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2019 Mac Pro and alternatives

Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Here's some interesting analysis:
Martin Pilkington said:
The Mac "Pro"
... Finally, let's look at what the components actually cost. The table below shows costings for the parts, or equivalent versions, that make up the Mac Pro.

PartRetail Price
Xeon W-3223$749
4x8GB DDR4 2666MHz ECC RAM~$240
Radeon 580X~$300
256GB NVMe SSD~$100
1500W Power Supply~$350
Total:~$1,739

With a total of $1739 that leaves us with over $4200 left to account for, and that's using retail prices, not the prices that Apple will get those parts for. And there isn't much left to account for, just the case, the motherboard, and the cooling. None of those come close to explaining away all the additional cost, and largely goes to prove that Apple has a lot of leeway to have started the Mac Pro at a lower price if it really wanted to.

... The problem for Intel (and by extension, Apple) is AMD's Threadripper 3970X. This is a 3.7GHz 32-core CPU. It beats out the W-3275M in Geekbench, managing scores of around 1300 on single core and 25-26000 on multi core. The performance alone wouldn't be an issue if not for the fact that the 3970X costs just $2000 retail, less than a 3rd of the upgrade cost of the W-3275M.
 


With respect to pricing of the 2019 Mac Pro, we can't ignore all of the non-recurring costs to design the system. Most of the parts are custom designs, all of which require extensive engineering work for design and testing. Aside from the CPU, GPU, and flash memory chips, and the DIMMs for the memory, other parts are original designs. That motherboard probably consumed the work of an engineering team for several years. That case, with its unique look and thermal solution, also required substantial engineering work. We're probably talking about tens of thousands of man-hours here, maybe more, depending on how hard the engineering challenges actually were. If it was actually "designed in California", then we're also talking peak labor rates for that work.

It would not surprise me if those non-reucrring costs end up somewhere between 5 and 10 million dollars, which will be amortized across the number of units they expect to ship in the first year or so. Since this is not going to be a mass-market product, the number of units will be lower than other products, like laptops or iMacs or phones, so a higher percentage of the non-recurring costs will have to be applied.

A different company might simply repackage an Intel reference motherboard in a generic case and call it a day. That system would have much much lower non-recurring costs and would therefore cost much less. But that's never been how Apple operates.

But all of the above is still meaningless. No successful business prices their products based solely on the costs to design and manufacture them. They charge what they believe the market is willing to pay for the product.

This is why, for example, an iPhone 11 costs $50 more to move from 64 GB to 128 GB of storage, and another $100 to move from 128 GB to 256 GB. The cost of flash memory chips costs far less than that. (For example, DigiKey's pricing for 64 Gb flash chips starts at $5.71 (in quantities of 2,000 units), 128 Gb chips start at $8.59 ($2.88 more) and 256 GB chips start at $11.55 ($2.96 more).) Charging $150 for something that only costs them $6 more to manufacture is done because they know people are willing and able to pay that price.

At the high end of the spectrum (e.g. the maxed-out model), the price Apple is charging is very much in line with what everybody else charges for comparable equipment. At that end, we're talking about large servers designed for high performance compute and storage applications. Those systems are not, and never have been, inexpensive.

The base model's $6,000 price is the real interesting question. If Apple expects it to compete against desktop workstations, then, as we've already seen here, it is overpriced by about 50%. On the other hand, if they expect it to be used in server/cluster environments, then they may be right on target. Ultimately, the pricing model depends greatly on who is likely to be purchasing the product - guess right, and you get rich; guess wrong, and you either leave money on the table or end up with a warehouse of unsold equipment.

Finally, it makes perfect sense to release a dramatically new product with a high price. If you later find that it is too high, you can always discount it later. If you later find the price to be too low (e.g. you're selling units faster than you can make them), then it would be a PR nightmare to raise the prices later.
 


Here's some interesting analysis:
I suspect the power supply runs more than that (the fan isn't inside the power supply, so it is way more custom to be more tightly integrated with the rest of the system).

However, a major part missing is the dual-sided motherboard, which is probably in the $800-900 range. The production line producing these needs to account for components being added on the other side as it moves down the line. Note also, there are no power/data wires anywhere to be seen. So, most (if not all) of that is routed through the board, probably leading to more layers in the board construction. Boards that punt that to cables are cheaper. That motherboard is going to be way out of the norm for generic board prices with a pretty good chance the motherboard costs more than the entry CPU.

