We’re not going to beat around the bush. Apple’s new Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR redefine what “pro” means. If you aren’t certain that the fastest and most powerful Mac and an expertly calibrated 6K Retina display will enable you to make more money immediately, they’re probably not for you. You should also be ready to spend at least $12,000—and likely several thousand more—on the combination. For that money, though, you’ll get a system that puts every previous Mac setup to shame.
The new Mac Pro, which Apple first teased in April 2017 and formally announced over two years later in June 2019, is the result of a complete reimagining of what a Mac for pro users should offer. In contrast with the previous cylindrical design, which favored form over function, Apple consulted with numerous pro users on the design and specs of the new Mac Pro tower.
Physically, the Mac Pro utilizes a stainless steel frame that provides mounting points for a wide array of components and configurations. An aluminum housing slips off to provide 360-degree access, with the processor, graphics, and expansion slots on one side, and storage and memory on the other. One size does not fit all pro users, so you’ll be able to customize the Mac Pro to your needs. Finally, optional wheels make it easy to move the Mac Pro around a set, stage, or studio.
For the ultimate in performance, the Mac Pro relies on an Intel Xeon W processor, and you can choose from 8, 12, 16, 24, or 28 cores. Base clock speeds vary with the number of cores, but all except the 8-core model support Turbo Boost to 4.4 GHz (the 8-core model only spikes to 4.0 GHz). Similarly, the 8-core model operates memory at 2666 MHz, whereas the remaining models run memory at 2933 MHz for increased performance. With the high-end 28-core configuration, Apple is promoting performance increases over the previous 12-core Mac Pro of 300% to 500% for activities like Photoshop filters, Xcode builds, Logic Pro plug-ins, and Autodesk Maya rendering.
Speaking of RAM, the base level is 32 GB, but there are 12 DIMM slots, so you can upgrade to 48 GB, 96 GB, 192 GB, 384 GB, 768 GB, or a whopping 1.5 TB. That final RAM ceiling is available only with the 24- and 28-core models.
These days, much of a workstation’s performance comes from its dedicated GPUs, which are essential for 3D animation, 8K video compositing, and building lifelike gaming environments, along with pure number crunching. Apple integrates GPUs via the new Mac Pro Expansion Module, or MPX Module, and the Mac Pro holds two MPX Modules. Those modules come with an AMD Radeon Pro 580X, Radeon Pro Vega II, or Radeon Pro Vega II Duo, the last of which combines two Vega II GPUs in a single module. For maximum compute power, configure two MPX Modules with Radeon Pro Vega II Duos for four GPUs. Those cards also offer a variety of DisplayPort, Thunderbolt 3, and HDMI 2.0 ports for connecting displays.
Of course, any Mac aimed at pros needs to be expandable, and the Mac Pro offers eight PCI Express expansion slots: four double-wide slots, three single-wide slots, and one half-length slot preconfigured with an Apple I/O card. Apple also offers the Afterburner PCI Express card, which accelerates ProRes and ProRes RAW codecs in Final Cut Pro X, QuickTime Player X, and supported third-party apps.
That Apple I/O card provides two USB 3 ports using the USB-A connector, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, and two 10-gigabit Ethernet ports. The top of the Mac Pro case (shown below) provides another two Thunderbolt 3 ports. Of course, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0 are built in.
In terms of storage, the Mac Pro starts with a 256 GB SSD for those whose data is all stored externally. However, you can also upgrade to 1, 2, or 4 TB SSDs, and Apple’s T2 security chip automatically encrypts all onboard storage.
All this computing power requires lots of electrical power, so Apple has outfitted the Mac Pro with a 1.4-kilowatt power supply. It will generate a lot of heat as well, so the design facilitates thermal cooling, with heat pipes directing hot air away from the CPU and dispersing it along aluminum fin stacks. Three impeller fans keep cool air moving across the CPU and GPUs, while a blower on the other side pulls air across the memory, storage, and power supply.
Pro Display XDR
If you’re a high-end software developer or audio pro, you may not care that much about your monitor. But if you spend your days working with video or graphics, you may want to consider Apple’s new Pro Display XDR to accompany your Mac Pro. It starts at $4999.
For starters, the Pro Display XDR is a 6K Retina display, which provides nearly 40% more screen real estate than a 5K display. It runs at 6016-by-3384 pixels at 218 pixels per inch. For those working with 4K video, that means you can see your video and have room for your tools, all on one screen.
It’s also likely the best-looking display you’ve ever used. It features 1000 nits of sustained brightness, and peaks at 1600 nits—most typical desktop monitors provide only 350 nits of brightness. That results in a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio. It also provides a P3 wide color gamut and true 10-bit color, enabling it to produce more than 1 billion colors accurately.
