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Apple Mac Pro review

Andy Vandervell

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Summary

Our Score:

10

Pros

  • Outstanding performance
  • Incredible design
  • Very cool, quiet and stable
  • Good connectivity options
  • Real time 4K video editing in Final Cut Pro

Cons

  • No HiDPI mode for 4K monitors yet
  • Software support still to catch-up
  • Future upgradability still unknown

Key Features

  • Dual GPU as standard
  • Xeon CPU
  • Up to 64GB RAM
  • Manufacturer: Apple
  • Review Price: £2,499.00

What is the Apple Mac Pro?

The Mac Pro is that computer you would dearly love to own, but probably never will. Not only is it expensive, with the base-spec leaving you no change from £2,500, it's not really a consumer PC.

You could use it as such, but the dual AMD FirePro graphics and numerous options, topping out with a 12-core CPU and 64GB RAM shows this is no ordinary PC. It's a PC meant for sound engineers, video editors, and other creative professionals - basically anyone who needs a standard desktop that can handle serious intensive work.

In other words the Mac Pro is, in the old school parlance, a workstation. But it is nothing like any workstation you've seen before. The Mac Pro is one of those great moments where form and function are totally at one, and that's a very exciting thing indeed.

Mac Pro 11

Apple Mac Pro: Design & Features

The Mac Pro wills you to just stop and stare a while. We don't get too many visitors to our corner of TrustedReviews towers, but the Mac Pro has seen assorted randoms pop by for a peek and nose around. We felt duty bound to oblige.

In this sense the Mac Pro is the best kind of Apple product, one that makes even the most ardent Apple detractors nod approvingly.

To understand why you need to appreciate how much power is crammed inside the Mac Pro, and how astounding it is considering it's about the same height and width as an iPad Air. Sure, it looks lovely on the outside and it's easy to admire that, but it's what's going on inside that's really interesting.

No matter which version of the Mac Pro you start with you will always get two GPUs. In the base-spec it's two 2GB AMD FirePro D300 cards, which are joined by a quad-core 3.7GHz Intel Xeon E5 processor, 12GB 1,866MHz DDR3 ECC memory and 256GB PCI-e flash storage. To fit that much hardware into a PC this size is a serious feat of engineering.

Mac Pro 14

To do so Apple has designed a custom 'thermal core' for the Mac Pro. The inside of the Mac Pro is basically one giant heat sink that runs from top to bottom with the two GPUs and the motherboard bolted to it.

This core combines with a single large fan at the top to draw cool air in from the bottom to and kick it out the top. It's an incredibly efficient system that, not matter what we threw at it, always kept the Mac Pro running cool, and with barely a whisper of fan noise.

There are some other nice design flourishes, too. The design of the 'trash can' exterior means it's very easy to simply pick up and carry your Mac Pro somewhere else.

It weighs 5kg, which is heavier than you expect when you look at it - but is very light by workstation or even standard desktop PC standards. You really could pop it in a bag and take it to wherever you need to use it. It also, dare we say it, makes it very easy to steal as there's locking mechanism to secure the Mac Pro to a desk.

The other thing we like is how easy it is to take the casing on and off. It slides on and off with ease with a single switch locking it into place. Inside the RAM and flash storage is user accessible and replaceable. The GPUs aren't user replaceable per se given they're custom designed for the Mac Pro, but they are removable and Apple hasn't ruled out offering upgrades in future.

Mac Pro 1

Apple Mac Pro: Connections

At the rear is a decent selection of I/O ports dominated by the six Thunderbolt 2.0 ports. We'll cover these in a little more detail later on, but Thunderbolt 2.0 offers a maximum 20Gb/s throughput and can support up to 36 daisy-chained peripherals.

There are four USB 3.0 ports, two Gigabit Ethernet ports and also an HDMI port. Sadly, however, the HDMI port is only a version 1.4 port, not 2.0. This means it can't support 4K resolution at 60fps without some compromise in colour sampling, a common issue with most current 4K TVs with the exception of the Panasonic L65WT600.

Indeed, Panasonic is the only company to have an HDMI 2.0 decoding chip, which is why it's the only company to offer it on its products. All is not lost, however, as the DisplayPort supports 4K without any restrictions, and each Thunderbolt port doubles as a Mini DisplayPort connection.

Mac Pro

The Mac Pro supports up to three 4K resolution screens connected at once, or up to six non-4K monitors. If you think you need more than this then you're in a very exclusive club indeed.

Finally, inside there's Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless cards as you'd no doubt expect at this price. There's a combined optical/analog line out for audio, and a separate headphone jack. There's also a built-in speaker, which is a surprisingly welcome addition to ensure you don't have to plug in speakers or headphones to benefit from audible system alerts.