(We'll see on teardown, but I suspect also that the baseline board is reconfigurable to the rack product, which needs to move some ports. That would incrementally add to the cost, too, to kill "two birds with one stone.")

Another curious part is where did they provision the Wi-Fi/bluetooth? The RF solution probably isn't super expensive, but yet another custom thing that may expand into other parts (that are also custom). The thick metal case makes that a pain for placement of RF [radio].

The case itself is probably more expensive than most of those other parts listed, again in the $600-800 range. It is more like Humvee armor than a super-budget case. In one June blog interview, I think the product manager described how someone at Apple went off and studied the load factors of loading/transporting/unloading major AV equipment and came up with baselines for the case being "manhandled" in those contexts. (Kind of like the old TV commercial where the luggage company throws one of their products into a cage with a gorilla.)

Being thicker means that CNC from both sides to get that pattern works better (and works worse as a cheese grater). The two-sided CNC costs more, too. Having an industrial wheels option probably increased the weight allowance (and hence the cost).

Is that overkill for systems that will live out 99.99999999% of their service lifetime completely stationary under a desk? Yes.

The other factor not accounted for is bundled in macOS. The custom widgets and apps that only Mac Pro will probably get [will be] charged to the Mac Pro (the "what is in your slots" widget, the tweak the bandwidth between slots widget/firmware, base Metal extensions for Infinity Fabric, etc.). That custom software will need upgrades for macOS updates for the life of the system, so maintenance and upgrade costs over 7-10 years, too.

Is that the whole $4200 gap? Probably not. But two more factors: One is that Apple has 25-32% margins applied. So, the bigger the base component cost, the larger the margin amount will be. 30% and the above minimals is (1739 + 1,400) * 1.3 = $4080. The mystery gap is much smaller there.

Second is that Apple probably has a "low volume tax" on this. There are more configuration combinations and higher inventory overhead (higher costs) for probably an order magnitude lower run rate vs. any other Mac product (higher contractor costs).

Pragmatically, that may be the cost of Apple not going back into deep slumber mode on the Mac Pro. It is a decent sign that the W5700X is being relatively rapidly spun up. If "coming soon" is before March, that is very good, given Apple's track record over the last decade. If that turns out to be June, then not so good. If [customers are] paying the "low-volume tax", then it is worth it for those who can afford it and better than no product at all for another 6 years.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Here's an interesting technical twist...
Wccftech said:
Apple Charging $1200 for a RAM Kit Upgrade for the Mac Pro Which Normally Sells for $300
... Over here, it appears that Apple is selling the cheapest DDR4 ECC RAM, with Quinn also showing that the 64GB (2 x 32GB) kit on Apple’s website costs $1200. When we hopped on over to Amazon to compare the pricing, it looks like the same 64GB DDR4 ECC memory kit costs about a couple of hundred bucks...
Quinn Nelson said:
@SnazzyQ
I found the CAS latency of Apple’s DDR4 ECC RAM. How? First I found their upgrade kit, looked at the part number on the memory chips, searched Micron and found the full part number, found their technical doc and found the latency, and whoop… CL22. The cheapest ECC Micron sells. pic.twitter.com/jdJML4V6IA
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
More fun with Quinn Nelson, taking advantage of some great new AMD hackintosh support....
Snazzy Labs said:
AMD Hack Mac Kills the New Mac Pro
We build an insane AMD Ryzen computer that just screams power. Oh... it runs macOS. We call it "Ryzenshine", because it's time for Apple and Intel to wake up.
... $6000 is objectively a bad value for the Mac Pro – with its base specifications, at least. Unfortunately, Apple also doesn't have any other options on the prosumer market, save for the iMac Pro, which has its own set of trade-offs, so we decided to build Ryzenshine, an all-AMD hackintosh with cooling and performance numbers that will blow your mind, and we did it at a fraction of the cost of both Mac Pro and iMac Pro.

#hackintosh #AMD #SnazzyLabs
 



More fun with Quinn Nelson, taking advantage of some great new AMD hackintosh support....
That was fun. Do wish Quinn had skipped the liquid cooling loop and built with air-cooling as a more direct comparison.

I've been following progress of AMD's Ryzen CPUs. I'm sure it's more complicated than this statement, but I hear on tech podcasts AMD's Ryzen CPUs are variants of the "master" design EPYC sold for servers, but in Ryzen mode have some capabilities disabled.

