Modular Mac Pro is delayed

By | 06/04/2018

Mac ProMacs called Mac Pro are desktop workstations for very performance-hungry tasks like editing 4K 60 FPS videos or even virtual reality. Macs Pro were modular machines. Modular means, that you can replace hardware, like processor, graphics card or motherboard, etc. – yea, even on a Mac. But later in 2013, a Trashcan appeared. A black Mac Pro was almost without options to upgrade hardware, except RAM, so you have to rely on Thunderbolt 2 ports to connect hardware like external GPU. It was a beast at the time of introduction, but by lack of the modularity and HW upgrades from Apple, Mac Pro became just ordinary computer, but selling at similar price as in 2013. It even does not meet optimum performance for VR headsets like Oculus Rift and that was reason why company behind Oculus Rift stopped developing VR for Mac.

The only way to enjoy VR on your Mac is to own high-end 2017 5K iMac or iMac Pro. Some older Macs – I know it won’t be for VR gaming – are capable of rendering virtual reality, like my iMac Retina 5K with AMD Radeon R9 M395X 4 GB graphics card, which is by SteamVR test ranked as VR-capable at medium fidelity of rendering VR (Note: it was tested on Windows 10 running on iMac Retina 5K Late 2015 with AMD Radeon R9 M395X GPU, because SteamVR Performance Test for Mac does not exist), so I can edit 360° videos and enjoy them using VR headset. If you are a professional editor, the only way to do with VR on Macs is to get iMac Pro. But one problem: although iMac Pro is nice piece of hardware, it is not modular. You won’t upgrade CPU or GPU by faster models, you have to buy a whole new device. Or to use Thunderbolt 3 ports to add additional hardware like external GPU, which is officially supported by Apple in macOS High Sierra, even with Metal 2 support.

If you are a tinker and you own 2012 Mac Pro, which is modular, you can replace stock GPU by some other supported ones, like nVidia GTX 1080 and optionally, if needed, other hardware, like CPU, so you can enjoy VR on your Mac Pro. Just note, that it won’t support some features like Metal 2. I have read about one tinker who added nVidia Titan X to 2013 Mac Pro via Thunderbolt port, but it’s unsure how much performance is possible to gain due to HW limits of Mac Pro (I’m mainly pointing at Thunderbolt 2 ports) and I’m not sure about stability. And again, no Metal 2 support for GPU.

Apple’s power users really need modular Mac Pro. Some rumors said about 2018, but it won’t happen. But recently, as reported by Matthew Panzarino from TechCrunch while on trip to Apple’s Cupertino campus, a modular Mac Pro is comming in 2019. Employees in the meeting included John Ternus, VP of Hardware Engineering, Tom Boger, Senior Director of Mac Hardware Marketing, Jud Coplan, Director of video Apps Product Marketing, and Xander Soren, Director of Music Apps Product Marketin. Tom Boger also said:

“We want to be transparent and communicate openly with our pro community so we want them to know that the Mac Pro is a 2019 product. It’s not something for this year. In addition to transparency for pro customers on an individual basis, there’s also a larger fiscal reasoning behind it.”

As a traschcan-design was big failure, Apple had to start from scratch. Apple works with professionals, because it needs to know what really need IT pros. Under tests are not just Apple’s software products, but also 3rd party products. Is Apple again targeting at details as in Steve Job’s era? Tom Boger said:

“We’ve gone from just you know engineering Macs and software to actually engineering a workflow and really understanding from soup to nuts, every single stage of the process, where those bottlenecks are, where we can optimize that.”

Probably, we won’t hear anything about Mac Pro at June WWDC, but is nice to know that Apple is still aiming to professional users of Mac platform.

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