The Mac Pro – ‘Lame Update’, Bloated Price?

Andy Hertzfeld, a member of the original Apple Macintosh development team, has some choice words for his former employer about the Mac Pro update that was introduced yesterday:

The next generation MacBook Pro announced today at WWDC looks fantastic. I ordered one immediately and can’t wait to start using it.

Unfortunately, the euphoria was negated by my deep disappointment with the meagre, lame update that was silently bequeathed to the Mac Pro today.

The Mac Pro is Apple’s top of the line, expandable Macintosh, aimed at users who need lots of computing power and disk storage, like programmers or other professionals. I have an 8-core Mac Pro with 16 GB of RAM in my home office that was an amazing machine when I acquired it in 2008, but it’s not so hot by today’s standards. I’ve been looking to get a new one for a while now, but Apple hadn’t updated the hardware for two years, so I was looking forward to finally seeing a new one announced today, with essential features like Thunderbolt and USB 3.0.

When they didn’t mention the Mac Pro during the keynote presentation, I got worried but figured they’d update it anyway, it just wasn’t worthy of mention from the high pulpit of the consumer-oriented keynote. And sure enough, when I visited, there was a little “new” icon above the Mac Pro. But I was in for a shock when I clicked on the link to check it out.

The specs for the “new” Mac Pro had hardly changed, except for a tiny, inconsequential processor clock bump. Still no Thunderbolt, still no USB 3.0, no SATA III or RAM speed improvements – it seems like it’s stuck in time in 2010. The only thing that’s still high-end about it is the bloated price.

Apple had interesting news about both the iOS and OS X operating systems, yesterday. And the updates for its MacBook Air and Pro lines should maintain and even grow their popularity.

The relatively minor updates to the $2,500 Mac Pro, and the lack of fanfare given to them, suggest that the line is becoming too small of a niche to warrant much attention from the company.

What do you think? Are giant towers becoming dinosaurs, even for power users like musicians, graphic artists and programmers?

Update: Apple CEO Tim Cook has responded to questions on this and says that an updated Mac Pro design is in the works:

Thanks for your email. Our Pro customers like you are really important to us. Although we didn’t have a chance to talk about a new Mac Pro at today’s event, don’t worry as we’re working on something really great for later next year. We also updated the current model today.

We’ve been continuing to update Final Cut Pro X with revolutionary pro features like industry leading multi-cam support and we just updated Aperture with incredible new image adjustment features.

We also announced a MacBook Pro with a Retina Display that is a great solution for many pros.

43 thoughts on “The Mac Pro – ‘Lame Update’, Bloated Price?

  1. Like an idiot, I got a macbook pro back in april. Why the hell do they keep using 8x dvd recorders!?! Superdrive my ass. Its so 2002. My macbook was $2200, and it only has an 8x dvdr? 😛

  2. Meh I have a hackintosh running Lion, an i7, and 16 gigs of ram for around 700 bucks. People who pay several grand for the towers are a wonder to me.

    1. I really need the power of a Mac Pro tower, as I’ve been doing more and more of my own film editing (I’m a graphic designer), but have been hesitant to spend the money on a Mac Pro since the last one I had went thru THREE melted motherboards in 1 year (it was the first time I neglected to buy Apple Care, like a dumb a$$). I want to do the Hackintosh thing, but the learning curve, as well as the bugginess makes it seem seriously iffy. I dunno. :\

      1. I mean there is a learning curve to installing it, but it only took me a day to get it up and going. Though, I have no idea of the difference of background computer knowledge between us.

        Also, I haven’t run into a bug or kernal error or anything, and I’ve been using it for months. You just have to make sure you have an Intel processor since that’s what the normal macs use anyway. If you have an AMD one or something, its still possibly to install Lion on it is much harder and buggier, like you said.

        Also keep in mind I had the custom built PC already for my windows setup, and all the investment I had to do with the hackintosh was buy a separate internal hard drive. Hell, you don’t even have to do that and can just partition the drive that Windows it on, but I like having a terabyte for both OS’

  3. My i7 iMac is stupid fast enough for all the audio and video editing I’ve needed since I bought it. A lot of people think they need a “pro” mac tower, but really don’t.

  4. The Hackintish route sounds interesting. Does everything work? What about updates, the iTunes store or syncing devices?

