June 3, 2019
Ryan Whitwam

Apple Refreshes Mac Pro With Modular Design, $6,000 Starting Price

Apple has spent the last decade focused almost entirely on laptops and mobile devices. It releases the occasional iMac, but there’s still a market for the company’s ultra-high-end desktop computers. At WWDC today, Apple unveiled the first Mac Pro refresh since 2013. The new Mac Pro has up to 28 CPU cores, 1.5TB of RAM, multiple GPUs, and a modular design. Bonus: it also looks like a cheese grater from the front.

Kitchen utensil jokes aside, the new Mac Pro harkens back to the mid-2000s Power Mac G5 chassis. Instead of the “mesh” front, the new Mac Pro has a lattice of larger holes in the exterior stainless steel casing. On top are two handles for hauling the beast around, and there’s another hidden handle that flips up to allow removal of the metal case cover. That’s one of the main selling points of the new Mac Pro: modularity.

The 2013 “trashcan” Mac Pro was roundly criticized for a complete lack of upgradeability. This time, Apple says the Mac Pro is built with upgrades in mind, but it’s a very Apple approach to upgrading your computer. When the case is removed, you get full 360-degree access to the components. The motherboard includes a new Thunderbolt 3 connection for the addition of new components. Apple will offer a custom “MPX Module” that plugs into that port, providing a 4-wide PCIe housing with support for two GPUs. It has a dedicated heatsink as well.

Buyers can configure the MPX with AMD Radeon Pro Vega 2 or Radeon Pro Vega 2 Duo, the latter of which could mean four total GPUs and 128GB of video memory. Not enough? There’s also an optional Afterburner video editing card with an FPGA (programmable ASIC) capable of processing 6 billion pixels per second — the same as three 8K video streams.

The top handle for removing the case.

The Mac Pro will come in various configurations, but Apple spent its time talking about the fully decked-out version because the numbers are objectively impressive. The computer will sport Intel’s latest Xeon chips with up to 28 CPU cores, drawing 300W of power. Apple promises the Mac Pro’s 1,400W power supply and custom cooling will ensure that CPU runs at full speed for as long as necessary. Buyers can also get up to 1.5TB of RAM across the system’s 12 DIMM slots. In addition to the fancy MPX module for GPUs, there are eight PCI Express slots on the motherboard, including four to accommodate double-slot cards. The Mac Pro has two USB Type-C ports (with Thunderbolt 3) and two USB-A ports. Apple plans to offer an I/O module that adds two more USB-C, two USB-A, and a 3.5mm audio jack.

The high-end Mac Pro with all the fancy hardware will cost an obscene amount of money, although we don’t know how obscene. The system launches this fall. For now, all Apple will say is that the base model starts at $6,000. That includes an 8-core Xeon, 32GB of RAM, a single Radeon Pro 580X GPU, and a 256GB SSD.

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