New Mac Pro may not support PCI-E GPUs

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited February 2023
The forthcoming Mac Pro is reportedly unlikely to add support for GPU PCI-E cards, as well as not allowing user-upgradeable RAM.

The New Mac Pro could look like the old one.
The New Mac Pro could look like the old one.


Apple Silicon Macs have lacked support for external GPUs from the start. Now it appears that the M2 Mac Pro cannot change that.

According to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, the Mac Pro "may" lack upgradeable GPUs, and this adds to its expected lack of modularity and expansion options.

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)


"That will leave storage as the main user-upgradeable component in the new Mac Pro," continues Gurman, "which will have the same design as the current, Intel model."

"The big difference between a Mac Pro and a Mac Studio -- in addition to M1 Ultra to M2 Ultra," he says, "should be performance from more cooling."

It's been previously reported that the Mac Pro will not allow after-market RAM upgrades, because the memory is part of the Apple Silicon processor.

While the Mac Pro remains on Intel processors, there are circumstances where this most expensive Mac can be effectively equaled by the lowest-cost one, the Mac mini.


Read on AppleInsider
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 55
    If Gurman hadn't used the specific number "76", I wouldn't have put much credence in his prediction. The lack of expandable RAM is expected. The claim that it "may lack an upgradeable GPU" is completely true: it may lack one. It may also lack an Apple sticker.
    cgWerksFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 2 of 55
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 3,346member
    One way this 'may' play out is that you can't have a PCI-e GPU in the sense of a card into which one can plug a monitor. But perhaps you *can* have a PCI-e accelerator card, and if that accelerator happens to have some RDNA3 chiplets, well so be it. 

    But I wouldn't be surprised if Apple really doesn't support GPUs in any form at all. They have made *such* a big deal out of the benefits of shared memory between the CPU and GPU. I'm inclined to think they really mean it. I really wonder if the next step for the M series will be distinct CPU and GPU chiplets connected by UltraFusion, thereby allowing pro users to better pick the right balance of CPU and GPU power for their needs. The vast majority of volume might still be fully integrated, single die SOCs, but for the 'pro' market splitting CPU and GPU onto different chiplets could be the way to go.

    I know people might say they won't do it because of low volume, but I don't think that's such a big issue. These hypothetical 'pro' chiplets would still have the same CPU, GPU, and NPU core designs, so they benefit from economies of scale there. It's the 'glue' (UltraFusion) that's really unique, but Apple has already shown a willingness to do that in small volumes. Plus, 'pro' customers are accustomed to paying a ton for high-end chips -- those Xeons ain't cheap. 
    ravnorodomcgWerksd_2FileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 55
    Obviously no traditional RAM, but many workflows that require that can already use RAM disks and virtual memory.

    I think part of the GPU story is being missed, but we will see. Apple knows they have a hole to fill in preview rendering and they have been putting a lot of effort in to making metal ready on the software side. No idea what the plan is, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they create some type of rendering acceleration card that might not work as a normal GPU. I can’t imagine they will say they have the embedded GPU– end-of-story. As great as that GPU is, it isn’t quite powerful enough for people buying $50K machines which need a minimum 4X more GPU performance. I’ve thought that either they are getting AMD support for compute or maybe something out of the 2020 partnership with Imagination Technologies. Imagination has been helping with hardware ray tracing. Maybe they also have an ace up their sleeve. Originally Apple was building a discrete GPU for these machines code named Lifuka, but it was rumored to have been canceled for being too slow at the tasks it needed to perform. The Imagination contract was signed pretty close to the time that GPU was rumored to have been canceled. This is all conjecture, but I think we will see a surprise when the Mac Pro is launched.
    edited January 2023 cgWerksd_2FileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 55
    So much for modular design and now back to square one. This is going to be Mac trash can, the 2013 Mac Pro, all over again. Oh brother.
    edited January 2023 darkvaderwilliamlondonlkrupppulseimages
  • Reply 5 of 55
    y2any2an Posts: 193member
    Considering that so far there’s been zero evidence of a PCIe interface in Apple Silicon, this has seemed obvious for a very long time. Of course, everything being within Apple’s control, they could surprise us with a Pro-specific SoC sporting a PCIe interface. But that really breaks the performance and memory advantages of unified memory, so I’m very doubtful. 
    blastdoor9secondkox2FileMakerFellerbloggerblogwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 55
    darkvaderdarkvader Posts: 1,146member
    y2an said:
    Considering that so far there’s been zero evidence of a PCIe interface in Apple Silicon, this has seemed obvious for a very long time. Of course, everything being within Apple’s control, they could surprise us with a Pro-specific SoC sporting a PCIe interface. But that really breaks the performance and memory advantages of unified memory, so I’m very doubtful. 
    Saying there's "zero evidence of a PCIe interface" is completely untrue.


