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Apple reboots the Mac Pro

Thursday, April 6th, 2017 | Posted by Jim Thacker

 
Apple has updated its Mac Pro line of professional graphics workstations for the first time in three years.

The new models, which are available now, increase the CPU cores, GPU processing power and RAM available in the machines, but retain the existing cylindrical design and overall architecture.

Apple is also reported to be working on a completely new modular design for the Mac Pro, including a Pro display monitor, although those models won’t ship until next year.

The 2013 Mac Pro: a stylish, but impractical product
The current Mac Pros divided opinion in the industry on their release in 2013.

While the cylindrical aluminium ‘trash can’ design was impeccably stylish – for a while, Mac Pros became de rigueur in promo photos for post houses – many artists felt that the machines were overpriced.

Apple’s gamble on a dual-GPU/single-CPU system being the way of the future also failed to pay off.

The problem was compounded by the fact that the machines were non-upgradeable – the downside of having a unique chassis design – and that, for three years, Apple failed to update the system specs.

The 2017 Mac Pro: same design, but better CPUs and GPUs
The latter, at least, has now been addressed by the refreshed machines, which became available on Apple’s online store this week.

Whereas the $2,999 model used to come with a quad-core Xeon E5 CPU, 12GB of DDR3 RAM and dual AMD D300 GPUs, that has now been upgraded to a six-core Xeon E5, 16GB of DDR3 RAM and dual AMD D500s.

The $3,999 model moves from a six-core Xeon E5 CPU and dual AMD G500 GPUs to an eight-core Xeon E5s and dual AMD G700s, although here, RAM remains unchanged at 16GB of DDR3.

Whether this is a significant incentive to buy is debatable: it’s still a single-CPU system, DDR3 has now been superseded, and even the D700 is a mid-range GPU compared to AMD’s new Radeon Pro WX cards.

And, of course, the chassis design hasn’t changed, so there’s no option to upgrade later.

The 2018 Mac Pro: a new modular design, and a new Pro display
Perhaps more interesting is the fact that Apple is now working on a completely new generation of Mac Pros – reported to be modular, this time round – and a new Pro display.

The announcement was made to a small group of tech journalists earlier this week, and is one of the few times that Apple has talked about new hardware so far in advance: the machines won’t ship until 2018.

TechCrunch has a good write-up of the briefing, in which Apple talks fairly frankly about the limitations of the existing design, and why it failed a proportion of the Mac Pro’s potential user base.

In it, Apple senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller is quoted as saying: “We are in the process of what we call ‘completely rethinking’ the Mac Pro.”

 
See full tech specs for the existing refreshed Mac Pros on Apple’s website

Read TechCrunch’s report on the upcoming 2018 rethink of the Mac Pro

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