Apple’s new Mac Pro and 32-inch 6K Retina display are a match made in media heaven

Gannon Burgett for Digital Photography Review:

Six years after Apple announced its barely-upgradeable cylindrical Mac Pro, aptly dubbed the ‘trash can,’ Apple took WWDC 2019 as an opportunity to unveil its most powerful, modular Mac Pro to date.

While undoubtedly new, the overall design is reminiscent of Apple’s original Mac Pro, complete with the ‘cheese grater’ vents, which are specifically machined to allow maximum airflow through the tower.

MacDailyNews Take: Ahh, wish fulfillment:

Would that Apple would repurpose the “cheese grater” Mac Pro that many people initially denigrated only to find themselves dreaming of a modern one nearly 13 years later. Yes, some more astute observers did praise its design from the get-go.MacDailyNews, March 22, 2019

However, unlike the original Mac Pro, this modular monster can shed its shell to offer complete 360-degree access to the internals… In addition to the tower itself, Apple has also created three modules that are specifically designed to interface with the Mac Pro: the MPX Module, the ‘Afterburner’ video card and an I/O module.

All-new, completely redesigned Mac Pro delivers maximum performance, expansion and configurability.
All-new, completely redesigned Mac Pro delivers maximum performance, expansion and configurability.

The MPX Module is a quad-wide PCIx card that houses two AMD Radeon Pro Vega 2 or Radeon Pro Vega 2 Duo GPUS, its own heat sink and a Thunderbolt 3 connector that plugs directly into the motherboard for maximum speed.

Apple’s new ‘Afterburner’ is a hardware accelerator card with a field-programmable gate array (FPGA) or a Programmable Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC). Apple claims the ‘Afterburner’ card can process up to 6.3 billion pixels per second and is capable of handling up to three streams of 8K ProRes RAW or 12 streams of 4K ProRes RAW at 30fps.

The last one is an I/O module that adds two additional USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 ports, two USB-A ports and a 3.5mm audio jack.

Of course, what would a powerful desktop computer be without a beautiful screen to compose, create and review your work on it with? Years after leaving the display market, Apple is back—and it’s created a display that’s just as (if not more) crazy than its Mac Pro counterpart.

It’s called the Pro Display XDR and it’s a 32in 6K Retina (6016px x 3384px, 218ppi) HDR display that brings the best features of high-end reference monitors and manages to pack said features into a more compact, affordable (comparatively speaking) frame that offers the convenience of more traditional monitors.

With Retina 6K resolution, gorgeous color and extreme brightness and contrast ratio, Pro Display XDR is the world’s best pro display.
With Retina 6K resolution, gorgeous color and extreme brightness and contrast ratio, Pro Display XDR is the world’s best pro display.

MacDailyNews Take: The new Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR are two grand slams by Apple!

To once again be able to confidently state that Apple makes the world’s most advanced personal computer has us brimming with joy! Regardless of how relatively few will be purchasing Mac Pro units – this one is for professional users, through and through – the knowledge that Apple has this flagship Mac now percolates throughout the entire family of Mac models, elevating them in the process. The same goes for the Pro Display XDR.

There’s a reason why quality carmakers, for example, make esoteric high-performance models – because they can and because they cast a halo of quality on all of their other more salable models. They don’t make money on the supercars themselves, but supercars make them money.

This is why we were so disappointed with Apple letting Mac Pro rot for over half a decade and for killing off Apple-made high quality displays. Both were poor decisions, now rectified. All Apple needs to do now is demonstrate their commitment to these products over an extended period of time and they’ll be right back on track!

10 Comments

  1. Delusional.

    $6K for a sub $1500 PC spec base computer that will cost >$10k for a real workstation class computer? I don’t even know who this is aimed at and I’ve worked in the creative industry for 20 years.

    This thing is being released into a market where Threadripper is annihilating the HEDT market for price/perf and Threadripper 3000 is on the way. The Mac Pro will look embarrassing in 6 months time if it doesn’t already.

    No nVidia support also means a big void in interest for a lot of creative professionals. No nVidia no go.

    This Mac Pro would’ve been great back in 2013 but at these over inflated prices it DOA.