Found any number of sites offering dual EPYC workstations with capabilities that seem more competitive with the Xeon Mac Pro. Apparently it's possible to install macOS on EPYC, as this link tells how to do it on a remote server farm:
Tzeejay said:
GamePC (not to be confused with gaming PCs) is one of the companies selling and custom-configuring high-end workstations with dual EPYCs.
 


In one June blog interview, I think the product manager described how someone at Apple went off and studied the load factors of loading/transporting/unloading major AV equipment and came up with baselines for the case being "manhandled" in those contexts.
That's very interesting, and it would definitely explain the over-engineered case and the $400 wheels.

If they're designing the Mac Pro so it can be transported without being crated in a road case, then it would definitely have to be that heavy. Even if it is crated, that kind of durability is probably necessary for live performance work, since it will be heavily abused by being transported every night of a tour.

That would probably also impact the motherboard design - mountings, slots and other connectors will need to be able to withstand the shock and vibration of transport without damage and without attached components coming loose. This isn't too critical when it is only transported once or twice (from factory to customer and maybe one move after that), but for live performance, we may be looking at truck transportation every night for months.
 



If they're designing the Mac Pro so it can be transported without being crated in a road case, then it would definitely have to be that heavy. Even if it is crated, that kind of durability is probably necessary for live performance work, since it will be heavily abused by being transported every night of a tour.
Not just live performances, but also commercial, TV, and movie shoots. That's where the Pro Display XDR also comes in. These setups are wheeled around sound stages, studio backlots, and even to location shoots for realtime editing and proofing. Yes, if you're going on-location, it's going to be packed up and unpacked, but that's still a lot of moving and banging around. For a studio situation, I can definitely see the wheels and an overall more robust chassis and motherboard design being necessary, as the setup can be moving room-to-room daily.

Still, much like the 2013 Mac Pro, this shows how Apple is just hyper-focused on the video production studio market to the detriment of all other use cases. Those of us, like pro photographers, who just need room for extra internal storage, upgradeable video, and a few slots, but don't need quad video cards, terabytes of RAM, or 24-core processors, are left to cobble something together with noisy peripherals and breakout boxes. Yeah, the iMac Pro is an excellent machine, but there's no internal storage expansion and no upgrades to be made, save for RAM that can only be installed by a service provider. The lack of a standalone 5K screen like the one used in the iMacs is also a real head-scratcher. As if all the MacBook/MacBook Pro users wouldn't also want a matching external display. Plus, Apple even admits that their biggest pro market is software developers. What do they need a reference monitor for?

On the last Accidental Tech Podcast, they walked through John Siracusa configuring his new Mac Pro, which he's been waiting to do for 10 years now. To get a "tolerable" system, basically one step up from the base processor, a bump in RAM, the base video card, one Cinema Display and the ridiculous stand, plus AppleCare for both (interestingly, AppleCare for the display is more than for the Mac Pro, which is a bit worrying), after tax comes to over $17,000. That's just for a "slightly better than base" configuration. All that extra engineering has to be purchased, whether you need it or not, but that's what it takes to get a "whole" Apple system today. This sounds a lot more like a 2013 Mac Pro gone to plaid than a return to the actual cheese grater paradigm. There has to be room for a product between the iMac Pro equivalent of a BMW and the 2019 Mac Pro equivalent of a cargo jet.
 



Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Amongst other discussion about rationales for Apple's extravagent 2019 Mac Pro pricing, I'm not sure anyone has mentioned "halo effects" recently.
Wikipedia said:
Halo effect
... The term halo effect is used in marketing to explain customer bias toward certain products because of favorable experience with other products made by the same company. It is used in the part of brand marketing called "line extensions." One common halo effect is when the perceived positive features of a particular item extend to a broader brand. A notable example is the manner in which the popularity of Apple's iPod generated enthusiasm for the corporation's other products.
Investopedia said:
The Halo Effect Explained
... For example, Apple Inc. benefits significantly from the halo effect. With the release of the iPod, there was market speculation the sales of Apple's Mac laptops would also increase due to the success of the iPod. Figuratively, a halo forms and extends over the brand. It effectively allows for the expansion of product offerings. For example, Apple's iPod success allowed for the development of other consumer products such as the Apple Watch, iPhone, and iPad. If the following product pales in comparison to the leading product, the success of the leading product will help to compensate for the failure.
Wired said:
How Bugatti Crafted the Chiron, the World's Last Truly Great Car
"The Chiron is a halo car for all of VW, a boast that underscores what is possible when you have no concern for time or money."
 


