On The New 2019 Mac Pro

Apple Mac Pro 2019 and Pro XDR Display – Photo: Slash Gear

Been a while, and I am back, since this issue is on my immediate horizon.

I make my way as a working Graphic and Web Designer in the green hills of West Virginia where I relocated from the NYC region in 2014. In that time, the Mac computing landscape has changed immensely – and not changed much. But you KNOW that the New Mac Pro would catch my eye, and appropriate pro kvetching. It’s design, it’s features, it’s engineering, and it’s blink-worthy pricing, all very worthy of discussion.

Am I going to get into it? As a mid-tier working-class Design Guy – Oh, Hell Yes.

Announced in 2012, Apple in 2013 released the “trashcan” Mac Pro 2013, which while a powerful machine, was frozen in amber, and like Apple’s consumer machines, almost entirely non-upgradable. It’s compact form factor and “unified thermal core” meant that thermal management issues created hard limits to the power of any of the components that were upgradable. The unique and proprietary form factors of the 2013 MPs graphics modules were not attractive to third party providers. The story was similar for the SSD Drives, again, a proprietary Apple format, and beyond Apple’s initial offerings, no further upgrades became generally available. This Mac Pro has no expansion slots in the traditional sense (PCIe, for example) nor expansion bays for additional storage.

The machines had fairy good external expandability but it was mostly Thunderbolt, which would require a hefty investment in new externals for most creatives – who typically have a desk scattered with USB & Firewire externals. But what put the machine in the ground, was that Apple never updated the machine. At ALL.

In the intervening years. Apple focused on sleeker, thinner with it’s Macs, the MacBook Air and Pro, and the iMac got thinner and thinner, till they reached their current svelte form factors. Then, finally some relief for creatives, the iMac Pro was released in late 2017 – no updates to date – with a much more muscular system. But like the iMac, which grew ever more non-upgradable, the iMac Pro was another sealed box with essentially no user upgradable components. Any upgrades would require the removal of the machine’s display. Ideally at the time of purchase users would have to get the maximum machine they would need – and could afford – for the life of the machine. The only upgrades the iMac Pro have officially received have been price cuts for RAM and storage options

To be sure, even a modern stock iMac outperforms a typical 2008-2010 Mac Pro. But as any working professional could tell you – performance is quite a lot, but it is not everything.

So this year, Apple, just a few days before Solstice, so still counted as “Fall 2019”, released the New Mac Pro. It’s a pretty amazing beast of a machine, and literally a checkbox wish list of pro user features, and engineered to a fare-thee-well. It is a no-nonsense muscular workstation-class machine – and priced accordingly. If you’re processing 4K video, doing 3D modeling and animation, Climate Change simulations, Virtual Reality applications, or working for Pixar, or NASA – this might be the machine for you. “In many respects, the 2019 Mac Pro line is among the most expandable Macs that Apple ever has released. With twelve RAM slots and eight PCIe slots, it promises amazing potential for professional users.” – everymac.com

Apple also released a new high-end Pro Display XDR, with similar sticker shock. The pricing for the STAND alone at $999 raised some eyebrow – even wheeled feet for the MP land at an eye-watering $400. But let’s put to rest issues of “price gouging” – comparable machines on the Linux and PC side weigh in at similar, if not higher, pricing for the user cases intended, i.e. – working for Pixar, or NASA. Fully tricked out, you can push the price of a new Mac Pro beyond $50,000 – not including externals or display.

Worthy of note, Apple has absolutely not settled whatever beef they have with NIVIDIA. No drivers for NIVIDA Graphics Cards for the new Mac Pro, or on the horizon. That, in a word, sucks.

I am still running my two aging Mac Pros – a 2008 and a late-2010 2 x 2.4 GHz Quad Core. I have pampered and maintained these machines, one bought new, the other lightly used. For a wide cadre of mid-tier “working class” professional creatives, we’d been absolutely happy with the components of the nearly utterly non-upgradeable iMac Pro placed in the user-upgradable and maintainable Mac Pro 5,1 Tower form factor. There are a LOT of us that don’t work for Pixar or NASA, and are keeping our ten-plus year old MP Towers alive as best we can – till we CAN’T. There will come a critical software upgrade that just won’t run on the faithful beasts, and they’ll go in the basement with the ZIP drives and CD-ROMs. I am looking at my options for when the time comes, which many creative professionals in this mid-tier of Graphic and Web Designers, Photographers, Musicians, face. Yeah, us workin’-class creative pros.

The choices are: Upgrade My better Mac Pro, a new iMac Pro, a New Mac Pro. Where do the numbers shake out? So I did a little poking about and number crunching….

UPGRADE MAC PRO 5,1 Late-2010

2010-12 Mac Pro showing internals, CPU/Memory tray and GPU
2010-12 Mac Pro showing internals, CPU/Memory tray and GPU. Ifixit.

