What makes a Mac Pro a Mac Pro

Sep 12, 2018

What makes a Mac Pro a Mac Pro

I just listened to the Accidental Tech Podcast where John Siracusa and the other guys celebrated the 10th anniversary of his Mac Pro. A Mac Pro he bought in 2008 for $2400, that lasted to this day. A computer he still bought in the good old days when Steve Jobs drove the product development of the company. He couldn't have kept it for 10 years without the possibility of upgrading individual components.

It is no secret that I am critical of the today-Apple and its product decisions and price hikes. Especially how Apple handles the Mac these days. I am a die hard Mac fan of the old days. The Mac was always superior to the PC in my mind and it looked way better. This all changed with the advent of the modern 2016 MacBook Pro. The one with the dud keyboard, the soldered RAM and hard disks and without any useful ports. The one good product decision Apple made in recent years, was the modern iMac Pro. While it's expensive, it's a really good product, if you don't care about upgrading components. If you do care, you'll want a Mac Pro. And it's really sad how Apple treated their top-of-the-line computer during the last 5 years. The trash-can Mac Pro is an embarrassment in lots of ways.

Apple promised us in 2017 that they are working on a new Mac Pro model and told us in 2018 that we need to wait a little bit longer. In the mean time, I built my own Hackintosh and another dedicated Linux machine. It was a lot of fun, but also a bit of a chore, especially if you want to install an operating system like MacOS that is picky about its hardware. Doing that however I learned a lesson or two about modern computer hardware and how everything fits together. I now have a clear opinion what a modern Mac Pro should be. Apple: Don't ask iMac Pro buyers, ask Hackintoshers!

Obviously the new Mac Pro should be upgradable to a certain point. This has limits however, it's really not possible to upgrade processors over 5 years. At some point Intel will introduce slight incompatibilites that require a new mainboard. But one thing is clear, nothing should be soldered to the mainboard whatsoever! No processor, no RAM, no SSD. Please Apple, use a standard processor slot, standard RAM slots and standard NVMe M.2 slots for SSDs and give us 4 PCIe slots (!!! no Apple computer has PCIe slots these days). It should be possible to put in 2 beefy GPUs like the AMD Vega 64 and still have room for a Blackmagic DeckLink card or something similar. I feel like, if Apple puts in 4 M.2 slots for SSDs, they could get away with not adding SATA. SATA is slow compared to M.2 and hard disks take a lot of unnecessary space. If you need a lot of hard disks, you can always use a NAS connected via 10gig ethernet. The empty space in the case should be used by adding really big, slow and silent fans which are able to cool a top-of-the-line Xeon processor and 2 of the craziest GPUs. As far as ports go, the ports of the iMac Pro are fine: 10gig ethernet obviously, Thunderbolt 3 and a couple of USB-A ports! I also really like an SD-card slot but, I guess it's really dumb to put one into a case that is mostly hidden under the desk. Instead I think it could be a feature of any upcoming Thunderbolt 3 Cinema Display. Oh yes, and also give it a Space Gray enclosure with 1 LED for sleep mode.

If Apple can deliver that and maybe stay under $5000 for the baseline model, I'll ditch my Hackintosh in a heart beat.