MacInTouch Amazon link...

2019 Mac Pro and alternatives

Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Apple has posted a promotional white paper touting its new Mac Pro's features with some descriptive details about things like the graphics cards, Xeon W processors, PCIe/Thunderbolt 3, RAM configurations/performance, MPX modules, power/heat, Afterburner card, macOS Catalina optimizations, sample configurations, etc.
Apple said:
 


Wow! Unlike other Macs, one can safely operate the 2019 Mac Pro at an elevation of 16,400 feet (the white paper says "16,4000") or 5000 meters. (I think Apple has another product that can operate at the same elevation.)
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Here's a detailed review of the 2019 Mac Pro from Nilay Patel that evaluates a representative ($18K) configuration of Apple's flagship for its target market and briefly compares price/performance to a Boxx Windows system, which was faster and cheaper but also noisier. (The Verge's written review parallels its video review very closely.)
The Verge said:
Mac Pro review: power, if you can use it
... So to get this right, we needed to find a configuration that is broadly representative of what pro users might actually buy, allows us to investigate Apple’s performance claims, and hopefully reveals something interesting about what pro users might experience if they upgrade to this machine. And we needed to do all of this knowing that we wouldn’t just send this machine back when the review was done, like we do with every standard review unit. This one was going to be ours to keep.

Happily, we have a bit of an advantage: The Verge is part of Vox Media, a company full of media professionals who use a huge variety of software to work on everything from Netflix shows to print magazine design. And of course, The Verge’s own art and video teams make illustrations and motion graphics for our site and YouTube all day long. So we called in a few friends, let everyone use the Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR to work on their various projects, and had them report back....

Good Stuff
  • It exists!
  • Extremely beautiful and thoughtful design
  • Incredibly quiet

Bad Stuff
  • Few apps updated to push limits of performance
  • Expensive
  • Expansion slots still can’t use Nvidia GPUs
 


Here's a detailed review of the 2019 Mac Pro from Nilay Patel:
I'd be embarrassed, had I written this review. The Verge blows right past the cost and raw performance advantages of the Boxx to dismiss it as ugly and loud.
This thing is one of the ugliest PCs I've ever seen, inside and out.
It's going under my desk, so what's the importance of a fancy case when no one's going to see it? (Personal opinion: I prefer the unobtrusive black Boxx to the showy highly "designed" Mac Pro.) What makes a computer "ugly" inside? Does appearance matter, as long as the parts fit correctly and the system works as it should?

One of the first comments to the Verge review notes there may be quieter cases and fans. Nilay's response:
Yes, it’s very possible to build a quieter PC for more money — but this is the enterprise workstation provider that we use, and which comes with enterprise-level support for our studios. We wanted to compare the Mac Pro to something Murilo would actually buy for our edit suites, basically.
That's hard to believe, if the Boxx really sounds, as the review states, like a vacuum cleaner.

Apples to apples, Nilay? How much of the $3,892 savings would be needed to lower the noise level of that PC?
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
... The Verge blows right past the cost and raw performance advantages of the Boxx to dismiss it as ugly and loud. It's going under my desk, so what's the importance of a fancy case when no one's going to see it? (Personal opinion: I prefer the unobtrusive black Boxx to the showy highly "designed" Mac Pro.)
I agree. To me the new Mac Pro is quite ugly – the rear side, especially, let alone the trypophobia holes.
That's hard to believe, if the Boxx really sounds, as the review states, like a vacuum cleaner. Apples to apples, Nilay? How much of the $3,892 savings would be needed to lower the noise level of that PC?
I find it hard to imagine a loud PC like that for an edit suite (rather than a server room).
Nilay Patel/The Verge said:
Once again, we turned to Murilo to spec out a machine, and he picked a Boxx Apexx 4 with a 3.7GHz 32-core AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X processor, dual Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti graphics cards, 128GB of RAM, and a 2TB SSD, which adds up to $12,707 on the Boxx website, or $3,892 less than our Mac Pro
I just configured a quiet PC like Nilay's Boxx computer, and this was a lot cheaper as well as quieter.
Quiet PC said:
Quiet PC Serenity AMD Threadripper Workstation
3.7GHz 128GB 2TB

