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The new AMD Radeon Pro GPUs look perfect for a powerful Mac Pro update

AMD launched its new range of Radeon Pro cards on Tuesday. The Radeon Pro W6800, W6600, and, on laptops, W6600M use the RDNA 2 architecture inside AMD’s consumer RX 6000 range. The W6800 is already available and the W6600 is coming later this year as a PC add-in card, but it’s not clear if Apple will support these updated cards in the Mac Pro.

Apple has a long history with AMD, and it uses Radeon graphics cards exclusively in the Mac Pro. Right now, the Mac Pro supports one or two W5000 or Vega II GPUs. Before AMD’s announcement, these were the best professional Radeon cards available. That said, they’re based on the older RDNA and Vega architectures, respectively, while the new W6000 cards are based on RDNA 2.

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AMD says the new architecture delivers up to a 79% performance increase compared to the previous generation, which is a huge boost for workstations. When Apple launched the Mac Pro in 2019, it promised modularity through its MPX add-in cards that would allow users to easily upgrade their components without spending tens of thousands of dollars on a new machine. Apple hasn’t really delivered on that promise, though, which doesn’t bode well for AMD’s new cards making their way to the Mac Pro.

The W6800 is available now for $2,249 and the W6600 will cost $649 when it launches. Meanwhile, Apple charges $600 extra for the W5700X — the card that the W6800 performs 79% better than — and $2,400 for the Vega II. That’s on top of a $6,000 base machine, which is hard to swallow given the performance increases AMD’s new cards bring.

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For context, the Vega II delivers up to 14.2 TFLOPs of FP32 power, while the new W6800 delivers up to 17.83. TFLOPs aren’t all that matter — the Vega II uses HDM memory instead of GDDR6, for example — but it shows how the power of the Mac Pro is aging.

Two years ago, the Mac Pro was one of the most powerful machines on the market with tons of flexibility. It remains an immensely powerful workstation, but professionals looking for the latest and greatest may have a tough time justifying a Mac Pro over the next couple of years. Hopefully, Apple will finally expand its MPX lineup to accommodate the new cards.

As for AMD’s new cards, they bring a host of features to the professional space. That includes Smart Access Memory with Ryzen 5000 and select Ryzen 3000 processors, Infinity Cache, and hardware-accelerated ray tracing. The W6800 comes with 60 compute units (CUs) for a total of 3,840 stream processors and 32GB of GDDR6 ECC memory. The W6600 and W6600M come with 28 CUs for a total of 1,792 stream processors and 8GB of GDDR6 ECC memory.

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Jacob Roach
Senior Staff Writer, Computing
Jacob Roach is a writer covering computing and gaming at Digital Trends. After realizing Crysis wouldn't run on a laptop, he…
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