The ‘Uncanny Valley’ Mac Pro – Failure on Arrival

Apple announced the new cheese grater Mac Pro over 160 days ago. Still no price list. Still no ship date.

Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR.

Stalled Industry

Unfortunately, stymied by its partners, Apple built the new Mac Pro’s foundation on old tech. PCIe 3 expandable slot architecture and up to a 28 core Intel Xeon processor bound the Mac Pro’s performance.

To be fair, it’s not all Apple’s fault. PCI-SIG picked its nose and stuck to PCIe 3 for years. Also, Intel picked something else for years and was stuck on 14nm chip production.

Newer and Shinier Alternatives

Then, PCI-SIG released PCIe 4 in 2017, doubling the bandwidth of PCI 3 slots. Worse still for Mac Pro buyers wanting current specs, in June PCI-SIG ratified PCIe 5, which doubles the performance of PCIe 4 slots. We may see shipping PCIe 5 motherboards by mid 2020. Moreover, PCIe 6 is being worked on for ratification by 2021.

Making Apple’s late release timing seem even worse is that AMD is shipping a 7nm 64 core CPU, and even Intel has since released a 56 core Xeon. Today, you can build a 64 core CPU and PCIe 4 motherboard for around the same price as an entry level new Mac Pro. However, you’ll have more than double the CPU grunt and double the motherboard bandwidth.

To be sure, there are fewer slots, you’ll have to get a janky case, etc. etc. There are significant compromises. But for those looking for the most grunt, it won’t be found on the new Mac Pro.

Late Release Requires Updated Marketing

And so you then have an uncanny valley Mac Pro. It’s being released with no cheaper options for enthusiasts and yet does not compete well with the high end of the pro market (i.e., 64 core/PCIe 4).

Likely, there is a fair amount of pent up demand for those sticking with the Mac waiting for an expandable pro level machine. But beyond sating the backlog demand, this may be a product that is too expensive, too little, and too late.

As such, Apple should consider dramatically cutting the price of the new Mac Pro when it announces availability. An 8 core entry level system should be priced under $3,500. Apple should also work hard to get the Mac Pro competitive and release a more current version within 12 months. If they do not cut the prices, and then release a drastically updated Mac Pro in a short time, the still loyal customers that buy this Mac Pro will likely feel very burned.

Otherwise, I’m not sure this is a group of customers that will stand much more antagonization and lack of care by Apple.

4 thoughts on “The ‘Uncanny Valley’ Mac Pro – Failure on Arrival

  • There is an other problem with the new Mac Pro 2019.

    Apple has (again) taken so long to actually start shipping it that its video cards could already be considered to be obsolete even if they are still at the moment decently powerful options.

    Making the matter worse there are literally zero options for buying an alternative video card for the new Mac Pro if you want Mac firmware to provide pre-boot support e.g. FileVault2.

    There is however at least the theoretical possibility for Apple to eventually release newer models of video card unlike the Mac Pro 2013.

    As a further smidgeon of hope I do believe that the Mac Pro 2019 design does make it potentially possible for Apple to issue a future new updated model with the same enclosure, mostly same components and design but a new logic board with PCIe 4 or 5 and newer Intel CPU chipsets.

    (The initial version might already have some options for DIY CPU upgrades even if not to the very latest offerings.)

  • With the new MacBook Pro having 8 cores and 8TB of storage, one would think that Apple has to update the specs of the Mac Pro. At the very least to offer as much (and hopefully more) storage as the laptop. And if they do that, considering the 56 core intel chip and the AMD 64 core chip, one would hope that some downward price pressure might result on the new Mac Pro.

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