$5,512.96
  • be quiet Dark Base 900 Orange ATX Chassis, BG010
  • ASUS PRIME TRX40-PRO AMD Threadripper PCIe 4.0 ATX Motherboard
  • AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X 3.7GHz 32C/64T 128MB Cache, 280W CPU
  • Corsair Vengeance LPX 128GB (8x16GB) DDR4 2666MHz Memory
  • Noctua NH-U14S TR4-SP3 Threadripper CPU Cooler, 140mm fan
  • Noctua NF-A15 PWM 12V 1200RPM 140mm Round Frame Premium Fan
  • Palit GeForce RTX 2080 Ti DUAL 11GB GDDR6 Graphics Card
  • be quiet Straight Power 11 CM 1000W Modular PSU, BN285
  • Intel 760p 2TB M.2 NVMe SSD (3230/1625)
  • Microsoft Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
  • Quiet PC Free Silver Warranty (2 years labour and parts)
The $16,599 price (plus tax) of the Mac Pro looks like a joke in comparison. What am I missing here?
 


The Verge blows right past the cost and raw performance advantages of the Boxx to dismiss it as ugly and loud. It's going under my desk, so what's the importance of a fancy case when no one's going to see it? (Personal opinion: I prefer the unobtrusive black Boxx to the showy highly "designed" Mac Pro.)
Is an absolutely dead-silent computer necessary in video post-production or graphics work? Last time I checked, it was not. Yes, silence is important for sound engineers and in audio/video content capture, along with the final checks process. But those doing the work that would require the use of a computer such as the Mac Pro are likely to be more concerned about the speed at which it can be processed and can easily overcome any additional noise intrusion.

Solutions other than a Mac Pro also have the ability to run liquid cooling to keep temperatures and fan speeds down, along with soundproof server cabinets for even more sound insulation, neither adding much to the overall costs when considering the cost of the other hardware involved. And, as noted in Ric's build example, I am guessing the Boxx build was not using the notoriously quiet Noctua fans and coolers.
 


I agree. To me the new Mac Pro is quite ugly – the rear side, especially, let alone the trypophobia holes.
I rather like it, but each to their own, I suppose. It's certainly dramatic.
I just configured a quiet PC like Nilay's Boxx computer, and this was a lot cheaper as well as quieter.
Quiet PC said:
The $16,599 price (plus tax) of the Mac Pro looks like a joke in comparison. What am I missing here?
Um. That price looks wrong. A Threadripper 3970x by itself costs $2,000; Nvidia 2080Ti graphics cards are $1,100 each; the Intel 760p 2TB is $520; 128GB of Corsair Vengeance LPX memory is $650, and the ASUS motherboard is $450...that adds up to $5,820 without the case, power supply, coolers, Windows, and the cost to assemble, test, and ship the computer.

Kudos if they can really sell it for that price, but it doesn't seem realistic to me, even factoring in wholesale pricing on the components.

Another point: obviously, much of the Mac Pro's high price is due to its "quality": the case, chassis, custom motherboard and other components are built to a level of design and finish seen on literally no other computer. If this were a car, it'd be a Maybach or something in that class. It's certainly arguable whether this extreme level of fit, finish, and detail is something worth paying extra for, especially in the pro market the computer is aimed at. But there it is.
 


That price looks wrong. A Threadripper 3970x by itself costs $2,000
Puget Systems offers a variety of 3rd-generation Threadripper systems. I've picked one that offers three varieties of Threadripper. The Boxx system referenced by the Verge was the "middle" 3970X and that has additional components not included in the Puget Sound price.

The Puget Systems web site interactively lists options and costs with details about what motherboard, power supply, and even which Noctua fan is included.
Puget Systems said:
Recommended Systems for V-Ray
  • AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3960X 3.8GHz 24 Core 280W, system price $4,722.75
  • AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X 3.7GHz 32 Core 280W, system price $5,441.69 ($718.94 above 3960X)
  • AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 2.9GHz 64 Core 280W, system price $7,492.65 ($2,769.90 above 3960X)
Re:
much of the Mac Pro's high price is due to its "quality": the case, chassis, custom motherboard and other components are built to a level of design and finish seen on literally no other computer.
Back in the day when everyone had "towers", we put them under desks to save space. I'd put that Mac Pro under my desk for that reason, and, well, because as Ric mentions trypophobia, I find its reminder of a wasp nest unappealing. As to beautiful insides, at least those Windows RGB gamer specials have have glass sides so the hobbyists who assemble them can admire their artistry.

I inherited The Patchwork Girl of Oz from my dad. When I read it to my own kids, we thought Bungle, The Glass Cat, a most interesting character, as it constantly purred, "I have pink brains. You can see 'em work." So annoying did Bungle's narcissism become, the Wizard replaced her pink brains with clear ones.
 


