Apple’s current Mac Pro was introduced in 2019, but since then Apple has transitioned every other Mac to its own chip architecture, starting with the M1 in 2020 followed by the M1 Pro, M1 Max, M1 Ultra, and eventually the M2 in early 2022. The Mac Pro, which is still using an ageing Intel processor, is looking very dated.
Therefore it is expected that the Mac Pro will soon undergo a major update when Apple adds its own System on a Chip (SoC) to the workstation. This article keeps track of everything we are hearing about the new Mac Pro, so return to this page to keep up to date with what could be coming.
New Mac Pro: Release date
Apple said back in June 2020 that it planned to transition all of its Macs to its own chips within two years. Whether this is interpreted as two years from June 2020, or two years from when Apple introduced the first M1 Mac: November 2022, Apple has missed it’s deadline. As Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, who seems to have some good sources, put it in a December 2022 Power On newsletter: Apple is “behind schedule”.
The reason for the delay, according to Gurman, is “changes to the company’s chip and manufacturing plans”. Gurman believes this relates to issues Apple has encountered with it’s ultimate chip combination, that would have seen the most expensive Mac Pro model feature 48 CPU cores and 152 graphics cores. Gurman suggests that as the result of the “complexity and cost” of producing a Mac with this specification Apple has “likely scrapped that higher-end configuration”.
Gurman then clarified in January 2023 that the “high-end configuration of the Mac Pro, a model with 48 CPU cores and 152 graphics cores, has been canceled.” We discuss the processor options in more detail below.
So, when will we see this new Mac Pro? WWDC, Apple’s developers conference, was the location where the 2019 and 2013 Mac Pro were launched (shipping later in the year). So WWDC in June 2023 seems like a likely venue for the new Mac Pro. However, it could come even later in the year: Apple has been known to launch Macs in October or November.
Gurman’s guess (as of March 2023) is that the new Mac Pro with M-series chips will be one of “three new Macs” that will launch “between late spring and summer including: the first 15-inch MacBook Air (codenamed J515), the first Mac Pro with homegrown Apple chips (J180) and an update to the 13-inch MacBook Air (J513).”
However, a comment from Apple’s vice president of worldwide product marketing Bob Borchers doesn’t generate much confidence that a new Mac Pro will be with us soon. In an interview with India Today, Borchers refers to Apple’s “clear goal to transition fully to Apple silicon,” but makes no reference to a new Mac Pro. In fact, he even omits it when he says: “We believe strongly that Apple silicon can power and transform experiences from the MacBook Air all the way up to the Mac Studio.” Does this mean that there will be no Mac Pro? We hope not.
According to Gurman in that December 2022 newsletter, another issue affecting development of the new Mac Pro is concern about how much consumers are willing to spend on the new machine.
Gurman writes: “Based on Apple’s current pricing structure, an M2 Extreme version of a Mac Pro would probably cost at least $10,000—without any other upgrades—making it an extraordinarily niche product that likely isn’t worth the development costs, engineering resources and production bandwidth it would require.”
The current Mac Pro starts at $5,999/£5,499, but it is possible to spend more than $50k on the most expensive options. However, Gurman’s insights seem to suggest that Apple has forgone the high end options. He writes: “”Based on Apple’s current pricing structure, an M2 Extreme version of a Mac Pro would probably cost at least $10,000—without any other upgrades—making it an extraordinarily niche product that likely isn’t worth the development costs, engineering resources and production bandwidth it would require.”
That is in contrast to the Mac Studio, which starts at $1,999/£1,999 for the M1 Max version, rises to $3,999/£3,999 for the M1 Ultra version, and tops out at $7,999/£7,999 if you fully spec it out.
The Mac Pro would, we assume, bring upgradability and configurability that the Mac Studio lacks, which may justify a slightly higher price for similar specs. But, it sounds like it won’t have the ultra expensive options of the 2019 model.
The biggest problem Apple may face with the Mac Pro is that it’s a computer very few people want or need–and the new version may not even be the Mac Pro those few people want.
New Mac Pro: Design
Will the new Mac Pro have a new design? Gurman has previously reported that Apple won’t discontinue the current Mac Pro design, and in his first newsletter of 2023 Gurman wrote that: “The new Mac Pro will look identical to the 2019 model.”
Maintaining the same design seems likely given the problems Apple encountered the last time it made the Mac Pro smaller. We hope that the company won’t be making the same mistake twice and the new Mac Pro will maintain the proven design.
New Mac Pro: Specs
What can we expect from the new Mac Pro? Those Mac users for whom the Mac Pro is targeted will be interested in the capabilities of the machine. Will Apple be able to make a processor to rival the workstation processors of Intel… and does it even need to?
In a July 2022 Power On newsletter, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman indicated that Apple will use a new M2 Extreme chip in the high-end Mac Pro, with the M2 Ultra available are a lower cost.
He later elaborated further, in a December newsletter, that the M2 Ultra chip could offer 24 CPU cores, 76 graphics cores and up to 192GB memory, while an M2 Extreme chip could double that to 48 CPU cores and 152 graphics cores.
However, Gurman now believes that Apple has abandoned this M2 Extreme chip “because of both the complexity and cost of producing a processor that is essentially four M2 Max chips fused together”.
