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Apple Drops nVidia from New Mac Pros to Snub Adobe

07.27.10 @ 4:17PM Tags : , , , , ,

Apple today announced new Mac Pros, marking the first updates to the fruit company’s pro line since March of 2009. Pricing starts at $2,500 for the base 4-core model, $3,500 for the 8-core model, and a wallet-annihilating $5,000 for the 12-core model. The new machines use the latest Intel Xeon processors, there are new SSD options for storage, and higher-powered ATI graphics cards are now standard. No USB 3.0 or Lightpeak as rumored, and still no Blu-ray option. None of this is particularly surprising, but there’s an interesting angle to this announcement concerning the ongoing feud between Apple and Adobe.

There are of course pages touting processor updates, new benchmarks, and a whole bunch of tech specs. But take a look at the graphics card options for the new machines:

  • (1) ATI Radeon HD 5770 card with 1GB of GDDR5 memory
  • (2) ATI Radeon HD 5770 cards with 1GB of GDDR5 memory
  • (1) ATI Radeon HD 5870 card with 1GB of GDDR5 memory

Notice anything missing? For the first time in Mac Pro history, there are no nVidia graphics cards offered. Here’s the reason this is of interest to professional editors and filmmakers: Adobe’s impressive Mercury Playback Engine, recently premiered with its CS5 suite, relies exclusively on nVidia graphics cards. Apple has always shipped Mac Pros with nVidia GPUs — either standard, or at the very least, as a build-to-order option. In fact, even going through the history of Power Mac G5 shows that nVidia has always been an option, ever since the G5 was introduced in 2003. However, this new Mac Pro will break that streak (despite earlier rumors that nVidia’s new Fermi line of GPUs would be supported). So, to recap: Adobe releases CS5 with nVidia GPU acceleration, blowing the performance of Apple’s Final Cut Pro out of the water. Apple releases new Mac Pros and leaves out nVidia GPUs. Coincidence? I’ll leave it up to you to decide…


While some of nVidia’s new cards are thought to run hot, nVidia has always been a workstation standard. At the very least I would expect Apple to offer nVidia cards as a build-to-order option, because, you know, this is a “Pro” machine and many professionals choose to use Adobe products. But no. Instead, if you want to get the best performance out of your Adobe-based editing suite (and, if you’re paying $3k or more for your machine, I assume performance is important), you’ll have to pay for the ATI card and then buy a nVidia card from a third-party reseller. This is assuming Apple releases drivers for the latest nVidia cards on any sort of reasonable timeline. Suddenly, Apple’s claims of being open are even more laughable. You want $5,000 for a pro workstation and won’t even offer a nVidia card as an option, despite the fact that most popular creative software suite in the world uses nVidia cards? I said I would leave it up to you to decide, but this really doesn’t seem like a coincidence.

I can hear Steve Jobs touting Apple’s openness by saying Adobe’s decision to go with a proprietary nVidia technology is “closed,” whereas ATI graphics cards run on “open” standards like OpenCL. Yes, implementing nVidia’s CUDA architecture was a proprietary decision on Adobe’s part, but let’s put Apple’s own reasoning to work here. Similar to Apple’s argument for keeping Flash off of iOS, Adobe made a decision based on performance: nVidia’s CUDA is more mature than OpenCL at this point in time. Regarding Adobe Flash, Steve Jobs himself stated, “we have routinely asked Adobe to show us Flash performing well on a mobile device, any mobile device, for a few years now. We have never seen it.” So in an effort to improve the performance of their device, Apple went with a Flash-free approach because there wasn’t an extant example of Flash performing well. Similarly, in an effort to improve the performance of their editing suite, Adobe went with CUDA because there wasn’t an extant example of OpenCL performing well. It’s the same argument, but apparently it doesn’t go both ways. Once again, by not giving its users options, Apple is acting like a TV manufacturer who bans certain stations.

So, what to do? Spend $3,000 on a machine that isn’t offering you the basic options you want? Maybe you can build a hackintosh. Or, you know, thanks to some other Mac issues with editing, perhaps it’s time to switch to a PC.

I’m just thinking out loud here, and while I’d rather not spend so much time talking about Apple, I do use their hardware to create absolutely everything I do. If add-on nVidia cards are shown to work flawlessly in CS5 come August, I’ll probably buy one of these Mac Pros anyway, simply because of all the Mac applications I’m reliant on. But take a look at the Apple homepage — on the day they announced new Mac Pros, new iMacs, a new 27″ Cinema Display, and a new Magic Trackpad, the iPhone still receives top billing (to the point where the Mac Pro announcement doesn’t even make the home page). As of late, Apple’s top priority is clearly selling gadgets to consumers; meanwhile, their high-end hardware is becoming less and less friendly to Pros.

