Apple’s 2nd generation Mac Pro: The first hands-on reviews

December 26, 2013, 11:46 AM UTC
Mac Pro

FORTUNE — The first wave of Mac Pro stories arrived in June and covered what writers could glean about Apple’s (AAPL) new high-end workstation from photo handouts and a spec sheet. The second wave arrived this week, with the first hands-on reviews. They’re still pretty sketchy. For the full story, we’re going to have to wait for the video pros — and pro software optimized for the new specs.

Molly Wood, New York Times: Futuristic Mac Pro Has Power to Spare. “The design is obviously an indulgence. The Mac Pro is a charcoal gray cylinder that stands about 10 inches high and reflects back a distorted, slightly menacing view of the world. The outer layer of the tube is removable, displaying the Pro’s innards in a pleasing industrial array. A cutout at the top of the cylinder creates a lip that acts as a handle, and a visual effect sadly reminiscent of either a trash can or an ashtray.”

John Lagomarsino, Director / Editor at The Verge : “The design is sleek, but after working next to it, I can’t help but feel there’s something sinister about its unassuming looks. It’s so straight, so shiny, so metallic — it reminds me of an oversized bullet waiting to be shoved down the barrel of some terrifying novelty sized shotgun. It’s definitely got a military vibe that’s a little unnerving… I love how quiet the machine is. It’s impossible to hear over an external hard drive or ambient air conditioning noise, even under heavy loads. The only sign you’ll have that it’s cooling itself is the gentle rush of warm air coming out the top of the unit, which makes a surprisingly wide and uniform column of wind.”

Dana Wollman, Engadget: Small, fast and in a league of its own. “It’s hard to say if the Mac Pro is pricey, per se, given that there’s nothing else quite like it. There are plenty of Windows-based workstations, certainly, but none are quite this small or quite this portable (many aren’t quite this quiet, either). And if you’re a creative professional already hooked into Mac-only apps like Final Cut Pro, this is really your only choice: The new Mac Pro is a serious improvement over the old model in every way, and is likely worth the upgrade. So, while $2,999 (let alone $10,000) is indeed a big investment, it’s well worth it for people who live and die by their workstation, and for whom (rendering) time is money.”

David Pierce, The Verge: At long last, the pros get some love.  “In many ways, the Mac Pro is the fastest and most powerful Mac ever made. But today, as it stands, it’s not a drop-in improvement that will instantly make any and every setup faster — its greatest tricks are enabled when software is specifically tuned to this hardware. Because this Mac Pro is now the de facto professional computer for Apple users, most important apps are virtually certain to be upgraded to support its particulars. There’s clearly plenty of power here for almost any use case, but while we wait for software updates this machine isn’t a particularly notable upgrade from the last-generation Pro, or the latest iMac.”

Matt Hill, T3: Verdict. “Not since our first “eyes on” experience with Google Glass earlier this year has the entire T3 office crowded round just to catch sight of a piece of technology. People were gawping before we’d even turned it on.”

Size matters: The second-generation Mac Pro sitting on the chassis of the first. Photo: The Verge.