more.

"The Rack Mac Pro really needs a remote management card option and I'm hoping Apple or a 3rd party can deliver that," he told AppleInsider. "One of the pro use cases is virtualization for software development. Apple really needs to update their EULA to allow more than two virtualized instances of macOS per physical system. With the huge compute power of the Mac Pro running 20+ macOS VMs per host would deliver a ton of value."

Video editors are eyeing up Apple's Afterburner
Video editors are eyeing up Apple's Afterburner


"The Afterburner card seems like it will bring some abilities that are not fully vetted yet," adds Ryckebusch. "That one intrigues me. My thoughts now are mid-range graphics card at initial purchase, Afterburner based on pricing and knowing a little more. As it already has 10Gig networking built in and Thunderbolt 3, there are no specific ones I will add at initial purchase."

How Apple did

Each of our interviewees immediately looked at a Mac Pro as a contender, but they did so as people who need the power. They are as invested, both financially and emotionally, in the Mac ecosystem as any of us and they are also conscious of Apple's history of providing tools they need. Even so, the work comes first. If Apple had not gone for such a high-end machine as it has, our interviewees would looked elsewhere.

"I had an inkling things would play out exactly as they have," said the photographer that we spoke to. "Had they not, I would be shopping for a Microsoft Surface Desktop about now."

Ryckebusch has previously built his own Hackintosh specifically because Apple was not providing what he needed and would have continued doing so.

"Their new Mac Pro isn't something I would build [though]," he says, "I will go straight to Apple for that one. This machine is truly a beast. People talk about the 'Apple tax,' but they really do build machines that are hard to match. And then for some of the features, you really can't [compare]."

"One thing that caught my attention," he adds, "was the number of PCI lanes. This is critical for many things and they didn't stress that one during the launch."

Nailed it

Where it's Phil Schiller's "can't innovate, my ass" comment that stuck with the 2013 Mac Pro, there was another WWDC comment that describes the 2019 version. While he said it as a joke about a completely different announcement, Craig Federighi used a slide with the words "Nailed it!" in his WWDC presentation.

That could've described the whole WWDC keynote and it definitely describes the new Mac Pro -- at least as far as all of the very high-end users we interviewed believe.

We're not going to see the Mac Pro in Best Buy, but otherwise it looks like Apple has a hit.



Keep up with AppleInsider by downloading the AppleInsider app for iOS, and follow us on YouTube, Twitter @appleinsider and Facebook for live, late-breaking coverage. You can also check out our official Instagram account for exclusive photos.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 132
    bigtdsbigtds Posts: 86member
    I was reading that the lack of Nvidia support is a deal breaker for some when it comes to the Mac Pro. I can't imagine that you couldn't build a comparable PC with Nvidia cards for less than the price of a Mac Pro. But then there's the OS. That matters for some. For others, it's the tools that matter. 
    fred steinelijahgschlackchemengin1deminsdwelshdogwilliamlondon
  • Reply 2 of 132
    tipootipoo Posts: 1,055member
    We deal with PHI data that can't go on AWS or any outside servers. Some of our machines are 768GB RAM, the previous workstation limit, as virtualized instances as mentioned will take a heck of a lot of memory relative to their need for CPU. That bit seems to be throwing off a lot of people online who can't imagine needing 1.5TB in a single workstation. We were already maxing out older platforms. 
    fastasleepwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 132
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,037member
    Well, we know it is truly a machine for pros.  No consumer, prosumer or power user needs one.  I am a music educator who works with video and audio quite a bit.  I wouldn't even think of buying one.  An iMac Pro is probably overkill for me.  But these folks are true graphics and A/V pros.  They are shopping for a professional workstation, which this is.  
    edited June 14 magman1979macplusplusAppleExposedpscooter63caladanianGG1xsmiStrangeDayssteveauwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 132
    Thanks for the article.

    It helped understand the pro users and the value / ROI for them. I wonder as well, if we'll see new applications for this, mainly in life sciences. I would love to see AppleInsider research this arena - it's big.

    Game developers, as in the big studios, spend $Ms to develop games, and have great ROI for improving productivity.
    magman1979schlackMacQcwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 132
    Keep in mind that this article is only sampling a small minority of the target audience, so AI's conclusion is nothing more than anecdotal and selective rationale.  

    We will have to see how the targeted industry in general responds to this.  I know major studios have beefy non-Mac workstations partly because they have been burned by Apple before.  It will be interesting to see if they will look to replace their current workstations for their Avid/Premiere collaborative workflows.  
    muthuk_vanalingamschlackchemengin1bigtdsLatko-hh (2017)williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 132
    Good article. This quote seemed seriously weird though:
    "I had an inkling things would play out exactly as they have," said Sbiral. "Had they not, I would be shopping for a Microsoft Surface Desktop about now."

