Hands on with Apple's new Pro Macs -- Mac Pro & Mac Studio with M2 Ultra

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited June 2023

During Apple's annual developer conference, it showed off new versions of the Mac Pro and Mac Studio -- each equipped with M2-series chips. And I got to test them out ahead of their debut.

The new Mac Studio and Mac Pro
The new Mac Studio and Mac Pro



I was in person at Apple Park this year for Apple's annual developer conference. This typically software-focused event had an unusual number of hardware releases that were highly anticipated.

If you haven't already, be sure to check out my hands-on with the new Vision Pro and new 15-inch MacBook Air. Here, I'm going to be focusing on the two new pro-level machines.

An updated Mac Studio



From the outside, the updated Mac Studio looks identical to the last generation. You wouldn't be able to discern the new M2-powered version from the previous M1 model.

The new Mac Studio
The new Mac Studio



Apple made one change to the I/O. The HDMI port was now updated to version 2.1 to allow for higher-resolution external displays and higher refresh rates.

In total, with the M2 Ultra, the Mac Studio can run up to eight 4K displays, six 6K displays, or three 8K displays -- all at 60Hz.

Internally, you can now choose the M2 Max or M2 Ultra to power your Mac Studio. Apple says that "developers can build new versions of apps at warp speed, with up to 25% faster performance than M1 Max," and "motion graphics designers using After Effects can render up to 50% faster than M1 Max."

Running Maya on the new Mac Studio
Running Maya on the new Mac Studio



In the demo area, Apple was running Maya on the latest Mac Studio to show off how easily it could create 3D graphics. The whole demo felt incredibly smooth with the power of the M2 Ultra and Maya now running natively on Apple Silicon.

Apple Silicon Mac Pro



I used the 2019 Mac Pro for quite some time, eventually migrating to of Apple Silicon in the last year. Now, Apple's high-end desktop supports Apple Silicon as well, completing Apple's lengthy transition.

The new Mac Pro looks like the old Mac Pro
The new Mac Pro looks like the old Mac Pro



With the new model, Apple has continued to use the same chassis that is unveiled with the 2019 model. It has the cheese grater-looking front with the 3D spheres cut from the metal cover.

Eagle-eyed observers will notice one external change Apple made. There are now eight total Thunderbolt ports.

There are now eight Thunderbolt 4 ports
There are now eight Thunderbolt 4 ports



Two ports are located on the top while there are now six on the pre-installed I/O card on the back. That also leaves six PCIe cards for users to install their own cards.

With the 2019 version, users could change and upgrade both the memory and the graphics card. Both of those are now built into the M2 Ultra, and conventional PCI-E video cards from AMD are not supported at all.

Mac Pro internals
Mac Pro internals



Examining the internal of the chassis, Apple has repurposed where the memory used to be installed as the new home of the SSD slots. Apple now sells its own SSD upgrade kits for users to install more storage post-purchase.

PCIe slots on the Mac Pro
PCIe slots on the Mac Pro



Unfortunately, these SSD modules aren't compatible with the last-gen machine.

In the demo area, Apple was nice enough to remove the heat sync to allow unobfuscated access to the M2 Ultra. I was able to see truly how massive this new chip is.

M2 Ultra chip with the sideways Apple logo
M2 Ultra chip with the sideways Apple logo



It was the size of a tennis ball and oddly, had a sideways-facing Apple logo rather than vertical.

Available soon



Both the new Mac Studio and the new Mac Pro will be available starting on June 13th alongside the new MacBook Air.

Mac Studio prices start at $1,999 with the M2 Max chip, while Mac Pro prices start at $6,999 with the M2 Ultra. Exclusive deals are available on both product lines in our Mac Price Guide.



Read on AppleInsider

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 39
    mknelsonmknelson Posts: 1,128member
    The Apple logo on the M2 is upright in the rack mount model?
    Alex1Nmikeincawatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 39
    On Mac Studio M2 Ultra, I see 4 TB ports on rear, 2 TB ports on front, and 1 HDMI port on rear. So no way to directly connect "Eight displays with up to 4K resolution at 60Hz" ...at least one TB dual-display adapter would be needed.

    If I want to drive 8 HDMI displays, it should be possible to install four TB-to-dual HDMI adapters on the 4 rear M2 Ultra TB ports.

    I'll be looking into this further, but if anyone has any insights on doing this, I'd appreciate hearing about it.
    edited June 2023 williamlondonAlex1Nwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 39
    ToortogToortog Posts: 56member
    So now issue is how many companies are going to be writing drivers for PCIe boards on Apple Silicon and how it will take.   It's gonna be a pretty small market for them to invest in. 
    darkvaderAlex1Nwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 39
    DracoDraco Posts: 44member
    In three years, a MacBook Air will be faster than this machine. 
    williamlondonAppleishAlex1NiOS_Guy80eriamjh
  • Reply 5 of 39
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 3,346member
    The cheapest way to get lots of M2 cores is to buy several Mac minis. If your workloads can be distributed across machines, that’s clearly the way to go. 
    williamlondonAniMilldarkvaderAlex1Nrezwitswatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 39
    boboliciousbobolicious Posts: 1,150member
    "Apple says that "developers can build new versions of apps at warp speed, with up to 25% faster performance than M1 Max," and "motion graphics designers using After Effects can render up to 50% faster than M1 Max."