    1. Please, give a link to this sub $1500 PC with an 8 core 3.5GHz Intel Xeon W with 24.5MB cache, 32GB of 2666MHz memory, 256GB SSD, and a Radeon Pro 580X graphics card. Thats not to mention the 1.4 kilowatt power supply, half hight PCIe, 3 single wide PCIe and 4 double wide PCIe slots.

    2. There’s always one. Apple could have produced a Cray Super computing killer at the height of its power and someone would always claim a $1500 dollar PC will blow it away. Time will tell but it sounds much like the same old hot air expelled by the naysayers who will never be satisfied. Let’s see what actual objective judges and users say.

      1. Absolutely, I just find it funny that the processor alone retails at $2980 but this person thinks he/she can get one in a PC for under $1500. The person’s choice of the word “Delusional” seems particularly apropos, but not for the reason that he/she might have intended.

        1. Most people don’t understand the difference between an expensive Xeon, a fast cheap x86 AMD knockoff, and a netbook-appropriate ARM chip. Even self proclaimed experts on MDN don’t understand. Maybe Apple should do a better job marketing these important differences. At $6 grand for an unimpressive spec Mac Pro, you will probably not attract many home users. The blazing fast ones will be twice the entry level price.

          As others have said, Apple needs an internally expandable tower computer for mere home users, starting at perhaps $2500. Local storage matters!!!! They don’t even need 28 cores. I would be fine with a mere steel chassis with plastic covers like the great old G3 and G4 Power Macs. Those are the embittered users Apple has abandoned for the last 5+ years. The prosumers have no good option from Apple at any reasonable price.

  2. This is how this will play out. The specs they released look good today. The Mac Pro will not make it to market by FALL ’19 (just like the last two Mac Pro’s make it to their fall debut). What will happen is we will this new Mac Pro sometime in Feb ’20. By then Xeons that have 28 cores will be the “old” Xeons. And we will pay a premium for outdated stuff.

  3. Like always you are going to hear all kinds of crying about the Mac Pro. Sure some will be legitimate, however most not. The big one will be cost and how much cheaper the old cheese grater was. First put prices with inflation. Inflation has been slow however it is real. Apple did not make an iMac Pro then either. Now the MacPro does not have to be for lower pro level like it did just a few years ago. It looks ugly. Remember all the bitching about the trash can being looks over function. They went more for function this time. The one thing the trash can did have was you could take the cover off and see the whole thing inside. Granted you could not do much with it. Now you can get to everything easily and do stuff with it. (Of course we will have to see how much when it actually comes out). You can buy a windows cheaper. This one has always been a bit of BS, especially with the cheese grater. When you put Xion not i(whatever) high end graphics and memory you get very similar prices. The idea that you could build one a lot cheaper is delusional to the point you need help. Your time is money. You can not spend the time researching, ordering, installing, troubleshooting, and fix it for a year and come out cheaper. The other thing that was only mentioned briefly was they are going to make a rack mountable version. Something people were asking for before the trash can. It really is a well thought out machine. Yes there will be problems, however be real not BS.

    As far as the monitor goes really show one with the specs that compares. Something that will take on the $40,000.00 one they showed. Show us something that is calibrated in the factory that can be used for color work out of the box. Yes it is expensive for most people. For some it will be a bargain.

  4. I saw a headline saying how the Mac Pro is more expensive than most cars. Obviously, they were talking about the most high-end, fully-equipped model, but you get the picture. All anyone is going to focus on is the high price. It seems there is no understanding about the price of professional-use computing devices. All I see is how Apple delivered on a pro computer and it appears to have nearly everything any pro-user would want (minus NVidia GPU support). It’s a gorgeous design and it seems quite functional, in my opinion. It may be easily possible for some Windows PC to be built at a much cheaper price but I’d still go with the Mac Pro. I have no reason to complain about the Mac Pro. It was a long wait but Apple built a fine Mac Pro worthy of being a successor to the old cheese-grater model.

