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 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
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 2022. 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. In other words, that means it’s almost certain we will see an Apple Silicon Mac Pro by the end of 2022 at the latest.
However, there’s a wrinkle. As we will discuss later, rumors indicate there are potentially two Mac Pro models coming — one small-scale model with an Apple Silicon chip, and a larger one with an Intel processor — which could have an impact on the release dates.
Let’s start with the Apple Silicon Mac Pro’s launch date, which could come late in the year. With this model, Apple has got to make a high-end chip that demanding pros are happy with — something it doesn’t have a huge amount of experience with. It needs to be a chip that is potentially even more performant than the M1 Max in the latest MacBook Pro.
With that in mind, Apple might decide to give itself as much time as possible and launch the Apple Silicon Mac Pro in late 2022. And since this device is rumored to come in a smaller chassis than the current Mac Pro, Apple might want more time to get the new design right.
However, we might see an updated Intel Mac Pro sooner since Intel can already provide very high-end chips for professional users. There’s also less redesign work involved — after all, Apple Silicon chips include powerful graphics capabilities and would probably obviate the need for a discrete GPU, which might mean redesigning the chassis.
And how about the price? We’re probably looking at something similar to the current $5,999 starting price, although the Apple Silicon Mac Pro might be more affordable if it comes in the smaller enclosure.
Design and features
As we mentioned above, rumors indicate there are two new Mac Pros in the works. One is an update of the current “cheese grater” model that was released in 2019. This would stick with the current design and simply update its internals with a new Intel chip, probably new AMD graphics, and perhaps some other upgrades (like a new Afterburner card, for example).
The other is a half-sized Mac Pro that, according to Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman, will look similar to the current design, only smaller, and could be reminiscent of the Power Mac G4 Cube from 2000.
However, leaker Jon Prosser has advocated for a slightly different design, which he believes will look like three or four Mac Minis stacked on top of each other, with a large heat sink at the top and the computing components at the bottom.
If Prosser is right, this device might end up being positioned as a high-end Mac Mini rather than a low-profile Mac Pro. If that’s the case, it lends weight to the idea that Apple might release an Intel Mac Pro earlier and leave the Apple Silicon model (branded as a Mac Mini) until later in 2022, since Apple wouldn’t be in the awkward position of separately launching two Mac Pro models in a single year.
There is one thing to note about this half-sized design: It would presumably forgo the modularity that is key to the current Mac Pro due to a lack of internal space. On the plus side, this could help lower its price.
The larger Mac Pro, though, will almost certainly 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.
If the rumors are right and Apple ends up launching both Intel and Apple Silicon variants of the Mac Pro, that could have implications for performance.
First, let’s look at the Intel version. According to Twitter leaker YuuKi_AnS, Apple could use chips from Intel’s Ice Lake Xeon W-3300 workstation range. The flagship processor in this line-up is the Intel Xeon W-3375, which offers up to 38 cores and 76 threads. That’s a notable improvement over the current top Intel option in the Mac Pro, which is an Intel Xeon W-3275M with 28 cores and 56 threads, and could give a meaningful upgrade to the Mac Pro before Apple transitions it fully to its own in-house chips.
Apple’s MacPro 2022 seems to use Intel’s Xeon-W 33xx series processors…
— 结城安穗-YuuKi_AnS🇨🇳 (@yuuki_ans) July 26, 2021
As for the version powered by an Apple Silicon chip, Mark Gurman believes this will come exclusively to the half-sized Mac Pro. According to his reporting, Apple has two of its own chips in development, codenamed Jade 2C-Die and Jade 4C-Die.
As Gurman reported in late 2020, the former allegedly has 16 high-performance cores and 4 high-efficiency cores, along with a 64-core graphics chip. The latter is more powerful, with 32 high-performance cores and 8 high-efficiency cores, plus a 128-core GPU.
These chips could use multi-die configurations, according to developer Hector Martin, since MacOS allegedly contains numerous references to this possibility. In other words, we could see two (or potentially four) chips essentially fused together into one larger system-on-a-chip (SoC) — something that could also make an appearance in the upcoming iMac Pro.
There’s something else to guide us here. According to recent benchmarks, the M1 Max chip inside the latest MacBook Pro is up to three times faster than the 2019 Mac Pro in some situations, such as exporting ProRes video. The Apple Silicon chips inside the upcoming Mac Pro refresh will have to be at least this fast to make them attractive to high-end buyers (as will the Intel chips inside the non-Apple Silicon Mac Pro). That kind of power is exciting to think about.
And since each Apple Silicon chip is configured as an SoC, that 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 a 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 2022, 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.
Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reported in January 2021 that Apple was developing a “lower-priced external monitor to sell alongside the Pro Display XDR.” Although details were scarce at the time, Gurman commented that it was “geared more for consumer than professional use and wouldn’t have the brightness and contrast ratio of the top-tier offering.”
Almost a year later, Twitter leaker Dylandkt provided some more details. 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 is 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.
One of these monitors could be the lower-cost external display mentioned by Mark Gurman, while the 32-inch version seems likely to be an updated Pro Display XDR. Combined, the three of them should give Mac users much more choice when it comes to external displays.