We run though the expectations for the M2 chip series here: Apple’s M2 chip: Everything you need to know.
The issue with this is, points out Mark Gurman in a January newsletter, that this will mean the only reason to choose a Mac Pro over a Mac Studio will be expandability. While it is expected that the Mac Pro will offer users the opportunity to update the SSD, media and networking cards, it won’t be possible to update the memory as Apple’s M-series chips have the Unified Memory (RAM) build onto the chip. In addition, it is now rumored that it will also be impossible to update the graphics.
In a January 2023 tweet Mark Gurman indicated that the new Mac Pro “may lack user upgradeable GPUs.”
It seems that the biggest difference between the M2 Ultra in the Mac Pro and the equivalent in the Mac Studio will be better performance due to better cooling.
Right now the maximum CPU cores you can get in a Mac Pro is 28 courtesy of its Intel Xeon processor. The best Mac Studio can provide 20-core CPU. By comparison, AMD offers up to 64 CPU cores for some of its high-end chips for gaming PCs.
We don’t yet know what the M2 Ultra will offer, but Gurman estimates that the M2 Ultra chip could offer 24 CPU cores and 76 graphics cores. If Apple did offer a dual M2 Ultra those numbers could be doubled, but it doesn’t sound like that is in Apple’s plans anymore.
The M1 Ultra scores around 24,000 in Geekbench benchmarks. We assume the M2 Ultra would score around 30,000. That’s higher than the current 28‑core Intel Xeon W processor’s 26,604. But is it enough?
Find out How the M2 compares to the M1 Pro, Max and Ultra for a taste of what that might mean.
According to Gurman the M2 Ultra could offer 76 graphics cores. If Apple was to extend the options with an M2 Extreme we could see 152 graphics cores, but that is now looking unlikely.
Right now the Intel Xeon Mac Pro can support up to two Radeon Pro W6900X with 32GB of GDDR6 memory each. It’s hard to draw any comparisons, but we can see that the Mac Studio with M1 Ultra compares favourably to the Mac Pro.
For example, in Geekbench 5 the M1 Ultra score 23,870 in multicore compared to the 28-core Mac Pro with a score of 20,027.
At the low end of the Mac Pro graphics options the M1 Ultra beats the AMD graphics. In Geekbench 5 Metal the M1 Ultra scores 106263 while the AMD W5500X scores 41982, but as you move into the higher end graphics options in the Mac Pro, where the AMD Radeon Pro W6900X scores 166946, for example, the M1 Ultra can’t compete.
But maybe this doesn’t matter. As Apple seems to have concluded that the market for such a machine would be very niche and perhaps not worth the development efforts, if Gurman is correct in his analysis.
Unfortunately, as per Gurman’s tweet (above), it doesn’t look like the Mac Pro will support external GPUs, so users won’t have the option to plug in a eGPU to enhance the graphics capability.
RAM and storage
In his December 2022 newsletter Gurman indicates that Apple could “top out the [Mac Pro] with at least 192 gigabytes of memory,” if it comes with the M2 Ultra chip. If Apple did decide to combine two M2 Ultra we could see support for 384GB RAM.
However, the current Intel Mac Pro offers up to 1.5TB of DDR4 ECC memory in 12 user-accessible DIMM slots, which already places it ahead of where the new Mac Pro could theoretically be. But there is another issue that may lead pros to dismiss this machine: Apple doesn’t use typical, user-upgradable, RAM in M1 and M2-powered Macs. Instead it uses unified memory, which is quite different. This RAM isn’t just soldered onto the motherboard—it’s built directly into the chip, making it faster and more efficient. There are certainly benefits to be had, but for users who demand customization options there may be a need to offer slots so that the RAM can be upgraded like the Macs of old. We don’t know if Apple will take such an approach with the Mac Pro, however.
But more likely is a dramatic rethinking of what a Pro desktop is. The unified memory is a big part of what makes the M1 & M2-series Macs so fast, but tying the memory to the chip means that expandability is not an option. Should a buyer want to increase the RAM at the point of sale it would drive up the purchase price significantly. The Mac Pro already starts at $5,999, but if you buy RAM through Apple it can add as much as $14,000 to the price.
Apple currently offers up to 8TB of storage in the Mac Pro, and we expect the storage options to remain the same. The ports likely won’t change either, as Apple already offers four USB ports (two Thunderbolt 3 and two USB 3) and a pair of ethernet ports. However, the Mac Pro has eight PCIe x16-sized slots that support many different types of PCIe cards, so you can easily add more ports. We assume Apple will allow expansion slots on an M1 Mac Pro, but compatibility is a question.
New Mac Pro: Pro Display
When Apple launched the Mac Pro in 2019, it had a pricey companion to go with it: a $5,000 Pro Display XDR with an optional $1,000 stand. It is thought that Apple is working on an upgrade, although this may not launch at the same time as the Mac Pro. Read about the new XDR display in our separate rumor round up.
Author: Karen Haslam, Editor
Macworld editor since 2008, Karen has worked on both sides of the Apple divide, clocking up a number of years at Apple’s PR agency prior to joining Macworld almost two decades ago.
Karen’s career highlights include interviewing Apple’s Steve Wozniak and discussing Steve Jobs’ legacy on the BBC. Her focus is Mac, but she lives and breathes Apple.
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