CNET hands on: Apple’s radically reimagined Mac Pro is a powerhouse performer

“Apple’s new Mac Pro is a stunningly fresh take on the desktop computer. But it’s probably not for you,” Dan Ackerman reports for CNET. “It breaks the decades-long tradition of putting desktop computer components in a rectangular box, whether a massive full tower of the kind that dominated offices and dens for many years, or a small cube such as Apple’s own Mac Mini.”

“When compared with the most recent professional-grade desktop Mac Pro, the difference is especially striking,” Ackerman reports. “espite offering the same or better components, the new version has an interior volume that’s about one tenth that of the big, boxy old Mac Pro desktop.”

Ackerman reports, “Seen side by side, the significance of this is easy to see.”

Apple's new Mac Pro (left) next to previous generation model.
Apple’s new Mac Pro (left) next to previous generation model. (photo: CNET)

“The idea being promulgated here is that your expandability should flow outward, not inward,” Ackerman reports. “If the lack of traditional internal expansion slots inside didn’t clue you in to that, the six Thunderbolt 2 ports plus four USB 3.0 ports on the connections panel should. And, as Thunderbolt devices can chain themselves together, that’s a total of 36 Thunderbolt devices one can hook up simultaneously.”

Much more in the full first look here.


    1. hannahjs, eat your heart out!
      That’s me throwing down the gauntlet at hannahjs knowing full well that I will go down in flames after reading her riposte, by hey! I should do so well impressed because dueling with her is akin to batting a losing wicket and don’t we just know it!

    2. Agreed. Everyone keeps talking about some ugly cable bundles but I don’t see how it would produce such a thing. You’d have one TB cable to the monitor and another TB cable going to some RAID array or NAS located somewhere else where multiple devices could be daisy-chained. What other cables would be required if you have a wireless mouse and keyboard. I agree that a large case can hold more hard drives without exterior cabling but it’s hardly excessive.

      Yes, Thunderbolt storage devices are expensive but they are available.!

      I know people just hate to change their ways of thinking but when they start knocking something before it’s even tried then it’s just being narrow-minded. I’ll take the smaller size of that new Mac Pro over that big behemoth 2012 Mac Pro any day of the week. I’m waiting to see some in-depth reviews before I pass judgment.

      They say Apple can’t innovate anymore. They say this is not innovation but something impractical. It’s all a matter of viewpoint. It will be interesting to see if this design is not copied by other manufacturers depending upon whether professionals like this compact concept and find it practical. I like it but I’m not a professional. It seems to be a very energy efficient design although somewhat restrictive when it comes to GPU choices.

  1. Those of us who have been around long enough have been through this before and its no big deal. There was a time when the iMac had USB 1 ports and it was the only computer with them. There were no USB printers back then but I think we know how that turned out. Same thing for FW400, then FW800, CD Drives, the list goes on and on. Technology marches forward.

    1. In 2001, I went to Best Buy to get a 2-button scroll wheel USB mouse for my first Mac. I found one. One. All the other mice had PS/2 connectors for Windows PCs.

      A year later, I bought another Mac for my then-girlfriend (now wife). I went to the same store to buy the same mouse, and found that ALL of the mice for sale were now USB.

      Where Apple goes, the industry follows. No accessories available? There will be.


  2. A lot of the complaints are funny to me and show how shallow people think. They talk about how they can build a box cheeper. Not at all. Time is money, their time. It takes a lot to: find the parts and order them, assemble it, test it, and fix bugs. A true comparison is what other OEM’s sell. The small size is a game changer. Now one can take a high end work horse out of their work space with little more effort than a iMac. They could be at a movie shoot doing a lot of the work there. Interacting with directors and showing them what shots are good. They could get copies of media and have it organized days before someone stuck at a desk. This would also be a safety backup for directors. Portability and power have always been a tradeoff. The new MacPros narrow that gap considerably.

    1. Your points are hard to follow.

      You don’t think Apple spent considerable effort trying to make the new Mac Pro cost-effective to produce, at significantly less manufacturing cost? You would be wrong.

      You assert that the size is a game changer … and most pros say, for whom? They already have space next to their desks for the old Mac Pros. They may NOT have space on their desks for the new Cylinder, plus all the peripherals they now need to buy. Nobody treats their workstations as portable machines. When people in the past needed a powerful portable machine, they opted for the 17″ MacBook Pro (now dead, thanks a lot Cook & Co).

      Nobody, not even the most ardent Apple worshiper, was asking for a smaller Mac Pro. They wanted a more powerful Mac Pro. The results have yet to be seen. If the game has changed, it’s not entirely for the better.

