SAN JOSE, Calif.—Today, Apple introduced two very expensive pieces of pro-targeted hardware: the Mac Pro, and the Pro Display XDR. While we were not offered an opportunity to get any hands-on time with them, we did see behind-closed-doors live demonstrations and get an opportunity to photograph them both.
Apple is positioning these as direct competitors to the sort of video editing bay hardware that costs tens of thousands of dollars, not as mass-market consumer products. Judged on that scale, these seem like great bargains, albeit only for a few people in specialized fields.
The big surprise is the modular Mac Pro, so let's start there.
We almost couldn't believe it when we saw it announced—it seems practically un-Apple at this point, but the Mac Pro is a tower PC with modular components. It has a cheese-grater-like design that, as noted, harkens back to the previous Mac tower from many years ago.
That grater design comes with a function, not just a form: it's critical to the machine's cooling system. This system-wide solution (that is to say, there's no separate cooling on the GPU) places three giant fans on the front and a blower on the other side; there are two isolated thermal zones. There is, however, a very large, separate heatsink for the CPU. When idle, the Mac Pro is quieter than an iMac Pro. We saw it connected to two Pro Display XDR monitors playing two 6K videos, and it was inaudible to us over the quiet air conditioning vent in the room.
The Mac Pro doubles the number of PCIe expansion slots over that classic tower, with a total of eight. But the Mac Pro isn't exactly like a PC desktop in that it's all about modules made by Apple's partners. You can load it up with MPX modules containing hardware made by partners like AMD and its competitors, and it's not just for PCIe cards: Apple showed us another MPX module with a RAID array in it.
It's kind of a middle ground solution. It still won't please everyone, but it's likely a step up over the 2013 trash can model.
The Mac Pro comes in configurations ranging from 8 to 28 cores as well as memory up to 1.5 TB with six memory channels and 12 DIMM slots. The price is undeniably steep; the product earns its Pro name, with ultra-expensive features specifically designed for creative professionals in fields like video editing and 3D modeling. Apple isn't thinking about the Mac Pro in terms of selling it to consumers—not even power users.