The new Mac Pro: 3 big reasons to be excited about Apple's beastly workstation

Finally, the Mac Pro feels like a "pro" device again.

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Two years after Apple officially confirmed that it was working on a new Mac Pro, the machine finally made an appearance during today’s WWDC keynote. And the new rig doesn’t disappoint.

You’ll find no “trashcans” here. Instead, the new design riffs on the “cheese grater” Mac Pros that were so popular in the last decade. That’s a strong signal to video editors and other content creators who need a lot of graphics and CPU power. The Mac Pro feels “pro” again, and to complement that power, Apple also announced a new 32-inch Pro Display XDR that’s a massive upgrade over the old Thunderbolt Display.

mac pro 2019 and pro display xdr Roman Loyola/IDG

“It’s incredible,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said today, and we’re inclined to agree. Just watch out for an incredible price tag: For an entry-level price of $5,999, you get 32GB of memory, 256GB of SSD storage, an 8-core Intel Xeon CPU, and a Radeon Pro 580X graphics card.

Obviously, if you push the Mac Pro to its utmost potential—1.5TB of memory, Radeon Pro Vega II Duo and a 28-core Xeon—prices will be astronomical (you can see full specs but not pricing here). As for the Pro Display XDR, it starts at $4,999. Both the computer and display are expected to hit stores in September.

Now let’s get into the three areas that most excite us in the new Mac Pro.

It’s super modular

One of the biggest complaints about the 2013 Mac Pro is that its small design essentially made it impossible to upgrade graphics cards and other components. But on stage today, Apple wasted no time showing how the new Mac Pro is upgradeable. The machine has a 20.8 x 17.7 x 8.58-inch stainless steel frame with an external case that can be easily lifted off with just a twist of a handle. In its base configuration, it weighs 40 pounds.

mac pro modular Apple

Getting to a motherboard slot should now only take a couple of seconds.

Apple is also embracing PCI expansion in a big way, as the new Mac Pro has four double-wide slots, and three single-width slots. Apple also has a half-width slot where it plugs in its own I/O card—it comes with two Thunderbolt 3 ports, two USB-A ports, and a 3.5mm audio jack. Apple keeps all this connected to its custom “MPX Module” that comes with a dedicated heat sink. It also comes with separate ethernet ports.

mac pro 2019 frame Roman Loyola/IDG

Here's the new Mac Pro when it's been stripped to its skeleton.

For a bit of extra modularity, you can even add wheels to the machine, allowing you to push the Mac Pro around your studio. The wheels, however, will be sold separately and their price is unknown.

mac pro 2019 wheels Roman Loyola/IDG

Hopefully they're not $99 per wheel.

It’s super powerful

In its max configuration, Apple’s new Mac Pro is packed with an absolute beast of a 28-core Intel Xeon processor, and it can support a ridiculous 1.5TB of RAM.

mac pro 2019 intel xeon Apple

Finally, Apple is paying attention to what developers want.

And if you need graphical power, the new Mac Pro can support up to four GPUs (via two Radeon Pro Vega II Duo cards), although the starting configuration comes with a merely decent AMD Radeon RX 580 with a single GPU. This is but one attempt in which Apple is trying to lure back video editors who may have been scared away by the old “trashcan” model.

mac pro 2019 side view Roman Loyola/IDG

Just in case you forgot who made it.

Another gift to content creators is the new Mac Pro’s custom (and optional) “Afterburner” FPGA card, which can reportedly process six billion pixels per second. According to Apple, that will let the Mac Pro run three 8K RAW video streams at once, or 12 streams of 4K RAW video. It’s currently unclear if Apple designed Afterburner itself or worked with another manufacturer.

mac pro 2019 top Apple

The new Mac Pro is far more utilitarian than its predecessor, but Apple’s trademark elegant design shows up even on the top of the case.

This is all powerful stuff, and required Apple to pack this machine with a 1.4KW power supply. And to keep everything cool, the Mac Pro will have three fans and a separate blower that’s supposedly no louder than the iMac Pro when running at full blast.

Apple made an amazing new 6K display go with it

As we long expected, Apple also announced a new display to go along with the new Mac Pro, although you can buy it separately if you wish. It’s called the Pro Display XDR—XDR stands for “Extreme Dynamic Range"—and this beast of a monitor has a 32-inch LCD HDR display boasting a resolution of 6016x3384, as well as 10-bit and PS3 color gamut capability. Its rear design references the “cheese grater” design for the new Mac Pro itself (and doubles as a heat sink), and the display features nanotexture glass and anti-reflecting coating.

pro display xdr rear Roman Loyola/IDG

All this amounts to a display that’s 40 percent larger than what you’ll find on the 5K iMac. It can maintain a whopping 1,000 nits of brightness, but it can reach up to 1,600 nits of brightness at peak. It connects to the Mac Pro itself with a Thunderbolt 3 cable, and Apple claims the new Mac Pro can support as many as six of the new displays. But, again, you’ll have to pay at least $4,999 for even a single display.

pro display xdr stand Roman Loyola/IDG

Here's a stand that costs about as much as a low-end MacBook.

That “at least” is important, as Apple doesn’t even sell the Pro Display XDR with a stand out of the box. Indeed, the “Pro Stand,” as Apple calls it, costs an extra $999. It’s a welcome improvement over 2013 Thunderbolt Display, though, as this stand supports tilt and height adjustments and even lets you rotate the Pro Display XDR into portrait mode. 

mac pro 2019 pro display xdr rear 2 Roman Loyola/IDG

Editor's note: Updated to correct the number of 8K streams an Afterburner-equipped Mac Pro can handle and the number of GPUs the Mac Pro can support.

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