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Mac Pro Gains Only Minor Speed Bump, Not Thunderbolt or USB 3.0

We wish we could say that the Mac Pro is going hard core, but today’s new models, which didn’t even merit mention during the WWDC keynote, are only a small speed bump, with a change in the standard configurations stocked in Apple Stores and available from the online Apple Store. The new Mac Pro models use slightly improved Intel Xeon processors, some of which run at modestly higher speeds. Apple has also added a beefier standard configuration that was previously available only as a build-to-order (BTO) option.

The new models lack both Thunderbolt, now standard on all of Apple’s other models, and USB 3.0, which first appeared in the revised MacBook Pro and MacBook Air editions announced today. That’s a strange omission for top-of-the-line kit, and suggests that Apple either has a serious revision still up its sleeve for later in the year, or that it may let the Mac Pro continue to languish as it has since 2010.

Two standard models are now available: a 4-core desktop with a single 3.2 GHz quad-core Intel Xeon W3565 processor and a 12-core model with two 2.4 GHz 6-core Intel Xeon E5645 processors. The quad-core version comes in a regular and server version with different memory and storage options.

Apple managed to keep the price of the 12-core unit relatively low, at $3799, by using 2.4 GHz processors. Bump them to 2.66 GHz, the previous lowest level for a BTO model, and you’re looking at $4999 — the same price charged in 2010 for a slightly older processor. Apple also offers a 3.06 GHz 12-core BTO model for a whopping $6199.

It’s hard to believe that Apple expects animation and video professionals who rely on the fastest machines either to switch to laptops, which can’t offer the scale of processors found in pro desktop computers, or to be satisfied with minor feature bumps and missing modern interface ports.

Apple continuously reworks its product line, dropping models and old designs in favor of the new. The Mac Pro is the only machine stuck in amber. Perhaps it’s already extinct. But it’s also peculiar for the company to walk away from what is a significant source of revenue, and one that comes with high margins and a well-heeled professional market. Today’s anemic upgrade didn’t provide any clarity to Apple’s long-term plans for professional-scale expandable desktop computing.

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