Apple’s transition to Apple Silicon is complete, now that the Mac Pro is finally unveiled. But in fact, Apple hit the deadline last year when it released the Mac Studio, a computer that for many customers served as the Mac Pro as the Mac with the most processing power. In terms of mass market appeal, Apple was able to provide a Mac with its silicon for just about any use case within two years.
The Mac Pro is a computer that very few buyers would actually consider buying. Apple could probably drop the Mac Pro from the lineup after the introduction of Mac Studio, and few would complain. But since the Mac Pro fiasco in 2013, Apple has clearly realized that the needs of those few are extremely important. It’s not just that they need powerful CPUs and GPUs, PCIe slots for expansion cards, and support for multiple high-resolution displays. The thing is, they want a Mac to do the job of a PC.
That’s why in 2019 Apple brought back the tower-style Mac Pro chassis — and in fact still uses the same chassis for the M2 Ultra. While it may be disappointing for us ordinary folks that the new Mac Pro has the same design as Intel’s model, it didn’t really need to be changed. And best of all, the new Mac Pro can literally slide into the same place as the old Mac Pro, whether on a desk or in a server rack.
The Mac Pro is the most niche of niches. It doesn’t sell enough to drastically affect Mac sales, and the companies and users who buy it won’t replace it for several years. But in the PC market, where Apple touts the power of its silicon, the company needs the Mac Pro to complete the picture of how its Mac lineup can satisfy users from the most basic to the most demanding of professionals. It should satisfy those users who need a Mac but need a PC.
The Apple Silicon Mac Pro is very different from the Intel model it replaces. It costs $1,000 more at the lower price point and $40,000 less at the upper end. It does not have user-upgradable RAM. There are no $2,400 graphics card options at checkout. And the Afterburner card, which was a $2,000 upgrade, is now standard, and Apple says the M2 Ultra’s media engine is Seven from those cards.
But the Mac Pro is still a Mac Pro – and now it’s Apple inside and out. The Mac Pro is a bit like the cherry on top of the delicious Mac sundae. Most users looking for the power of a Mac Pro can turn to Mac Studio, which is available with the same M2 Ultra chip, memory, and storage. It all comes down to PCI slots, which are limited to audio and video I/O, network, and memory cards. More than ever, the Mac Pro feels like an extra holdover from the old Apple.
But the Mac Pro is not a frivolous part of Apple’s lineup. Even with comparable performance to Mac Studio, the Mac Pro has an important role to play: keeping the most demanding users from switching.