When Apple announced it was moving away from Intel processors in June 2020, it made a couple of promises that were never delivered. Specifically, it said the transition would be completed “in about two years,” four or eight months behind schedule, depending on when you start counting.
And in addition to the promise to “continue to support and release new versions of macOS for Intel-based Macs for many years,” which has been done, Apple also said it is “developing exciting new Intel-based Macs.” While we got a new 27-inch iMac with 10th Gen Intel chips later this summer, suffice to say we haven’t seen any new Intel Macs, exciting or otherwise, since the first M1 Macs were released. And with only one Intel-based Mac left in Apple’s lineup, it would seem it’s only a matter of time before the Mac Pro gets its Apple silicon.
In fact, about a year ago, John Turnus hinted at the existence of such a machine, stating that during the transition period, “one more product remains,” “but that’s for another time.” But as more and more time goes by, maybe everyone would be happier if that day hadn’t come yet.
The latest Mac Pro rumors are less than intriguing as the M2 chip’s unique architecture is reportedly forcing Apple to rethink some of the Mac Pro’s unique features, including user-upgradable RAM and graphics. And rumors of an M2 Extreme chip with 48 CPU cores and 152 GPU cores are unlikely to materialise, as Apple is instead running a slightly overclocked M2 Ultra with a 24-core CPU and 76-core GPU.
It’s super fast, sure, but compared to the current M1 Ultra Mac Studio, it’s not worth even a close $17,000 starting price for a top-of-the-line Intel Mac Pro with a 28-core Intel Xeon W processor. When the Mac Pro was launched in 2019, its the closest competitor was the iMac Pro’s 18-core Intel Xeon W, which paled in benchmark comparisons (13,453 vs. 26,604 in Geekbench’s multi-core tests). Sure, the Mac Pro cost about $10,000 more than the iMac Pro, but that significant price gap only underlined just how much more speed you get.
Based on recent reports, this is not going to happen with the new Mac Pro. While it will obviously be faster than the current top-end Mac Pro and top-end Mac Studio – especially if Apple doesn’t upgrade Mac Studio to an M2 chip – the gap won’t be that big. large, like the previous Mac Pro. Geekbench benchmarks for the M1 Ultra top out around 24,000, so we can assume the M2 Ultra will hit around 30,000 or so with the same 20 to 25 percent increase. That’s more than the current 28-core Intel Xeon W processor (26,604), but not by much.
With so much power even at the lowest end of their Mac chips, Apple has stymied itself with the Mac Pro. Perhaps Apple can cut the price drastically using Apple silicon, but that’s not as important as performance to the target audience. Buyers expect the Mac Pro to be “a system built to enable a wide range of professionals to push the boundaries of what’s possible,” but with minor performance improvements and limited expansion, buyers won’t get the same machine that pushes the boundaries.
Intel inside (again)
Even if it brings a huge speed boost, Mac Pro buyers still won’t want to upgrade to Apple silicon. The Mac Pro is a machine that people buy for very specific needs, and those needs can be related to existing peripherals and apps that don’t work as well (or not at all) on Apple’s silicon Macs. And as a reader noted this week, some Mac Pro users also need to run Windows by default, which isn’t possible in Apple Silicon without virtualization.
For these people – and I think there are quite a few of them – the upgraded Intel model is probably preferable to the M2 Ultra based model, especially if Apple uses one of the latest Intel Xeon W-3400 or Xeon W-2400 chips. . Last week, Intel introduced its latest workstation chips with 56 cores and 112 threads. These are great specs that are sure to match or exceed the rumored M2 Ultra.
As my colleague Jason Cross points out, Apple is more likely to use W-2400 chips with 24 cores due to thermal performance. (The highest-end Intel CPU in the Mac Pro has a TDP of 205W. The W-2400 series ranges from 120W to 225W, while the W-3400 ranges from 270W to 350W.) Apple has prioritized energy efficiency in its M- series chips, so it is unlikely to use a chip with such a high power consumption.
But even the cheaper chip will still be a great upgrade over the current Mac Pro, while still offering users much-needed expansion options and aftermarket upgrades. I don’t think any potential buyers will be mad at Intel’s new machine that retains the mission of the Mac Pro while still delivering a significant speed boost over the 2019 model that Apple is still selling. Intel will allow users to easily upgrade their current setups, retain the upgradeability they crave, and buy Apple some more time to make a proper Apple silicon model.
And if any of these buyers really need an Apple silicon computer, they can always buy a MacBook Pro along with it.