      Fashion over function is simply not appreciated in the professional computing world. Clearly most posters here have never attempted to spec out a complete array of Thunderbolt accessories to replace what pros have inside their old Mac Pros. Time is money, and time spent in changeover mode is time totally wasted. This is NOT going to be a smooth transition for some.

      1. Of course no one asked for a smaller MacPro, because they did not think they could exist. Every high performance computer, regardless of manufacturer, was a large, heavy box. The best MacBook Pro has never come close to the power of a MacPro. The 17″ was comparable to a iMac. One would have to decide if the portability of the MacBook Pro was worth the price over a iMac. An iMac is not that hard to take offsite if it does not have to be moved around at it’s temporary location. That is why I compared the new MacPro to a iMac. Neither will be as portable as a MacBook. With a MacBook or iMac you do not take unneeded peripherals; backup drives, printers, second monitors etc. when you leave the office. With the new MacPro it is just as easy to disconnect peripherals and take the ones you need; something else no one thought was posable before. If your job requires you to move your computer several times a day than my concept will not work for you. However if you can leave your computer at a temporary spot for a day or longer than the new MacPro will give you abilities that have never been posable with a workhorse.

      2. They already have space next to their desks for the old Mac Pros. They may NOT have space on their desks for the new Cylinder, plus all the peripherals they now need to buy.

        Okay, let’s look at this rationally. The supposed reason that they need to buy these peripherals is because there is no longer space inside the case for internal expansion. However, the case is so small that there is now significant space outside the case that wasn’t available before.

        In other words, if they had room for that ginormous Mac Pro box before, they should have room for that tiny Mac Pro cylinder now, plus room next to it for the equipment that used to go inside it.

        And yes, I understand that peripherals take more space than internals. Still, you can’t tell me that the significant amount of workspace gained by replacing the huge box with the little cylinder doesn’t significantly offset any problem finding space for peripherals.


  3. I love how Movie, TV, and artsy types are the only ones that need this kind of graphical and processor power. As if the design and simulation of cars, planes, helicopters, submarines, etc., only need small computers powered by jack-in-the-box type cranks.

  4. You must be blind(which makes one wonder how you can type) there are a number of Thunderbolt Devices out there, and now that the Mac Pro is out there, they will only increase.

    1. Compared to overall Mac sales, the number of Mac Pros being sold is small. Compared to the industry as a whole, the number is tiny. Given the small volumes, the effect on the production and cost of Thunderbolt devices will be small. Apple has been selling Thunderbolt-equipped computers in much higher volumes than the Mac Pro will ever see for three years now and Thunderbolt is still stuck at the expensive curiosity level.

      I hate to sound pessimistic. I truly would like to see Thunderbolt succeed and become ubiquitous and cost effective but that won’t happen unless the PC industry as a whole gets on board. Perhaps the Mac Pro will be the catalyst that gets other PC companies to adopt Thunderbolt but I’m not betting the farm on it.

        1. You’re not getting the point George is making. He’s saying that the Thunderbolt connector has been in the market on Apple Macs since late 2010/early 2011 which is a good 3 years now. In that 3 years, Thunderbolt adoption in terms of peripheral availability has not moved the needle one inch, not one inch.

          And in relation to portable MacBooks, Mac Pros sell in extremely small numbers so the fact that the new Mac Pro has Thunderbolt capability will not amount to a hill of beans because the low volume will mean that peripheral manufacturers won’t care about exploiting the tiny, almost insignificant, market.

          Unless other PC manufacturers adopt the Thunderbolt standard, it will be left stranded in mid-stream like the other technologies that Apple tried to push, e.g. FireWire, ADC (Apple Display Connector).

      1. The flaw in that thinking is that buyers of Apple’s non-pro computers were in the price-insensitive category of buyers. In truth, for most of them, buying a USB 3TB at Costco Wholesale for $179 was all they worried about. The Mac Pro market, however, will be willing to pay for TB2 devices.

  5. But… but… but it looks like an trashcan designed by simplehuman, so it can’t possibly be a professional computing solution. There’s an unwritten law that a computer must be rectangular or it won’t function properly. Data bits get dizzy if they have to go around in circles.


    1. Sucks to be you and the other early adaptors. However this will show peripheral manufactures that there is far more demand for MacPros than anticipated. Hopefully they will start producing lots of Thunderbolt 2 products. This will help all new Mac owners. Maybe PC fans will have to admit being able to daisy chain is great and stop comparing TB to UBS 3.0. OK it’s Christmas, I can wish. Sorry your Christmas wish of a MacPro under your tree did not come true.

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