    Without PCIe you'd have no ports, no WiFi, and no Bluetooth.  Not adding GPU support is idiotic.
    zimmiedocno429secondkox2cornchipmattinozmknelsond_2
  • Reply 7 of 55
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,809member
    So much modular design and now back to square one. This is going to be Mac trash can, the 2013 Mac Pro, all over again. Oh brother.
    That was my initial reaction as well. 

    But I could see them including support for standard board mounted RAM acting as a high speed virtual RAM disk. The GPUs are more of a problem though. We’ll see what happens.

     
    ravnorodomwilliamlondonroundaboutnowwatto_cobraiHy
  • Reply 8 of 55
    LOL, this is the opposite of what I said last night in the Intel Mac Pro versus M2 Pro Mac mini thread. All that beautiful thermal engineering, the MPX modules with Infinity Fabric Link, it all goes to waste, discontinued less than four years after launch (December 2019)? That would be a shame. I really don't think Apple is in the business of shooting itself in the foot like that.

    It would, however, be very Apple-like to use an UltraFusion-like interconnect (which is similar to AMD's Infinity Fabric), so the MPX options at launch would be limited and expensive. 
    edited January 2023 ravnorodomwilliamlondonFileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 55
    anonymouseanonymouse Posts: 6,865member
    If Gurman hadn't used the specific number "76", I wouldn't have put much credence in his prediction. The lack of expandable RAM is expected. The claim that it "may lack an upgradeable GPU" is completely true: it may lack one. It may also lack an Apple sticker.

    "76" is, I believe, the maximum GPU cores in an M1 Ultra chip, so while he didn't pull the number out of thin air, it doesn't actually lend any credence to his "report". But, like many of Gurman's "reports", it's couched in language that appears to say a lot but actually commits to nothing. I think he sometimes has information, and sometimes he doesn't and writes authoritatively regarding what he thinks is plausible; but he's also carefully ambiguous, and never distinguishes between the cases. And, since it's Bloomberg, there are no journalistic standards to adhere too, so ...

    The man is a master of appearing to have far more knowledge about what's going on than he does, and I think a lot of his "inside information" comes straight from inside his head.
    edited January 2023 cgWerksthtcornchipwatto_cobraSerqetry
  • Reply 10 of 55
    RIP Mac Pro.

    Apple hates modularity.  Always has.  Heaven forbid users want to buy expansion not made by Apple.  They love to pressure you into buying more at the start “just in case” because you can’t add more later.  This seems like it was always the plan.  Nvidia is killing it lately and for years but Apple has to block them because they can’t compete.

    I feel like Apple only went with Xeon Intel Mac Pros because they hated the product and wanted it to be as unappealing and overpriced as possible.  It seems obvious that they always intended to kill off PCIe despite it being such a massive ecosystem that professionals rely on.

    This company is really pushing its luck.  The do great one day then completely screw you over the next.  I love my iPhone 14 Pro Max—a really great product far ahead of the competition in quality (IMO) and price—but despite advances in some aspects their other products seem to be getting gradually less and less appealing to me.  I’ll see what the M2 Max Mac Studio looks like, if there even is one, because that’s the only Mac that I’d possibly consider at this point.
    edited January 2023 williamlondon
  • Reply 11 of 55
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,952member
    …I think part of the GPU story is being missed, but we will see. Apple knows they have a hole to fill in preview rendering and they have been putting a lot of effort in to making metal ready on the software side. ….
    Yeah, I guess the question is whether they are committed to creating a solution, vs just letting that market segment go. It sure seems they are somewhat committed based on software work and partnerships (ie. Blender, Vectorworks, etc.) and some hardware.

    I suppose I’m mostly concerned it will be another Apple so-so attempt where it will be kind of almost enough, but not truly competitive, forcing us once again into a situation I was hopeful Apple Silicon would resolve when it was announced.

    Currently, from what I’ve seen, it doesn’t much matter if it is 72 GPU corers, 128 GPU cores, or 256 GPU cores, etc. it won’t be competitive (or even really close to the Intel Mac Pro) without some GPU piece we’re currently missing.

    Kind of a wild and shaky rumour here, but unfortunately matches what I’ve been anticipating. My read on it is that if you need serious GPU power, a PC is in the cards for the next couple of years. Then maybe.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 12 of 55
    I have been saying that the AS Mac Pros, based on Apple inclinations and behaviors were not likely to support third party GPUs, and other than speculation, there is no indication of AS even having PCIe support. If it does, it will only be for specialty PCIe cards. The whole point of Apple Silicon, and taking everything in house as much as inhumanly possible was to reduce any and all external dependencies, and have complete control over their entire process,… and margins. Apple could work and play with others, but they’d rather not. Do not expect upgradable RAM, GPUs, or possibly not even Storage except via Thunderbolt. I suspect the reason we’re still seeing the existing case design, is Apple may have a lot of them laying about unsold, and they are just swapping in AS motherboards and processors - but these will apparently be very different machines. 

