HomeHome : Reviews : Aug 10, 2010

New Mac Pros Fail to Impress

August 10, 2010 — by Per Christensson

In the past few years, Apple has introduced several new consumer products. Most of these products (typically beginning with the letter "i"), have been widely successful and have pushed the industry forward with groundbreaking features. However, it seems that in this process, Apple has forgotten about its professional customers. Since January of 2008, Apple has only released two new Mac Pro models. The new Mac Pros, which became available yesterday were the first update to the Mac Pro line in nearly a year and a half. And the only upgrade seems to be the price.

Apple's previous Mac Pro standard configurations included 1) a quad-core 2.66GHz model with 3GB of memory and a 512MB Nvidia GeForce GT 120 video card and 2) an 8-core 2.26GHz model with 6GB of memory and the same 512MB video card. The prices were $2499 and $3299 respectively.

The new Mac Pro lineup includes the following three models: 1) a quad-core 2.8GHz model with 3GB of memory and a 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5770 video card, 2) an 8-core 2.4GHz model with 6GB of memory and the Radeon HD 5770, and 3) a 12-core 2.66GHz model with 6GB of memory and the Radeon HD 5770. The models are priced at $2499, $3499, and $4999 respectively.

The most striking detail of the new lineup is that the entry level model has only 3GB of RAM, which is less than the new entry level iMac, which has 4GB. That's right, the Mac Pro, which costs $2,499 and does not include a monitor, has less RAM than the $1,199 iMac. It is completely absurd. The other minor improvements simply do not justify the prices of the entry-level and mid-range models. The improved video card is a welcome upgrade, but after nearly a year and a half, I expected a little more for the exact same price as the previous model.

The new 12-core model is a processing monster, but at $5000 it is out of the price range of even most professional users. And besides the dual 6-core CPUs you don't get much else with the high-end model in the base configuration. It only has 6GB of RAM and the same video card as the other two models.

I am especially disappointed in the new Mac Pro lineup because I was planning on buying one. However, these options make it difficult to justify a new purchase. My two-year old 8-core 2.8GHz Mac Pro with 10GB of RAM holds it own compared to the current 8-core model. And it cost less than the new model when I bought it two years ago! So much for Moore's Law.

Apple also recently announced a new 27" display for $999, which is a reasonable price point, especially since it includes speakers and a built-in iSight camera. However, I don't know too many pro users who need speakers and a camera built into their displays. It's also redundant for users who use two screens. A more welcome feature would have been a matte display option, which is not available.

I think Apple makes amazing products, but the company's focus on consumer devices has led them to neglect their professional users. A decade ago, Apple's business relied heavily on graphic designers and Web developers, such as myself. Today, we seem to be a forgotten fringe group. I hope Apple will soon place more focus on the professional market and provide us with the options we need.