WWDC: The Mac Pro isn't dead -- yet

WWDC: The Mac Pro isn't dead -- yet

Summary: If you were expecting a major upgrade, you're likely to be seriously disappointed.

TOPICS: iPhone

Given that Apple hadn't updated its Mac Pro workstation since August 2010, many believed that the 40 pound desktop behemoth was getting ready to be axed from the lineup. However, following today's WWDC 2010 keynote speech, Apple quietly updated the workstation with some new components.

But if you were expecting a major upgrade, you're likely to be seriously disappointed.

The focus of the upgrade today was centered around the CPUs. The aging pair of six-core 2.93GHz Intel Xeon X5670 processors of the high-end model have been replaced with the slightly beefier six-core 3.06GHz Intel Xeon X5675. As standard, this model comes with two 2.4GHx six-core Xeons, 12GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive, and will cost you $3,799.

You can configure for yourself a dual-processor Mac Pro system that's fully loaded with 64Gb of RAM and four 2TB hard drives, but this monster system does however come with the monster price tag of $9,199.

Graphics for the Mac Pro are powered by ATI's Radeon HD 5770 with 1GB GDDR5, which, while it might be an adequate graphics chip, is hardly cutting-edge. In fact, if you wanted to pick up a graphics card with a similar spec for a PC it would only cost you about $115. This somehow doesn't seem fitting inside a system that could cost you almost $10,000.

If you want something a little more modest, then you can pick up a single-processor Mac Pro with a 3.2GHz quad-core processor, 6GB of RAM and 1TB of storage for $2,499. The graphics on this model is also powered by the ATI Radeon HD 5770 with 1GB GDDR5.

Despite this update, I still believe that the Mac Pro is on borrowed time. The upgrades offered here are marginal at best. The processors might have be updated, but the graphics card remains the same. Also, while Apple is enthusiastically adding Thunderbolt support to most of its Macs, its top-end desktop workstation still remains oddly -- and rather conspicuously -- Thunderbolt-free.

The Mac Pro update feels tokenistic at best, and I wouldn't be surprised if this is the last refresh this system sees before being retired.

Image source: Apple.


Topic: iPhone

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • ... OR before a radical overhaul

    There is a chance for a major update, too. Final Cut Pro still loves as much power as possible. The new MBP is not enough for some serious work, which can be done much faster with desktop power.
    • Now would've been the best time to update.

      With dual socket C606 board, they could have fit two eight core Xeons in their latest line-up. RAM capacity could have gone up to 96GB. The Nvidia and AMD flagships are already released.
      If Apple actually wants to keep the Pro system, their only excuse is that there's something terribly wrong with their software development department, and they simply can't get a hold of the new drivers.
      Either that or they're going with the old "If it's not broken, don't fix it." motto. Seems legit until you see that they're putting much more effort into Macbooks and iDevices.

      The only major update coming from Apple will be the removal of the Pro and Server system. The server is definite. Many of my colleagues use bog standard laptops and desktops as servers. Why spend +$2K when $500 will work more than well enough?

      And if we want to get into professional online service servers, you still go with racks by Dell, HP or custom build them.
  • This article completely misses the point.

    Apple's omission of USB3/Thunderbolt is basically criminal, why didn't Adrian mention this?!?!?!

    He should check out the twitterfeeds on the new Mac Pro and he'll see that the real bone of contention is the absolute lack of port updates from Apple.

    ProApps basically stink on ice unless you can get the most out of your hardware. Laptops have and always will be COMPROMISES in power/performance. The Mac Pro was supposed to be a no-holds-barred speed/powerhouse for all professionals.

    Apple has completely walked away from the pro-end, and Adrian's article completely ignores this.
    • Can you blame Apple?

      [i]Apple has completely walked away from the pro-end, and Adrian's article completely ignores this.[/i]

      Absolutely true. Yes. Agree 100%. The truth is that the Mac Pro is a niche player within a niche market. I would guess that the profit from the Mac Pro accounts for something between 0.01% and 0.02% of Apple's profit. Just like Apple's server, they will get rid of the Mac Pro. Apple only sells to the mass market and the Mac Pro has been throroughly rejected by the mass market.
      • Yes I can.

        It's pointless for Apple to keep developing ProApps without the horse power to push it through. Professionals don't simply use FCPX and Aperture...they also use Adobe Suite (After Effects), Cinema4D, NUKE, Protools and a ton of other CPU/GPU intensive applications which easily grinds the latest MBP's to a halt when major rendering tasks are required.

        Seeing that Apple is walking away from Ethernet is rampant stupidity. The Mac Pro (along with Thunderbolt/USB 3) should of included 10 Gigabit Ethernet, so that these workstations are futureproofed to handle the massive data throughtput which Thunderbolt/USB3 could not.

        Fact is: There will always be a demand for powerhouse systems as
        scientists/artists/engineers will simply push these systems to the max
        to accomplish their goals.

        The iPhone/iPad is completely useless in this regard.

        btw, where did you get that "0.01%" statistic? same place as your username?
      • They Should Appeal to Everyone.