Prem Desai

January 30, 2014, 8:43 am

I am not Apple's biggest fan and won't be buying one of these but I can appreciate what they have done here.

The looks alone are gorgeous let alone the spec.

Good start to the year. Nice one Apple.

schriss

January 30, 2014, 9:21 am

Yea it looks good, kinda reminds me of Dyson products. I too would never buy this, I build my own, but still, this thing looks solid.

DigitalFury

January 30, 2014, 10:10 am

x

DigitalFury

January 30, 2014, 10:16 am

Too expensive for what it is, as 99.99999% of pro Mac users want something stronger than a Mini and without the fixed glossy screen of the iMac. We don't need dual AMD Pro GPUs and Xeons, but a very fast NVidia consumer part, a big and fast i7, lots of RAM (e.g. 32 Gb) and ports, and a big SSD (say 512 Gb) in the same Mac Pro enclosure. I will pay 2K € for that.

Steve

January 30, 2014, 10:17 am

Don't understand how you can write negative points but still give a product 10/10.
I do like the look of it even though it does look like a bin from some angle, silver isn't helping this.

Beaky69

January 30, 2014, 10:43 am

I think you're missing the point. The Mac Pro is a niche product; maybe not for *your* niche, but for the people it's targeted at, it's a fantastic tool. If you earn your living using Mac software which can take advantage of the hardware provided, it is, as our American cousins would say, a "no brainer".

DigitalFury

January 30, 2014, 12:07 pm

I do get the point, but you fail to understand that most PROFESSIONALS using Macs earn their living doing something else than video compression or 3D rendering. The Mini is severely underpowered, and there are screens much better than what ships with iMacs.

andyvan

January 30, 2014, 1:04 pm

I think the key point is Apple is missing a trick by not having an 'inbetween' model that isn't an iMac. That said, I'm guessing Apple feels the potential market isn't that large.

Pg

January 30, 2014, 1:58 pm

I agree. Any product is perfect for a niche group, but issues with 4K display and lack of internal storage, not to mention the price, don't sound like a 10 to me. It's not perfect for most people, there are issues even with the niche who would utilise it properly, it's not a 10.

How it looks is also a side point, not relevant to its performance. You don't buy a workstation because of how it looks, at least you shouldn't.

"..
is
means you can take your work with you and carry on where you left off
without any bottlenecks. On balance it seems an acceptable compromise
Read more at http://www.trustedreviews.com/... means you can take your work with you and carry on where you left off without any bottlenecks. On balance it seems an acceptable compromise.." Why would you buy this if you can do your work on another MAC? Why pay the extra? A compromise and it still gets a 10? I can only assume it's looks have beguiled you.

On the storage point, I'm guessing you can't do RAID with the external storage, so if your harddrive fails, you lose your work? Or you have to have two drives, one you work off, one is your backup. I'd have thought losing your work due to a harddrive failing due to not having RAID would be a negative. This here is form over function. Unless I'm wrong about the whole RAID thing...but even then, the amount of drives and cables from multiple external drives.

One question I've no idea about is how much space does 4k need? I can only assume 256gb is enough.

andyvan

January 30, 2014, 3:38 pm

We get asked this question a fair amount. For us, a 10/10 doesn't mean a product is perfect... otherwise we'd never give it. What it means is a product sets an entirely new benchmark for similar products to match. The Moto G is good example being a 'cheap' phone that's genuinely great to use.

Our scores guide goes into more depth: www.trustedreviews.com/opinion...

andyvan

January 30, 2014, 4:29 pm

All reasonable points, but a few counters.

1) 4K display issue more a small wrinkle rather than a serious deal breaker. It's a judgement call and I'm sure it'll get sorted soon. The paucity of 4K screens has a large part to play here as they're only just coming out now (not including TVs, btw)

2) Because you may have to move location, switch to a laptop or use someone else's hardware. Using external Thunderbolt storage means you can do all of these things without serious impediment to your workflow. Plug in and go, no problems.

3) You can have have RAID in external drives, no problem. Cable mess is a reasonable concern, but the key point for me is you couldn't have this efficient design with internal RAID arrays etc. And the size benefits are more than just aesthetic. Greater portability is better for optimizing office space and makes it easier to transport hardware on location etc, and the lack of noise makes it ideal for working in places where excess noise is serious issue.

4) 256GB will run out pretty quickly. If you were working with 4K you'd definitely need some external storage.

Tom Scharf

January 30, 2014, 8:06 pm

It likely wouldn't have mattered if the unit cost $20,000, the Apple Acceptance Factor would have ruled the day. The mindless praise without respect to cost only applies to one company.