What are your thoughts on this “omission” by Apple? If you’re in the market for a new editing machine, will you buy a new Mac Pro?

COMMENT POLICY

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  • Not a coincidence.

  • I agree very much with your article, and moreso how one cannot underestimate the sea change that occurs in a video editing workflow when GPU acceleration is thrown into the mix. As you wrote, Premiere CS5 blew FCU out of the water with this innovation.

    Apple in turn should not underestimate how their (faux) perception as an artist-friendly platform was driven significantly by the desktop video community (perhaps even most). Eventually, word will get around — because time is money! — that a Windows machine running Premiere Pro CS5 is far more productive than a Macintosh running either Premiere Pro CS5 or FCP. Apple should not let a petty squabble about Flash trigger their demise in this way.

  • Argh. I’ve been less and less excited about Apple over the past year or so. I kinda wish they would sell FCP and Logic to a company that actually cares about the filmmakers and musicians that use them. I hate the idea of returning to the (general) mediocrity of the PC world…but if getting high end film and music software requires it, I’ll have to end up doing just that.

  • Dangit Apple. Dangit.

  • Agree with Andrew apple should sell Pro apps to a outside concern, if they not big and strong enough to cope with all the demands of their customers – delegate out I say !
    As for Your article Ryan – thanks for filling in some of the gaps.. I have a quad core MP (amongst several other apple hardware bits and bobs) and was recently, seriously considering upgrading to what ever came out next in their Mac pro line after experiencing unwanted render periods having now changed my workflow somewhat incorporating after effects cs5 .. And other adobe suite packages..
    I was looking forward to hearing of a sensible upgrade option from Apple to go forward with to combine all the tools and utilities used by digital media professionals today – including adobe and pro apple apps – instead I’m going to have to Wade through a kindergarden fight, I am eternally optimistic (if not to my own determent).. So I hope it won’t result in me having to choose sides. Come on apple sort it out man !

  • I’m a PC dude, and I dislike that Premiere CS5 requires a GeForce 285 or Quadro for GPU acceleration. But I’m utterly thankful that I don’t have to rely on a single company for my computer hardware, operating system, and NLE. That’s seriously whacked!

  • There is an interesting article on Apple Insider today called “Publishers frustrated as Apple blocks iPad subscriptions”. Taken with Koos article, I am getting more and more uncomfortable with Apple. I don’t like being beholden to one single supplier for anything. This from a sales person at the pro dealer Mac Hollywood yesterday

    ” Apple is the new Microsoft, Google is the new Apple”.

    That about sums it up.

    • ” Apple is the new Microsoft, Google is the new Apple” – Absolutely.

    • > Apple may be the new Microsoft…but Google is something altogether different. As long as Google’s business model depends on getting eyeballs on pages (or on whatever they can make that eyeballs might be attracted to), they will continue to make decisions based on what’s best for the end user.
      Apple has been a bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Because of the incredibly sub par option we had (in Microsoft), Apple appeared as a savior of sorts. The reality all along, however, has been that at the end of the day, Apple’s main interest is in their bottom line. They’re a company that creates things that people really want (partially because they’re so great at marketing), so Apple’s had the power to demand a premium. The reality is that they were never what Google is.
      So…the bright spot in the Apple world is that they’re entering the ad space. If Apple is able to make enough money selling ads, they’ll be able to afford to put the customer first for a change.

      • if you really think google does what’s good for costumers, you’re looking at them with the same child eyes people used to look at apple years ago.. for example, cloud computing so hardly pushed by google (and apple too, with mobileme, but it’s a bit different for many aspects) is just a way to move all your datas and informations on their domain.. going on this way, they’ll know exactly at what time you’ll meet your gf and where, in order to display a relevant ad on the nearest LCD.. that’s costumer interest ?
        CS5 is the most unconfortable, non-standard, hard-to-manage-and-mantain software suite you can buy for a mac (hard fight with office, but i usually expect a very different quality from adobe and microsoft ).. who’s missing in delivering support and quality products to costumers? every time i install a new creative suite (on mac) i’m near to puke, and the same happens every time i have to upgrade an adobe software.
        think a little more about it: everyone there is trying to make money being the biggest bro in the market , from a (unhappy) point of view, we’re just lucky they’re still fighting each other instead of working together .. you can always switch to 7 to run CS5 isn’t it ? why not ? there are some good points in this article, but in general, i can’t agree.. and, in my opinion, you should consider a lot more the bad relation between intel and nvidia..

