Skip to main content

A key question for the Mac Pro has been answered — and it’s not good news

We’ve heard a lot of potentially bad news about the upcoming Apple silicon Mac Pro in recent weeks, but there has always been one looming, unanswered question. Now, that question might have an answer.

Writing on Twitter, Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman has reported that the next Mac Pro might lack a user-upgradable graphics option. In some ways that’s unsurprising, but it has major implications for the already-precarious state of modularity in the device.

Apple's new Mac Pro sits on display in the showroom during Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC).
Brittany Hose-Small / AFP via Getty Images

In the current Mac Pro, users can configure it with one of 10 different graphics cards. Those cards can be swapped out and replaced at any time thanks to Apple’s system of MPX Modules, with various choices that slot into ports on the Mac Pro’s motherboard.

Apple silicon poses a major problem to this system because each of Apple’s chips is what’s known as a system-on-a-chip (SoC). In layman’s terms, that means the CPU, memory, and GPU are all integrated into the chip itself.

Prime Day Focus
These Razer Blade Prime Day deals really pack a punch [in gaming power]
Anker SOLIX Prime Day deals: This shopping guide highlights the best discounts
Send it! This HoverAir X1 Drone can capture your adventures and it's $120 off
Secretlab Prime Day deals: Build your ideal work-from-home or gaming station

While that keeps things simpler and vastly improves memory speeds across the chip (thanks to Apple’s unified memory system), it means it’s impossible to upgrade those individual components once you’ve bought the computer.

As Gurman points out, “Apple Silicon Macs don’t support external GPUs and you have to use whatever configuration you buy on Apple’s website.” That could be a huge blow to the modularity of the system.

Will pro users be satisfied?

Tim Cook next to an Apple Mac Pro at WWDC 2019.

When Apple introduced the new Mac Pro in 2019, modularity was a key feature of the computer. Indeed, the professional audience the Mac Pro is aimed at needs to be able to upgrade their devices as their workloads change and become more demanding, and Apple recognized that in the form of the MPX Module system, which offered everything from graphics cards to RAID storage arrays.

Without upgradeable graphics, the modularity of the future Mac Pro could be severely hindered. If the machine cannot keep up with challenging tasks like video rendering where powerful graphics cards are vital, it will be far less attractive to its target audience.

MPX modules inside the Apple Mac Pro.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Gurman notes that storage will continue to be user-upgradeable in the next Mac Pro, so it appears that MPX Modules will not disappear completely. But a modular system that lacks changeable GPU options will likely lose some of its luster.

It also brings the Mac Pro much closer to the Mac Studio, which Apple also touted as a modular computer yet has far fewer elements that can be changed by the user after purchase. According to Gurman, the main benefit the Apple silicon Mac Pro will have over the Mac Studio will be “performance from more cooling,” as well as the M2 Ultra chip that will be outfitted into the Mac Pro.

Whether that improved cooling and performance will be enough to placate high-end users in the absence of upgradeable graphics options remains to be seen. Recent rumors claim Apple will unveil the new Mac Pro at a special event this spring, so we’ll have to see what promises the company makes — and whether the Mac Pro can live up to them.

Alex Blake
In ancient times, people like Alex would have been shunned for their nerdy ways and strange opinions on cheese. Today, he…
Apple has backed itself into a corner
Apple iPad Pro 11 with Apple Magic Keyboard.

Apple is rumored to finally be updating its new iPads at its forthcoming May 7 event. While this may come as a relief to anyone who’s been patiently waiting to upgrade their iPad Pro or iPad Air, a new report has thrown the whole situation into confusion.

That’s because the latest Power On newsletter from Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman claims that the upcoming iPad Pro will contain an Apple M4 chip. On first blush, that doesn’t seem all that unusual -- the iPad Pro has come with an Apple silicon chip for years, after all. But here’s the wrinkle: this launch plan would mean the iPad will get an M4 chip before the Mac, and that has all kinds of weird implications. By delaying the iPad for so long, it looks like Apple has left itself with a very odd update cycle for its chips this time around.
The end of the M3 Ultra?

Read more
The Vision Pro is already in trouble. Here’s how Apple can turn the tide
A man wears an Apple Vision Pro headset.

Apple’s Vision Pro headset lit the world on fire when it was announced at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June 2023, and again when it launched in February of this year. But in the months since, it’s apparently been losing steam, with sales down and people staying away from in-store demonstrations. That doesn’t bode well for Apple’s “next big thing.”

The key question, though, is whether this an actual problem for Apple. And if so, what can the company do about it?
In free fall?
If you read Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman’s latest Power On newsletter, you’ll see some concerning reporting, at least from Apple’s perspective. Citing staff at Apple’s retail stores, Gurman claims that “Demand for [Vision Pro] demos is way down. People who do book appointments often don’t show up.”

Read more
MacBook Pro 16 vs. MacBook Pro 14: The important differences
MacBook Pro laptops.

MacBooks are typically seen as some of the best laptops money can buy, thanks to their combination of performance and longevity. It's not uncommon for MacBooks to be running flawlessly years after purchase -- so while their upfront costs are a bit steep, they're great long-term investments.

That holds true for the MacBook Pro lineup, which comes in two sizes -- 14 inches and 16 inches. Both are top-of-the-line computers designed to handle pretty much anything you can throw at them, offering access to the M3 chip, vibrant Liquid Retina XDR displays, and plenty of other high-end hardware.

Read more