New Mac Pros are available to order from Apple. No really. I felt like the boy that cried wolf when my clients asked me when to expect a new product release. “Let’s see what they present during the next WWDC conference,” I would say. Three WWDCs later, you can finally purchase a professional desktop Mac that isn’t behind the curve from PC offerings.
Paradigm shift is an overused term, but this Mac Pro is really just a ‘paradigm transition.’ At first glance, an initial reaction of horror might be warranted. Where are the PCIe slots? Where are the 4 drive bays? Why does Apple continually strive to make things smaller when no one asked them to? How will I mount this round blob in my network rack?
Let’s get down to the basics of what this machine is meant to do and why you don’t need to be scared.
1.It’s not a server
You COULD run Apple’s server software on a Mac Pro, but we wouldn’t advise it. With only the one flash based disk onboard, you’d lack the fault tolerance for a server operating system that multiple disks can provide. The Mac Mini Server (with two internal disks) continues to be plenty powerful for workgroups up to 75 people.
2.It’s overkill for 75% of graphic design
Unless you work with incredibly complex, monstrously large and many layered Photoshop files all day long, you’ll never get a return on investment with a new Mac Pro compared to a well spec’d out iMac. Everyday graphic design used to be the domain of the Mac Pro, but no longer. Even a 3-pound MacBook Air will suffice for that task these days if you have an external monitor. Plus, you don’t look like a dork when you take it home for the weekend.
What does that leave? Scientific number crunching, hardcore graphic design, video production and code development. Does that describe some measure of your business workflow? Here’s what you need to know when buying a new Mac Pro…
There aren’t any. Thunderbolt is Apple’s trademarked name for an Intel technology that seeks to replace PCIe as a hardware interface over a cable. Just like FireWire but faster. You can also use the same Thunderbolt port for external video display. The new Mac Pro introduces an improved version 2 of Thunderbolt and essentially makes the claim that you can now just interconnect your devices over Thunderbolt cables. Third party vendors are already filling the gaps that the new Mac Pro creates and are proving Apple’s point.
The new Mac Pro has 4 ram slots for a maximum memory capacity of 64 gigs. This is definitely a situation where you want to buy as much ram as you can afford in as few memory modules as possible. Otherwise, you’ll be throwing money away down the road when upgrading. Reports have stated that the video card is nestled into the motherboard on a separate daughtercard, so there is some hope that the video card will be upgradable from third party vendors at a later point as well.
If you already have an investment in PCIe cards in your previous generation Mac Pros, this can get expensive. Not all vendors are shipping Thunderbolt 2 expansion products yet, either. At The Foundation, we’d be happy to help guide you through the available options that meet your budget and performance expectations. Whether you need help finding a data RAID, connecting to a fibre-channel SAN or tackling the backup of oodles of terabytes of raw video, we’ve got solutions.
There are quite a few options to choose from when building a new Mac Pro. The hard drive size, ram, video card and number of cores in the processor can all be selected. Again, let us help you build the best system for your needs.
If you view the Mac Pro within the context of where it is the best fit, it starts to make some sense. Granted, the expansion options may seem expensive now, but just think how odd that first iMac without a floppy disk seemed in 1998.
As someone with an Industrial Design background, I’ll admit being puzzled about some of Apple’s decisions. All the sleek design in the world isn’t going to help the inevitable spaghetti of cables and drives that most power users will need to attach to their new Mac Pros. It’s like adding a roof rack to a Ferrari. The desk at your video editing station may not look as sleek and minimal as before.
That said, what Apple has released is a marvel of engineering. With every new generation of computers, the die-hard tinkerers with time to fiddle with video card drivers will continue to complain about Apple products not being upgradeable. The rest of us just get to work and use our computers to be productive. Meanwhile the rest of the computer industry will continue to chase Apple. Then in three years, you’ll be buying the next amazing Apple iThing regardless.