Apple is finally refreshing the Mac Pro – here’s everything we know so far

Mac Pro 5

Once upon a time, Apple made a professional-grade desktop called the Mac Pro, which looks like a high-tech waste basket yet delivered world-class performance. Then, Apple decided not to speak of it again.

Until now. It’s been more than three years since Apple refreshed, updated, or even addressed the Mac Pro. Thankfully for Mac Pro die-hards, its modular pro-grade PC is slated for a big upgrade in 2018, or 2019.

What we know

Discussed as part of a conversation about Apple’s desktop computers, Apple’s engineering chief Craig Federighi and vice president Phil Schiller gave the Mac Pro some much needed attention.

“We are in the process of what we call completely rethinking the Mac Pro. We’re working on it. We have a team working hard on it right now, and we want to architect it so that we can keep it fresh with regular improvements, and we’re committed to making it our highest-end, high-throughput desktop system, designed for our demanding pro customers,” Schiller said, speaking with John Gruber, Ina Fried, and a few other tech journalists in a small, roundtable meeting.

The discussion continued along those lines, with Federighi and Schiller admitting the current Mac Pro was a bit problematic, if not exactly a “mistake.” To that end, it looks like the biggest change we’ll see from the new Mac Pro will be an entirely new chassis, with an emphasis on modular components.

So, why the delay? Well, it looks like the current Mac Pro wasn’t really designed to handle the kind of heat put out by its powerful internal components. Federighi mentioned during the discussion that Apple engineers didn’t really anticipate just how much heat the upgraded internals would put off.

That heat issue was the chief culprit behind Apple’s decision to ignore the Mac Pro for more than three years, rather than dole out incremental upgrades over time. It’s a problem Federighi hopes the new Mac Pro will address.

“I think we designed ourselves into a bit of a thermal corner, if you will,” Federighi said. “The current Mac Pro, as we’ve said a few times, was constrained thermally, and it restricted our ability to upgrade it,” Schiller added.

What we don’t know

Though Apple did speak of the Mac Pro, it didn’t provide any indication about the hardware that would be found inside. That’s not surprising, given that it won’t be released for some time.

Still, it’s not hard to guess the general equipment. The Mac Pro will likely include an Intel processor of the Xeon variety, alongside up to 64GB of EEC RAM, and hard drive options up to a NVMe solid state drive.

The biggest question is whether Apple will choose to pick AMD or Nvidia graphics. The latter’s hardware is currently more efficient, but Apple has worked more closely with AMD in recent years. There’s also a new GPU architecture, Vega, slated to arrive from AMD in 2017.

When can you get it?

It’s hard to say. According to MacRumors, development on the new Mac Pro started just weeks before the roundtable interview earlier this month. During that interview, Schiller stated only that customers wouldn’t see the new Mac Pro “this year.” It’s possible we could see it hit store shelves in 2018, but given how early on in development it is, we might be waiting a bit longer.