Apple finally upgrades the Mac Pro, admits the trash can design sucks

Just over four years ago, Apple unveiled a new Mac Pro that it swore would reinvent the concept of a workstation. The new system was definitely daring — it ditched internal expansion for six Thunderbolt 2 ports and told users with internal hard drives to buy new external chassis and use those instead. It shipped with dual graphics cards as a standard, despite how Apple has never demonstrated aptitude or interest in pushing GPU-centric computing (the company’s operating systems have been stuck supporting ancient versions of OpenGL for years now).

Today, the company finally took a small step towards upgrading the current Mac Pro design, but it also acknowledged what we’ve all known for years — the trash can aesthetic of the 2013 Mac Pro makes it a serious pain to work with. As of today, Apple has tweaked the Mac Pro to include a six-core CPU (up from four) in the $2,999 model and an eight-core CPU (up from six) in the $3,999 model. The GPUs have also been slightly updated; the $2,999 system now ships with dual D500s, while the $3,999 rig ships with dual D700s. Given that these are GCN 1.0 GPUs with the D700 equivalent to AMD’s old HD 7970, we can’t really recommend them.

According to Daring Fireball, Apple is planning a major overhaul to its Mac Pro lineup next year, with a more modular design and a product that’s easier to update. As for why the Mac Pro hasn’t been updated for four years, here’s DF’s explanation:

Let’s say you’re Apple. You’re faced with the following problem. Three years ago you launched a radical new lineup of Mac Pros. For multiple reasons, you haven’t shipped an update to those machines since. At some point you came to the conclusion that the 2013 Mac Pro concept was fundamentally flawed… [T]hat tight integration made it hard to update regularly. The idea that expansion could be handled almost entirely by external Thunderbolt peripherals sounded good on paper, but hasn’t panned out in practice. And the GPU design was a bad prediction. Apple bet on a dual-GPU design (multiple smaller GPUs, with “pro”-level performance coming from parallel processing) but the industry has gone largely in the other direction (machines with one big GPU).

It’s rather frustrating to see corporations declare, years after the fact, that things end users immediately called out as problems are actually, you know, problems. Heck, Apple’s workstation competitors have been mocking its design with salient points about the limitations of the trash can since the platform shipped four years ago, as captured in the ad below by Boxx:

I respect Apple for trying to build something new and unusual, I truly do. But the Mac Pro went too far in the wrong direction in its quest to establish itself as unique and different. A whisper-quiet workstation with high-end peripherals is a noble goal, but not if it fundamentally handicaps both the end-user and the corporation that designed it from upgrading the underlying platform.

While Apple has upgraded the Xeons inside the Mac Pro, we recommend against making a purchase until more information is available on what these chips can do. While clock speeds on modern chips have scarcely budged since 2013, certain capabilities, like AVX2, still may not be available. It depends on whether Apple stuck with Ivy Bridge-era Xeons (as I’m guessing they did) or actually updated to a more recent iteration of Intel’s Core architecture.

Apple’s new, “completely rethought” Mac Pro will be available next year, as will a new “Pro” display. Maybe by then, the (presumably) next-gen Oculus Rift will support it?

Source : https://www.extremetech.com/computing/247101-apple-finally-upgrades-mac-pro-admits-trash-can-design-sucks

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