        • Pardon the pun, but I think we’re talking apples and oranges here. Yes, Google wants to make money and vis a vis ads can be aggressive. But, excepting the absence of a delete button in Gmail (which wasn’t a business decision, but rather showed that engineers can be out of touch with reality at times), I can’t recall a decision that Google has made that was not determined, mostly, by the end user. Google does not sit on technology so as to sell more bastardized gadgets (such as iPods, iPhones, and iPads without cameras, for example) for premium prices. Google doesn’t have to exploit the end user because it doesn’t make its money that way.
          As regards cloud computing…why don’t we wait and see what it ends up looking like? Your portrayal of it is a bit conspiracy theory-ish…

  • Hardware and software competition benefits ALL users, so any company that artificially restricts itself is acting like a runner wearing high heels… they may look good, but they are going to fall further behind with every lap

  • First of all great article. I really appreciate when there is an effort on making things as clear as possible.
    As a motion designer, if it comes down between choosing apple or adobe, I´ll definitely choose adobe.
    Don´t get me wrong, I really love apple´s products, and I feel connected to their philosofy of usability.
    But adobe has the tools of my work, If I have to run it in a Windows platform, so be it.

  • Re: Google, I love their products now but I’ve got no illusions that they’re a benevolent company. Right now their interests are aligned with ours, but who knows in several years if that will still be the case… such is the life of a consumer.

    As for nVidia, it seems Apple certainly could’ve made Fermi-based cards an option, given they just released new workstation cards.

  • james braselton on 07.29.10 @ 3:49PM

    hi there wait a minute i am a hard core gamer i want quad 512 gb ssd’s why you say thats a feature that i dont need or want why is sony not going too ssd there ps3 i just dont want hard drive becuase there slow at gaming load times are forever lag times internaty soo i will be buying one of these with quad 512 gb ssd’s and be gunisess book or record for fastest gamer on the planet

  • This Hackintosh idea is very interesting. I personally could never go back to using Windows. The OSX experience for me is much more natural. The 27″ iMac Quad Core is what I use, for me it’s a great deal. I could never consider buying a Mac Pro – what a ridiculous waste of money. The only thing you pay for is OSX, and you pay for it because it IS a propriteary, closed system. They will not let it run on any other machine other than there own authorized components. But I installed Windows on my iMac to mainly play a few games, I would never use Windows as a main way to interface with files, and my digital media. But with a decent monitor and potentially a Hackintosh system, you could get a few mac peripherals (mouse, keyoboard etc) to make the experience kinda true. And the iMac screen is pretty damn good. Find me a screen on par with that I’d be virtually sold. Otherwise, Apple continual rejection of Blu-Ray to me is apalling. They now only cater for compressed, iStore downloads. They are catering for a creative community that needs to share in full, uncompressed HD. This was a recent dilemma for me after completing my first 1080p project… I’ve gotta buy an external Blu-Ray burner!

  • Nice article… it mirrors my thoughts exactly. I need a new editing computer that supports Adobe’s MPE and Apple really isn’t helping me out.

  • Well…
    First you go on to say to leave it up for the reader to decide wether this is coincidence or not. And THEN you explain why it can’t be coincidence and what the ASSUMED reasons for Apple’s actions are… and why it makes them so despicable.
    I know this is just opinion, but I think you read too much into it. So they left Nvidia out? So what? You buy it from another place. I thought that was the whole purpose of buying a workstation tower. To add more parts that are available from other vendors.
    You think they left it out because of ONE application that isn’t even as close to their own product either in terms of market share or price? And that almost only supports $1000+ video cards? Come on.
    And I don’t get all this whining “Apple hates professionals now”. After the release of FCP 8 as a full-blown Cocoa-written, 64bit, OpenCL-accelerated, GrandCentralDispatch multicore designed next generation editing system everybody will cheer and shout “it was worth the wait!”.
    I hope that will be soon (rumors say late this year or early next year) otherwise they f***ed up and you can call them names given Avid’s and Adobe’s latest NLE versions (which are very good in my opinion). I’m sure they will come up with something great. They just HAVE TO.
    I know waiting is the hardest part but don’t get too freaked out about it.

    • Agreed.

      The article does strike me as somewhat partizan toward Adobe.

      ATI cards generally perform most hum-drum workstation tasks smother than Nvidia by design and, let’s face it, as Mac users more of our software enjoys these benefits (except our guilty gaming moments of course but few would shell out for a MacPro to excel in games) and I’ve never felt the need to change out my GPU.

