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When Will a New Mac Pro Appear?

Mac Pro / MPG Pro Workstation
Mac Pro

With the late 2012 MacMini shipping and the late 2012 iMac announced and due to ship in a few weeks, the time seems ripe for a revised Mac Pro.

Or at least the Apple elves working on Macs might now be able to finalize a Mac Pro design, though one hopes this has been in the works for some time now.

See Analysis of the new Mac Pro — Oops Nothing Announced.

Recently, I’ve rectified performance issues for several consulting clients whose work efficiency was being impaired by machine setup.

Professionals can waste a lot of time on everyday work when a system is not up to snuff.

Perhaps a new Mac Pro will be announced in January 2013, to ship in February. Or perhaps it will be March, to ship in April. Or something even less palatable. No one can say except Apple and sworn-to-secrecy Apple partners.

For professionals with real work to get done (efficiently), the way to look at this situation comes down to a simple question: would investing in a well-configured current model Mac Pro (or upgrading one) offer ROI (return on investment) between now and when a new model ships?

That’s really the only rational way to look at it. I offer consulting to help decide this question based on the actual workflow.

My existing 12-core Mac Pro outfitted as an MPG Pro Workstation is a robust workhorse that I use intensively every day for photography. Outfitted the way I have mine, there are few bottlenecks, and while more perkiness would be nice, it has purred along robustly now for the past 27 months.

Reader comments

Martin D writes:

That Apple hasn’t produced a new Mac Pro in years means they’re waiting for something. The question is what?

One possibility is they’re waiting for resources that are currently occupied with vastly more profitable areas of their business to become available. I don’t find this argument particularly convincing.

My suspicion is that they don’t feel they have anything sufficiently compelling to offer in a new design, so they’re waiting until they do. Which begs the question of what novelty would be sufficiently compelling?

A third possibility is Apple has decided to phase out the Mac Pro entirely and allow the Mac Mini to take its place. They may believe the Thunderbolt is an adequate expansion bus for 95%+ of situations. Debatable. While the Mac Mini is looking more and more like a serious Mac Pro replacement for some, why the 16GB RAM limitation?

MPG: When a company makes 0.1% of its profit from a Mac Pro (rough guess), the “resources” argument seems strongly persuasive to me. Why bother with a marginal product, other than for strategic reasons, a top-end answer— “it can wait”. Seems eminently logical from a business perspective.

“sufficiently compelling”— 16 faster cores, faster memory, more and faster PCIe slots, USB 3, Thunderbolt. These would all be more compelling than any prior Mac Pro release. But if what is meant is design— in my view, the current design needs no improvement other than more memory slots and PCIe slots and two more bays. But that might not be Apple’s view.

The “phase out” argument might be true, but is at odds with the ”resources not convincing” argument; phase out is after a all a decision to apply no resources.

A Mac Mini is far from a replacement for a Mac Pro in so many ways, but a super-sized model with 16 cores and 8 memory slots and external PCIe support might be. But then that would be a Mac Pro.

As a long shot, there might of course be some new bleeding edge technology holding things up— my sources tell me that a Retina display for desktops is probably 2+ years away. But it’s possible that Apple could be developing a Retina desktop display, and that would require a monster video card to deliver adequate performance.

Anonymous writes:

Current Intel roadmaps show the Ivybridge Xeon chips coming on market in Q3 2013.

The Xeon chips are what go into the Mac Pro. Whilst high clocking Ivybridge desktop chips could go into the new Mac Pro right now, Intel does not build desktop chips that work together in multichip machines. Only the Xeon chips do that. So a desktop-based Mac Pro can only use a single chip, a top of the line i7 with 4 cores.

A new Mac Pro can come out now with Sandy Bridge Xeons - they are shipping now and have been for some time - the Sandy Bridge chipsets do not support USB 3. Apple has refused to build USB 3 macs until Intel supported it natively; there are several Steve Jobs remarks on this going back 2, 3 years now. Sure enough, the only Macs with USB 3 are those that use Ivybridge and its chipsets.

So, a new Mac Pro that comes out now - or in Jan 2013 or Feb 2013 - would have thunderbolt but not USB 3, and would be soundly criticized for that. (Of course we users could add USB 3 cards ourselves, or Apple could offer such cards as a BTO option.)

But Tim Cook said that the new Mac Pro would not come until next year.

Best rational expectation then, is that the new Mac Pro (rumored to have a new, more streamlined and rack- and stackable design) will not appear until Q3 2013. Maybe at WWDC in June?

Until then, wishing for a new pro just around the corner is likely no more than a pleasant fantasy. Alas.

MPG: I don’t follow Intel CPU roadmaps, but this does sound disheartening (I have not independently verified). But a single 6-core 3.3 GHz (turbo boost to 3.9 GHz, 15MB cache) Sandy Bridge 3960X would be interesting. Or 16 cores via 2 X 8-core 2687W chips (3.1 GHz, turbo to 3.8 GHz). Either way, a decent upgrade.

USB3 with a PCIe card would be a minor point for me, though I’d hate to give up a PCIe slot, since all three of mine are full.


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