Apple’s vaunted Mac Pro a misfire?

“Once upon a time, anyone who wanted a powerful Mac would choose the top of the line. So in the days before Apple went Intel in 2006, it was the Power Mac G5. It was a huge beast, weighing over 40 pounds, but it was extremely expandable. You could add multiple hard drives and PCI cards, and changing RAM was a snap,” Gene Steinberg writes for The Tech Night Owl. “When Apple moved to Intel processors in 2006, the successor to that Power Mac, the Mac Pro, debuted. Externally it looked about the same, but the innards were more efficient because Apple didn’t need so much cooling hardware. It was expensive, powerful, and content creators loved them.”

“In early 2013, Tim Cook promised a major Mac Pro upgrade, and, sure enough, the spectacular ‘trash can’ version was demonstrated during the WWDC keynote that June,” Sternberg writes. “It didn’t show up until December of 2013, and volume shipments didn’t start until early in 2014.”

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

 
“It was a sea change, and not necessarily one that was welcome,” Sternberg writes. “The reaction to the Mac Pro has been polarizing… Ideally, if there must be a Mac Pro, maybe Apple could develop a different version, still relatively compact, which restores the internal expansion capability of the original Mac Pro. With Apple’s penchant for miniaturization, I bet they could deliver all that in a computer that weighs no more than 20 pounds or so. But is there enough of a market for such a machine — or the present day Mac Pro?”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The Mac Pro is revolutionary, but Apple could really stand to, you know, update the thing once and awhile. Not doing so makes it look like Apple regards professional Mac users as an afterthought. Sometimes Apple, the world’s most profitable and most valuable company, still operates as if they have five guys from NeXT working around the clock trying to do all the work on a shoestring budget… Read more in our full Take here.

SEE ALSO:
Apple’s ‘new’ Mac Pro is a joke; a plain and simple failure – November 23, 2015
50,000,000 pixels: Apple’s Mac Pro powers six 4K displays (with video) – August 31, 2015
Apple may be prepping a Mac Pro refresh for early 2016 – August 25, 2015
What’s next for Mac Pro graphics cards? – August 13, 2014
First impressions: Apple’s new Mac Pro – June 20, 2014
Hardware.Info reviews Apple’s Mac Pro: Revolutionary, Apple reinvents the workstation – June 17, 2014
Houston Chronicle reviews Apple Mac Pro: Unmatched by any Windows system – March 12, 2014
Review: Apple’s $3999 6-core Mac Pro is an impressive computer – February 26, 2014
Ars Technica pro reviews Apple’s 2013 Mac Pro: Powerful, but it isn’t always a clear upgrade – January 28, 2014
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

62 Comments

  1. With a desktop, PCIe slots are absolutely necessary. The current Mac Pro design is more like a Mac Mini Pro than a Mac Pro. The classic Mac Pro’s expansion made it very versatile. You could upgrade the wireless card or graphics card just by swapping out PCIe cards and you could add things like sound cards and USB 3 cards. Thunderbolt is nice, but it doesn’t have enough bandwidth for high-end graphics cards. It’s fine for low- and mid-range graphics cards, but not high-end ones. Also, the lack of PCIe slots increases the price of expansion cards by requiring the use of a Thunderbolt chassis/adapter.

    1. well, if so …. perhaps deservedly so.

      it is a remarkable design in so many ways, but it takes us back to the day of problematic expandability and even worse, back to the snakes nest of cabling that was – and now seems to be again, at least in this case – the bain of desktop computer users.

      not well enough thought out, despite its revolutionary design.

      they really need to fix these shortcomings. (that never should have happened in the first place)

    2. MDN’s campaign against Mac Pro does not focus on the actual problems with it — they keep complaining that the model is stagnating, but they haven’t yet called it out for what it is — a terrible design.

      “Revolutionary” isn’t the same as rotational.

  2. Ive at his looniest. The 2012 Mac mini is still the most powerful, we now have a 1 port MacBook that’s about as powerful as an iPhone, soldered in RAM pretty much everywhere, a seriously neglected OS X, pro apps vanishing or getting dumber and now a MaxiPad. When is management going back to doing amazing things with hardware and put Ive out to pasture where he belongs? He should have been measured for a straightjacket the moment he walked in the room with the plans for the Trashcan Pro.

  3. Only 2 reasons to buy a Mac Pro:
    Server, or Content Creation Workstation.
    (Every other user can be better served by an iMac these days).

    Both of these use-cases require large volumes of local storage. Elegantly managing this storage *should have been* Apple’s primary concern with this model. If they had nailed that, these would be flying off the shelves.

      1. For most professionals, storage comes from the network. So no need for hard drive upgrades. Haven’t needed to upgrade memory in a Mac in a decade. The built-in screens are the best in the business and are *large*.

        The iMac is basically an appliance, and it works well that way.

        1. Not everyone wants, is comfortable with or has the room for an all-in-one appliance. I had one about 9 years ago and hated it. I’d rather deal with a laptop than put up with a monster on my desk that can’t be repaired or upgraded.

          1. I’d put a MacBook setup in the same category as an iMac for the purposes of this discussion. The point is, it’s not a giant configurable box you can tinker with.

            1. No, OWC is working on a SSD upgrade, plus a MBP is FAR more portable and convenient than an iMac. 4.5 lbs vs 21 lbs? Big difference to haul around, particularly if you don’t like or need giant monitors.

        2. >>For most professionals, storage comes from the network
          Baloney. For most professionals, speed matters above everything else. And the network is just too slow–and not by a little, but by an order of magnitude. The network is fine for end-of-day backup and minor collaboration, but a professional–whether graphics, audio or developer–needs a stack of honking fast local drives.