    What is this comparing - an M2 Ultra to an M1 Max ?  Would an M2 Ultra to an M1 Ultra be more helpful at the pro end...?
    darkvaderAlex1Nwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 39
      The new Mac Pro seems to not be what was hinted at from 2 years ago since it’s barely more capable than the Mac Studio but at nearly 3x the cost.  It appears Apple failed to deliver on the M2 Extreme processor (2xM2 Ultras) and the M3 pro level chips are most likely nearly a year away from release so Apple was in a bind and had to release a Mac Pro this year and this is what we get.  I can’t imagine they will sell many of these machines maybe a few 10’s of thousands.  The next M3 iteration of this machine will be the one to buy. 
    darkvaderAlex1NjrfunkcgWerkswatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 39
    Fidonet127Fidonet127 Posts: 512member
    What is this for if the new Mac Pro won't support graphic cards?  aux cable kit for 2019 and 2023 Mac Pros.

    The Belkin AUX Power Cable Kit for Mac Pro provides a set of common AUX power cables for graphics cards and other AUX-powered PCI Express devices that enable connection to the 6‑pin and 8-pin AUX power receptacles in Mac Pro. The kit includes seven typical AUX power cables: four 8-pin to 8-pin cables, two 6-pin to 6-pin cables, and an 8-pin to dual 6-pin cable. Mac Pro provides one 6-pin and four 8-pin AUX power connectors internally, enabling connection to accessory devices.


    Enables PCI Express devices requiring AUX power to be connected inside Mac Pro

    Provides cables needed to power typical graphics cards and AUX power PCI Express cards


    Apple took the time to note this is compatible with the new Mac 
    Pro and is even linked from the 2023 Mac Pro ordering pages. 
    edited June 2023 Alex1Njas99watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 39
    What is this for if the new Mac Pro won't support graphic cards?  aux cable kit for 2019 and 2023 Mac Pros.

    The Belkin AUX Power Cable Kit for Mac Pro provides a set of common AUX power cables for graphics cards and other AUX-powered PCI Express devices that enable connection to the 6‑pin and 8-pin AUX power receptacles in Mac Pro. The kit includes seven typical AUX power cables: four 8-pin to 8-pin cables, two 6-pin to 6-pin cables, and an 8-pin to dual 6-pin cable. Mac Pro provides one 6-pin and four 8-pin AUX power connectors internally, enabling connection to accessory devices.


    Enables PCI Express devices requiring AUX power to be connected inside Mac Pro

    Provides cables needed to power typical graphics cards and AUX power PCI Express cards


    Apple took the time to note this is compatible with the new Mac Pro and is even linked from the 2023 Mac Pro ordering pages. 
    What is it for? It's not just for graphics cards. Like the description says "...and other AUX-powered PCI Express devices...".
    Alex1Nwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 39
    Fidonet127Fidonet127 Posts: 512member
    What is this for if the new Mac Pro won't support graphic cards?  aux cable kit for 2019 and 2023 Mac Pros.

    The Belkin AUX Power Cable Kit for Mac Pro provides a set of common AUX power cables for graphics cards and other AUX-powered PCI Express devices that enable connection to the 6‑pin and 8-pin AUX power receptacles in Mac Pro. The kit includes seven typical AUX power cables: four 8-pin to 8-pin cables, two 6-pin to 6-pin cables, and an 8-pin to dual 6-pin cable. Mac Pro provides one 6-pin and four 8-pin AUX power connectors internally, enabling connection to accessory devices.


    Enables PCI Express devices requiring AUX power to be connected inside Mac Pro

    Provides cables needed to power typical graphics cards and AUX power PCI Express cards


    Apple took the time to note this is compatible with the new Mac Pro and is even linked from the 2023 Mac Pro ordering pages. 
    What is it for? It's not just for graphics cards. Like the description says "...and other AUX-powered PCI Express devices...".
    I know, but the general consensus is there will be no additional graphics cards for this new Mac Pro. There isn't any new video card offered to put in the new Mac Pro. 

