Ars Technica pro reviews Apple’s 2013 Mac Pro: Powerful, but it isn’t always a clear upgrade

“To call Apple’s Mac Pro ‘anticipated’ definitely qualifies as an understatement. It’s been over three years since we reviewed the last Mac Pro,” Dave Girard reports for Ars Technica. “The buzz around a new Mac Pro would have been high even if Apple only updated the core of this machine with the newer tech like the Xeon E5 v2 CPUs, USB 3.0, Thunderbolt, PCI Express 3.0, etc. But the contentious ‘Darth Pro’ redesign has done what Apple wanted: created a fever-pitched chatter and air of excitement around the machine that their workstation competitors are surely envying.”

“At first glance, the new Mac Pro seems like a finger in the eye for demanding creative professionals. But after actually using the system, I am convinced that this is a very successful workstation design that can be a great template for future versions,” Girard reports. “As novel as the tube design is on the surface, it is simply a solution to a design problem for workstations. How do you keep a high-performance machine with two powerful compute GPUs cool? You make it small, you make it a wind tunnel, you put all the devices along the walls of a giant heatsink, and you make the case metal to assist with cooling. James Dyson couldn’t have done it better.”

Apple's all-new Mac Pro
Apple’s all-new Mac Pro

“For the next version of the Mac Pro, I’d like to see a little more sense restored to the insides of this new design. Yes, people are talking about the Mac Pro again, and Final Cut users know Apple does indeed love them. But bring back dual-socket CPU options for people who absolutely need them. We won’t flinch at the higher sticker price — we just need the power. I know that these dual-CPU machines likely make up a small portion of Mac Pro sales, but they are crucial for many creative workflows,” Girard reports. “I’m not asking for my old tower back, but throw me a bone here — I just paid $6,500 for the same render speeds I had three years ago. That’s not revolutionary from any angle.”

“It sounds like ending on a sour note, but I am cautiously optimistic about the newly shrunken Mac Pro,” Girard reports. “Apple has made an exceptional machine for the future that just needs some tweaks to really shine. It’s a machine the company could be proud of at any point in its history.”

Reams more in the full, extensive-as-usual review – highly recommended – here.

Related articles:
T3 Mac Pro review: Unboxing, hands-on, and first impressions – December 20, 2013
ITProPortal reviews Apple’s Mac Pro: One of the best premium desktops we’ve ever tested – January 14, 2014
PC Magazine reviews Apple’s Mac Pro: Stunning, astonishing, Editors’ Choice – December 27, 2013
The New York Times reviews Apple’s Mac Pro: Deeply futuristic; extremely, ridiculously fast and powerful – December 26, 2013
The Verge reviews Apple’s new Mac Pro: Unlike anything the PC industry’s ever seen – December 23, 2013
Engadget reviews Apple’s new Mac Pro: In a league of its own – December 23, 2013
The first 24 hours with Apple’s new Mac Pro and Final Cut Pro X 10.1 (with video) – December 20, 2013
T3 Mac Pro review: Unboxing, hands-on, and first impressions – December 20, 2013
Apple’s powerful new Mac Pro a good value; far from the most expensive high-end Mac or high-end PCs – December 20, 2013
CNET hands on: Apple’s radically reimagined Mac Pro is a powerhouse performer – December 20, 2013


  1. “…bring back dual-socket CPU options for people who absolutely need them.”


    Mac Pro: “Configurable to 3.0GHz 8-core processor with 25MB L3 cache or 2.7GHz 12-core processor with 30MB L3 cache.”

    What does the presence of any particular number of sockets have to do with anything?

    1. An option for two sockets would mean two processors: 2×8-core or 2x12core.

      If you don’t need that power, you don’t. If you need all the power you can get this is a simple/common/obvious way Apple can double CPU speeds for the kind of tasks that parallelize well on CPU. For some people’s work, computing time is money so there is no hard limit on what they are willing to pay.

      1. Most really long rendering projects can be split up into pieces and run across multiple machines (e.g., “rendering farms”). If money isn’t the issue, just buy multiple machines.

        1. Tons of reasons to not buy more than one. Less space taken. Less power. Less damn plugs. Your job uses CPU, not GPU – extra machines are wasted. Less money.
          I just bought a 12 core 2 days ago instead of 2 6 cores for some of these reasons. I would LOVE to be able to upgrade it to a 24. I’d imagine Apple will do this in the next gen, but I needed to get a job out yesterday, so couldn’t wait 6 more months…

      2. So the single socket, 12 core machine would really be a super wizbang item if it had 2 sockets at 6 cores each? Or maybe 4 sockets with 3 cores each? I get it that more cores would be wonderful, but expanding the number of cores by increasing the number of sockets is kind of retrograde thinking.

    2. This was covered in the article. You could use a pair of processors to up your cores, while keeping clock speed higher than you could get with a processor with more cores on a single die. With a pair of chips, the heat is spread across two cores, so the base clock can be higher.

  2. Man, I lust after one of these paired with a future 4K Apple Cinema Display . . . but I’m probably among the 99 percent who could get by just fine with an iMac like the 27-incher I’m typing this on.

    My next desktop machine will no doubt be a 4K iMac . . . I’m sure that’s just a matter of when, not if.

  3. “I just paid $6,500 for the same render speeds I had three years ago.”

    I suspect that 24 cores would really push the memory bandwidth problem into the forefront. Doubtful that having two 12-core CPUs would do much better.

    And, an obvious remark, it’s pretty clear that his current software does not take advantage of the GPUs. If he really wants more speed he needs to complain to the authors of his software.

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