The way I see it, Apple has a Mac Pro problem and they’re trying to do something about it. But not this year. Next year. Maybe. Apple won’t say for sure, but if it takes the company until 2019 to release a new Mac, something is wrong in Cupertino.
Apple has a family of three Mac Pro versions and not one of them is really worthy of consideration, so I want this missive to be my last word on the last Mac Pro to suffice until Apple says something about the modular professional level Mac we’ve long awaited.
Tale Of 3 Mac Pros
The first Mac Pro on my list is one I’ve owned and loved. It’s the aluminum cheese grater Mac Pro from before 2013; the same one that commands up to $2,000 used on eBay. That’s the Mac Pro that could do just about anything with ease. Hard drives could be swapped out. Ditto for RAM and graphic cards, not to mention SuperDrives and Blu-ray. The only real negative with that design was the lack of wheels. It’s bulk made it difficult to move and the aluminum handles required gloves.
The second Mac Pro on my list is one of used, but not loved and not owned. It’s the aluminum canister Mac released in 2013 and basically unchanged since. That Mac Pro was more expensive than it’s predecessor, and though it was a design miracle, some of the basics that professional users want and need were not built in. Need a different GPU? Sorry. No can do. That Mac Pro was almost as much of an appliance as the iMac and MacBook Pro models released in recent years, and a form over function device.
The third Mac Pro on my list is one of two models that I hope to buy and use. The first is a professional level iMac. Sure, why not? Apple could plunk down an Intel Xeon inside, crank up RAM to 64GB or 128GB, and expand the SSD storage to 2GB. Would it be expensive? Oh yeah. A fully loaded iMac today comes with a quad core i7 inside, 1TB SSD storage, 4GB GPU, and 32GB of RAM for a not-so-paltry $3,999.
Would you expect a more powerful iMac to cost more?
The second professional level Mac would be the Mac Pro Apple is working on now; the one we should expect next year, but Apple said it wouldn’t ship this year. But it could be 2019. Regardless, any modular Mac Pro will remain a very expensive device. The 2013 Mac Pro was recently upgraded to a 6-core, dual GPU version with a measly 16GB of RAM and a paltry 256GB of SSD storage. That’s hardly professional level. Apple’s own build-to-order specifications can get the Mac Pro up to 64GB of RAM, 1TB of SSD storage, 6GB dual GPUs, and a 12-core Xeon CPU for $6,999.
Unless Apple suddenly decides to get competitive in the personal computer space, I see a professional level iMac falling in-between the high end iMac and the high end 2013 Mac Pro.
What I Want
If I don’t succumb to the lure of a more powerful iMac later this year, here’s what I expect Apple to deliver in a modular Mac Pro package. And, yes, I expect it next year.
CPU Cores – I may not need 12 cores, but I want the choice. If anything, the canister Mac Pro looks strong by starting at 6-cores and going to 12-cores. Choice is good. The problem with performance in this space is Intel.
SSD – Once you use a desktop Mac with SSD you won’t go back. I use hard disk drives for external storage and backup and Time Machine. That’s it. 1TB is a minimum option here and 2TB would be good, but even better would be the option to drop in another SSD.
GPU – This is where professional level Mac Pro users diverge. Multiple GPUs? Fine. Just make them swappable and expandable. Not every professional level Mac Pro user needs to have three screens.
RAM – I’m shocked that Apple sells a professional level Mac Pro with 16GB of RAM. You can get that in a MacBook Pro and double that in an iMac. Start at 32GB and jump. Fast. And don’t bother to run DDR3 RAM. Faster and better options are available. Some PCs come with DDR5.
Ports – This is a no-brainer. The future is USB-C and Thunderbolt 3. Just make sure to include plenty of them. I don’t worry about adapters so long as they work.
Extras – In the age of Wi-Fi I really like Ethernet. The iMac has it. The MacBook Pro doesn’t need it. A powerful Mac Pro model must have Ethernet. And Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, et al. My items above indicate a need for expansion beyond the basic CPU, GPU, SSD storage. And, finally, I want an Apple-branded Retina 5k display. Buy it from LG and slap an Apple logo on it if you want, but make it part of an Apple package and get creative on the pricing.
That’s it. No more Mac Pro noise until Apple tells us a new Mac Pro is on the way.