        It wouldn't hurt Apple a bit to appeal to high-end/pro-end users, like myself. A pro-end user emailed Apple recently, letting them know they were pissing off pro-end Apple users with their so-called Mid-2012 Mac Pro update, and that they demanded an actual update. Maybe Apple is also afraid that these users will continue to upgrade and invest in parts instead of new computers like the consumer market would. If they don't like that, BUILD A BETTER MACHINE WITH BETTER UPGRADING ABILITIES!

        Personally, I've been through a new, Late-2011 MacBook Pro 15" and other unibody models beforehand, and they were simply not enough. Also, if you compare a mid-range 2009 Nehalem Mac Pro, it will make absolute mincemeat out of a high-end Retina MacBook Pro, and it's just a better investment in terms of lasting performance and expansion.
    • 3 year old ATI video card?

      Who is Apple kidding? It would not have cost that much more to use an Intel-designed mobo and a new SandyBridge series E5-2600 Xeon, which would have built-in USB3 support. Basically Tim Cook is giving pro users the Finger, and we're going to move to Windows 7 for professional video and audio work. We need slots and a lot more hard drive capacity than you can get from a single SSD bay. This sucks. Windows 8 will suck harder, but still.
      • Windows 7 will do me fine until I get to see Windows 9, or 10, or whatever.

        Windows 8 may or may not have better performance with large amounts of RAM and/or processor cores, but I've seen that it does have a boost over Windows 7. My take on it is to test Windows 8 on your system (there are hacks for start menus and such) and if you can't get into it, just go back to Windows 7.
        I for one am a little disappointed in both Nvidia and AMD for not bringing out their next generation professional GPUs by now. The GTX 680 is nearing the power of some of the top end cards (with tweaked drivers/bios' of course) and the only real difference is floating point accuracy due to hardware capabilities.

        In relation, the moment I knew I was going to start editing film I immediately looked at the Mac Pro's and on day one I knew I'd never turn to Apple for professional media production. A Mac "Pro" with no "Pro" video capabilities. Twelve cores don't add up to the 1536 cores in Nvidia's latest flagship.
  • Hello PC/Hackintosh

    With this huge middle finger to professional content creators Apple may now be the biggest driving force in an industry wide move to PCs. I don't see your average Mac user dealing with the hassle of building and maintaing a Hackintosh but the technically savvy sure will.
  • Oh well.

    Good thing all the most important media creation tools are available on more than just Apple's platform.

    On the dual hex-core system, it costs you $2,400 to upgrade from 2.66GHz to 3.06GHz.
    That almost doubles the price of the system, and you're still running on a rusty 5870 at best.
    RAM prices have dropped all over - except in the Appleverse, where they want $1,950 to upgrade you from 12GB to 64GB.

    I honestly don't know why anyone would consider paying that much money for such a relatively weak system.

    Looks like their goal is to make mid-ranged laptops which will either be used for general computing or basic media development. Due to the price, and Apple's long-standing "virus-free" environment, people will continue to buy them. Truth is, one day Apple will encounter many more malware variants and will have to admit they need third party protection and their sales will plummet. After all, why spend hundreds upon thousands more for a system which is no better than competing professional systems?

    Maybe one day Apple will finally open their hardware capabilities and just charge more for their OS. It works for Microsoft...
  • Update Schupdate

    This is no update, other than a new SKU or two. Same motherboard, case, etc.The CPU update is minor. and something you could do yourself at home if you were so compelled. And still the consumer gaming graphics from 2009? Apple might not have noticed, but the card does come out, and AMD is now on the 7000 series... not to mention also offering a line of Pro class GPUs, which you will find inside most any other PC in this price range.

    Apple could only have sent a clearer message about the future of the professional use of the Mac platform by cancelling the Mac Pro altogether. But it's still the same message -- switch to Avid, Sony, or Adobe and buy a Windows PC.
    • Agreed.

      Adobe Creative Suite all the way.
  • spare me upgrading yet

    Having given up for the moment for a new Mac Pro, I upgraded instead several Mac Pro 2008 machines with the same 5770 ATI card supplied to the new machine. It hugely improved the operation of these four year old machines using Photoshop which can dump number crunching to the GPUs when needed. It is a huge and speedy improvement for a very cost effective price. I understand that in the new year there will be a new Mac Pro which needs a new motherboard to run Tnunderbolt which of course is what all Pro users are waiting for along with USB 3.0. I do expect it will happen contrary to what this article states. It will be a huge tactical error not to do a new machine whether it never recoups its development costs as Apple and high end video editing is a sort of code word for the best of the best..Relegating Apple to a sort of consumer niche no matter how big that niche is would be an error that would resonate around the creative professional world for certain. I will continue to use my functional and very decent machines in the hope that the early 2013 year brings us a modern Mac Pro...If not...I guess that means a bunch of external drives, a thunderbolt enabled PCI box and the difficult to calibrate iMac screen along with a good external one as well..Could be worse but a klutzy arrangement.
  • Hope it stays

    My friend is a professional video editor and he has 2 Mac Pros plus a custom-built PC and frequently has all three rendering videos at the same time. The fact is that you still need as much power as you can get for this type of activity, so if Apple gets rid of the Mac Pro, pros will be forced to stick with the PC.
    Plus, if Mac ever wants to edge further into the gaming market, they need the power of Mac Pro.
    Jeremy Andrews