Yes, you can find a Dell or HP that costs as much, but you have to try hard, and you can get 90% of the performance for 1/2 the cost in different configurations. To pay this much and not have the option for multiple processors is an oversight, as single threaded applications actually run faster on the iMac. Those with mutli-thread necessity get stomped by multi-procesor configurations. So it's the not best of neither world. But hey, let's not get into details here, it is back and shiny and has an Apple logo.

The iMac is great because it reduces cables to almost nothing, the Mac Pro is great because it makes you cable up everything with no internal expansion. Yeah, I get it. I think. It's not like anyone every upgraded their video card in professional applications, right?

Well, we will deduct two points from our base score of 12 for Apple and ding them down to a 10.

Tom Scharf

January 30, 2014, 9:04 pm

You are aware there are internal raid systems, right? That's what all those disk slots are for in EVERY OTHER workstation. The 4 year old Mac Pro could implement them. 4 years ago internal raid support was likely a deal breaker for you, this year making it mandatory they be external is now a feature, right? Mindless praise != Critical thinking.

I'm having a hard time understanding how not having internal raid capability and inability to upgrade video processors is a "benefit" to workstation users. These are limitations with with very little payback.

andyvan

January 30, 2014, 9:24 pm

Of course I'm aware. Read the review.

ROBERT DUNFORD

January 31, 2014, 11:43 am

I have a feeling that if the new MP is a good seller and I think it will sell not only to old MP users, but new users. Then I'd wager Apple will bring out three sizes, Mini, Regular and Max. Mini has say E3 Xeon and just one GPU, the Max has space for dual CPU and dual GPU. The MacMini will disappear.

Pg

January 31, 2014, 2:28 pm

1) Yeah, not a huge issue as it will be sorted at some stage but if, as you say, apple are using 4k as a selling point for this machine, I feel apple have made it an issue.

2) My problem with this one is that it's nothing new, USB has been around ages, unless I'm missing something? I just can't understand what work you'd be moving with you that internet/network doesn't already handle? Sounds like spinning no internal storage expansion into a positive thing.

I'd asume all 4k stuff is rather large would always be moved via external storage, but external storage isn't new.

3) External RAID...nice. I guess this is linked to 2 for me - portability. Do people really lug pros around? This some sort of movie editing on location type of thing? In which case internal storage is more appealing as less external devices makes for easier transport. Quietness is close to my heart, but for a beast of a machine I wouldn't complain if it's not almost silent. Design just doesn't come into it - but that's just me.

I understand perfection isn't possible and that you want to give
outstanding products a high score. I just feel there are enough
negatives here to lower the score (to 9 1/2 rather than 9). But that's the beauty of opinion.

Thanks for the reply, in fact thanks for all the replies in this thread. It's great to see feedback and defending your position/opinion, as well as answering some of the questions I had.

Mark Lindsey

January 31, 2014, 3:56 pm

Its FAST, RELIABLE OS, Better options within the software, and won't be bogged down with layers of 3rd party fixes for the security and OS problems that other platform has. Its a Professional workstation for creative pros, not a fix and reload weekly PC sort of thing.

Mark Lindsey

January 31, 2014, 3:59 pm

You also don't have to put the Mac Pro on the floor to collect dust inside. You can hide it and the cables BEHIND those 27" monitors.

DigitalFury

February 1, 2014, 6:22 pm

I think they realise it would just cannibalise a lot of iMac 27" sales, as the price would have to be lower, and they must make a good margin off that display panel. I am actually looking at either buying a maxed out 27" and shoving it under my desk, or getting a entry level Mac Pro. 1st option would allow me to do some occasional gaming here and there to relax. 2nd option to have a status symbol on my desk; and enjoy extra Thunderbolt ports (I have a lot of TB devices).

PJ Matthews

February 2, 2014, 12:15 pm

Its amazing how success brings such hatred. I remember being a dedicated 14 year old AMIGA user with a hatred for Microsoft which was of course unfounded.

Some of you should re-read what is a well written review as you have obviously glossed over most of the key parts.

Lets remember this Mac Pro isn't aimed at most of us. This is for high end home enthusiasts and professionals. Apple has ruled the 'creative' market for many years where people will pay top dollar for performance which this has in bucket loads. For the rest of us there is the iMac.

Its a great design, its innovative and not a boring box.

andyvan

February 4, 2014, 9:12 am

Interesting idea.

Baz

April 3, 2014, 9:36 am

Better options with the software? Are you mad? The software choice for Windows PC's is far superior to any Mac - Pro or not.

WSAY

October 22, 2014, 1:24 am

Haters have to hate. Apple is a great, successful, American company. Of course losers hate them. But let's be honest here. The reason people who claim to hate Apple hang around Apple articles is because they want to see the future.

James G

June 1, 2016, 2:09 pm

Do you know how much dual FirePros and a Xeon costs? Those in themselves are worth far more than the base price of $3,000.

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