A new Mac Pro really does live after all

It’s new, it’s weird, it’ll ship in the fall and probably wasn’t what you expected

So yea the new Mac Pro made a debut today at Apple’s yearly Worldwide Developer’s Conference. It’s not shipping yet and there’s no shipping date other than later in the year. No price either. There is a brand new page on Apple’s website though. This was just a sneak preview which is a rather unusual thing for Apple to do, especially when it comes to hardware. They must have been following all the grumbling from the pro users out there who are demanding a new pro system. Did Apple deliver this pro system with the new Mac Pro?

That’s an interesting question: Did Apple deliver this pro system with the new Mac Pro? That depends on who you ask.

I made this comment via Twitter early in the day before the announcement:

Those are such loaded words fanboy and pro. These days they are usually said more to get a reaction than anything. The pros will never be happy and with this new Mac Pro we aren’t. The fanboys will love everything Apple makes and with this new Mac Pro we do. Like many Apple products today it has things many of us will love and hate. There’s a lot we don’t know about this new Mac Pro so to declare it amazing and unbelievable is a bit premature. I can only speak to my feelings on this announcement so here goes.

The love

It does look like it’s going to be fast. There will be an Intel Xeon E5 chipset and “up to 40GB/s of PCI Express gen 3 bandwidth, and 256-bit-wide floating-point instructions.” Whatever all that means is fine I’m sure (damn I wish I didn’t have to be such a computer geek these days just to be an editor) but most importantly it’s going to be a Mac Pro with modern stuff inside and not all the old stuff that the big, silver towers have today.

There will be no spinning hard drive for the system drive. Instead it’ll be PCI Express flash storage. That’s apparently faster than an SSD.

Six Thunderbolt 2 ports and four USB3 ports mean there’s lots of connections in back (or front I guess depending where you set yours). And we really don’t know much about Thunderbolt 2 at all since we’re just getting into old Thunderbolt 1!

It’s a funky cylindrical design which will certainly turn a few heads on your desktop.

Most of all the love of the new Mac Pro comes from the fact that it actually exists and Apple didn’t kill it off.

The hate

There really doesn’t appear to be any internal expandability at all. As a desktop machine I really don’t care so much about having a tiny footprint but rather good functionality. All those PCI slots in a current Mac Pro means it has lasted for years. All those drive bays have meant cheap hard drives could go in and out be it in a cheap RAID or dependable backup when a system drive goes down as a client is on the way. Different boot drives were easily and affordably maintained due to the current Mac Pro’s fantastic design. You could even shove more stuff into the optical bays.

This new Mac Pro doesn’t have a removable GPU but rather an “AMD FirePro workstation-class GPU with up to 6GB of dedicated VRAM.” All right. I’m sure they are very fast and according to AMD great to use with all the Adobe products. Plus according to Blackmagic’s Grant Kay Petty they are great to use with Resolve as well. (Grant Kay is with Autodesk … thanks Twitter for noticing that). Does this mean that NVIDIA and their CUDA technology are on their way out? Probably not since the NVIDIA CUDA cards that they have sold for the Mac Pro’s weren’t really the best ones they made anyway. This AMD FirePro may be as good as any of us really need but it just feels like a step backward not having your own choice of GPU in a “pro” machine.

The huh?

While cool looking, that design is weird. I know very few pro users who care about how their machine looks on the outside. Heck, many Mac Pros aren’t even located in the same room as the editor! The current Mac Pro has been able to last a decade as the design is so good and so functional. Apple could have made it last another decade if they used the current design with a lot of the guts of this new Mac Pro.

They made a big deal to point out that when you spin the new Mac Pro around the ports on the back all light up for easy connectivity. Huh? How many people are plugging cables into their Mac Pro in darkened rooms? If the ports light up while they are in back then that is more innovative. I don’t know about you but I have lights in my room that help me see things that are in front. This just seems like a wasted feature that’s only there because they can.

If every plug on the back of the new Mac Pro has a cord plugged into it that’s 16 cords sticking out the back. I doubt it’ll be easy to spin around with that many things plugged in. What’s worse is there don’t seem to be any ports on the front of the machine. I plug drives and USB sticks into the front of my current machine all the time. It’s so damn convenient. Maybe this new Mac Pro doesn’t have a front or a back!

Yes I’m aware you can use a hub to get ports to the front but that’s yet even more cabling spaghetti to contend with. This new Mac Pro is going to make the spaghetti cable nightmare even worse than it currently is. Maybe I’m the only one who likes less cables running all around the desk and around the room. Remember that some of those external Thunderbolt things you’ll be using will require power. That’s more cables and plugs.

But at least we get something

Love it or hate it the new Mac Pro does show that Apple hasn’t forgotten about us “pro” users entirely. Pros aren’t just video pros and while this new Mac Pro might be best suited to the graphics pro or pro photographer a lot of editors will get good use out of the thing, me included. And Apple will, of course, optimize Final Cut Pro X for this new machine and they said so. Whenever I use a new iMac or a new Macbook Pro I can feel the speed advantages they have over my old Mac Pro. While we have no idea of this new Mac Pro’s price I know I’ll also have to spend money on things like new Thunderbolt RAID storage, some video I/O gear, most likely a portable Thunderbolt or USB3 drive or two and a smattering of adapters. Whatever that cost is it’s going to cost most of us old Mac Pro stragglers a good bit more than the list price. I better start saving now.

Scott Simmons

Scott Simmons was born in rural West Tennessee and didn’t really realize that movies and tv had to be made by actual people until he went to college. After getting degrees in both Television Production and Graphic Design he was in one of the early graduating classes at the Watkins Film School in Nashville, Tennessee. During that time at Watkins he discovered editing. While most of his classmates in film school wanted to be directors, Scott saw real career opportunities in post production and took a job as an assistant editor after completing film school. In 1999, Scott took the leap into freelancing and in 2007 accepted a position as an editor at Filmworkers – Nashville. In 2005 Scott created The Editblog a website dedicated to all things editing and post-production which is now housed here at PVC. Someday he hopes to edit on a beach with a touch screen device, a wireless hard drive and a Red Stripe.

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