Apple’s Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR have been out in the world for a while now, but Apple is just now publishing its white papers for the two new devices, which go into far greater detail about the high-end hardware.
The fact that Apple waited months to offer this information is odd, given that there are some important details about the two products, including caveats for third-party compatibility and explanations for some of the design and spec choices Apple made here. It’s the sort of information that you’d probably want before you spend $6,000-plus on a new computer or screen, so it’s good to see that Apple is providing it now.
How pro can you go?
As one might expect from a technical overview produced in-house by Apple, the two documents read largely like a laundry list of Apple congratulating itself for all its innovation and impressive specs, but they do reveal some new small details about the Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR that Apple hadn’t announced before.
Should you not have the time (or the inclination) to read dozens of pages of technical documentation, we’ve taken the liberty of highlighting the most interesting new details on the Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR below.
- While plenty of third-party sites have done speed tests comparing Apple’s old and new Mac Pro models, Apple gives the hard numbers itself: the new model’s processor is up to 6.5 times faster than the old 12-core Mac Pro (depending on what you’re doing and the processor you pick), while the GPU can reach up to 6.8 times the performance compared to the dual FirePro D700 on the 2013 model.
- Technically, the 24- and 28-core processor options can support up to 2TB of RAM, well beyond the 1.5TB at which Apple maxes out. The reason is that offering 2TB of RAM would required unbalanced DIMM configurations (where you have a different amount of RAM on different sticks), which Apple is looking to avoid.
- Apple’s custom MPX modules for GPUs are big for a reason: they allow passive cooling, dual GPU modules, and “other solutions in the future.” It’s not exactly a surprise that Apple wants the new Mac Pro to be more modular, but here’s the confirmation that the company is looking to do more with its flagship pro device.
- Apple’s I/O card (the piece that has the headphone jack, USB-A ports, and Thunderbolt 3 ports) has “a special connector that connects it to the DisplayPort connections routed from the MPX Modules, enabling video over its Thunderbolt 3 ports.” Should you not need the extra I/O ports, you can also remove it entirely.
- The Mac Pro has an internal USB-A port “for internal use,” designed for license keys for pro software. The goal here is two-fold: keeping those license key drives out of the way, and making sure they’re less easily stolen.
- All Mac Pro configurations (from Apple at least) work completely with Windows through Boot Camp… except for Apple’s Afterburner card.
- Apple makes a point to note that its pricier, higher core count Xeon processors offer “increased multithreaded performance” at the expense of “decreased base clock.” The white paper specifically tells customers that “it is important to know if your primary applications can scale to higher core counts to get maximum performance from top-end Xeon processors.” In other words: make sure you can actually use those extra cores, or you’ll get stuck with a slower computer.
- Apple supports both third-party SATA storage and some third-party AMD GPUs, but there are some big caveats for both. SATA storage is treated like an external drive from a macOS perspective, meaning that it won’t be able to be encrypted by Apple’s T2 co-processor, unlike the main drive. And while other GPUs can be used, they’ll need AUX power cables (sold separately) and will prevent using the Mac Pro Thunderbolt 3 ports for video: “an Apple MPX Module is required to provide video support over Mac Pro Thunderbolt 3 ports; without one, Thunderbolt 3 ports become data only and are unable to light a display.”
- Amusingly, Apple notes that the Mac Pro can draw so much power that “facility power sources should be carefully considered to avoid overloading a given circuit, especially for a fully configured system with displays and accessories, or multiple Mac Pro systems.”
Pro Display XDR
- The Pro Display XDR has two ambient light sensors, one on the front and one on the back, which are used to adjust backlight brightness, content black level, and white point (if True Tone is enabled) on the display for your given lighting setup. Apple notes here that you should avoid having any bright lights on your desk by the back of the display (like, say, a desk lamp) to avoid confusing the sensors.
- Another odd caveat: Apple says that the Pro Display XDR can “sustain 1000 nits of brightness across the entire screen indefinitely in environments up to 25° C (77° F).” Crank the brightness up past 1,000 nits, or the temperature past 77 degrees Fahrenheit, and the brightness may go down.