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WWDC 2019: Apple Bets on Redesigned Mac Pro to Bring Creatives Back to the Fold

Six years ago, Apple alienated members of its core fanbase with the release of a maligned Mac Pro, a desktop computer that had earlier built a reputation as a workhorse for creative professionals. Customers who relied on the product line for their processor-intensive jobs, such as video editing, found the 2013 model inflexible and ill-suited to their work. On top of that, reviewers likened the design to a Japanese trash can.

On Monday, Apple made clear that it is determined to win back that long-neglected, target market. The electronics-maker unveiled a redesigned Mac Pro at its Worldwide Developer Conference, or WWDC, in San Jose. The model harkens back to the earliest Mac Pro, which debuted in 2006, recalling an aesthetic that looks, uncannily, like a cheese grater.

Taking the heat

The makeover signals a break from Apple’s earlier misstep. The 2013 Mac Pro’s design was unable to accommodate multiple—or more powerful, and therefore hotter—graphics chips, tools increasingly necessary for rendering multimedia and performing other computation-heavy tasks. As Craig Federighi, a senior Apple executive, put it in 2017: “I think we designed ourselves into a bit of a thermal corner, if you will.”

The new tower, which consists of a stainless steel frame housed in an aluminum cover, makes clear that the company has reprioritized function over form. The model is suited to customization, repairs, and replacement parts. John Turnus, Apple’s vice president of hardware engineering, boasted while introducing the device from the stage: “It’s the most configurable, the most expandable, and the most powerful Mac Pro we’ve ever made.”

The feature set

For the tech-obsessed, here are the specifications. The new Mac Pro features:

  • an Intel Xeon processor with up to 28 cores, for steroidal data crunching
  • 64 PCI Express lanes, boosting the machine’s input and output bandwidth
  • up to 1.5 terabytes of memory, to handle tremendous amounts of data
  • a two-sided logic board, for easier access to component parts
  • twice as many slots as the last Mac Pro, for expansion and customization; that’s four double-wide slots, three single-wide slots, and one half-length slot to fit an Apple I/O card
  • Two Thunderbolt 3 ports, two USB-A ports, and a 3.5 millimeter audio jack
  • Two ethernet ports
  • A Mac Pro Expansion Module, or MPX Module, which offers up to 500 watts of power (equivalent to the processing power of the last Mac Pro)
  • Compatibility with multiple AMD graphics processing units, such as the Radeon Pro Vega 2 or Radeon Pro Vega 2 Duo
  • With the XYZ, up to 14 teraflops of compute performance, 32 gigabytes of memory, and 1 terabyte per second of memory bandwidth
  • an Afterburner graphics card that can process 6 billion pixels per second, helpful to video editors
  • A power supply of 1.4 kilowatts, cooled by a large heat sink and three fans
  • Optional wheels, for portability

When to buy

Apple’s new Mac Pro will go on sale in the fall, the company says. The starting price tag is $5,999, steep even without all the extra bells and whistles. Adding a matching monitor—the 6K, 32-inch Pro Display XDR—adds an additional $4,999 to the cost.

The bottom line: Apple’s revamped Mac Pro, while expensive, appears to represent a return to excellence, a back-to-roots move that tosses the trash can in favor of earlier, beloved generations of the computer. With this update, the company is working to win back a niche audience that is essential to the Apple brand, imbuing the company with the cachet of the creative class.

Consider it a greater grater, if you will.

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