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Mac Pro 2023: performance, a familiar design, new displays, and more

The Mac Pro is Apple’s most powerful Mac. Or at least, that’s the intention. But since its release in 2019, Apple has gone on to release new MacBooks with powerful M1 Max chips that are banging on the $6,000 Mac Pro’s door. That means an update is in order.

Luckily, rumors and leaks indicate a new Mac Pro should be launching at some point in 2023. If you’re wondering what it might look like and how powerful it could be, you’re in the right place, as we’ve gathered all the Mac Pro news we can find into one place. To see what’s on the horizon for Apple’s flagship desktop dominator, read on.

Price and release date

Apple Mac Pro at WWDC 2019.
Apple

It’s often hard to scry anything from Apple’s inscrutable crystal ball, but we feel reasonably confident predicting this: The next Mac Pro is coming in 2023. And there’s a simple reason for this conviction.

In June 2020, Apple said at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) event that its complete transition to Apple silicon would take about two years. Clearly, that deadline has been missed. However, that gives us even more conviction that the next Mac Pro is just around the corner, as Apple will now want to launch it as close to the end of that two-year window as possible.

We’re now expecting the Apple silicon Mac Pro to come at some point in 2023. The company’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) begins on June 5, and this would be an ideal time for the company to launch the next Mac Pro. Numerous rumors have pointed to that date as the new Mac Pro’s launch day, so we feel reasonably confident we’ll see it at the show.

That said, Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman believes Apple will delay the Mac Pro until later in 2023, and that it won’t appear at WWDC. That will be disappointing if it proves to be true.

And how about the price? We’re probably looking at something similar to the current $5,999 starting price. There might be a slight price bump similar to what other Macs experienced in 2022, something likely prompted by ongoing economic circumstances.

Design and features

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

When it comes to exterior design, don’t expect a major departure from the current Mac Pro chassis. Indeed, Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman has alleged Apple will use the exact same case in the next Mac Pro, so it looks like the cheesegrater shell — so recognizable and so adept at dissipating heat — isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

Sadly, that means Apple won’t be bringing out a thinner case, despite the Mac Pro’s rumored Apple silicon chips being far more efficient (and thus requiring less cooling) than the Intel chips found in the 2019 model.

On the inside, the current Mac Pro is well known for its modular design based around Apple’s MPX Modules, which let you swap out graphics cards, storage, and accelerator cards with ease. That system is likely to stick around, but rumors suggest it is going to be severely restricted.

That’s mostly down to the nature of Apple silicon. Each of these chips is what’s known as a system-on-a-chip, which means the CPU, GPU, and memory are all integrated together into a single unit. When that’s the case, you can’t upgrade any of those components at a later date without destroying the chip.

Indeed, Mark Gurman has already confirmed that neither the memory nor the graphics in the next Mac Pro will be user-upgradeable. That’s not too surprising given the nature of Apple silicon chips, but it means there will probably be far fewer MPX Modules on offer. So while the modular internal design is going to stick around, it will likely be much less extensive than what you get with the 2019 Mac Pro.

Super-powerful performance

The inside of Apple's Mac Pro, showing its motherboard and some connectivity slots.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Now that Apple is well into the second generation of its own Mac chips, we can forget any possibility of the Mac Pro coming with an Intel processor. But what exactly can we expect from Apple here?

Well, previously Mark Gurman had claimed that Apple would outfit the Mac Pro with an M2 Ultra chip and an even more powerful piece of silicon called the M2 Extreme. The latter chips were said to come with a 48-core CPU and a 152-core GPU. That would have helped the Mac Pro properly distinguish itself from the Mac Studio and other computers Apple offers.

Unfortunately, there’s some bad news. Gurman now believes Apple has scrapped the M2 Extreme chip entirely. That’s down to a number of reasons — the incredibly high cost Apple would have to charge for it, the expenses involved in research and development, and the difficulty in manufacturing the chip.

An Apple M2 chip on a stylized gradient background.
Digital Trends Graphic / Digital Trends

Instead, the 2023 Mac Pro might only offer a few variants of the M2 Ultra, featuring a 24-core CPU and a 76-core GPU. Gurman believes the Mac Pro’s M2 Ultra might top out with 192GB of memory, which falls far short of the 1.5TB on offer in the current Mac Pro, even considering the advantages of Apple silicon’s unified memory system.

However, you probably shouldn’t worry too much. According to benchmarks, the M1 Ultra chip inside the Mac Studio beats the top-end 28-core Intel Xeon chip inside the Mac Pro by a large amount, including 21% in multi-core tests and 56% in single-core tests. Since the M2 Ultra will be an improvement in terms of chip generation over the M1 Ultra, we could see another performance leap in the new Mac Pro. Apple won’t want to accept anything less, and pro users certainly will not settle on this point.

Regarding graphics, each Apple chip is configured as an SoC (system-on-a-chip), with a GPU integrated onto the chip itself. Mark Gurman has reported that there will be no user-upgradeable graphics options in the new Mac Pro (likely meaning there will be no graphical MPX Modules either), so Apple’s own chips will have to be very powerful to satisfy the target audience of demanding pros.

New monitors, including a fresh Pro Display XDR

Apple's Pro Display XDR monitor next to a Mac Pro.
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

When Apple launched the redesigned Mac Pro in December 2019, it also brought out a $4,999 32-inch companion monitor called the Pro Display XDR. This high-end device was designed to be used with the Mac Pro and keep up with its incredibly demanding workloads. It came with a 6K resolution, 500 nits of brightness, what Apple termed an Extreme Dynamic Range, and an eye-wateringly expensive $999 monitor stand.

When Apple updates the Mac Pro in 2023, it’s almost certain the Pro Display XDR will also get a refresh, as the two products are designed to be used together. And there’s some evidence Apple is preparing at least one new monitor to accompany the Mac Pro.

In December 2021, Twitter leaker Dylandkt suggested Apple had several monitors up its sleeve. According to their information, Apple has been working with LG on a handful of external monitors in three sizes: 24 inches, 27 inches, and 32 inches.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The 27-inch and 32-inch models are said to pack in mini-LED panels with Apple’s ProMotion tech. This offers variable refresh rates up to 120Hz and is found in the new MacBook Pro, and it’s rumored for the upcoming iMac Pro relaunch. The 32-inch model could also come with a custom Apple silicon chip, perhaps an updated version of the timing controller chip that modulates the current Pro Display XDR’s LCD pixels and LED backlighting. The 32-inch version seems likely to be an updated Pro Display XDR.

While the veracity of those leaks seems uncertain, Mark Gurman gave them some weight with his own report in December 2021. A year later, Gurman claimed that Apple was planning to refresh both the Pro Display XDR and the Studio Display. The reporter that revealed both monitors will come with Apple silicon chips inside but didn’t have any other information to share, other than the contention that the Pro Display XDR could launch after the new Mac Pro, not alongside it. That’s because its development has allegedly fallen behind that of the Mac Pro.

Yet that’s not the final word. Display industry analyst Ross Young has claimed Apple has shelved plans for a 27-inch monitor, “for now” at least. However, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has taken the opposite stance and still believes the 27-inch monitor is in development and that it will launch in 2024 or 2025 with “all of the features one would expect from a high-end monitor.” That date puts it out of contention for 2023’s WWDC event. We’ll have to see whether Young or Kuo is correct on whether Apple is still planning to launch a 27-inch display.

Alex Blake
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