I'm surprised nobody has raised this from Patel's review (emphasis mine):
The Verge said:
Mac Pro review: power, if you can use it
As we were reviewing this Mac Pro, I realized that I could have just re-printed our 2013 Mac Pro review, and no one would have really noticed because the results and takeaways are so similar: Apple’s made a beautiful computer with a remarkably quiet fan design, Adobe’s apps don’t really take advantage of the extra power, and it will be exciting when developers lean into Apple’s technology bets and unlock the potential of this machine.
This should terrify Apple. The situations aren't completely analogous, but… if there is no killer app, who is going to buy the 2019 Mac Pro?

Final Cut Pro isn't going to drive Mac Pro sales like it did in the 2000's, because Final Cut X drove so many customers into Adobe's arms. Adobe Premier and After Effects aren't Mac-exclusive, so they won't drive Mac sales. And does anyone really expect Adobe to rearchitect their products to make Apple hardware compelling? They didn't after the 2013 Mac Pro. What incentive do they have to do so now?

So here we are, seven years later. Apple's new crown jewel can't make a compelling case for one of its core markets. I don't see how it's going to expand the market, no matter how amazingly engineered.
 


I recently acquired a fully loaded 16" MacBook Pro with a 2.4Ghz 8-core CPU, 8TB SSD, 64GB of RAM and the GPU with 8GB of memory. I have the military discount and there was a 6% cash back on the Apple Card, so the unit cost $5,123 before sales tax.

I use a program called Photolemur to tweak batches of images for family consumption. Activity Monitor seems to be showing it using all 8 cores and about half of the memory. I use several other "inexpensive" photo-related programs as well.

Adobe and many of its kindred expensive apps stagnated in their development in supporting multi-core or multi-processsor computers. Prices escalated with no end cap in sight.

I had used Photoshop since v1.3 on 3.5" floppy discs on my IIfx and Iici. I gave up when CS6 died because of the 32-bit issue. I found alternative software that works for me.

I have a 2013 Mac Pro 6-core (the sweet spot at the release to ordering time), and it now has a 2TB OWC SSD (cost $499.88) and 128 GB of OWC RAM (cost $188.88). It did a good job on Photoshop CS6, as I was told by Adobe they only used four cores.

The 2013 Mac Pro cost $5,100 on 11 March 2014 with the 1TB SSD, two AMD D500 GPUs and 32GB of Apple RAM. That was quite the machine, and I was able to have two 27" Apple monitors and all of the externals I needed.

My fully loaded IIfx with a 80MB hard drive, maxed memory, 25" color monitor (took two men to carry) and Radeon video card was close to $10,000 and that is in 1990 dollars. The new base Mac Pro tower and monitor are crowding $11,000 in today's deflated dollars. In terms of purchasing power of the dollar, the new Mac Pro could be considered a bargain, so perhaps Apple's new Mac Pro pricing in terms of our deflated purchasing power dollars is not so far out of line.
 



I'm surprised nobody has raised this from Patel's review (emphasis mine):
The Verge said:
Mac Pro review: power, if you can use it
As we were reviewing this Mac Pro, I realized that I could have just re-printed our 2013 Mac Pro review, and no one would have really noticed because the results and takeaways are so similar: Apple’s made a beautiful computer with a remarkably quiet fan design, Adobe’s apps don’t really take advantage of the extra power, and it will be exciting when developers lean into Apple’s technology bets and unlock the potential of this machine.
This should terrify Apple. The situations aren't completely analogous, but… if there is no killer app, who is going to buy the 2019 Mac Pro?

Final Cut Pro isn't going to drive Mac Pro sales like it did in the 2000's, because Final Cut X drove so many customers into Adobe's arms. Adobe Premier and After Effects aren't Mac-exclusive, so they won't drive Mac sales. And does anyone really expect Adobe to rearchitect their products to make Apple hardware compelling? They didn't after the 2013 Mac Pro. What incentive do they have to do so now?

So here we are, seven years later. Apple's new crown jewel can't make a compelling case for one of its core markets. I don't see how it's going to expand the market, no matter how amazingly engineered.
One of the "killer apps" isn't so much a function of the machine but of the times. Video is being shot at ever higher resolutions, and the horsepower to process that is significantly higher – and that is Apple's solution for macOS-preferring users. If you don't mind Windows, then yes, you can easily find something less expensive. But if you want to stick with macOS (or if you are taking advantage of some inherent advantage or legacy investment), then it makes a lot of sense. If you have a major investment in PCIe gear you've been running in a 2012 Mac Pro waiting for this upgrade, then this is your opportunity to upgrade. And if you've been running it that long, then you also don't necessarily feel too bad about paying the premium, figuring you will probably run this new machine another 8 years.
 