Yes, but some caveats. The J2i is both a drive bracket to be mounted in the Mac Pro and an 8TB drive. Can you connect a SATA drive to the Mac Pro without a drive bracket? Pragmatically, no. You'd need someone else's drive bracket.
So if you take the $400 and subtract $207, it is about a $200 bracket. Promise is probably using a Toshiba enterprise drive (Toshiba 8TB Hard Disk Drive), so we can nudge that price up a bit).
...
That is still a bracket price that is going to attract competitors. I'm sure someone will do it cheaper later just by being driveless. But putting cheaper drives in there to hit lower price points could be a problem long term. It is not the usual thermal environment for a drive that most systems provision - basically downstream from the CPU heat, instead of the other way around.
I wonder if there is going to be an MFi [Apple certification] equivalent for 2019 Mac Pro internal storage enclosures, brackets, and MPX modules, or if we'll have to take our chances that something will work?
 


Well I've been ridiculously holding out for the second New Mac Pro. Appears that base + 32GB RAM (minimum is really 64GB) + 2TB SSD (really need a 4TB) + built-in graphics (?) + AppleCare ($200) + sales tax ($840) = $9,140.
Ahhhh, my 1/2 ton Chevy might be worth $6K. I could buy 4 or 5 totally maxed-out Windows boxes for that much cash. So what's that, another $1600? Guess I'll be sticking with my refurb iMac Pro that refuses to work properly....
My hearing aids are (allegedly) worth $6K (more than my first new car) and they don't work for s#!+ What do you want for pocket change today?

;-}
 


Amongst other discussion about rationales for Apple's extravagent 2019 Mac Pro pricing, I'm not sure anyone has mentioned "halo effects" recently.
I could be wrong here, but I would assume that halo effects would be enough to get people to switch brands within a particular price class (e.g. select a $1000 iPhone over a $1000 Samsung phone), but not enough to make people switch to different price/product classes (e.g. select that $1000 iPhone over a $150 no-name flip-phone).

If halo effects are part of the strategy, then Apple is trying to win over people who would already be shopping for desktop PCs in the $5000+ price range. Which I think is definitely possible - we've already looked for and found many PCs in that price range with comparable feature sets.

I think a far stronger motivator here (at least initially) is pent-up demand. People have been asking for a truly high-end Mac for over 10 years. With the end of life of the previous mini-tower Mac Pro (and the xServe before that), there has been nothing available at the high-end of the spectrum, either in terms of performance or expansion. Customers wanting this class of equipment have been left without any good options, so they've all had to settle for lesser options: stick with aging equipment, get a cylinder Mac pro, get an iMac, get a PC. None of which satisfy their actual demand.

So now the machine they've been waiting for now exists and the question is whether the price is right. Apple won't know for at least a month or two, after which they can compare sales to estimates. (Whether or not we ever find out is a completely different question.)

I suspect they will do well at the high-end, where comparable PCs are comparably priced. There are not a lot of people/businesses that need that much horsepower in a single computer, but those that need it are already paying those prices for PC-based solutions.

Regarding the lower-end configurations, we've seen comparable PCs at that price point and we've seen comparable PCs at half that price. I just don't know enough to make a reasonable guess here.
 


I wonder if there is going to be an MFi [Apple certification] equivalent for 2019 Mac Pro internal storage enclosures, brackets, and MPX modules, or if we'll have to take our chances that something will work?
The J2i is primarily just a mechanical bracket. There are pragmatically no electronics to certify. It is like a MFi laptop stand or a MFi desktop keyboard tray. There are specific physical parameters to meet, but a piece of metal that fits into a fixed-sized notch and fastened with two screws doesn't have much to certify.

The length of the SATA cables is custom, but their electric parameters are proscribed by the SATA standards. The associated power connector is marginally outside the norms (may not find it in a generic computer supply store), but that, too, is basically outside of what Apple significantly did here. Fundamentally, Apple is largely just leaving a 'hole' for folks to fill in. In that space, good user judgement of quality and suitability will probably be the case.

The R4i MPX modules do appear to actually have pins for the MPX connector. That will probably run into Apple certification if there is are data and power usages there. If this is just power tapping, into the "lines" with no feedback then perhaps not. There may be thermal feedback ("I'm hot") that the modules need to feed back to the system. The PCIe part of a MPX module is again a standard. If something could operate on 75W and was just physically "big" like a MPX module then it could fall into the same bucket as other PCIe cards, which won't be "for Mac" certified other than their software drivers.