The Pro Display XDR offers reference modes that enable you to match its output—color space, white point, gamma, and brightness—to the requirements for HDR, HD, SD video, and digital cinema, not to mention general photography, design, and print. You can even create custom reference modes.
Most displays suffer if you’re not looking straight at them, but with new polarizing technology, the Pro Display XDR boasts a wide viewing angle that provides up to 25 times better off-axis contrast than a typical LCD screen. Apple also engineered it for low reflectivity, and for the ultimate in matte screens, you can pay $1000 more for nano-texture glass that cuts reflections even further.
Not surprisingly, the Pro Display XDR is a hefty unit. It’s 23.8 inches (71.8 cm) wide, 16.2 inches (41.2 cm) high, and 1.1 (2.7 cm) inches deep, and it tips the scales at 16.5 pounds (7.5 kg). On the back, you’ll find one Thunderbolt 3 port and three USB-C ports.
What you won’t get with the Pro Display XDR out of the box is a stand. You can choose between Apple’s Pro Stand for $999 or the $199 VESA Mount Adapter, which lets you put the Pro Display XDR on an arm attached to a desk or wall. The beefy Pro Stand, which weighs in at 9.5 pounds (4.3 kg), offers a total height adjustment of 12 cm and can tilt from -5º to +25º. When using the Pro Stand, you can also rotate the Pro Display XDR from landscape to portrait to choose the orientation that you prefer.
As you can tell, the Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR provide a vast array of options, and at the prices Apple is charging, you want to make sure you’re getting the configuration that best fits your needs and budget. So before you order, get in touch with us to talk through what options you’re most likely to need.
At Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) 2019 on June 3rd, the company unveiled the next versions of all its operating systems—macOS 10.15 Catalina, iOS 13 (and a new iPadOS), watchOS 6, and tvOS 13–along with the much-anticipated new Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR.
Nothing that was announced will ship until later this year—probably September—but we wanted to give you a quick overview of what’s coming down the pike.
macOS 10.15 Catalina
With macOS 10.15, which Apple is calling “Catalina,” the company is working to bring macOS and iOS ever closer while preserving what makes the Mac special.
For instance, Catalina replaces the increasingly overloaded iTunes with three new apps that mimic those in iOS: Music, Apple Podcasts, and Apple TV. Reminders, Notes, and Photos also see significant enhancements that are mirrored on the iOS side, and a new Find My app on both platforms combines the capabilities of Find My iPhone and Find My Friends. Apple is even bringing Screen Time from iOS to the Mac to help you track and control your usage—and that of your kids—across all your Apple devices.
Some of these apps exist on the Mac thanks to Project Catalyst, an Apple technology that makes it easy for developers to convert iOS apps to the Mac. Apple used Catalyst internally last year to bring Home, News, Stocks, and Voice Memos to macOS 10.14 Mojave. This year, Apple is letting third-party developers use Catalyst, so once Catalina ships, we’ll see a flowering of new Mac apps coming over from iOS.
Another new technology, Sidecar, lets you use an iPad as a second screen for a Mac, either wired or wirelessly. Sidecar even enables you to use the iPad and Apple Pencil as a graphics tablet with apps that support such an input method. Two other new features will let you use a Sidecar-connected iPad to mark up any PDF or insert a sketch into a Mac document.
Catalina promises many more features, including some that will increase macOS security and others that will make the Mac much easier to use for people with disabilities. For instance, the new Voice Control capability lets you run a Mac (or an iOS device) entirely with your voice—it’s amazing.
If you’re running Mojave now, you’ll be able to run Catalina too since the system requirements remain the same.
With iOS 13, Apple appears to be focusing once again on performance and refinements. The company claimed we’ll see faster Face ID recognition, smaller app downloads and updates, and quicker app launches.
The most apparent new feature will be Dark Mode, which Apple is bringing over from Mojave. It displays light text on a dark background, which can be welcome when using an iOS device in a dark room without bothering others. It also may increase battery life on OLED-based iPhones like the iPhone X, XS, and XS Max. But keep in mind that research shows the human eye and brain prefer dark text on light backgrounds, so you may read more slowly and with less recall in Dark Mode.
Along with the apps mentioned previously that also improve in iOS, Apple said it has rebuilt Maps and its underlying database from the ground up, so you’ll see far more detailed maps, and you can zoom in for a street-level photographic view called Look Around.
Camera and Photos received attention as well, giving you faster access to effects and letting you apply effects to videos as well. You can even crop and rotate videos taken in the wrong orientation—finally!
Other improvements include a new Sign In with Apple option for signing in to apps using your Apple ID, full text formatting in Mail, shared folders in Notes, SMB sharing in Files, iCloud Drive folder sharing, and support for USB thumb drives.
In terms of system requirements, iOS 13 drops support for some older devices, leaving the iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, and SE as the oldest iPhones supported, along with just the newest iPod touch.