    Since my needs are not that rarefied - and my budget certainly isn’t - when my two Mac Pro cheesegraters 2010 & 2012 respectively give up the ghost, or get doorstopped by some critical software or systems update, I’ll likely buy a Mac Studio or the (expected but not even remotely confirmed) 27” iMac/iMac Pro. 

    Cue the howling from the Creative and high end user communities. But Apple doesn’t hear us. Remember that the overwhelming majority of their audience and profit are iPhones. Computings is a secondary priority, with the Mac Pro, their smallest market segment, dead last, with an uncertain future. 

    This could create a branching, once again for the platform, where Apple is depreciated by software developers and applications dependent on, or optimized for the APIs, drivers, and capabilities of NVIDIA and AMD GPUs, and further accelerate the exodus of alienated professional users to the Windows side with all it’s issues. Unless there is a compelling performance advantage case for the Mac Pro, without its primary attractions, modularity, user expandability and use-case specific customization - there is little for the majority of MP users to stick with the machine. 

    But hey, what do I know? I only work for a living…. 
    ravnorodomcanukstormentropyswatto_cobraiHy
  • Reply 13 of 55
    canukstormcanukstorm Posts: 2,720member
    So much for modular design and now back to square one. This is going to be Mac trash can, the 2013 Mac Pro, all over again. Oh brother.
    The Mac Studio is the spiritual successor to the Mac trash can
    ravnorodombala1234blastdoor9secondkox2thtwatto_cobraiHy
  • Reply 14 of 55
    The next Mac Pro is better be something that Mac mini and Mac Studio can't: Stacks multiple layers of M2 Ultra chips on top of each other with blade fans/thermo sitting in between each chips. Max out these guys to the height of the current Mac Pro chassis. It maintains the modular concept in term of adding extra M series chip set instead.
    nubus9secondkox2chia
  • Reply 15 of 55
    I think the ASi Mac Pro will be tested by actual professionals just like the current Mac Pro. The design and testing with real professionals has been the hold up with covid affecting the process. As such I think some professionals will still want it. People forget the current Mac Pro was tested by professionals and more importantly, professionals require a wide range of computers. Yet the current Mac Pro was derided as too expensive for some professionals. Now we have a wide range of Mac computing power from the Mini and iMacs, to the Studio and the the Mac Pro.
    williamlondonchiaFileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 55
    nubusnubus Posts: 419member
    Apple Silicon is designed as fixed bundles of CPU, GPU, ML, and RAM. It doesn't play well the modularity that has been with us since Mac II. And why buy fixed performance when you can scale using the cloud? Workstations made sense 30 years ago with SGI, NeXT, and Sun Microsystems. Apple should make a partnership with AWS (or make a Mac cloud), improve the dull non-design of Studio, and kill the Pro.
    williamlondonravnorodomFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 17 of 55
    More useless “predictions” from Gurman. When will you stop quoting him?
    watto_cobraiHySerqetry
  • Reply 18 of 55
    I’ve said it when the rumor first started about adding GPUs. No way. 

    The modularity of the Mac Pro will be one of two things:

    1) the same thing we have with the other Macs: storage, etc. 

    or, if Apple really wants to innovate:

    2) a new motherboard framework that acts as a “fabric” which ties together multiple SOCs, with slots that you can add more SOCs after purchase. Each SOC would contain CPU, GPU, and RAM and that would be how you expand. Apple would of course charge crazy money, laugh all the way to the bank, and yet it would still enable customers to get what they want. 
    cornchipmuthuk_vanalingamravnorodomFileMakerFellercgWerkswatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 55
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,953member



    2) a new motherboard framework that acts as a “fabric” which ties together multiple SOCs, with slots that you can add more SOCs after purchase. Each SOC would contain CPU, GPU, and RAM and that would be how you expand. Apple would of course charge crazy money, laugh all the way to the bank, and yet it would still enable customers to get what they want. 

    Love the idea, very Applesque, but I’d say low probability. 

    The good news is that the NNMPs will be very upgradable for a long, long time..





    edited January 2023 watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 55
    People are missing another obvious possibility: what Apple calls Ultra Fusion or a silicon interposer that allows two M1 Max chip dies to be connected together to make the M1 Ultra.

    Gurman simply took the 38 cores of the M2 Max and doubled it as he thinks the Mac Pro will be using an M2 Ultra.

    Apple has a very high bandwidth interconnect to pair two M1 Max chips. But who says that this interface can only pair two identical chips? Apple could make a companion chip that was simply made up entirely of GPU cores. So you could have an M2 Ultra with 12 CPU cores, the NPU and encoders/decoders from the M2 Max and have an M2 GPU with a whopping 128 (or more) cores.

    Or if Apple went with a 4 die chip (the rumored Extreme version) then 2 x M2 Max along with 2 x M2 GPU and you’d have 24 CPU cores and upwards of 300 GPU cores.

    I don’t know why people assume Apple can only connect two identical chips when they make an Ultra version. 
    thtravnorodomd_2FileMakerFellerroundaboutnowcgWerkscommentzillacornchipwatto_cobra
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