          1. I would say that’s only true for hard-core content creators (video editors, sound engineers, motion graphics, 3D, photo editors).

            For everyone else, the convenience of a network outweighs the speed of local storage. That’s especially true for professionals who don’t use anything more complex than a spreadsheet. But even if you visit an advertising agency these days… network storage.

          2. Technologically, fast network connections do now exist, but to drop FibreChannel-8 (or better) connections on each node will,easily add $1K/seat .. the payoff in workflow had sure as heck be worth it, else the Accountants will flay you alive.

        3. > for most professionals, storage comes from the network.

          It depends on what the work is and the workflow … For heavier lifting, the content is preferentially to be created locally, as high performance local storage is more cost-effective…and then it is put into the corporate server. You don’t find many desktops (let alone laptops) connected by a FibreChannel-8 (or better) network connections.

          > Haven’t upgraded to upgrade memory in a Mac in a decade ..

          Oh, so you mean you’ve been buying it upfront with each set of new hardware, and paying Apple’s markup each time. Of course, a good piece of this is also because Apple has systematically removed such in-house upgrades as a customer option, so it really isn’t a “feature” differentiation point anymore.

    1. I agree – the pain in connecting these together via fibre ($1000 thunderbold-2-fibre converter + extra electrical cable) is just a pain in the butt. Maybe the idea was that people would only have 1 of these and connect them directly via thunderbolt to a personal RAID system? It was a lot easier to just drop a fibre channel card into the old tower.

    2. “Only 2 reasons to buy a Mac Pro:
      Server, or Content Creation Workstation.
      (Every other user can be better served by an iMac these days”

      Im Calling BULLSHIT!

      Just because you may not need one does not mean some of us who are not Video Editors or Hosting are the only people who need it.

      There is no effing way on Earth or any other planet that I am going to pay 27″ iMac prices for what are essentially laptop components in a glued shut box designed to please Jony’s drive to make stuff as skinny as possible.

  4. I think Apple may have gotten carried away with the idea of making something really cool (MacPro can) rather than making something customers wanted and needed. Sometimes that strategy works, but I don’t think it did in this case.

    Pro users want a machine where they can get inside and easily change cards when new stuff comes on the market. The old Pro tower allowed that in a slicker form than any Windows machine.

    Because the new Pro is cool but not really as usable by pro users, pros are migrating to Windows and Linux machines they built themselves. And when enough pros leave OS X, so will the high end software developers.

    1. I think they forgot that “cool” can be different things in different contexts.

      On the desktop or in your pocket, a sleek slab is the way to go.

      In the server room or under a workstation, tinker-toys are cool. The original X Serve understood that (but was a pain outside of a server rack). I think they would have sold a lot of machines if they had developed a new X Serve, and an accompanying Drobo-like RAID unit that were designed to work both in and out of a server rack.

      Now they still wouldn’t have sold millions of them, but they could have kept those two markets very happy.

      1. I don’t like the idea of a sleek slab on my desktop, I want something I can open and drop a new network card or more RAM or add a USB-C card or upgrade a drive. As it stands, the entire system, monitor and all, needs to be upgraded. A horrific waste of money.

  5. Now is the time to get stories like this it, because it will be less relevant come early 2016. And no, stories like this are not going to influence the design of the next Mac Pro, that design is already cast in stone – whatever the design is.

  6. Hmm, lots of complaining and whining about the MacPro lately.

    1) Thunderbolt to PCIe Expansion chassis exist starting around $300. What is wrong with these?

    2) Internal hard drives are overrated. I work in professional video and external drives or network storage are the way to go. You can never have enough internal drive capacity these days.

    3) There are always people with exceptional needs (nothing wrong with that) and the open wilds of custom PC boxes run by Windows or Linux have always been the way to go for these needs. Apple cannot be expected to provide an integrated environment for those people unless it can be proven that they will make back their investment in hardware and software integration over the course of three to five years. My experience is that the high end professional needs have been changing faster than that recently. If you have 1,000 people spending $5000 each and combined hardware, development and other costs for your dream tower are less than $5,000,000 then maybe you have an argument.

    1. 1) They start at $300. They weren’t necessary prior to the goofball design.

      2) I prefer internal drives. External and network drives are better for backups.

      3) Apple did just fine with towers with slots for many years.

    2. “1) Thunderbolt to PCIe Expansion chassis exist starting around $300. What is wrong with these?”

      Thunderbolt 2 don’t offer nearly the throughput to utilize PCIe cards in an expansion chassis to their full potential. So while you can use them, they’re being choked by TB2.

      1. I knew somebody would make the speed comparison. Who needs this sort of throughput? How many professionals, are you one of them? Congratulations for doing work of this calibre. I know there are many high-end applications where the highest throughput is needed but how many people need it? Please provide statistics.

        If there was a huge need for this level of speed somebody would come up with a dual TB2 PCIe box similar to the 5K monitors that use two TB ports to get that resolution.

    3. The only thing stopping Dell, HP or others from making a tower for Mac is Apple and I would gladly buy a proper OS X workstation from Dell than the Trashcan or an iMac.

      Just went over to Apple and Dell and can configure a Xeon Dell Tower with a 2GB nVidia Card and 4k 27″ Monitor for less than a 27″ iMac with Iris Pro Graphics and a Core i5. The Dell also was speed with FireWire and Thunderbolt.

      If the Market is too small for Apple to bother with, Apple should license OS X for WORKSTATIONS so we can get a decent box. I could not give a shit what it looks like.

    1. I’d agree (as would everyone) that today a “real server” is Linux.

      But there’s still a place for a Mac in a server room (as a file server). And there’s still a need to put a Mac in an equipment rack (at a studio). And there’s certainly a need for an expandable Mac under a desk as a content creator’s workstation.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.