If the drives and RAID electronics board are 12W apiece, that is 60W. Not sure why they have a deep need to tap into the MPX connector for the drive assembly. The PCIe connector has x16 bandwidth, which is overkill, so don't need the other x8. Zero need for DisplayPort. And 150+W of additional power is massive overkill. However, there's easy power isolation between drives and electronics board if pulling from different sources.

I suspect that, if a card taps into the MPX connector, they will probably need to work with Apple. I'm not sure they really need dozens of vendors in that space, so I don't think Apple is going to have a formal program right now.
 


Thunderbolt reserves bandwidth and prioritizes the DisplayPort data so that display disruption would never happen, even in the scenario you illustrated. See "What Gets Priority?" in the Thunderbolt 3 Technology Brief. PCIe data is also capped at 22 Gbps, as we've previously discussed.
For steady-state, high-demand monitor output, that is on target. However, that document doesn't say it is capped at 22Gbps. In the paragraphs after the initial DisplayPort initialization handshake reserves 17 Gbps comes the following:
... After the link is established, Thunderbolt only transmits the display traffic as demanded, so even though about 17 Gbps of available data bandwidth is needed to setup a DisplayPort 1.2 connection, if the screen resolution is set to 1080p, only ~4 Gbps of the Thunderbolt link is used for display.
which means there is dynamic bandwidth flow management. And also:
... It is important to note that the PCI Express traffic on the Thunderbolt interface is then allowed to consume the entire remainder of the link. Unlike display traffic in which a fixed resolution and color depth is equal to a fixed bandwidth, PCI Express and data traffic in general are more variable in nature.
On the latest Thunderbolt controllers, the PCI Express data can expand when the DisplayPort data is absent. So, the monitor goes to sleep and bandwidth drops to nothing. Monitor wakes up, and the flow-control update has to ripple all the out on the outbound hops. It then ripples all the way in on the inbound hops. The more hops on a highly congested network, the longer the latency will be. So, yes, DisplayPort can push the PCIe data out of the way, but that transition will spin up (and spin down).

Thunderbolt controllers have evolved since the initial version 1 implementation that had no flow control at all (physically separated PCIe and DisplayPort data onto separate sets of wires). That was really an artifact of the implementation restrictions of the controller, not Thunderbolt protocol. As Intel has been able to pack more sophisticated logic into roughly the same size for about the same price, they have significantly expanded the flow control implementation to where it is now far more dynamic.

That is probably a major reason Thunderbolt got picked up by the USB-IF. Physically separating (or fixed hard reservation blocks) typically wastes bandwidth when you have multiple high-bandwidth consumers/producers.
 


Quinn Nelson uses a high-end ASRock motherboard for his Ryzenshine hackintosh, complete with 10GbE and dual Thunderbolt 3 ports and priced at $499.99, which is also the price for this hackintosh's very fast, 12-core AMD Ryzen 3900X [Amazon].
That isn't high-end.
All of these are single-sided boards for major connections. All have sockets to drop power to different sectors of the board from different power cables.

For folks who don't want more than 12-16 cores, more than 64GB RAM, and use commodity parts, there are cheaper options. That isn't the primary target of what Apple built.
 


Here's some interesting analysis:
The Mac "Pro" - Pilky.me
... and largely goes to prove that Apple has a lot of leeway to have started the Mac Pro at a lower price if it really wanted to.
Hypothesis: They’re starting high with the price because it’s easier to lower prices and apologize later if they’ve misjudged the market willingness to pay than it is to raise prices later.

(Remember how Apple dropped the price on the original iPhone a few months after launch?)

Does anyone (outside Apple) know how iMac Pro sales are doing? That might provide a comparison point with regards to how high market demand is.

Alternate hypothesis: they’re testing the high end of the market, much as they did with the $1500 iPhone XS Max. (That experiment seems to have worked; iPhone 11 Pro pricing is the same as XS pricing.)

(Man, this topic is like Cold War era Kremlinology. Too little data, too many weak conclusions!)
 


With regard to the onboard storage, I note from Mac Pro - Technical Specifications that the 256GB option is a single SSD module and that there is no 512GB option (that I can see) in the configurator.

1TB is the next option, with 2x 512GB modules, then 2x 1TB, 2x 2TB and presumably, 2x 4TB when available. These aren't user replaceable either, according to the new support pages.