    1. Yes, Yes, Yes. I built my second hackintosh studio computer last year in april. It’s running the latest OS X Lion and all the updates are done via the integrated software update without any problem. Logic Pro 9 works very stable in 64-bit. It handles even the most demanding softsynths (like DIVA) very well.
      My PCIe-Interface (RME RayDat) works flawlessly, Latency in Logic is below 4ms.
      When running the EVAN Logic Multicore Benchmark, my system maxes out at 77 tracks, which seems to be a very good result considering the price I paid for the whole system (around EURO 900).

      I have been using PowerMac G4/G5 for nearly a decade. Why Apple is ignoring its Pro user base is beyond me, since it could have been SO easy to design a new mac pro! you don’t need many of the design tricks that are required to buils a beauty like the retina-MBP. There are SO many interesting CPU options to choose from. And no, the iMac is not a compensation. All in all, it was Apple’s failed desktop computer policy that drove me to build a hackintosh, and i don’t feel bad about it. I stil buy ALL of my software, and the legal debate about “hackintoshing” has yet to find an answer. All I know is that the Apple EULA is invalid in my country 😉

      Detailed Specs
      Core i7 2600 (4cores, 8 threads, 3,4 GHz)
      Intel DH67GD mATX Motherboard (with Firewire and USB3! one of the few mobos, both are working)
      8 GB DDR3-1333 RAM
      ATI Radeon HD 5770 GFX
      Crucial M4 128 GB SSD (system drive)
      CAVIAR BLACK 1 TB (recording drive)
      CAVIAR GREEN 2 TB (backup drive)
      Wifi is a bit tricky, i use a LAN-2-Wifi bridge from Netgear, works very well.

      1. >And no, the iMac is not a compensation

        It is if you don’t need card slots. The machine you listed has virtually the identical specs. For in-the-box work, the iMac 27 has proven to be very effective.

        1. I totally agree that an iMac is not a substitute. Especially if you are doing audio and video fulltime (as in, for a living). Especially for video, unless you like lots of snack breaks. 😛

          Also, why all the thumbs down on questions and replies that are strictly informative and not even opinion??? Synthtopia really needs to get rid of this stupid playground feature.

    1. My “early 2009” eight-core Mac Pro is the best computing investment I’ve ever made. It absolutely rips through everything I throw at it, though the 24GB of RAM and SSDs I put it in help a lot.

        1. Are you talking to me? The system was initially $3,400. AppleCare (bought from Amazon a year in) was $200. The 24GB of RAM was about $170 and the SSD was $350. I also upgraded the video card for $450 and added several more hard drives for about $300. So, that’s a little shy of $5,000 for a high-performance machine that has worked *flawlessly* for over three years. I made more than enough to pay for it after two side projects.

  5. I feel the pain. I too waited for a new Mac Pro for a long time and was initially disappointed when they didn’t mention the upgrade in the keynote but instead talked about features I don’t need (as a “power user”, I use Macs professionally too but that’s another matter altogether) and the disappointment only grew worse when I looked at the silent “upgrade.” It’s really a shame and after my bad experiences with building a hackintosh using components that other people had reported perfect perfomance with I don’t really see myself wasting money on what in the end probably would become a Windows or GNU/Linux box if Mac OS refused to perform well. I guess I’ll have to stay with my old iMac for a while then.

  6. My record company “fronted” me a Mac Pro 5 years ago, the deal being I had to make the monthly payments. As lovely as it is, I soon discovered how expensive all the Mac software was, and after a year or so I ordered a cheap Dell to use my ratty old PC software again and gave up on my Mac – which is sitting in the corner of my studio as i write this, dusty and obsolete. But the best part? I’m STILL paying that fucker off, albeit with min payments.

    Anyway It’s all good (yeah right). And despite my experience, I do love my iPhone more than I do some of my own siblings.

    1. >I soon discovered how expensive all the Mac software was

      This is only a valid statement if you are talking about cross grading or replacing software you have already invested in. Otherwise, software is software and all costs the same.