One of the "killer apps" isn't so much a function of the machine but of the times. Video is being shot at ever higher resolutions, and the horsepower to process that is significantly higher – and that is Apple's solution for macOS-preferring users. If you don't mind Windows, then yes, you can easily find something less expensive. But if you want to stick with macOS (or if you are taking advantage of some inherent advantage or legacy investment), then it makes a lot of sense. If you have a major investment in PCIe gear you've been running in a 2012 Mac Pro waiting for this upgrade, then this is your opportunity to upgrade. And if you've been running it that long, then you also don't necessarily feel too bad about paying the premium, figuring you will probably run this new machine another 8 years.
The other elephant in the room: Adobe. They don't even support multiple GPUs across Mac or Windows for Photoshop. And it's unlikely they will.

If someone uses the power of two or more GPUs (other than in gaming or VR) in their applications, it will be a war of "boxes of slots and liquid cooling".
 


The other elephant in the room: Adobe. They don't even support multiple GPUs across Mac or Windows for Photoshop. And it's unlikely they will.
If someone uses the power of two or more GPUs (other than in gaming or VR) in their applications, it will be a war of "boxes of slots and liquid cooling".
I don't think Apple is pitching this at still photo editing but at editing massive streams of 4K or 8K video and similarly resource-grabbing applications.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
The other elephant in the room: Adobe. They don't even support multiple GPUs across Mac or Windows for Photoshop. And it's unlikely they will. If someone uses the power of two or more GPUs (other than in gaming or VR) in their applications, it will be a war of "boxes of slots and liquid cooling".
Here are quotes from third-party developers in Apple's June 2019 Mac Pro press releases, which might be interesting to compare vs current reality:
Apple Marketing said:
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
2019 Mac Pro repair/service is apparently a problem:
AppleInsider said:
Mac Pro still poorly supported by Apple Store Genius Bar months after launch
... On the whole, Apple's consumer-oriented support is ill-equipped to handle even basic support cases for the Mac Pro. But, like we've said, this machine isn't for everybody, and is a minute percentage of what Apple sees day-to-day. This doesn't excuse what we've seen, and have heard about, though.

So, in total, low-volume users can't get support via chat, the phone team isn't able to schedule callbacks with the appropriate Mac Pro team, most Apple Retail locations don't have power cables to boot up the Mac Pro, Genius technicians in-store haven't seen a Mac Pro and don't know the basics such as where to find the serial number —let alone determine what repairs may need to be done. The fact a Genius attempted to power the Mac Pro via a USB-C power brick shines a glaring light on how poorly equipped the rank and file are to handle Mac Pro support cases that come in.
 


2019 Mac Pro repair/service is apparently a problem:
Genius Bar personnel being so clueless about the Mac Pro is clearly a failing by Apple, but I had much the same experience with the first dual-processor Power Mac G5 in December, 2003, when the graphic cards had a known issue (they would fail outright), and I had to go through all the same sorts of hoops in order to get an AppleCare case number so I could schlep the machine (39.1 lb. vs. 39.7 for the new Mac Pro) to the then nearest Apple Store — where no one knew anything about the machine.

To be fair, I had brought the power cord, because (if memory serves) it was a heavier-duty one than the cord used on the G4 towers. The Genius had a hardware test CD and was able to confirm the video card was toes-up, which I already knew. I had to leave the machine, and a few days later, was able to pick it up with a new card installed.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Quinn Nelson is back with a new 2019 Mac Pro project:
Snazzy Labs said:
Pimp My $6,000 Mac Pro! 😎 I almost ruined it...
Finally, Apple users could return to a classic tower PC with PCIe expansion, easy CPU/GPU upgradability, and more. But at a starting price of $6,000, it definitely isn't perfect. In this video, we 3D print some DIY wheels that (a) don't cost $400, but, (b) have the ability to actually lock in place so your computer doesn't roll away. Rather than spend $400 on the Pegasus J2i, we built our own cage and soldered a custom cable since it can't be purchased separately. Then, we added RGB LED into our Mac making it the first pro gamer Mac ever and it increased our FPS by over 50%—now we get like 15 FPS in most AAA titles. Lastly, we took a freaking circular saw to Mac Pro's chassis to fix our biggest annoyance and design frustration. This video is a fun one. Buckle up!
 


Amazon disclaimer:
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Latest posts