Technologizer

How Much Does the Mac Pro Need an Upgrade? The Infographic

Here's a visual look at the slow-paced evolution of Apple's professional desktop computer.

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Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Attendees at Apple's WWDC check out the first Mac Pro computer on August 7, 2006

J. Glenn Künzler of MacTrast notes that Apple resellers are running low on the entry-level version of the Mac Pro, Apple’s professional desktop computer. As he notes, it could be a sign that a replacement is imminent — possibly in time to be announced during the keynote at the company’s WWDC conference on June 10.

The Mac Pro could surely use a major upgrade. Though Apple updated it slightly last year by adding a speedier Intel Xeon processor, the machine has evolved very little over the years and now feels downright archaic. It’s the only Mac without Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 ports; the case is largely similar to that of Apple’s Power Mac G5 model from 2003, the era before Intel Macs. Rumors have understandably cropped up for a while now that the model might not be long for this world, although more recently the scuttlebutt has been that the Pro might not only live on but also be assembled exclusively in the U.S.

I knew that the Mac Pro was famous for not changing, so I decided to compare its evolution with that of other Mac models — and I ended up creating an infographic comparison.

You can debate when any particular Mac has gotten a meaningful revision (instead of receiving a less significant bump); for this chat, I counted a transition as occurring whenever Apple chose to update the “model identifier” associated with a particular line. I began the chart on Aug. 7, 2006 — the day the Mac Pro was announced — and continued on until today. Each colored bar represents one generation in that product line. (There’s a lot of data crammed in there, so if you spot any errors, please be kind.)

As you can see, the 34 months that have passed since the last major Mac Pro update are an eternity compared with the pace of change for other models:

[image] Apple Mac Revisions

Now, you can make a case that the Mac Pro should change far more slowly than other Macs: the system, which starts at $2,500, is aimed at businessy applications like desktop publishing and typically gets bought by companies that want to hold onto their computers for years and care about general robustness more than cutting-edge features. They might even have preferred to stick with trusty old FireWire, which the current Mac Pro still has, over its still emerging replacement, Thunderbolt.

But whether it’s at WWDC or later this year, the Mac Pro does feel like it’s heading for a moment of truth. The odds are that it’s about to either evolve — at least a little bit — or die. Any predictions or preferences?

10 comments
LoungeFox
LoungeFox

As much as them showing a new Mac Pro, and of course the unlikeliness of that happening. The idea of one being  updated really does sound awesome but I feel like it will be like the ipod classic. Still sold but not updated. But who knows rumors will be rumors until Apple says so for a fact at WWDC. So until then I will just be waiting, or just upgrade my mac mini to the latest imac 21.5 inch.

samuraiartguy
samuraiartguy

I expect NOTHING at WWDC concerning the Mac Pro, certainly not any kind of "one more thing" reveal. There is still an issue of an appropriate processor from Intel, as hyper focused on the white-hot mobile market. Even while Haswell mobile chips become available, we're still waiting for Xeon E5 Ivy Bridge CPUs. And I am sure Apple does not want to release a MP update... or successor without Thunderbolt, a motherboard level protocol.

I more realistically expect a quiet release on the Apple Web site much later in the fall. At best, maybe a small mention at WWDC with an "available late fall" disclaimer.  Also, what Apple/Tim Cook may think is "really great" may neither meet the needs or expectations of pro users, or delight us. We still remember the debut if Final Cut Pro X. **cringe**

gr8whiteshark
gr8whiteshark

You know something's amiss when Apple quit producing a compatible monitor, i.e. the only monitor currently available through Apple is the Thunderbolt interface. This is a strange scenario when considering out-of-the-box setup. This would NOT have happened during the Steve Jobs era. 

Perhaps the first "made in the USA" product will be the Mac Pro? 

I hope...

ogsxyvrg
ogsxyvrg

Mac Pros will eventually be discontinued, as Apple has made it clear time and time again how little it cares for its enterprise/business customers. Just take a look at what happened to Xserve — after that got shafted, Apple told us to transition to Mac Minis or Mac Pro Server. And let's not forget how terrible security is for OS X network services.

This shouldn't be all that surprising either. GUI and compact form factors just aren't a large focus for most workstations and servers. It's performance, reliability, and security that are critical for these markets, and Apple just doesn't bring anything competitive to the table. The Mac Pro doesn't even ship with professional graphics solutions (e.g. AMD FirePro or Nvidia Quadro), and in some cases there's not even clearance for such solutions in the chassis.

There's a pattern with this dodging here we know all too well. Apple is going to slowly and silently withdraw from this market and shift resources to its forte, which is mobile devices. And I would expect no less of them, because it's just more profitable. The only reason the Mac Pro lineup still exists is to save face. If there is any offering during WWDC, it will be mediocre.

gmgravytrain
gmgravytrain

Apple probably thinks there's no need to upgrade a computer that hardly anyone buys.  Mac loyalists ought to be happy that the Mac Pro is still being made.  There are probably fewer and fewer people each year who require the power of a Mac Pro.  Apple probably doesn't have a clue on how to build a powerful gaming computer.  I suppose Mac Pros are just good for video or photo editing.  With the Mac Pro, Apple is likely building a computer for a market that barely exists.  With the bare amount of effort Apple is putting into the Mac Pro, it seems like just another hobby.

The Mac Pro is a gorgeous-looking computer but it doesn't seem to be able to beat out Wintel gaming rigs at anything.  It's too bad Apple can't make those Mac Pros configurable enough to be worthy of a high-end gaming machine for those who want to use it for that purpose.  Well, that's Apple for you.  Unlimited company wealth and yet always letting companies with far less wealth get the better of them.

JacobK
JacobK

Couple of things:

A: Business wants stability more in the software side than hardware (hardware wise, we generally want as new as possible as that usually means speed increases). Not updating the Mac Pro's doesn't really fit this, as even new Mac Pro's cannot be downgraded to, for example, Snow Leopard.

B: Hardware wise, competitors can run rings around it. On a core to core comparison, Sandy Bridge Enhanced is 50% quicker than the older Nehalem based Xeons that the Mac Pro still use. And thats not even including the positively archaic 5870 graphics card options they still carry.

C: Apple's already screwed the pooch with Final Cut changes anyway.

So the tl;dr is - if your a professional, your probably already using Windows 7 or Linux for your Workstation needs these days.

BobForsberg
BobForsberg

Thunderbolt and USB 3 cards were easily added when I needed that capability with my 3 year old MacPro. The tower MacPro as you mentioned is for pro users. Its configurable, always has been and probably always will be. THE WWDC has been an event where new MacPros have been introduced in the past. I'm overdue, especially with the new Intel chips recently introduced. 

Scotty123
Scotty123

@BobForsberg 

Hi Bob.


Where did you get a thunderbolt card for the Mac Pro?

I have added usb3 ad eSATA to mine but have been unable to source TB.


Regards


Scott

fyngyrz
fyngyrz

Evolve, of course. Add thunderbolt; keep firewire; more cores (4, 6-core CPUs would be fine, thanks), faster, more RAM, and hopefully less expensive -- the price premium on a Mac Pro is horrendous. We still need support for lots of monitors, great cooling, quiet operation, wifi, bluetooth, USB (3, I would imagine), or in other words, everything we have now, plus more.

Also, we REALLY need a medium tower solution. Something that will take a couple powerful graphics cards, a couple big drives, give us 4 or 6 cores (full cores, not hyperthreaded cripples) and not take up the space of a compact car.