The poor Mac Pro

It’s easy to look at the Mac Pro as it currently sits and think that it is as good as dead.

I’ve thought that too.

However, I’ve done some digging and I think I’ve come to the actual culprit for the seemingly stagnant workstation: Intel.

While, yes, we’ve seen a lot of movement on the Core i-series of processors, and those processors have been moved into the other Mac lines, we have yet to see much-if-any movement on the multi-processor Xeon line.

I’m not talking about single-processor/multi-core Xeons, but the multi-processor/multi-core  Xeon line, and that is something to keep in mind.

The current Mac Pro tops out at two 6-core Xeon processors at 2.93 Ghz a piece. As far as I can find (using Newegg and Wikipedia), there are only small, incremental steps Apple could release right now if they wanted to keep things the same. Could Apple have done this? Sure. Should they have? Probably, but it would have required them to commit to purchasing quantities of chip they sell very few of.

Currently it looks like the highest-end Mac Pro uses the Intel Xeon X5670 (two of them) with a TDP of 95W. They could use the X5675, which is just a little speed bump, but if they would use anything faster than that they would bump the TDP up to 130W. That’s almost 40% greater, and would probably require some internal changes to the Mac Pro that would differentiate it from the lower-specced models.

So the poor Mac Pro is stuck with old CPUs while we wait for the next version of the multi-processor Xeons to come out. This is what I am imagining as the headline features for the next Mac Pro (if there is one):

  • Newest generation of Xeons (probably bumping the number of total cores higher)
  • USB 3.0 because it is finally brought with the Intel chipset
  • Thunderbolt ports … probably two
  • Newer AMD Radeon graphics … even if the 5770 is still a really good card
  • Same chassis

That’s about it. Most of this is being held up by Intel and I think we will see it when Apple can get its hands on newer Xeons. The Mac Pro is really a single model with multiple configurations and if they need to have special models, I just don’t think they are going to go through with it.

For now, I put a moratorium on Mac hardware purchases for myself until the next refreshes not because of anything Apple has done, but because Intel has been holding some things up.

3 replies on “The poor Mac Pro”

It could be that the iMac/Core i7 combination is more that adequate (performance wise) for most of the target market of Mac Pros. Most people cant justify or afford spending the top dollar on a Mac Pro. The bottom of the line Mac Pro Quad-core Xeon, 3GB RAM, 1TB hard drive for $2499 does not sound compelling to me. Last i checked you can get a quad-code i7, 8GB RAM, 2 TB, w/ decent graphics card system running windows 7 for ~$700. Considering the costs, it not very compelling to most. I really don’t think the CPU performance is the problem here.

While true, it isn’t a comparable system.

The Mac Pro is a professional workstation … and sadly, you pay a TON more for that designation. Dual-socket motherboard, ECC RAM, the option to bump the RAM up to (possibly) 64 GB, four open removable drive bays … those are things that cost a lot of extra money. Sadly, Intel has dropped the ball here by not supplying that first part … a new dual-socket motherboard with accompanying CPU.

You are right that right now the Core i7 meets and exceeds what most people need in a workstation, but that’s not why the Mac Pro has stagnated.

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