Why Apple's new Mac Pro shows a real commitment to creative pros

| 27 November 13

Apple is sending a signal that it hasn't abandoned the professional computing market with the latest Mac Pro, which will ship next month. But the workstation faces competition from its own sibling iMac as computer buyers weigh purchases.

Loyalists of Apple's Mac Pro have been clamouring for an upgrade to the high-end desktop, which last received a facelift in 2010. The new workstation is priced starting at £2,082.50 plus VAT and has one of the latest Intel Xeon E5 processors, solid-state drive storage, Thunderbolt 2 and dual graphics cards tightly packed in a cylindrical chassis.

The Mac Pro is targeted largely at creative professionals and engineers and has drawn interest for its new design and use of the latest technologies.

"Apple has dominated the creative market for years. They have a lot of loyal users there, and those guys are influential," said Roger Kay, president at Endpoint Technologies Associates.

The slow Mac Pro upgrade cycle led some to believe that Apple was terminating its high-end product lineup in favor of consumer products. There were concerns that the Mac Pro would be merged into the iMac line, much like the Xserve, which in 2010 was merged into the Mac Pro line. But Apple CEO Tim Cook last year confirmed that a new Mac Pro was on its way, and the product was announced in October.

The new Mac Pro supports external 4K displays and has customized Apple motherboards with SSD storage provided via PCI-Express 3.0 slots. The £2,082.50 plus VAT model has a 3.7GHz quad-core Intel Xeon E5 chip based on the Ivy Bridge microarchitecture, 10MB of L3 cache, 12GB of DDR3 DRAM and dual Advanced Micro Devices FirePro D300 GPUs. The £2,749 plus VAT model has a 3.5GHz six-core Xeon E5 processor, 12MB of cache, 16GB of DRAM and dual AMD FirePro D500 GPUs with 3GB of dedicated GDDR5 VRAM.

Other standard Mac Pro features include six Thunderbolt 2 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless and HDMI ports. The desktops can be configured to include faster processors and up to 64GB of DRAM.

Craig Seeman, owner of Third Planet Video, a video production company in Brooklyn, New York, said that the Mac Pro's entry price is lower than expected. The latest hardware, especially two graphics processors, is one reason he will upgrade to the latest system.

"The smaller design is much more space efficient. This is of major importance to those of us who work in small and often crowded offices," Seeman said.

Given the similar price point for the new and previous Mac Pros, the move to two GPUs cannot be underestimated, especially given that time is money for professional users, Craig said. The standardization of dual GPUs will facilitate software development so more video rendering and other computing tasks are off-loaded to graphics processors from CPUs, Craig said.

Another key feature in the Mac Pro is the inclusion of the Thunderbolt 2 ports, which makes up for the lack of internal expansion features, Craig said. The Thunderbolt 2 can transfer data between the host computer and peripherals at a rate of 20Gbps (bits per second).

The Mac Pro will find high-end buyers using programs like Final Cut Pro X, but interest could increase if more peripherals for Thunderbolt 2 become available, said Peter M. Fine, who runs consulting firm FinePeter Consulting in New York.

Right now Thunderbolt-compatible products include a few storage devices, and Apple sells a Thunderbolt-compatible monitor. Apple needs to encourage third parties to ramp up production of expansion hardware, which is important to high-end buyers, said Peter, who is also the co-founder of the Metropolitan New York Macintosh Alliance (MetroMac).

Like others, Peter is curious to see the performance of the Mac Pro models. But the appealing price and cutting-edge technologies could meet the needs of some of his clients, and moreover, the new workstation is more power-efficient than predecessors.

"The good news is that it is Apple, not a lesser-known small manufacturer, so most users can anticipate a pretty good experience," Peter said.

But some potential buyers who have waited years for the new Mac Pro are weighing the workstation against the high-end iMac, which is cheaper and delivers sufficient performance required to run multimedia programs. Still, the Mac Pro has its advantages with server processors, faster graphics cards and Thunderbolt 2 ports, not available in the iMac.

There are Mac Pro loyalists who want the latest and greatest, but iMacs in many cases are good enough for content creation and high-end graphics, said Jay Chou, senior research analyst at IDC.

"The [Mac Pro] has the hardware of a server in addition to very fine graphics capabilities. It can be overkill," Jay said.

Mac Pro 2013 benchmarks wanted

Gary Huff, founder of Rusty Auto Productions in Austin, Texas, is considering the Mac Pro, but wants to see benchmarks and real-world usage before making a purchase decision. He is also considering an iMac.

"I am worried about performance of the Mac Pro base models not being significantly improved over, say, an iMac. I do think the higher-end models will be absolute beasts in computing power, but then it becomes an issue of whether or not it's affordable for me at this time," Gary said.

But like others, Gary relieved to see the new Mac Pro.

