No one seems to know what the new Mac Pro will be like
Note: This article was first published on 24 March 2023.
Maybe the people tasked with designing and manufacturing the Mac Pro are better at keeping secrets, but few details have emerged about the upcoming Mac Pro. By now, we already know the upcoming iPhone 15 Pro will likely use titanium in its chassis and that it will have unbelievably thin bezels, but we are no closer to knowing if the Mac Pro will be square or round, much less what will be powering it.
Apple has promised a new Mac Pro for some time but we haven’t seen anything yet, and that has left me slightly worried, particularly now that we have a better understanding of how Apple Silicon works.
Designing products for mainstream consumers like you and me is a vastly different undertaking than designing a workstation for professionals. We are willing to compromise upgradeability if it means we get a comfortable blend of performance, practicality, and value. Upgradeability, however, is a priority for many professionals. And while no one is doubting Apple’s chips’ ability to storm through workloads, the problem with them is that they can’t be upgraded. You are stuck with the configuration you ordered.
I don’t want to bore you with technicalities, but suffice it to say, Apple’s custom chips are tightly integrated things. The memory is an actual part of the SoC and is often offered by Apple as to the reason why their chips are so quick and power efficient. Can you see the irony in this? The very thing that makes Apple Silicon great is causing a bit of a headache for them.
The craziest rumour that I heard about the new Mac Pro is how Apple might actually return to Intel for the Mac Pro. But that was categorically shut down by Bob Borchers, Apple’s vice president of worldwide marketing, who said the company has “a clear goal to transition fully to Apple Silicon.” Besides, Intel clearly doesn’t have a product that’s better – only more upgradeable.
This leads me to think that there are three possible outcomes.
The first and probably the most likely one is that the new Mac Pro will be a more powerful version of the Mac Studio. There’s already a rumour that Apple will discontinue the Mac Studio in favour of the Mac Pro.
The second one is that it would take on a modular form. Apple already has a proven interconnect technology in UltraFusion and perhaps that could be used in a way that would allow users to stack add-on cards to augment performance – similar to old multi-GPU technologies like NVIDIA’s SLI and AMD’s CrossFire.
The last outcome and possibly the least likely is that Apple blows our collective minds with something that nobody saw coming. Maybe it’s a chip with so much headroom that there’s no need to upgrade for the foreseeable future, or they somehow managed to make a variant of the M2 chip upgradeable. If there's any company that can pull off such a feat, it's Apple.
The good thing is that Apple is widely expected to unveil the new Mac Pro soon. So we shouldn't have to wait long to see which of my predictions is right.
Kenny Yeo / Associate Editor
Specifications are not everything. It's what you do with what you have that matters.