    Previous AI article: Notably, customers cannot purchase any video cards, nor are they compatible with the gen-4 PCI-E slots in the Mac Pro. Users looking to install powerful graphics cards for gaming, rendering software, or other intensive processes will have to look elsewhere.


    edited June 2023 Alex1Nwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 39
    Fidonet127Fidonet127 Posts: 512member
    The new Mac Pro has two 10gb ethernet ports built in, vs the new Studio only has one 10gb ethernet port built in.
    Alex1Nwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 39
    AniMillAniMill Posts: 166member
    The Mac Pro is a kludge. I’m betting they tried to punch a hole in the sky, but the sky punched back: no 3rd party video card support, and no extended RAM to 1.5TB (for serious math/design labs). An M3 Extreme isn’t likely because the niche audience will use PC’s with multiple AMD/nvidia cards or simply off-load to cloud render farms. The days of the Mac Pro are waning - very sad. But the rise of the Mac Studio is a happy compromise. And I agree - stacks of M2 Pro Mac Minis are a serious consideration for homegrown render farms.
    darkvaderAlex1Nwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 39
    polymniapolymnia Posts: 1,080member
    Draco said:
    In three years, a MacBook Air will be faster than this machine. 
    In three years a MacBook Air will still have zero internal PCIe expansion. 
    darkvaderAlex1Nmuthuk_vanalingamHedwarerezwitsjas99watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 39
    AppleishAppleish Posts: 696member
    Apple Silicon has made all Macs from now on simply iterations of the best computer.

    Apple Vision Pro is the only exciting new product. 
    rezwitswatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 39
    darkvaderdarkvader Posts: 1,146member
    Less RAM, no real graphics card, and Apple making wild performance claims without any actual benchmarks.

    I'm unconvinced.  I want to see real benchmarks vs current AMD and Intel processors, and current high end Nvidia and AMD graphics cards.  I want to see that because I strongly suspect Apple is just doing a bit of puffery.
    xixocgWerks
  • Reply 16 of 39
    BGnATCBGnATC Posts: 24member
    darkvader said:
    Less RAM, no real graphics card, and Apple making wild performance claims without any actual benchmarks.

    I'm unconvinced.  I want to see real benchmarks vs current AMD and Intel processors, and current high end Nvidia and AMD graphics cards.  I want to see that because I strongly suspect Apple is just doing a bit of puffery.
    Geekbench 6 (My own):

    MacBook Air (2022)Apple M2 3489 MHz (8 cores)
    single core: 2587
    multi core (8 cores): 9631

    Gigabyte Technology Co., Ltd. B660I AORUS PRO DDR4Intel Core i5-13600K 3500 MHz
    single core: 2544
    multi core (14 cores): 13362

    Apple doesn’t tend to exaggerate with their performance claims knowing full well that everyone will verify it eventually.
    edited June 2023 jas99roundaboutnowwilliamlondoncharlesnStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 39
    michelb76michelb76 Posts: 638member
    darkvader said:
    Less RAM, no real graphics card, and Apple making wild performance claims without any actual benchmarks.

    I'm unconvinced.  I want to see real benchmarks vs current AMD and Intel processors, and current high end Nvidia and AMD graphics cards.  I want to see that because I strongly suspect Apple is just doing a bit of puffery.
    Well, that's easy to look up, as all of the current high end CPU's and GPU give much higher performance at peak wattage. Apple can't reinvent physics. But they are in a great spot nonetheless. For everything just below the absolute top, Apple is now a contender. Which is why a lot of competitors are anxiously focusing on ARM.

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 39
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,663member
    192GB RAM max with four RAM chips.  

    48GB chips?   

    What is this hackery?

    jas99watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 39
    thttht Posts: 5,507member
    eriamjh said:
    192GB RAM max with four RAM chips.  

    48GB chips?   

    What is this hackery?

    The M2 Ultra has 8 LPDDR5 channels. There are 8 RAM packages adjacent to the M2 Ultra chip. 24 GB per channel, and probably 2 12 GB RAM "chips" in each of those 8 RAM packages to get to 192 GB.
    williamlondonwatto_cobraAlex1N
  • Reply 20 of 39
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 3,346member
    AniMill said:
    The Mac Pro is a kludge. I’m betting they tried to punch a hole in the sky, but the sky punched back: no 3rd party video card support, and no extended RAM to 1.5TB (for serious math/design labs). An M3 Extreme isn’t likely because the niche audience will use PC’s with multiple AMD/nvidia cards or simply off-load to cloud render farms. The days of the Mac Pro are waning - very sad. But the rise of the Mac Studio is a happy compromise. And I agree - stacks of M2 Pro Mac Minis are a serious consideration for homegrown render farms.
    Interestingly, the M2 mini might be a better deal than the M2 Pro (assuming embarrassingly parallel workloads)

    For example, you can buy 5 M2 minis with 16 GB of RAM and 256 GB SSD for about $4k. 

    To get approximately the same performance from  M2 Pro minis, you would need 3 M2 Pro (12 core) minis with 32 GB of RAM each and 512 GB SSD, which would cost about $6k.

    The 3 M2 Pro Minis would cumulatively have somewhat more RAM and storage, but you could boost the M2s to 24GB of RAM each and still come out $1k cheaper than the M2 Pros (And end up with more cumulative RAM than the M2 Pros). 

    Bottom line -- *if* you can spread your embarrassingly parallel workloads across multiple machines, then it's far more economical to go with the baseline M2. 

    (Of course, there are many workloads that aren't so easy to spread across multiple machines.)
    muthuk_vanalingamcgWerkswatto_cobraAlex1N
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