      If CS5 wants to play Crysis and specifically follow the new, hot NVidia cards by design – over the hyper threading, multitasking route – then it is pushing me toward ATi and FCP anyway. A shame really.

    • Well Sascha, I’m writing this a year after your original post and yes, Apple abandoned the pro market with their iMovie Pro, aka FCPX… I wonder how you felt on and after June 21st, the release date of FCPX…

  • Robert Williams on 01.10.11 @ 11:36AM

    If one is stating a fact how is it whining. I bought one of the first Mac Pro towers that used the Intel chip and worked with boot camp. At the time I selected the Nvidia Quadro 4500 at an extra about $1500. You tell me why they had Nvidia then and not now. While it may be ATI does offer decent video cards for professional graphics, the ones they offer as an option are basically video game toys. Why would I want to spend that kind of money on what is being marketed at a professional machine that is still way more expensive then a PC equivalent only to have to swap out the graphics card. The least they can do is over to sell with out any card installed and save us a few bucks on their over priced machine. Also I am bound to Windows for 3DS Max and was bound to it for AutoCAD. Now there is an AutoCAD on the market for Macintosh but it does not work well at all with my Nvidia Quadro 4500 in Mac yet the latest AutoCAD does work well with that same graphics card in Windows 7 64 bit and even if I want to buy the latest Nvidia Quadro 4000, it will not work in my Mac Pro 1,1. Yet a friend of mine who has a six year old PC was able to swap out his card for the PC version of the Quadro 4000 and it works fine. I know this is a driver issue also but it is also Apple that is holding back making newer hardware incompatible with older machines. Is this what I paid $5000 for while my counter part bought a similar PC for two thirds the cost and is still able to update to the latest components. It seems to me, the big wigs would love to have more clients like you who do not complain and just eat what ever they feed you no matter how much it would cost you. And how does that fly with there ever self proclaiming GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT when we have to keep buying new hardware thus adding more to the landfills.

  • The recent release of the new Mac Book Pros with Thunderbolt AND forthcoming Final Cut Pro which is stunning according to the most highly skilled and experienced PRO’s even rating “jaw-dropping” features indicates in hindsight this article is sour grapes, even churlish. Some had said even FCP is dead, abandoned. Yeah like RED.

    I’m a ‘pro’, have been for over 40 years and yes we will be buying both Mac Pro and Mac Book Pro 17″ to use later in the year with FCP, NOT CS5. A recent comparison shows CS5 is lacking in image quality, our only critera. Despite the clamour of its advances PRO’s output the highest quality work not self serving ideas of the ‘latest n greatest’.

  • Apple hasn’t snubbed Adobe!?!? The new Sandy Bridge iMacs all have Intel’s Quick Sync technology, which blows every NVIDIA/AMD GPU out of the water when it comes to encoding & decoding video. All Adobe has to do is include support for Quick Sync in their applications, honestly that would probably be a smart thing to do anyway, since every new PC& Mac is going to have this technology eventually. Pretty smart of Apple if you ask me.

    If anyone got snubbed it’s NVIDIA & AMD who now have to compete with Intel’s built-in graphics solution. That’s where the real story lies.

    The minor secondary story is that Intel’s Quick Sync won’t work properly yet with a separate discrete NVIDIA/AMD chip, but that’s just a software issue and should be remedied as soon as Windows & OS X catch up.

  • MOVE TO HACKINTOSH

    It’s been long since I started to dislike Apple’s behaviour… to make the story short: I moved to hackintosh a cuople of years ago and it’s been perfect for us. We still use Mac applications while we dont have to surrender to Apple’s “way of doing things”.

    Things Apple did to me.

    1)they charged 479 dollars to repair the supply unit in my G4!
    2) I bought an iMac 24″ and it broke 3 months after buying it (it didnt start). I called Apple, they told me I should buy Apple Care Protection Plan to even start talikng on the phone!. I bought of course ACPP and they solved the problem just by telling me a combination of keys to erase i dont know what. I felt stupid again (by that time I already had my hackintosh)

    ther are other small things that I dont remember now.

    Then I decided I had to go back to PC’s…. and then found a COMPANY (in Europe) that manufactures hackintosh for half the price a mac—-

    so to me, I dont care about mac pros, nVidia Cards, etc etc– My hackintosh is 2 years old and my graphic card is 1 gig. Same as Mac pros TODAY. Ridiculous.

  • SnugglerBear on 08.26.11 @ 4:36AM

    I would love to see Steve Jobs running in high heels.!

  • Today Apple is producing / developinig / offering just TOYS instead of TOOLS :(

  • Yeah, and what about Maya compatibility?