"I do like the design. It looks rather sleek. If Apple had simply released the original cheese-grater design with the new guts, I think I would have still been excited," Gary said.


Mackay Bell said: The thought process behind it isn't very complicated.Over two thirds of the people who bought the old Mac Pro never used the internal expansion. So why not build a smaller product that makes life a lot easier for the majority of people? Moreover, Apple has had a lot of success upselling. Customers who currently buy a Mac Mini, might consider springing the extra bucks for something so totally cool and awesome looking. There's lots of discussion about why an iMac might be a better financial choice for most people, but not everyone makes their choices in order to save the most money. Lots of iMac customers might also opt for a more expensive unit for it's cool factor.The old cheese grater Mac Pro was heavy, huge, and a big pain in the ass. All to include features most people didn't use. The new Mac Pro is beautiful, elegant, simple and much more powerful. I predict this will sell a ton more than the old version.

fustian24 said: First, I will point out that I have never seen a person with extra screen space. Every monitor I've ever seen is filled with windows. Everybody needs more screen real estate.Second I work in a discipline that looks at scientific data and we just need more dots. I can tell you that after living with my retinal iPad, my Apple monitor looks low resolution.A big question with 4K is what is the dot pitch going to be?

Usergnome said: Even TB2 is not as fast as an internal bus. Well, at least not as fast as the latest PCI spec. That's part of the design debate.

Usergnome said: The good point I mention was in the last paragraph of sharrestom's comment, not BFMAN22.

Guest said: I never said that there are not many kinds of pros, If you get paid, you are a pro.. but all I can say is that I have to deliver hundreds of programs to broadcast, as .MXF files with 8 channel audio, closed captioned, and FCP EX cannot do it.. the work around is with 3rd party apps that don't work with maverick yet,, and actually they just don't work... and they cost over $1200.00 for the plug in... So what's the point.. I know all about the custom looks and sounds in FCP X, and understand that 64 bit is a great step and being able to use certain camera codecs out of the camera, converted to APR HQ in the background is great.. Why didn't they just add those features to FCP 7 and make 8???

ronnie raygun said: the fact i cant rackmount that tube is a killer for us. we have 5 mac pro daws in our house, that are all in roll around racks for studio to studio use. and once you have a bunch of cables sticking out of that tube, then the aesthetics are gone. i understand it might cool better, but we just dont have our high end stuff sittin on desks. sometimes we do field work too.

Chris Muir said: Your argument is like the "no true Scotsman" fallacy. There is no monolithic block of "Pros." Different domains and different workflows abound. PERIOD.Clearly, Apple released FCP X too soon, and that cost them market share in the video editing world, but in its current state it clearly works for a sizable subset of the "Pros" working as editors.http://www.fcp.co/final-cut-pr...http://www.larryjordan.biz/app...http://forums.creativecow.net/...

mjandersong said: Apple rocks!

Guest said: Indeed, and as read, there is no turnkey package ready to go, Apple has everyone waiting and waiting.... for devices.. I feel Apple actually NEVER says thank you... The went hard and heavy into iPads and iPhone and have only seen that market share get killed by Android... I hate saying this stuff, but it's Sad buy True...

Guest said: yup, I would have never thought about it in the past, but apple leaves you with no alternative. I have to think that WE on this forum are the Target Market, and I am reading a lot of PANS....

Mark McKee said: When I can shoot a video on the run, plug the camera into the Mac, drag & drop an AVCHD .mts file into the bin and start editing immediately, I'll consider returning to the fold. In other words if a time comes in the future where the Mac experience becomes more "elegant & intuitive" than the Win7/Dell/Adobe combo, as it used to be, over 10 years ago, I'd be happy to check it out. Past experience and health concerns suggest that I shouldn't hold my breath. But hey, happy transcoding, and good luck with that.

Guest said: Thanks for making that point.. I have a lot of aapl, and am just horrified by the bad decisions... People need to get stuff done,, not look cool........

Guest said: Good Luck, I hope Mavericks doesn't wipe your external hard drives, and i see no Apple software which is a shame... Apple Blew it... Last, I bet sales of the New MAC Pro will Suck... it just simply does not make sense to buy..

Guest said: Man, that was a lot of "Ifs" and "I'm Sure's".... A functional Mac Pro was needed years ago with a 64bit Final Cut Pro 8 with working timeline and simply updating FCP 7... all these years later, FCP X is NOT useful for Pros. Period. If you need it explained, you are not a pro, and have not run into a roadblock with FCP EX... I ran into roadblocks first try, and every time the put an update out, it FAILS... Even the user comments and reviews for latest version of FCPX in the APP store are horrific... unless your delivering for YouTube.. PERIOD.