    I have no need for any computer this powerful, so it isn’t for me. I have no need to whine about how expensive it is because I won’t be buying one. I can only be hopeful that this new Mac Pro is affordable by pro-users everywhere. To me, the price seems reasonable if a company is trying to save time on some large projects. I would think they would make up the money they spent in a short time especially if the Mac Pro is reliable and can run 24/7. Anyway, that’s my take on the matter even if it does cost more than most cars. (Not the cars where I live in NYC). I think it was estimated a fully-equipped Mac Pro would cost about $35,000, so it certainly would cost as much as many new cars. However, only very few will have to spend that much at once and can add in components over a year or two and that seems reasonable to me.

    I realize the hate is great for Apple (Apple’s pricing) but I think they did a good job on this Mac Pro.

  5. My 2009 “cheese grater” Mac Pro cost about $6500, 8 cores and a graphics upgrade, so it wasn’t the base model at that time. Plus that price included Apple’s 24″ Cinema Display. Currently this machine has been further upgraded, for about $1200 more, to 64GB of RAM, a ROM flashed nVidia GTX 780, an internal 8TB RAID array, and two SSDs for dual booting El Capitan and Mojave.

    I use El Capitan only for the rare app that is no longer happy with Mojave, and Mojave screams on an AFS SSD drive.

    Sitting next to it is a 4-core i7 2018 iMac, with 40GB of RAM, SSD, and upgraded graphics, purchased because there was no modern Pro option and as a stop-gap: I was not prepared to pay for the iMac Pro.

    On most tasks I cannot differentiate between the two computers. With intense video and graphics loads, the iMac certainly has the edge, and some apps open a fraction quicker, but otherwise my 10 year old Mac Pro is as functional, almost as fast, and working flawlessly (even on an unsupported OS).

    Any direct comparison of that machine to the 2019 Mac Pro, price and performance, is tricky because of inflation and massive advances in technology. However, one can quantify (so to speak) saved time, ease of use or upgradeability, visual appeal and new workflow potential. For example, could the 2009 Mac Pro drive 6 high resolution monitors right out of the box. Even if you don’t need this, that capability must cost a premium. But you also can’t quite say that the Pro Display XDR is just a 10 year older Cinema Display; it is clearly far beyond what the Cinema Display was in it’s time.

    For what it’s worth, my very rudimentary comparison left me with this summary:

    Given inflation alone and the assumption that the two models are equivalent in most ways (technology just got better), the new Mac Pro is vastly overpriced compared to the 2009 Mac Pro. But if you consider that the design, both form and function, are so improved, so advanced, this alone might justify the additional cost for some people, while others would see the workflow possibilities and ultra-Pro specs as reason enough to pay the premium.

    Put these altogether and I think you have a new Mac Pro that is an understandably priced upgrade: not a steal by any means, but not insanely overpriced as some will claim.

    The inflation piece is, possibly, the true issue here.

    The real question for me: is this new Mac Pro available to the indie artist of 2019 at the same level as the 2009 Mac Pro? I want to say yes, but even given my greater income, I am not sure I could swing the $9k or so that is likely to be the final cost after the equivalent upgrades that I made on my 2009 Mac Pro. And, of course, if I add the Pro Display XDR (remember, my 2009 Mac Pro was about $6,500 with the Cinema Display) I am now looking at $14k minimum, $15k with the damn stand that, um, most of us are going to need until aftermarket stands ramp up.

    Finally, will the longevity of this new Mac Pro match or exceed my 2009 model. Here I would be willing to bet: absolutely. Barring any mechanical failure, I would guess that by 2029 there will be a rich culture of upgrade options, and it might just be possible that this Mac Pro will still be officially supported by the then current macOS.

    Just one real-world pro perspective.

  6. Meh, on the 32″ display. I’ve got a 32″ 4K LG IPS display, sit relatively close to it, and I still don’t find the size truly suitable for a HiDPI 2560×1440 resolution, which I prefer for general productivity. I do have a 40″ Samsung 4K TV that I run with a treadmill desk and find that resolution to be perfect for the screen size and distance from the screen. At my desk with the 32″, I have to run it a notch lower. The 40″ monitors are just way too big for my needs and sitting distance. A ~36″ display would be choice for 4K plus to run at 2560×1440 and perhaps a bit higher. Doubtless, the 6K will look incredibly sharp, but functionally speaking its still undersized for my needs at 32″. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

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