What I can't tell is if these pairs are [combined in a RAID array to appear as a single volume].
The way it is written, the Mac Pro comes with a single volume. As for technically, I suppose the modules could be arranged in RAID 0 (striping) or they could be concatenated. RAM can be done either way, interleaved for speed or concatenated for easier control.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
If halo effects are part of the strategy, then Apple is trying to win over people who would already be shopping for desktop PCs in the $5000+ price range.
I was thinking about more the reverse - that the high-priced Mac Pro would make prices of mid-range iMacs and MacBook Pros look more appealing by comparison (vs. how they look compared against Windows/Linux alternatives).
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
SuperMicro MBD-X11DPG-QT $1,158 (yes, dual sockets, but indicative of where low-volume high actually is)
Thanks for the comparisons and discussion of motherboard designs. Just to add/reiterate one detail, though: dual-socket/dual-CPU configurations are priced radically higher than single-socket/single-CPU configurations (in Intel's pricing scheme), so those prices do not compare at all to Apple's single-CPU 2019 Mac Pro design.
Also, as Quinn Nelson pointed out, water cooling is very pricy (e.g. your ASRock example), but the Mac Pro doesn't have water cooling, saving $1000 or so.

Your other points about dual-sided custom motherboards are well taken, though, as are the points about low-volume production, both for Apple and for third-parties selling products specifically designed for these low-volume, high-priced computers.
 



I checked some competition for the Mac Pro, like HP's Z8. To even get the higher RAM options over 384 GB, you have to configure a pair of particular "M" model processors (either 10-core, or 24-core), then finally the RAM options like 1.5 TB show up - at a $46,080 cost. Configured a system to be similar (couldn't make it exact), and it was sitting around $80,000+ with special sales (regular price somewhere around $111,000 USD).

Where I work, we bought several Mac Pros of the 2010 and 2012 model years (two each year) - the total cost was around $13,000 CAD (without screens). With a slight increase in inflation since then (the oldest two are nearly 10 years old now) and changes in exchange rate between US and Canadian dollar, those units would have cost around $17,000-18,000 each now (not including additional money spent on a couple of rounds of video card upgrades - two of the units used for video editing have Nvidia 1080 Ti's now).

We did some advance configuration of units to prepare for next year's budget and have one at about $14,000 (12-core, 48GB Apple RAM, will add 48 GB third-party RAM, as well, 1TB storage, a single Radeon Pro Vega II. Will also be adding additional storage, likely through Sonnet M.2 4x4 card with 4 PCIe-based M.2 storage cards to add about 8 TB of storage for around $1,600 CAD), and a higher-end unit at about $18,000 (16-core, same RAM setup, Radeon Pro Vega II Duo, and also add the Sonnet 4x4 M.2 card).

The pricing is pretty comparable - the biggest difference will be in the displays - there were already plans to get a competing screen before Apple announced the XDR, and the pricing was actually slightly higher for a smaller 5K screen. But there will only be one of these XDR screens for each of those Mac Pros.

Now we also are planning on replacing one of the (mostly second graphic design) Mac Pros with a 16" MacBook Pro for approx $6,000 CAD — 64 GB RAM (same as current system), 4TB storage (more and faster), top-end Core i9 8-core CPU (faster than the 2012 Xeon for most tasks), and upgraded video (about on par with the current Radeon 580 in this Mac Pro), plus a couple of the 5K LG Thunderbolt 3 screens. It will still be faster, and will be portable as needed. It's not a cheap laptop, but compared to a similarly configured Mac Pro for $9,500 (8-core, 48 GB of RAM - would third-party upgrade to get it above 64 GB, Radeon 580X, 4TB storage), it will suit the usage of the user better while saving money.

The fourth Mac Pro may be replaced with a Windows PC geared up for 3D rendering (and some video editing), which will still likely end up in the $10,000+ range
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I checked some competition for the Mac Pro, like HP's Z8. To even get the higher RAM options over 384 GB, you have to configure a pair of particular "M" model processors (either 10-core, or 24-core), then finally the RAM options like 1.5 TB show up - at a $46,080 cost. Configured a system to be similar (couldn't make it exact), and it was sitting around $80,000+ ...
Again, you can't price-compare Intel dual-CPU Xeon SP systems to the 2019 Mac Pro's single-CPU Xeon W-series design, because the two inhabit radically different pricing models. (I don't know if any other company makes $50K+ Xeon W systems.)
 


