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Sure, a Mac Pro setup can cost $53K, but here's why that's not as crazy as it sounds

por Rene McEvilly (2020-02-03)

id="article-body" class="row" section="article-body"> James Martin/CNET There's been some freakage over the fact that you can max out Apple's new, long-awaited tower Mac Pro at roughly $53,000. But aside from the custom $400 wheels, it's laughable that that price has made headlines. Here's the truth: For a workstation, it's nothing. You can gear up HP's top-end Z8 G4, for example, with dual 28-core Xeons, dual Nvidia 32GB Quadro GV100s, 22TB SSD and more for $107,000 without breaking a sweat. 

In fact, Apple's configuration prices are right in line with typical industry ones. And remember -- those are only the options Apple offers in its Mac Pro system configurator. Toss in three HDX accelerators for Avid Pro Tools and that adds another $13,000 or so.

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But Apple's one-size-fits-all approach poses drawbacks. On the low end, $6,000 is a lot to pay for an entry-level model, especially with a 256GB SSD and AMD Radeon Pro 580X. That size drive can hold a handful of pro graphics applications, but that's probably about it. You should definitely think about upping to 1TB for $400. 

And in a system like this, the Radeon Pro 580X, with its two-generations-old architecture, is essentially the equivalent of integrated graphics. So you may want to wait until the Radeon Pro W5700X options become available -- if you just want current graphics, bumping one step up to the Radeon Pro Vega II to the tune of $2,400 is kind of silly. Apple hasn't released pricing for the 5700-series card, but existing prices for the un-Appleified version it's based on it should run to somewhere between $300 and $500. (Of course, let's celebrate the fact you can always upgrade it yourself!) Note that if you're not already familiar with the vagaries of pro-level AMD Radeon cards, this probably isn't the computer for you. 

Accommodating extremes
It's expensive partly because it uses a Xeon processor and ECC memory, which isn't essential for a lot of professionals. But Apple's only less expensive alternatives using Intel's Core CPUs are crammed into the MacBook Pro stuck with the new mobile version (thus, slower) of AMD's middle tier graphics or the iMac, with not-upgradeable last-generation graphics.

There's also Apple's longstanding rift with Nvidia, which culminated in the deprecation of widely used CUDA and OpenCL APIs, essentially forcing all GPU-intensive software akuntansi dagang towards Metal and away from alternative low-level acceleration platforms. Among other things, that shuts out the ability to use less expensive but fast gaming-grade cards, where Nvidia routinely outperforms AMD. It also shuts out many content creators whose key software still only supports them. And despite their closer relationship, Apple doesn't offer AMD CPU options either, which means no 32-core Threadripper 3970X or PCIe 4.0 bus.

Plus, there's the one-size-fits-all approach. The system's so big because it's designed to accommodate the needs of the $53,000 users. A lot of potential Mac Pro fans don't do video editing so don't need the space for the Afterburner card (or don't need to ingest or transcode ProRes, just encode, which Afterburner doesn't accelerate). Or, say, they just need the 28-core processor and a lot of memory but not space for dual GPUs or other PCI cards. Apple really needs at least one less expensive, more compact version of the Mac Pro.

On the flip side, you can't really configure it to the max, either. It only supports a single CPU (because W series), but high-resolution CGI rendering and video encoding will use up all the cores you can throw at it, as will crunching immense datasets for machine learning. And wouldn't you also like some free cycles for working while it's churning away, anyway? The CPU is socketed, however, so at least you can upgrade that if necessary.

ISSN: 1980-5861