Joining Apple’s other operating systems this year is iPadOS, a superset of iOS 13 that provides additional iPad-only features. In some ways, it’s nothing new, since the iPad has always had unique features, but it shows how Apple wants to differentiate the iPad from the iPhone.
In iPadOS, the Home screen holds more icons in a tighter grid, and you can pin the Today View widgets on the side of the screen. Safari will be able to support complex Web apps like Google Docs, Squarespace, and WordPress, and it gains a download manager that lets you download files into the Files app.
Apple enhanced iPad multitasking so you can switch between apps in a Slide Over view, open multiple windows from the same app in Split View, and use App Exposé to navigate among your app combinations. Plus, text editing improves significantly, with direct access to the cursor and easier text selection, as well as new three-finger gestures for cut, copy, paste, and undo. The iPad even gets full-featured font management, and you’ll be able to buy fonts from the App Store.
iPadOS won’t work on many older iPad models, though it is compatible with all iPad Pro models, the fifth- and sixth-generation iPad, the iPad mini 4 and fifth-generation iPad mini, and the iPad Air 2 and third-generation iPad Air.
With watchOS 6, Apple is working hard on health and fitness capabilities for the Apple Watch. The company has added a Noise app that can warn you when sounds approach dangerous levels and a Cycle Tracking app that helps women monitor their periods and predict windows of optimal fertility. And, the Activity app has picked up trending features so you can see how you’re doing across time in a number of health metrics.
Apple has also untethered the Apple Watch from the iPhone to an extent, allowing developers to create standalone watch apps that don’t require a companion iPhone app and opening an App Store for such apps that you can browse and search from your wrist.
Other new watchOS 6 apps include Audiobooks, Calculator, and Voice Memos. Plus, once you upgrade to watchOS 6, you’ll be able to choose from more faces and additional complications.
As with watchOS 5, watchOS 6 will work on all Apple Watch models other than the original unit, but not all features are available on all models.
The big news for tvOS 13 is that it finally gets multi-user support, so everyone in a household will be able to have their own personalized experience. (Speaking of which, the HomePod will also support multiple users with iOS 13.)
Apple has redesigned the tvOS Home screen to show previews, added a slide-in Control Center like in iOS and watchOS, and updated the Music app to show lyrics in sync with the currently playing song. The screensaver also goes under the ocean so your cat can be entertained by all the fish.
Finally, in a move that will significantly enhance the forthcoming Apple Arcade game subscription service, both tvOS and iOS will support the Xbox One S and PlayStation DualShock 4 game controllers.
Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR
Although the Worldwide Developer Conference is mostly about Apple’s operating systems, the company took advantage of the keynote to show off the completely redesigned Mac Pro and its companion screen, the Pro Display XDR. The technical specs of both are astonishing—Apple has done what looks like a fabulous job of designing the most modular, flexible, and powerful Mac ever, combined with a display that competes against reference monitors costing tens of thousands of dollars.
The Mac Pro will rely on Intel Xeon W processors with 8 to 28 cores, and you’ll be able to configure it with up to 1.5 TB (that’s terabytes!) of RAM. It has eight PCI Express expansion slots, into which you can install MPX modules that contain up to four AMD Radeon Pro graphics cards for massive number crunching performance. Another slot can hold Apple’s new Afterburner accelerator card for ProRes and ProRes RAW video acceleration, and a half-length slot contains Apple’s I/O card with two USB-3 ports, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, and to 10 Gb Ethernet ports; there are two more Thunderbolt 3 ports on the top of the case. Storage starts at 256 GB of SSD and goes up to 4 TB.
All this fits into a stainless steel frame with an aluminum case that lifts off to provide access to all sides of the Mac Pro. It has a massive 1.4-kilowatt power supply and relies on three fans and a blower to keep the unit cool. It even has handles on the top and optional wheels in case you need to move it around regularly.
Accompanying the Mac Pro will be Apple’s first monitor in years, the Pro Display XDR. It’s a 32-inch 6K screen that supports P3 wide and 10-bit color that can display more than 1 billion colors accurately. It’s also incredibly bright and can sustain 1000 nits of full-screen brightness or peak at up to 1600 nits.
If your eyes glazed over reading those specs, this new hardware isn’t for you. Apple is aiming it at high-end professionals, the sort of people who happily spend many thousands of dollars on new hardware to enable faster video editing, data processing, or other performance-intensive tasks. The base-level Mac Pro will start at $6000, and the Pro Display adds another $5000. Even the Pro Stand (which provides tilt and height adjustment, plus rotates to portrait orientation) for the Pro Display costs $1000, so a tricked-out Mac Pro setup could easily exceed $20,000. So no, this is not a Mac for “the rest of us,” but it’s great to see Apple ensuring that the most demanding Mac users can stay on the platform.
(All images courtesy of Apple)
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