With regard to the onboard storage, I note from Mac Pro - Technical Specifications that the 256GB option is a single SSD module and that there is no 512GB option (that I can see) in the configurator.
...
What I can't tell is if these pairs are [combined in a RAID array to appear as a single volume].
There is no 512GB option for the iMac Pro, either. The iMac Pro starts off with a pair of 512GB, so the Mac Pro jumps to that level next also. The single 256GB is likely the result of feedback from folks who probably asked for an empty storage Mac Pro. Apple isn't going to do nothing, so they did 256GB. If the Mini updates this spring-summer, it wouldn't be surprising if that is the new "floor' there, too. Or the 'floor' for the iMac, if it switches to the T2 early in 2020.

The pairs are really the internals of a single SSD. Those are not independent drives. Every SSD whose write speed is about equal to the read speed is using a variant of RAID internally. So Apple distributing read/write over these two blades is pragmatically no different than if all the NAND chips were on one logic board (hence not really any different than what everyone else is doing with generic SSDs).

Apple may be striping wider for better NAND wear characteristics or because they are using less 3D internally stacked NAND chips and/or perhaps using MLC instead of TLC or QLC. The MLC would be another vector to better wear characteristics.

Since most T2 drives can't be easily replaced, what Apple needs are SSD that have longer average service lifetimes than most of the other alternatives. It would really help Apple's value proposition if they were less opaque about how well the drives do. (If they last longer, it would be easier to justify paying more.) Max speed at all costs would lead to quicker death of drives. It is unlikely Apple is on that path.
 



Thanks for the comparisons and discussion of motherboard designs. Just to add/reiterate one detail, though: dual-socket/dual-CPU configurations are priced radically higher than single-socket/single-CPU configurations (in Intel's pricing scheme), so those prices do not compare at all to Apple's single-CPU 2019 Mac Pro design.
Single vs Dual Socket ... itself doesn't make the board more expensive [but] there are impacts of that. Typically, the boards are bigger, because the sockets soak up more space (unless making large card vs. socket tradeoffs). Another CPU in the modern era means more DIMM sockets (and associated costs of trace-routing that additional bandwidth).

In the Mac Pro case, the DIMM count is the same as SuperMicro's workstation board (12), but only two are behind the dual-socket board (18). The workstation board landed higher-priced than the four DIMM AMD board used in the demo. The CPU sockets also need to be trace-linked with some higher-than-DIMM trace bandwidth.

The Mac Pro can drive an XDR display from two different sides of the system (the top and multiple locations on the back). To get to the top, that video signal has to traverse the majority of the length of the board. The longer and wider high-bandwidth traces have to run through the board, the more expensive it will get (it is harder to do). Often that leads to the board having more layers, which increases the costs.

So, while the Mac Pro board is single-socket, there are other complexity increases that Apple added to the board that push it into the range of increases for the "dual socket" kind of expenses....
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Here's more background on the issue of Xeon W single-CPU designs used by the 2019 Mac Pro vs. Xeon SP (e.g. "Gold") multi-CPU designs that are much more expensive:
ExtremeTech said:
Intel's New Xeon W Chips Bring Skylake-SP to Enterprise, Workstation LGA2066 Sockets - ExtremeTech

... Earlier this year, Intel revamped its entire Xeon line, eliminating the previous E7, E5, and E3 families with a new scheme based around a confusing set of labels (Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze). When it did so, it also launched a new lineup of Xeon parts based on its new Socket LGA3647. This left a significant gap in the company’s product family, between the LGA2066 consumer products and the enterprise LGA3647 designs. Now, Intel has launched a new Xeon W family that combines the older socket with the newer Skylake-SP core.

... Intel’s goal with these new chips is to create a buffer zone between the upper end of its own Xeon Scalable parts (those are the Gold, Platinum, and so on chips) and the consumer market for the Core i9 family. It should also put them in a position to compete more readily against AMD’s 16-core EPYC chips without having to cut prices on existing models. So far, that’s how Intel has played this hand — choosing to introduce new parts at lower prices as opposed to trimming prices on current models — and it seems to be working thus far.

These new chips also likely form the basis for the new iMac Pro, which starts at $4999. Previously, Intel didn’t have a product that neatly matched the 8 – 18 core Xeons Apple has said will be available in the system.
SemiAccurate said:
AMD’s Epyc pummels Intel’s new Xeon-W workstation CPUs
Intel is being pummeled by AMD’s Epyc and today’s Xeon-W launch shows their desperation. Worse yet for Intel, they can’t react on pricing without destroying their core Xeon market.
(Intel has a newer generation of these CPUs – "Cascade Lake" – which apparently continues the same pricing/naming model.)

