While everyone was obsessed with the new Mac Studio and its lightning-fast M1 Ultra processor, Apple has quietly updated the Intel Mac Pro with a new AMD W550X GPU and twice the storage.
But why would anyone buy it at this point? Especially for $6,000 for the base model.
Let's take a look.
Apple’s Last Intel Workstation
Before Tuesday‘s “Peek Performance” event, the current Intel-based Mac Pro was kitted out with an Intel Xeon processor, AMD Radeon 580X GPU, and a 256GB SSD. At least for the base model.
Being the last Apple desktop waiting to be refreshed with the Apple Silicon architecture, the high-priced professional system is beginning to show its age. Even after just a few years.
Mac Pro 2019Credit: Apple
However, Apple’s plans for the next-generation cheese grater must include Apple Silicon, and experts are speculating that a supposed upgrade to M1 Ultra could be the ticket, even going so far as to suggest the next Mac Pro May even use the fused technology at the heart of the Ultra to merge four M1 Max chips into the design.
But don’t expect that this year.
Tech analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has said that Apple isn’t planning the Silicon transition of the Mac Pro until 2023. If that is accurate, then there would be little incentive to buy a tower new with its hefty price tag, especially since the Mac Studio is half the cost.
Well, almost. We'll get to that in a bit.
While buying a new Mac Pro may not be a good idea for most creatives, investing in the M1 Ultra Mac Studio may not make sense in the short run, either. That makes upgrading an aging rig with the AMD W5500X GPU and doubling the storage the best course of action.
Introduced in 2019, the latest “cheese grater” Mac is in its third year, which is around the time that the state of the art is starting to pass it by. Replacing a computer after three years that can cost up to $50,000 sounds like a very short time to consider having to upgrade yet again.
The Evolution of Technology
However, such is the pace of innovation that not even Moore’s Law applies anymore. Consequently, if it’s possible to give the Mac Pro a little bit of a boost for not a lot of money, users would be bananas not to.
The W5500X GPU has 8GB of DDR6 memory with 224 GB/s memory bandwidth and is based on AMD's RDNA architecture, which is capable of 6 teraflops of single-precision performance or 11.2 teraflops of half-precision computing.
In addition to supporting a Pro Display XDR monitor, the W550X supports a 5K monitor and up to four 4K displays.
For a tenth of the price, adding a new GPU and doubling storage sounds like a decent way for existing Mac Pro users to extend the useful life of their editing rigs until they can justify moving to the Mac Studio or while holding out for the Ultra Mac Pro that’s coming.
If users can get their hands on it.
So Should You Get an Intel Mac Pro?
This question has a very specific answer. Apple's Mac Pro has always been a niche product. It's a workstation made for labor-intensive creative tasks done by large productions, post-houses, or individual creatives working consistently. That is one reason why the Mac Pro was priced so high.
Budget creatives and filmmakers were not the target market and had other options that would more than meet their needs. Those who did purchase the expensive Mac Pro are the same folks who buy $50,000 camera bodies.
So should you get an Intel Mac Pro in 2022 knowing that an Apple Silicon version is just around the corner?
Yes, but only if the workstation fits your particular set of tasks.
Some creatives, such as musicians that rely on PCI for their workflow, may want to stick with the older Mac Pro. It seems that Apple is sticking with Thunderbolt as its main connection moving forward, as evidenced by the Mac Studio, and may not support PCI in the Mac Pro. But that's pure speculation at this point. Others who rely on Intel-based software will also find the Intel Mac Pro a perfect solution for their workflow that Apple Silicon may not be able to support.
However, this group of creatives is quite small and a majority would find greater support in the Mac Studio, or even the Apple Silicon Macbook Pro lineup.