Mac Pro 2019 – first look: Apple's desktop designed to never leave you wanting

The Mac Pro 2019 is the Apple computer that's designed to never leave you wanting. Unless, of course, you're at WWDC 2019 and yearn to actually touch it.

We got a first look at the new Mac desktop replacement for the Mac Pro 2013, and this revision allows for modular upgrades, just in case having up to a 28-core Xeon processor isn't enough for you down the line.

The Mac Pro 2019 is built for the future, and looks like it came from the future. lt has a shrunken stainless steel space frame that brings it back to form as a Mac tower. The front and back are filled with uniquely styled vent holes.

The power and design come together when you open up the computer from the top. You can lift off the aluminum housing for 360-degree access to nearly every component.

There's a new Pro Display XDR with a matching holy design on back. The front has a 32-inch Retina 6K display (the world's first), and the next level in high-dynamic range (HDR), what Apple calls Extreme Dynamic Range (or XDR).

Mac Pro

The Pro Display XDR looks stunning

No surprise, the Mac Pro's companion screen is separate purchase, as are the color-tweaked keyboard, mouse and trackpad – but that's always been the case with Mac Pro configurations. It's going to be an investment for everything.

That's why Apple is targeting the Mac Pro 2019 for production crews and serious creators. It's not for the faint of heart. Let's explore the pricing, but also the design and power.

Mac Pro 2019 release date and price

What's a few more months for the new Mac Pro when we've been waiting for several years to get our hands on this desktop computer?

Apple announced the Mac Pro 2019 release date for “fall 2019,” meaning that it'll be here between September and November. Apple has favored October for a lot of previous computer launches, and that falls into this release window.

The Mac Pro price is $5,999 (about £4,730, AU$8.720), and that's for the base model with an 8-core Intel Xeon processor (CPU), Radeon 580X graphics processor (GPU) and 32GB of ECC memory (RAM). 

Remember, the Pro Display XDR – at $4,999 (about £394, AU$715) – is a separate purchase, as is the Pro Stand at $999 (about £788, AU$1,431) and VESA Mount Adapter is $199 (about £157, AU$285).

A new design

For those that were unconvinced about the previous Mac Pro's design, this is far more industrial. Designed to be modular, the Mac Pro's leanings are far more traditional with the combination of brushed aluminum and heat sink holes festooning the outer shell.

It's brutal and says 'this is for working on, not to look good'. It can be rack mounted, and you can screw wheels on the bottom to move it around an office or studio.

We'll get on to the performance of the new Mac Pro in a moment, but there's one thing that's important about this new model – the amount you can cram inside such a small space.

One music producer told us that previously one would have had to use multiple machines to mix a score, where those three or four could now be squished into the body of Apple's 2019 Mac PRo.

There's also the benefit of the multiple Thunderbolt ports on top of the machine, allowing easier access inside.

Mac Pro 2019 specs and performance

When it comes to specifications, Apple is taking a no-holds barred approach, and has crammed in some seriously impressive hardware into the body of the new Mac Pro.

Mac Pro 2019

The rear view of both the Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR.

The base model comes with a new 8-core Intel Xeon processor, which should give plenty of oomph for multitasking. The Xeon line of CPUs are designed for professional workstations – and this can be configured to a Xeon processor with an astounding 28 cores. 

The more cores, the better it can handle multiple tasks at once – so the processor powering the new Mac Pro will undoubtedly take even the most strenuous creative tasks in its stride.

As with Apple’s other prosumer computer – the iMac Pro –  the Mac Pro features an AMD graphics card – starting with the Radeon Pro 580X and up to the Radeon Pro Vega II, which features 32GB of high-bandwidth memory – 1TB/s to be precise. That makes it the highest memory bandwidth of any GPU.

If that’s not enough, you can also kit it out with the AMD Radeon Pro Vega II Duo – which features two Vega II GPUs for a total of 64GB of memory – making it the world’s most powerful graphics card.

Mac Pro 2019

The removable lid and shell via the semi-circle handle.

These GPUs are fitted into the Apple MPX Module, which easily slots into the Mac Pro, offering quiet operation while being kept cool by the Mac Pro’s own cooling system. 

Impressively, the Mac Pro can have two MPX Modules installed at once, so if you have the need  – and the budget – you can install two Vega II Duos for a crazy 128GB of video memory and 56 teraflops of graphics performance.

All this output requires a lot of power – there's a 1.4kW power supply chucking the electricity into the machine. However, the sound is pretty cool despite the fans inside, and when seeing it running at full power we didn't feel a huge amount of heat emanating from the rear, nor heard anything like a light aircraft trying to take off.

This kind of graphical grunt will crush most video encoding and rendering tasks – even at resolutions of 8K and above. While we’d love to image what the gaming performance of this level of firepower is like, this is going to be purely of interest to video professionals that need to render ultra-high resolution footage quickly.

Seeing it in real time, you could see the raw power of the rendering capabilities of the machine. 3D imagery could be manipulated in real time with multiple shading and lighting changes, meaning the need to send things off to a rendering farm won't be necessary for many tasks in the future.

One creative artist estimated the raw power of the extra cores gave him around four times the performance as previously, meaning he had far more time to do more with his artwork rather than waiting around to see if the images and videos had shown as intended.

Being able to manipulate 8K streams so flawlessly was impressive – an engineer we spoke to claimed using the Mac Pro 2019 was akin to when '1080p was finally able to be used properly', meaning that the speed of manipulation was finally able to be used properly.

Mac Pro 2019

Not a bad look for Apple’s newest professional gear.

Memory-wise, the Mac Pro supports six-channel memory and comes with 12 slots, which allows you to install up to 1.5TB of RAM. 

In a demonstration, this allowed a full orchestra-worth of instruments to be rendered within that RAM space, meaning that a rack of PCs can now be replaced by a single Mac Pro unit, with the output slickly creating right in front of our eyes.

Again, this makes it a workstation that’s designed to excel at multitasking. PCI Express slots also make a comeback, with eight in total, which will offer plenty of options to expand the Mac Pro’s capabilities in the future.

These specs certainly sound impressive on paper (if, perhaps, a little overkill for most people), and we look forward to seeing how the Mac Pro really performs in a full review.

Images Credit: TechRadar

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