Apple is playing a smart game here, positioning a cheaper system that takes advantage of an Intel price/performance sweet spot against Windows/Linux systems built from much more expensive parts and priced accordingly.
 



Watercooling on the PC side isn't always that expensive. I have an NZXT Kraken, and it was $140 for the CPU cooler (two-fan radiator). It's a closed system and kind of gimmicky (LEDs in the CPU block work with CAM software control for interesting light shows – fades, pulse to audio...) but so quiet that I only pick up hum from hard drives that I use for storage (still not as annoying as OWC Thunderbay noise transmission from the drives in there).
Time will tell if the Kraken will leak, but so far, much quieter, and I can OC (overclock) if I choose to. Now, if you want to see some impressive water cooling "custom" PC builds, check out SingularityComputers on YouTube – serious PC-building eye candy. Yes, those are expensive water cooling solutions.
 





Geekbench 5 Mac Benchmarks now include some of the new Mac Pro configurations.

As expected from the number of cores, the 2.7GHz 24-core tops the multi-core scores at 17,733 (the 28-core isn't listed). In single-core, the 2.7GHz scored 1096, the same as the 3.3GHz 12-core and slightly lower than the 3.2GHz 16-core at 1111.

The single-core scores are an interesting read. A Mac Mini, as well as several iMacs and MacBook Pros, out-performed all of the new Mac Pros.
 



Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Here's a high-end 2019 Mac Pro 24-core ($14,999 plus $6998 for display) vs. a refurb 2017 iMac 5K ($2,719 including OWC 32GB RAM addition):

Multicore performance is 4 times faster in the Mac Pro (and it has 4 times the RAM), but its price is 5.5 times higher, while the iMac wins on single-core performance at a fifth the price without counting the display price.

(Include the Pro Display XDR to match having a display built into the iMac 5K, and the comparison gets that much worse.)
 



Here's a high-end 2019 Mac Pro 24-core ($14,999 plus $6998 for display) vs. a refurb 2017 iMac 5K ($2,719 including OWC 32GB RAM addition):
Multicore performance is 4 times faster in the Mac Pro (and it has 4 times the RAM), but its price is 5.5 times higher, while the iMac wins on single-core performance at a fifth the price without counting the display price.
(Include the Pro Display XDR to match having a display built into the iMac 5K, and the comparison gets that much worse.)
Why not at least pick the LG 5K display that is a direct analog? Or add a monitor that has the color gamut and accuracy that the XDR does to the iMac. Also, please add the comparable multiple external Thunderbolt PCIe boxes, the 10Gb Ethernet, etc?

Single-core performance is a factor for consumers, multi-core for professionals. Your argument against ARM transition is that it somehow couldn’t handle the 8K transcoding, but then point to the iMac like it's a great value, when it couldn’t handle 8K at all, ever.

Heavy lifting is the purpose of the Mac Pro, and that is the domain of professionals, in which case an iMac can’t approach it. That makes the Mac Pro a good value. It may not be a value for everyone who wants it (and the iMac Pro slots in between), but it’s a fine value for those who need it.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
... Heavy lifting is the purpose of the Mac Pro, and that is the domain of professionals, in which case an iMac can’t approach it. That makes the Mac Pro a good value. It may not be a value for everyone who wants it (and the iMac Pro slots in between), but it’s a fine value for those who need it.
The fact that the Mac Pro can do "heavy lifting" doesn't determine its value, which is also a function of its price. A more meaningful value judgement in your so-called "domain of professionals" would be to assess the price of an 8K-capable Mac Pro vs an 8K-capable workstation from a non-Apple source (perhaps Quinn Nelson's much less expensive Ryzenshine hackintosh, for example).

I get it - Apple and certain Apple fans are adament that the 2019 Mac Pro is not a computer "for the rest of us" but one for the very elite with very deep pockets, the tiniest conceivable sliver of a tiny percentage of the computer market. My real question is how well this 2019 Mac Pro competes on price/performance with non-Apple options, such as HP's Z series, Puget Systems post-production workstations, etc.

I understand that the 2019 Mac Pro is the only Apple option at the high end of the performance scale (and the only one with accessible/configurable internals) and that Apple can charge Mac-only customers whatever they can get for it. But you don't have to do video editing (or any other demanding task) on a Mac.
 


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