  7. even though apple are trying to unify things, i feel the divide between pro & consumer has widened again,.. the one thing i think would alleviate the pressure would be for apple to maybe give us pros a road map, As pros our purchases are not based on 1 product, we need to prepare ( save ) back up, possibly buy a couple of monitors, storage arrays & cards , audio interfaces, etc etc etc, buying a new pro machine often means were buying a ton of other stuff to go with it.. the big ‘Show or secrets” is in the consumer products, no granny ipad user is going to give a sheet about a pro tower release & as pros, we already know wot it should include, so i feel apple should just open up about a pro roadmap so we can commit, prepare & expand.. at the moment there are so many audio & visual studios technologically stagnant because were all waiting at the crossroads.. bored enough to contemplate the ‘Wot ifs’ of a no show.
    Apple would loose nothing by telling the pros whats ahead.

  8. Being a programmer and graphic designer, I have more than sufficient power and disk space using a macbook pro. I’m pretty sure the latest MBP’s are perfectly fine for heavy 3D rendering and HD video editing as well…. the use for a noisy “pro” tower is well beyond me.

  9. I actually think that PRO and CONSUMER are now unified more than they ever have been.
    If you buy the latest macbook pro you’ll have all the power a PRO user will ever need, and still you’re using the same machine as Joe the Consumer, who uses it just to post his photos to facebook.
    The ‘pro’ label no longer makes any sense from a technical point of view, it’s just a marketing trick.

    1. The new MacBook Pros top out at 16GB of RAM. You seriously believe that’s all the memory a pro user would ever need? Cute.

      1. My “ancient”, “long in the tooth” 4 year old stock Mac Pro still effortlessly runs 32 tracks of audio with countless plugins, software instruments, 3 large screens, several audio interfaces, etc. etc.
        What more can a musician need?

      2. Funny… I’ve made a ton of money with only 12 gb. And even funnier, I’ve made money with only 2gb, 32MB, even just 8MB!

        A real “pro” gets the job done with the tools at hand. A poser worries too much about his gear.

        1. Please read before replying. Bernard said the new MacBook Pros have all the power, “a PRO user will ever need,” and that’s completely ridiculous. You made money with a computer with 8MB of RAM, which was probably at least 15 years ago. Would 8MB of RAM serve your needs today? No.

  10. All I can really say is that if I could permanently freeze my iMac and Logic as they are now, I’d be set for life. They’ve been 98% stable and the last 2% was always op-error. My first computer was a PC clone that boned me crosseyed via Win 95, Satan’s favorite OS. Once I took on Macs, those issues went away. Its been increasingly stable as I moved to newer models, with memory batteries and extensions falling to the wayside. Stability is king and having a set of kung-fu movies sounds in the EXS24 for percussion is a triple feghoot.

  11. According to David Pogue, possibly the most reputable tech reporter, a full update to the Mac Pro line is coming around 2013 with the new iMac’s. Both are overdue for an update, and the Mac Pro line has been sitting around longer, as we all know, so it made sense for them to throw in an updated chip just to refresh the line before offering a whole new model.

    1. I should note, I also find all of this frustrating, but after pricing out a Hackintosh with the same parts as the current Mac Pro I found the price difference isn’t that big. Yes you can get a machine with equivalent specs for less, but getting one with the same quality components is expensive. The parts used in a Mac Pro tend to last longer. In addition, updating the OS on a Hackintosh and working with some of the drivers can be a pain. If it remains static, it is a wonderful thing, but if you want to stay up to date with updates, oy.

      1. You have hit on the truth. Now that everyone is using the same parts, you really do get what you pay for. Sure, you can find a $400 laptop and say “X is cheaper”, but it’s also crappier. Buy the good stuff and it costs what it costs. All you really do by building your own system is save the profit markup (which can be totally worth doing if you have the skills), but you transfer it into your own time researching, building and supporting. Depending upon what your time is worth, that may not be a good trade.

  12. I feel the Pro community had quite a bit to do with Apples success. People who would ask their professional friends advice on what computers to buy, seeing their hired creative folk using them etc. It seems like Apple is kind of taking a dump on the people who were not only loyal during Mac’s dark days, but also pivotal in it’s rise in the consumer market.

  13. “Pro” has changed, people! 🙂 The old days where a guy was special because he had the biggest and most expensive tools are over. If you are clinging to that way of thinking, prepare to get smoked by a kid with some mobile gizmo you don’t even recognize or understand. Because it’s already happening.