Guest said: It means you can HATE Final Cut Pro X FASTER...

stefanavalos said: Good time to invest in power bars, outlet expanders and wire management systems.Or a Hackintosh

dlbeard said: What's the real advantage to you with 4K monitors? I'm not editing such high resolution video and I'm afraid the high resolution will cut in half the size of my menu items and buttons within apps - is that a real concern?

Usergnome said: I'd like a mini cheese grater Mac - something larger than a Mac mini, with some room and slots inside, yet smaller and less expensive than the old Mac Pro. (If that's not innovative enough, they could make the case from liquid metal and cover the drive doors with sapphire.) Lots of Thunder 2 and USB 3 ports. 10GB ethernet. Enough of a power supply to handle two high end cards, and two internal drives + an SSD for a boot drive. An i7 CPU and 24GB RAM standard. HDMI in and out. Don't need firewire anymore, don't need optical drive. Card reader optional. Maybe a dock for removable SSD's. No it's not innovative at all - but it would be so useful!

Bob Nolin said: Still, you have to admit it does look like a wastebasket. Since I can't afford one, I will make fun of it.

Usergnome said: Objecting to certain design decisions does not make one an instant Luddite. Apple is not immune to fails (Cube, Hockey Puck Mouse, MobileMe, iCloud as yet.) Post production people have always been Apple's most dedicated customers.

Usergnome said: It is a challenge. They're always calling and messaging and knocking on the door. They whine a lot. They complain about lousy cell service, battery life, and the TSA.

Usergnome said: That last paragraph is a good point. I hope it works out that way.

Shal79 said: High end buyers don't use Final Cut X

Cyclops said: So do we see support for 10-bits in the display path yet? There are professionals aplenty who need it and want it. I know it is an OS issue, but this is should be Apple's "thank you" to the professionals who floated its boat for so many years in the dark ages.

Chris Muir said: Personally, I really like this direction. I have already embraced the philosophy of having my "compute core" separate from my "storage core," and have been running this way for several years. I predict that if Intel & Apple are even moderately successful in driving new Thunderbolt peripherals, a lot of machines will follow this model in the years to come.I do have a slight problem of one expansion card that doesn't have updated drivers to enable it to work in an expansion chassis, but I'm sure that will work out, one way or another.

[email protected]_$101_Is_A_Done_Deal_:) said: But it's a circular computer. It looks too different to be of any use. Besides, I can't fit my rectangular cards in a round hole. Furthermore, I can build a Windows PC with more processing power and twice the memory for half the price./sI always enjoy the amusing words that come out of the mouths of people dead-set against Apple's ways of doing things. Those same words were uttered by Flatworlders saying how explorers ships would fall off the end of the Earth if they went too far.

fustian24 said: Personally I think the idea of having ports that are as fast as an internal bus is fabulous. Now what used to be cards will be external and more portable devices. In the near term this will be a problem for those with an investment is cards, but over time should be an improvement.But to me the sole reason to buy this machine is that it will run multiple 4K monitors.Apple really needs to announce a 4K screen soon, since I suspect many people will, like me, sit this one out until there are 4K monitors to take advantage of the graphics power of the new Pro.

don108 said: "The choice most people see at this point…"Wow. You know "most people." That's impressive. With all of these people you know, how can you possibly make time to actually do any work?

sharrestom said: I suspect that the "new" Mac Pro will sell very well, but the early adopters will be mostly other than video editors. Their legacy workflow is much more difficult to transition to a TB2 paradigm, and no TB2 UHD screens are yet available though DisplayPort/HDMI models will work, but for those that persist with the platform, they will be rewarded, albeit at a bit of an investment.The big test will be when Apple demo's Final Cut running OpenCL and Logic Pro; I think that will make believers of a lot of the holdouts.Myself, I'll be running SolidWorks/SolidWorks Simulation under Parallels, plus Adobe CC and Maxwell Render under Mavericks.Apple moving to a TB2 centric expansion isn't baffling at all; it opens up all the current 15 inch Mac Book Pro's to the same TB2 devices as the Mac Pro, expanding the market in the process.

PiRat said: His name is 1 letter away from Tim Cock, which might explain the design.But then that raises the question...flesh light or cock?

Usergnome said: I see you found the one video guy who thinks making it tiny was a good idea. The choice most people see at this point is whether to build a workstation-grade hackintosh or just go over to Windows where you can put together the hardware you need. The cheese grater with new guts is exactly what the industry needed and had waited a long time for. This remains one of Apple's most baffling decisions. I'm sure many people will make the new one work for them – and if they're lucky, find a way to get specialized boards to work in an expansion chassis. And it's undoubtedly a powerful machine otherwise. But I would love to hear Tim Cook actually outline the thought process that led to the design of the Micro Mac Pro. Just hearing a straightforward explanation would clear the air considerably. Maybe even win hearts and minds.