It will be 2018 at the earliest before we see the redesigned Mac Pro that Apple has promised (see “Maca Culpa: Apple Admits Mac Pro Missteps and Promises More Transparency,” 4 April 2017), but if you need a cylinder-style Mac Pro in the interim, there’s some good news: Apple has rejiggered the configurations to provide existing higher performance options at lower prices.
(These changes have been called a “speed bump,” but in our opinion, a speed bump requires the introduction of a faster CPU that was previously unavailable. In comparing the technical specs, it seems clear that all Apple did here was drop the prices on existing configurations.)
For $2999, the new low-end configuration gets the specs of the previous high-end configuration, which equates to a $1000 price drop. It moves from a 3.7 GHz quad-core Intel Xeon E5 CPU to a 3.5 GHz 6-core Xeon E5 and from dual AMD FirePro D300 graphics processors with 2 GB of VRAM to dual AMD FirePro D500 graphics processors with 3 GB of VRAM.
The new $3999 high-end configuration moves from a 3.5 GHz 6-core Intel Xeon E5 CPU to a 3.0 GHz 8-core Xeon E5. It too gets beefier graphics processors, trading dual AMD FirePro D500 graphics processors with 3 GB of VRAM for dual AMD FirePro D700 graphics processors with 6 GB of VRAM. These aren’t new options, and our best guess based on current prices is that this configuration also received a $1000 price drop. Oddly, given the fact that these are existing options, the Apple online store reports this configuration as “Currently unavailable.”
Both models now feature 16 GB of RAM standard, up from 12 GB for the low-end model, with upgrades to 32 GB ($400) or 64 GB ($1200) available. They come standard with 256 GB of flash storage, and you can boost that to 512 GB ($200) or 1 TB ($600). For the ultimate performance, you can still upgrade to a 2.7 GHz 12-core Xeon E5 CPU ($2000). A tricked-out Mac Pro still costs a whopping $6999!
Nor do any other specs change. Notably, the Mac Pro still relies on Thunderbolt 2, so you can’t connect new accessories like the LG UltraFine 5K Display. Besides the six Thunderbolt 2 ports, it still has four USB 3.0 ports, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, one HDMI 1.4 port, and yes, a 3.5mm headphone jack with optical digital output. For wireless connectivity, it features Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi.
These improvements aren’t likely to make anyone jump on the Mac Pro train, but if you need to buy additional units for your business in the near future, they’ll provide more performance for the money. For many desk-bound professionals, the 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K display is a better choice, and most of us here at TidBITS now use that machine.