    1. I don’t think the issue is about tools at all, pro versus consumer, or new versus old. The difference between a “pro” and others is knowledge and ability. Pros (old or young) KNOW and can EXECUTE lots more cool things than posers and beginners. Knowledge and ability don’t depend on fancy tools, but knowledge and ability can take better advantage of fancy tools if they’re available. And if fancy tools aren’t available, knowledge and ability will still prevail with cheap stuff, too. The only bottom line is that falling in love with any equipment can break your heart, but falling in love with learning things and acquiring skills will save your butt.

      1. FIVE thumbs down, for saying that knowledge and ability are the defining issues of a musician?

        I double-dog dare any one of you thumbs-downers to elaborate a little and defend your thumbs down.

        What makes a musician, then? A battery, wires and a speaker?

        What made Andy Hertzfeld one of the greatest programmers ever to write software, just his enthusiasm for technology? Or was it his years and years learning algorithms and data structures and the abilities to embody them in assembly language?

        I love technology as much as anyone here, and I have my share of it but what good is ANY keyboard or any program if you have no knowledge or skill? Is the consensus that the future of music is generative programs of various kinds that anyone and everyone will shape by putting fingers against a touch-screen based on any whim-of-the-moment and THAT will be “music”?

        1. >>>> I love technology as much as anyone here, and I have my share of it but what good is ANY keyboard or any program if you have no knowledge or skill? Is the consensus that the future of music is generative programs of various kinds that anyone and everyone will shape by putting fingers against a touch-screen based on any whim-of-the-moment and THAT will be “music”?

          That is my concern in all of this. I started out pecking away at the piano as a kid and I’ve grown through the years when you could still buy a CS-80 at a store. I’m committed to my electronic gear and I would not discourage people from using whatever inspires them, but you have a huge advantage in expression when you have some real piano or guitar under your belt. You have to engage them physically to make them sing out and in turn, that colors your electronic work for the better. Automation can be a beautiful thing, as long as you don’t let it pull ALL of the strings.

        2. Knowledge and talent are the most important of course but the are undervalued in the current market where anybody can get access to very sophisticated techniques quickly. If you can buy cheap equipment at home the argument is why hire a professional when you can do it yourself or why pay professional prices when this person down the road can do it at a fraction of the cost. Of course the person down the road does not have the same skill level.

          In order for the professional with the knowledge and talent to stand out they have to offer something that cannot be gotten at home. Typically this is high end gear such as high quality mic’s, analogue processing and recall, treated rooms etc. High end gear is a marketable draw these days. It can be done on computer but typically only after years of experience. The difference between a pro and entry level with the same equipment is a blur when punters are fascinated with technology and value the specifics of the equipment rather than the experience that drives them.

      2. Exactly, you know that you can use the power if you frequently run into situations where your brain is faster than your hard disk or processor(s) or if you find that you’d need just a little more disk space and don’t want to build an ungodly stack of external disks (remember the “good” old 8 and 16 bit days where you’d have a floppy or two, a cassette tape drive, and maybe a hard disk and some other stuff sitting somewhere near your computer?) or if you’d like to change your graphics card for something more up to date. There are a number of reasons for using the so-called pro hardware. Mostly it’s being able to work somewhat at the speed of your own thoughts. Bicycles for the mind and all ..

  14. I’m a big fan of Andy Hertzfeld, and he’s right about the Mac Pro update, but probably wrong about Apple permanently abandoning the Pro.
    Tim Cook says the *real* new Mac Pro won’t be ready until next year. 🙁
    But hopefully with …. Retina Cinema Display!! 😀

  15. Oh yeah, Happy 25th Birthday, Macintosh II, you post-Jobs (pre-second coming,) slot-filled, color-enabled wonder that only cost $14K (adjusted for inflation) in 2012 dollars, though the greyscale version was apparently both cheaper and faster than a similarly configured Compaq DeskPro 386:

    Perhaps one day Apple will return as a price/performance leader in the desktop space! 😀

  16. It’s all about money.
    Apple doesn’t want to sell “modular” computers anymore. They want you to buy their (too) expensive addons & Applecare & …

  17. This is why I went to a PC years ago & never looked back. Even tho Win7 is a good OS, it STILL misses the sleek feel of OSX…but it is WELL worth the trade of!

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