Mac Pro Late 2010
2 x 2.4 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon
32 GB 1066 MHz DDR3
ATI Radeon HD 5770 1024 MB
1TB RAID 1 Mirror Storage ( 2x 1TB )

Potential Upgrades

GRAPHCS CARDS – Mojave* Metal Compatible

OWC Radeon RX 580 8GB
Metal Comp. plug n play $ 350
[ note no apple boot screen]
Nvidia GTX 970 4 GB
MDPx3/DVI/Mini-HDMI $ 375
Nvidia GTX 980 4 GB
DPx3/DVI/HDMI $ 425
Nvidia Quadro K5000 4GB GDDR5
DPx2/DVI-I/DVI-D $ 430
Nvidia GTX 1070 8GB
DPx3/DVI/HDMI $ 555


OWC Mercury Electra 3G SSD
2 x 1TB $ 145 $ 290
2 x 2TB $ 321 $ 642


OWC Memory 64.0GB
8 x 8.0GB PC10600 DDR3 $ 245


USB 3/USB C Card $ 70 – $150

UPGRADE COST – $ 955 – $ 1592

*Notes – The maximum Mac OS would be Mojave. Mac OS Catalina will not run on pre-2013 Mac Pros.


IMac Pro. You sexy beast.

New iMac Pro – Basic* Config

3.2GHz 8-core Intel Xeon W processor, Turbo Boost up to 4.2GHz
64GB 2666MHz DDR4 ECC memory
Radeon Pro Vega 56 with 8GB of HBM2 memory
2TB SSD storage
Magic Trackpad 2 – Space Gray
Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad

SYSTEM COST – $5,850.00 [ *Base config $5K ]

*Bumped up to “a bit more muscular” configuration –

3.0GHz 10-core Intel Xeon W processor, Turbo Boost up to 4.5GHz
64GB 2666MHz DDR4 ECC memory
AMD Radeon Pro Vega 64 with 16GB of HBM2 memory
2TB SSD storage
Magic Keyboard + Magic Trackpad 2
27-inch Retina 5K 5120-by-2880 P3 display

SYSTEM COST – $ 7200.00


The 2019 Mac Pro.
The new 2019 Mac Pro. Beautiful Monster. Apple.

“Just through the door” – Base Configuration

3.5GHz 8‑core Intel Xeon W processor, Turbo Boost up to 4.0GHz
32GB (4x8GB) of DDR4 ECC memory*
Radeon Pro 580X with 8GB of GDDR5 memory (this is a lackluster card at this level.)*
256GB SSD storage (Seriously???)*
Magic Mouse 2
Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad – US English

CPU COST – $6000

*Note: the base Mac Pro appears to be intended as a base platform for users to customize given the lean storage, RAM, and graphics specs.

“Kicked up a notch for Designers” Configuration

3.5GHz 8‑core Intel Xeon W processor, Turbo Boost up to 4.0GHz
48GB (6x8GB) of DDR4 ECC memory [+$300]
Radeon Pro Vega II with 32GB of HBM2 memory [+$2400]
2TB SSD storage [+$800]
Magic Trackpad 2 [+$50]
Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad – US English

CPU COST – $9550

Pro Display XDR
32-inch Retina 6K w Standard Glass
Pro Stand [$999]


SYSTEM COST – $12,000 – $15,550

So that’s the vise that I, and other Mac-favoring Pro Creatives, find ourselves. Keep our older machines in service till the eventual and inevitable software upgrade that they won’t run. Buy the utterly non-upgradable iMac Pro, but we would have to get the heaviest iron we could possibly afford, versus future needs. After all, this is the machine Apple intends for the “rest of us pros.” to buy. And of course performance, RAM and storage needs only curve one direction, and software will always overwhelm hardware. Or get a second mortgage and try to acquire a brilliant but costly 2019 Mac Pro – and not the somewhat anemic base configuration either! At least the iMac Pro comes with a Display.

Of course we could always leave the platform. So many of my colleagues have thrown up their hands and voted with their wallets over Apple’s neglect and dismissal treatment of the mid-tier professional. So that choice is absolutely on the table. With mostly the same hardware under the hood, and most professional class software running on both platforms (and some now windows-only!), the choice of Mac OS over Windows (with it’s own issues and idiosyncrasies) is mostly one of preference, and other less critical factors.


Upgrade an older Mac Pro tower— $1000-$1600
iMac Pro — $7200
New Mac Pro — $15,550 and up… and UP

But seriously folks, the New 2019 Mac Pro is an enterprise-class Lamborghini of Mac desktops, a drool-worthy beautiful monster, engineered to a fare-thee-well. But recalling Steve Job’s famous “trucks” analogy, I don’t need a Lamborghini eighteen-wheeler, I need a Dodge Ram 3500. I’ll can get my own damn aluminum wheels and fuzzy dice.

3 thoughts on “On The New 2019 Mac Pro”

  1. Well, imagine that. In the midst of this process, my workstation #2 – an older used 2008 MP, has been getting cranky and seems to have a failing logic board. So now these numbers have grown a whole LEVEL of REAL. What I am considering is the “horizontal upgrade.” Workstation #2 is retired, and Workstation #1 (mid 2010 MP) becomes #2. And we replace Workstation #1 with a used or refurbished 2012 12-Core Mac Pro. We trick the bitch out with SSDs, a CHUNK of Ram, Big Storage, and a better GPU…

    Should hold us a few more years. But if Apple would just pour the specs of the iMac Pro into a user-upgradable tower – Those bitches would FLY out of the Apple Store.

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