What is it? The Mac Pro is Apple’s workstation. It is designed for professionals who need a powerful and flexible machine. However, it hasn’t been updated since December 2019, meaning it still uses Intel processors rather than Apple’s.
For who is it? The Mac Pro is designed for professionals who work with applications that use as many processing cores as possible: video editing programs, image editing software, 3D programs, audio editing, software developers, and the like.
How much does the Mac Pro cost? The Mac Pro starts at $5,999 / £5,499 for a model with 3.5GHz 8-core Intel Xeon W processor, 32GB RAM, Radeon Pro W5500X and 512GB SSD. There are many configurations available which can push the price up to around $50,000 / £50,000.
What are the specifications? Apple does not offer standard configurations of the Mac Pro. You start with a basic model and configure it to your liking. Here is an overview of the main specifications.
Processor: The Mac Pro uses Intel Xeon W processors. You can choose an 8, 12, 16, 24 or 28 core CPU.
Memory: The Mac Pro uses DDR4 ECC memory and has 12 DIMM slots. However, the memory configurations that Apple offers do not always fill all slots. The amount of memory you can choose starts at 32 GB (four 8 GB DIMMs) and goes up to 768 GB (six 128 GB DIMMs or 12 64 GB DIMMs). If you get a 24 or 28 core processor, you can get up to 1.5 TB of memory, which fills all 12 DIMM slots.
Pictures: The Mac Pro has room for two graphics cards. Apple has three different AMD cards for you to choose from: an 8 GB AMD Radeon Pro 580X, a 32 GB AMD Radeon Pro Vega II, or the 64 GB AMD Radeon Pro Vega II Duo. Apple will soon offer a 16 GB Radeon Pro W5700X and a 32 GB Radeon Pro W5700X Duo.
Storage: The Mac Pro has room for two SSD modules. You can get a single 256GB SSD, or you can get 1TB, 2TB, or 4TB of storage installed as a pair of SSDs. An 8 TB storage option will be available soon.
afterburner: Apple offers a special optional component with the Mac Pro called Afterburner. This is an accelerator card with a Field-programmable Gate Array (FPGA) designed for video production. According to Apple, Afterburner can handle up to six streams of 8K ProRes RAW video at 30 fps; up to 23 streams of 4K ProRes RAW video at 30 fps; and up to 16 streams of 4K ProRes 422 video at 30 fps.
How do I connect things? To connect external devices, the Mac Pro has two USB 3 ports and two Thunderbolt 3 ports on the back of the machine. The top of the Mac Pro has two Thunderbolt 3 ports.
Inside the Mac Pro are 8 PCI Express expansion slots. You can install up to two MPX modules or up to four PCI Express cards. There are also three full PCI Express Gen 3 slots (one x16 slot and two x8 slots).
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are built into the new Mac Pro. The back of the machine also has two 10Gb Ethernet connections.
How fast is it? When it launched, Apple said the Mac Pro was “designed for performance,” suitable for 8K video editing, 3D applications, software development, and other production-oriented tasks.
Apple’s Mac Pro website only shows benchmarks for the top-of-the-range 28-core model. They claim the new Mac Pro performs three times faster in ProRes transcoding than the previous 12-core Mac Pro with Final Cut Pro X. Apple also says you’ll perform more than three times faster on tasks performed in Adobe Photoshop 2020, Autodesk Maya, Logic Pro X, MATLAB and Wolfram Mathematica.
Since launch, Apple’s M-series SoCs have arrived, with the M1 Ultra, found in the Mac Studio (above), bringing the Mac Pro bang for the buck.
Buying advice from Macworld: The Mac Pro offers the computing power that the most demanding users need. We’re talking production environments, such as TV and audio recording studios, animation houses and software developers. If you feel like you can never have enough power, you’re probably the pro the Mac Pro is aimed at. If that sounds like you, we still don’t recommend making a purchase until Apple introduces the new Mac Pro with an Apple-made SoC inside.
If you’re more of a “prosumer” than a professional – someone who is an experienced Mac user but doesn’t use advanced apps – the Mac Pro is overkill. You probably won’t be able to take advantage of what the Mac Pro has to offer.