    Seriously?? There is virtually no overlap between the Surface and the nnMP.

    elijahgtmayschlacktenthousandthingsSpamSandwichpscooter63CurtisHightmdriftmeyerMacQcjony0
  • Reply 7 of 132
    Let’s be honest for a second, the new Mac Pro and XDR Display is not a good value if someone isn’t working at a Marvel Studio.

    So it’s a direct discrimination to abandon the smaller enterprise and artist that used to work on moderate size project without forking out twice the price of last generation Mac Pro and five-fold the price of last generation Thunderbolt Display. Are you getting it?

     The xMac and xDisplay will be more valuable and less expensive with slightly cut down version of its brethren by offering customer the option to purchase 5K xDisplay without 1000nits that typically price below $1500 and xMac equip with 6-cores, without MPX module, no optional wheel or handle, fewer I/O port, limited to 32GB of RAM at $3000.  
    edited June 14 chemengin1-hh (2017)Sanctum1972williamlondon
  • Reply 8 of 132
    tedz98tedz98 Posts: 17member
    tipoo said:
    We deal with PHI data that can't go on AWS or any outside servers. Some of our machines are 768GB RAM, the previous workstation limit, as virtualized instances as mentioned will take a heck of a lot of memory relative to their need for CPU. That bit seems to be throwing off a lot of people online who can't imagine needing 1.5TB in a single workstation. We were already maxing out older platforms. 
    AWS is HIPPA compliant and will sign a BAA.  There’s no reason you can’t put PHI in the Amazon Cloud. You’re incorrectly limiting your organization’s IT options if you aren’t evaluating cloud options.  There may be other reasons not to use AWS, but HIPPA and PHI is not one of them. 
    sandorschlack
  • Reply 9 of 132
    I wonder how many high end users would have bought the Mac Pro but won't because they need to do ray tracing, AI training or CUDA compute but can't because Apple won't allow them to install NVIDIA GPU's in the "modular" "professional" computer? I also wonder how many would have been sold if the trash can had been been a real pro modular computer? I bet most of the professionals left the platform over the past decade out of simple necessity.
    bigtdselijahgmichelb76
  • Reply 10 of 132
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,799member
    Let’s be honest for a second, the new Mac Pro and XDR Display is not a good value if someone isn’t working at a Marvel Studio.

    So it’s a direct discrimination to abandon the smaller enterprise and artist that used to work on moderate size project without forking out twice the price of last generation Mac Pro and five-fold the price of last generation Thunderbolt Display. Are you getting it?

     The xMac and xDisplay will be more valuable and less expensive with slightly cut down version of its brethren by offering customer the option to purchase 5K xDisplay without 1000nits that typically price below $1500 and xMac equip with 6-cores, without MPX module, no optional wheel or handle, fewer I/O port, limited to 32GB of RAM at $3000.  
    Lease.
    Soli
  • Reply 11 of 132
    jdwjdw Posts: 751member
    What percentage of prospective Mac buyers are "high end users"?
    And is that percentage high enough to justify the development time and expense spent on the Mac Pro?

    For the sake of "tech trickle down" I am pleased this wickedly expensive machine exists.  But one cannot help but view it far more as a PR stunt that shows the world Apple's design capability than it's ability to sell these machines in meaningful numbers.
    elijahgchemengin1-hh (2017)Sanctum1972
  • Reply 12 of 132
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 1,358member
    Apple did ‘nail it’.
    You can never have enough cpu (compute) cycles per second. Even 3 orders of a magnitude machine can be brought down on its knees in an instance.
    Funny no one mentions the real motivation to buy the pro ... it will do very well as a bitcoin maker (certainly when the FPGA can be programmed).

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 132
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 943member
    I wonder how many high end users would have bought the Mac Pro but won't because they need to do ray tracing, AI training or CUDA compute but can't because Apple won't allow them to install NVIDIA GPU's in the "modular" "professional" computer? I also wonder how many would have been sold if the trash can had been been a real pro modular computer? I bet most of the professionals left the platform over the past decade out of simple necessity.
    I wonder the same. There were no promises to keep it updated either. I doubt too many pros who need this sort of machine clung onto the trashcan Mac Pro for the last 6 years in anticipation for this, they probably jumped ship to Windows. Without any promises to keep the new Mac Pro current, and with the lack of Nvidia GPUs, I can't see pros switching back to Apple for the hardware, unless they really really want or need macOS. But if they do need Mac OS, what have they been doing on Windows during the time of Mac Pro neglect?
    -hh (2017)williamlondon
  • Reply 14 of 132
    sandorsandor Posts: 523member
    tedz98 said:
    tipoo said:
    We deal with PHI data that can't go on AWS or any outside servers. Some of our machines are 768GB RAM, the previous workstation limit, as virtualized instances as mentioned will take a heck of a lot of memory relative to their need for CPU. That bit seems to be throwing off a lot of people online who can't imagine needing 1.5TB in a single workstation. We were already maxing out older platforms. 
    AWS is HIPPA compliant and will sign a BAA.  There’s no reason you can’t put PHI in the Amazon Cloud. You’re incorrectly limiting your organization’s IT options if you aren’t evaluating cloud options.  There may be other reasons not to use AWS, but HIPPA and PHI is not one of them. 

