It’s been more than five years since the Mac Pro has shown its face. Since then, Apple’s reputation as the go-to option for creative professionals has been shaken. Whether it’s the neglect of the Mac Pro or the questionable changes to the MacBook Pro, Apple has a lot of ground to make up.
But this year, it looks like an updated Mac Pro could be in the works or even previewed at WWDC 2019, Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference. Nothing is for certain yet, but we do have some rumors and reports to speculate on.
Price and release date
In 2018, Apple had an extended interview with TechCrunch that focused on the Mac Pro. One of the purposes of this interview was to confirm that the Mac Pro would not be released in 2018. This was partly to squash the rumors that the Pro would show up 2018, but also seems to be a direct confirmation that the new version would come in 2019. With an uncharacteristic preview, Apple straight-up called it a “2019 product.”
That gives Apple a couple of options for announcing the new model. WWDC is in June, and if the Mac Pro is already in production this would be a good time to announce it. In fact, a February 2019 report from Bloomberg indicates that Apple could use WWDC as the stage to preview a high-end version of the redesigned Mac Pro. It would also keep to tradition, as the 2013 Mac Pro was announced at WWDC. Or Apple could go the iMac Pro route and make a special fall announcement for the product, followed by a holiday release date (The iMac Pro, specifically, was released in December).
Focusing on artists
The new Mac Pro is going to be very focused on artists and technicians. In fact, Apple hired a group of creative professionals so that they could see how these people actually used both the hardware and software behind the Mac Pro. While going to top artists and designers was possible, Apple found it very difficult to actually watch those professionals in action because they were often working on big movies or brand campaigns that involved a certain amount of secrecy. So, Apple decided to hire them for its own projects so the company could get a close look at how they interacted with the Mac Pro.
“We’ve been focusing on visual effects and video editing and 3D animation and music production,” John Ternus, VP of Hardware Engineering, told TechCrunch.
Many adjustments have apparently been made accordingly, although Apple notes that these aren’t necessarily performance-related or even all focused on the Mac Pro. Rather, they are tweaks to make things easier for users, including software changes to help speed certain processes up.
It will be a ‘modular system’
In 2017, Apple mentioned that the Mac Pro would be a modular system. That was again confirmed in 2018 and teased once more in February 2019 when a YouTuber released a video claiming he has specific in-depth information from inside sources from Apple on the Mac Pro.
What do the “modular system” references all mean? Well, it’s still not entirely clear at this point. But here are a few possibilities.
First, it could mean the Pro is literally modular, with plenty of hardware customization and the ability to easily upgrade the computer based on your specific tasks. This could involve personalizing your ports, adding more RAM, customizing for VR, and upgrading the GPU. At least some of this customization is likely.
Judging from rumors coming from the YouTube video, it also could mean that the Mac Pro might have custom components which could be stacked on top of each other like bricks. That is a departure from other modular setups as components wouldn’t be housed together in a case. Multiple Mac Pro modules could be sold by Apple, but the only required purchase would be a “brain” which is the same size as a Mac Mini. Each module could also have its own independent power supply and cooling method, with connectivity accomplished via a custom data connector.
Finally, Apple could be talking about a broader type of modularity, where the Mac Pro is made to work well with many different accessories and peripherals in flexible, demanding work environments. Based on what TechCrunch saw — which included setups where the Mac Pro functioned with multiple attached iPad Pros, a MacBook Pro, and an external GPU — at least some of this seems likely as well. Apple wants the Mac Pro to be defined by workflows and to be able to do whatever is needed.
The Pro will be matched with an Apple-created display
In 2017, Apple SVP Phil Schiller said of the company’s professional customers, “We want them to know we are going to work on a display … Since the Mac Pro is a modular system, we are also going to do a Pro display.”
It’s safe to assume this part of the project hasn’t been dropped, especially since we saw leaks of a new Apple desktop monitor back in November 2018. This monitor appears to be around 27 inches and similar to the iMac design, but with even thinner bezels (sorry, it doesn’t look like it will be flexible). It’s also safe to assume at least a 5K resolution — possibly higher — and a design made for connection to the Mac mini and Mac Pro.
Expect an updated design
With all the references to modular systems, and Apple admitting that the old Pro didn’t have enough room for things like storage expansion, you can expect the new Mac Pro to look very different from the previous version.
In the early days, the Mac Pro was a blocky computer resembling traditional PC towers. Apple radically redesigned the Pro for 2013, where it became a simple cylinder with two chip panels and a central fan for quiet cooling.
Apple could keep the cylinder design for its cooling advantages and make it easier to upgrade — or the company could redesign yet again and come up with a new frame entirely, one that would benefit its modular goals. However, it’s worth noting that the new Mac mini, after a similar hiatus, sports a design very similar to the old mini, so Apple may be inclined to follow the older design with moderate changes.
An Apple T2 chip is likely
The Mac Pro processor is still wide open to rumors, but you can bet we’ll see the same T2 chip that’s in the iMac Pro and MacBook Pro. This is simple, keeps with Apple’s ongoing goal of using more of its own processors, and will supply the Mac Pro with plenty of power. However, like the iMac Pro, the T2 chip would probably be in a co-processor system that would allow for more features like increased security and instant-on Siri accessibility. As for its actual processor, we can only assume the Mac Pro will ship with one of the 9th-gen Intel Xeon processors to emphasize its professional power.
The GPU, by the way, is even more up in the air. All we know is Apple will probably continue its preference for AMD over Nvidia.
Updated on February 21, 2019: Added reports that Apple could showcase the Mac Pro at WWDC in June.
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