The Mac Pro is Apple’s most powerful Mac. Or at least, that’s the intention. But since its release in 2019, Apple has gone on to release new MacBooks with powerful M1 Max chips that are banging on the $6,000 Mac Pro’s door. That means an update is in order.
Luckily, rumors and leaks indicate a new Mac Pro could still be just a few months away. If you’re wondering what it might look like and how powerful it could be, you’re in the right place, as we’ve gathered all the Mac Pro news we can find into one place. To find out what’s on the horizon for Apple’s flagship desktop dominator, read on.
Price and release date
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It’s often hard to scry anything from Apple’s inscrutable crystal ball, but we feel reasonably confident predicting this: The next Mac Pro is coming in 2023. And there’s a simple reason for this conviction.
In June 2020, Apple said at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) event that its complete transition to Apple silicon would take about two years. Even if we permit Apple some leeway and give it until November (two years since the first M1 MacBook launched) instead of June, the hard deadline still sits at the end of 2022. However, it now seems certain that Apple is going to miss that deadline.
We were expecting an announcement on the Mac Pro at Apple’s WWDC event, but no such announcement came. Now it’s back to the drawing board to determine when Apple’s newest professional computer will release and what it might contain. Previous rumors had suggested two models — one bearing an Intel chip, another with an Apple silicon chip — could be on the way. However, it seems these rumors might have confused the Mac Studio for a small-scale Mac Pro, meaning only one model is now expected. Given Apple prominently teased at WWDC that the Mac Pro would soon transition to Apple silicon, the Intel model seems very much in doubt.
We’re now expecting the Apple silicon Mac Pro to come at some point in 2023. Journalist Mark Gurman believes that will happen sooner rather than later, perhaps during a spring event or WWDC 2023 in June.
And how about the price? We’re probably looking at something similar to the current $5,999 starting price. There might be a slight price bump similar to what other Macs experienced in 2022, something likely prompted by ongoing economic circumstances.
Design and features
Now that the Mac Studio has been released, we can pretty much forget the previously rumored half-sized Mac Pro, as the Mac Studio seems to match that description pretty well.
That said, it’s not as simple as saying the new Mac Pro will simply use the old one’s chassis. While that’s certainly one option — and would save Apple some money — there’s another consideration: Apple silicon. As we saw with the 24-inch iMac and M2 MacBook Air, Apple has been able to design its products around its new chips. Since they are cooler and more efficient, Apple has been able to design thinner machines. Might that be the case with the Mac Pro?
It’s possible, but we haven’t heard anything pointing toward this from all the usual tipsters. With the Mac Pro’s release date on the horizon, we’d have thought we would have heard about a redesigned chassis by now, so the safest bet is probably that Apple will just stick with the current design for another iteration.
That means we can expect it to keep its modular design, as this was a key selling point of the 2019 version and appeals to professional users who are more willing to get hands-on with their kit than the average consumer. Indeed, Mark Gurman stated in December 2022 that the new Mac Pro will retain the current model’s “easy expandability for additional memory, storage and other components.”
The idea of Apple launching an Intel-based Mac Pro seems increasingly remote now that Apple has launched several pro-level chips of its own. As well as that, Mark Gurman has claimed that Apple will outfit the Mac Pro with an M2 Ultra chip, as well as an even more powerful piece of silicon called the M2 Extreme.
The Mac Pro is the only Apple computer that doesn’t offer at least one configuration with an Apple silicon chip inside. We know that will change soon — Apple event hinted at it during WWDC 2022 — but there is some uncertainty over exactly how powerful those chips will be.
Mark Gurman has claimed that Apple will outfit the Mac Pro with an M2 Ultra chip, as well as an even more powerful piece of silicon called the M2 Extreme. At first, the latter of these chips was said to come with 40 CPU cores (made up of 32 high-performance cores and eight high-efficiency cores), plus a 128-core GPU. However, more recently Gurman seemed to amend that prediction to include a 48-core CPU and a 152-core GPU.
Unfortunately, there’s some bad news: Gurman now believes Apple might have scrapped the M2 Extreme chip entirely. That’s down to a number of reasons — the incredibly high cost Apple would have to charge for it, the expenses involved in research and development, and the difficulty in manufacturing the chip.
Instead, the 2023 Mac Pro might only offer a few variants of the M2 Ultra, featuring a 24-core CPU and a 76-core GPU. Gurman believes the Mac Pro’s M2 Ultra might top out with 192GB of memory, which falls far short of the 1.5TB on offer in the current Mac Pro, even considering the advantages of Apple silicon’s unified memory system.
However, you probably shouldn’t worry too much. According to benchmarks, the M1 Ultra chip inside the Mac Studio beats the top-end 28-core Intel Xeon chip inside the Mac Pro by a large amount, including 21% in multi-core tests and 56% in single-core tests. Since the M2 Ultra will be an improvement in terms of chip generation over the M1 Ultra, we could see another performance leap in the new Mac Pro. Apple won’t want to accept anything less, and pro users certainly will not settle here.
Regarding graphics, each Apple chip is configured as an SoC (system-on-a-chip), which means there might be no need for the AMD graphics cards currently used in the Mac Pro. Apple’s own Mac Pro chips will have to be at least as graphically powerful as those cards to make the transition worthwhile.
New monitors, including a fresh Pro Display XDR
When Apple launched the redesigned Mac Pro in December 2019, it also brought out a $4,999 32-inch companion monitor called the Pro Display XDR. This high-end device was designed to be used with the Mac Pro and keep up with its incredibly demanding workloads. It came with 6K resolution, 500 nits of brightness, what Apple termed an Extreme Dynamic Range, and an eye-wateringly expensive $999 monitor stand.
When Apple updates the Mac Pro in 2023, it’s almost certain the Pro Display XDR will also get a refresh, as the two products are designed to be used together. And there’s some evidence Apple is preparing at least one new monitor to accompany the Mac Pro.
In December 2021, Twitter leaker Dylandkt suggested Apple had several monitors up its sleeve. According to their information, Apple is working with LG on a handful of external monitors in three sizes: 24 inches, 27 inches, and 32 inches.
The 27-inch and 32-inch models are said to pack in mini-LED panels with Apple’s ProMotion tech. This offers variable refresh rates up to 120Hz and is found in the new MacBook Pro, and it’s rumored for the upcoming iMac Pro relaunch. The 32-inch model could also come with a custom Apple silicon chip, perhaps an updated version of the timing controller chip that modulates the current Pro Display XDR’s LCD pixels and LED backlighting. The 32-inch version seems likely to be an updated Pro Display XDR.
While the veracity of those leaks seems uncertain, Mark Gurman commented in December 2022 that Apple is planning to refresh both the Pro Display XDR and the Studio Display. Gurman revealed both monitors will come with Apple silicon chips inside, but didn’t have any other information to share, other than the contention that the Pro Display XDR could launch after the new Mac Pro, not alongside it. That’s because its development has allegedly fallen behind that of the Mac Pro.