    This is completely correct. The BAA is the thing that makes something "HIPAA compliant" - all modern encryption meets HIPAA requirements.

    We've been using AWS for EMR/EPM for years, with a BAA in place.
    Our PACS remains in-house, as the cost of 100 TB on AWS is monumental, and then we get to have a smaller pipe on our WAN (our PACS serves up 100s of GBs of data every day)
  • Reply 15 of 132
    schlackschlack Posts: 695member
    tedz98 said:
    tipoo said:
    We deal with PHI data that can't go on AWS or any outside servers. Some of our machines are 768GB RAM, the previous workstation limit, as virtualized instances as mentioned will take a heck of a lot of memory relative to their need for CPU. That bit seems to be throwing off a lot of people online who can't imagine needing 1.5TB in a single workstation. We were already maxing out older platforms. 
    AWS is HIPPA compliant and will sign a BAA.  There’s no reason you can’t put PHI in the Amazon Cloud. You’re incorrectly limiting your organization’s IT options if you aren’t evaluating cloud options.  There may be other reasons not to use AWS, but HIPPA and PHI is not one of them. 
    The Defense Department puts Top Secret information on AWS (https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/publicsector/announcing-the-new-aws-secret-region/)...pretty sure they can handle PHI info properly.
    edited June 14 entropys
  • Reply 16 of 132
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,091moderator
    bigtds said:
    I was reading that the lack of Nvidia support is a deal breaker for some when it comes to the Mac Pro. I can't imagine that you couldn't build a comparable PC with Nvidia cards for less than the price of a Mac Pro. But then there's the OS. That matters for some. For others, it's the tools that matter. 
    Is the OS not a tool?  
    AppleExposedCurtisHightraoulduke42mdriftmeyerdocno42fastasleepwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 132

    bigtds said:
    I was reading that the lack of Nvidia support is a deal breaker for some when it comes to the Mac Pro. I can't imagine that you couldn't build a comparable PC with Nvidia cards for less than the price of a Mac Pro. But then there's the OS. That matters for some. For others, it's the tools that matter. 
    Is the OS not a tool?  
    Well put. 
    AppleExposedwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 132
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,091moderator
    I just want to say something about the price, and maybe bring back some memories for those who’ve been around a while.   I remember the day, as clear as if it were yesterday, when John Jurewicz (author of UltraVision) showed up at work one morning with his new Compaq 386 portable.  A cool $12k+.


    AppleExposedroundaboutnowmwhiteMacQcmark fearingwelshdogStrangeDaysfastasleepwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 132
    1348513485 Posts: 56member
    tedz98 said:
    tipoo said:
    We deal with PHI data that can't go on AWS or any outside servers. Some of our machines are 768GB RAM, the previous workstation limit, as virtualized instances as mentioned will take a heck of a lot of memory relative to their need for CPU. That bit seems to be throwing off a lot of people online who can't imagine needing 1.5TB in a single workstation. We were already maxing out older platforms. 
    AWS is HIPPA compliant and will sign a BAA.  There’s no reason you can’t put PHI in the Amazon Cloud. You’re incorrectly limiting your organization’s IT options if you aren’t evaluating cloud options.  There may be other reasons not to use AWS, but HIPPA and PHI is not one of them. 
    What verification or validation do you have that the data is secure from unauthorized access, loss or tampering, uncorrupted in any way, you have knowledge of the geographic location of the data at any one time, and it's recoverable promptly if regulators request it?

    Maybe you have that assurance, but it's no slam dunk. Data integrity is an evolving regulatory field and what's acceptable today may not be tomorrow.
  • Reply 20 of 132
    Good article. This quote seemed seriously weird though:
    "I had an inkling things would play out exactly as they have," said Sbiral. "Had they not, I would be shopping for a Microsoft Surface Desktop about now."

    Seriously?? There is virtually no overlap between the Surface and the nnMP.

    Logged in to say the same. Surface Studio 2 is a plausible iMac 5K + tablet competitor, but that's it. If you like drawing while hunched over your desk, that is.
    edited June 14 watto_cobra
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