back to article M2 Ultra chip lands in 'cheese grater' Mac Pro to displace Apple's last Intel holdout

Apple didn't just introduce the costly Vision Pro VR headset at its Worldwide Developer Conference on Monday. It also found time to talk up its latest hardware refresh and pending software updates. The workstation-grade Mac Pro retained its infamous "cheese grater" case, but will no longer have an Intel Xeon processor inside …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, no real news then: incremental updates and one desperate move

    Apart for the people who crunch a brutal amount of video for a living there isn't much unexpected news - yes, there are updates and 'faster and more capable' has always been the song since Jobs passed away but the only 'innovation' announced isn't, at least not in my opinion: Apple is trying a me too here in the hope of using their size as a means to make this work where others failed, desperate to show at least a new product for once>. The price isn't going to help the sale volume either, especially in prevailing economic conditions.

    For the rest I see mostly Microsoft-alike attempts to stuff more features into an interface that originally made its mark on the world by exactly being free of distracting gadgetry that does little to make life more productive, proven by the focus on "exciting" rubbish like memojis. If I had a Euro/Pound/Dollar for every time Apple proclaims to be "excited" I would be able to afford their latest.

    Is it wonderful gear? Absolutely, and theirs does at least work. The amount of functionality and power they manage to cram into any device is nothing short of magical. No, not "exciting", go away.

    But, new, innovate and IT-world-changing as Apple-of-old it ain't. If I were a Microsoft executive I'd be relieved. Heck, even the "lock the screen when a Bluetooth device isn't near" functionality in Windows would have been trivial to provide for Apple users, but instead they only provide the exact opposite (automatic unlocking, provided you wear their Watch and have a device on WiFi) which is less useful.

    So yawn. Wake me up when they found something new.

    Something really exciting..

    1. 45RPM Silver badge

      Re: So, no real news then: incremental updates and one desperate move

      I think Craig Federighi feels your pain. There was definitely a feeling of ennui and ‘srsly!?’ about his announcement that you can have multiple simultaneously running timers.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: So, no real news then: incremental updates and one desperate move

        Ennui was yesterdays Wordle answer. I had a feeling that I would see it used on Register comments....

        1. 45RPM Silver badge

          Re: So, no real news then: incremental updates and one desperate move

          Don’t play it, I’m afraid, but it’s a nice coincidence.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So, no real news then: incremental updates and one desperate move

        Craig should also sack the moron who has been telling him standing with his legs that far apart makes him look "manly" - he merely looked like an idiot who has been coached too much.

    2. ICL1900-G3

      Re: So, no real news then: incremental updates and one desperate move

      I'm amazed at the downvotes. Nothing to disagree with in what you have written.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So, no real news then: incremental updates and one desperate move

        Oh, that's easy, some people think I'm an Apple hater because I dare voice opposition*.

        I'm not, actually, but I found it disappointing. Apple can do MUCH better than this, but it's in the hand of bookkeepers now. The only reason someone even got this visor thing past accounting is because someone has tried it already before so it's not a complete risk - that would frighten the beancounters so much they would be at risk of dropping a pencil.

        No, not an Apple pencil.

        * They're actually doing me a favour, I'm trying to get past the next 1K barrier with downvotes, so I need another 515 of them anyway :)

      2. 45RPM Silver badge

        Re: So, no real news then: incremental updates and one desperate move

        Agreed. But haters gonna hate aren’t they, and online discourse isn’t set up up for subtlety.

  2. 45RPM Silver badge

    I could be up for a Mac Pro. It looks nice. I like the design, I like the performance, I like the specification…

    Whoa! Jeeezus! How much?

    And no memory expansion you say?

    Yes. Which is to say No. I think I’ll give this one a miss. But halve the price and give it some DDR5 slots and I’ll bite their hands off.

    1. tip pc Silver badge

      I wonder if memory can be added using a pci expansion card?

      1. 45RPM Silver badge

        It wouldn’t be fast enough would it? I accept that the expansion memory will never be as quick as on-die memory, but I’d still like that RAM to be as close to the CPU as possible.

        And this is 2023 - 192GB is no longer a colossal amount of memory. Especially when it’s shared with the GPU. For a workstation, I’ll accept 128GB as an entry level amount of memory - but I’d want to be able to expand it to more than a terabyte. If my 1989 SE/30 could take 128MB RAM (a colossal amount for the time), I won’t accept the use of the word colossal in 2023 for anything less than the ability to expand to 16TB RAM.

        1. symonc

          I wonder if the on-package memory will become the “thermal corner” of the 2023 Mac Pro. 800GB/s throughput is amazing but what exists to provide anything close to that through expansion? As you say, 192GB is not a big number in the workstation world - especially given it’s shared with all those GPUs! - where the Mac Pro firmly sits, in price if nothing else.

    2. Korev Silver badge

      In ancient history we were struggling to buy machines big enough for genome assembly, the work around was to buy a FusionIO card for swap which meant that even if it wasn't as quick as it could be it was at least possible. Maybe people will need to do the same for these new Mac Pros

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

      Lack of a DDR5 bus is a major, major problem in something being sold as a "workstation", especially as the maximum 192 Gbyte RAM configuration is already really small for this class of machine - on a lot of the tasks you’d need a workstation for, you’re going to be bottlenecked by PCIe throughput all the time as data gets swapped in and out. The previous, Xeon-based, unit maxed out at a more respectable 1.5 Tbyte of RAM, incidentally, and for big data files I suspect that that system will comfortably out-perform this new model, despite having a older CPU.

      But on CPUs, while the M2 Ultra is a step up from the very old Xeon chips Apple was using in this product before, it’s a step down from the current crop of x64 CPUs. Yes, the latest Intel silicon is still a power-hog, but the absolute amount of work it can do is higher than with Apple’s chip (single-core vs single core as well as multi-core; Apple’s is a mix of Big and Little cores); and for a workstation, Gigaops per second is far more important than Gigaops per second per Watt. Choose an AMD part, and while your single-core performance will be slightly worse than on the M2 Ultra, you’ll have over twice as may cores to play with - actually much more than the simple count suggests: AMD’s cores are all equally “big”, while the M2 Ultra has a mix of “big” and “little” cores. (Intel’s Xeon chips are all-performance cores too)

      I’ve no doubt that Apple’s build quality will give a long working life, but what’s the point of a system that’ll give you a 10-year service life if you can’t expand it to meet the needs of the next decade’s applications? In the past, Apple workstations were able to justify their crazy pricing on the basis of being solidly built and futureproofed in terms of expansion (My very last desktop Mac was a first-generation Intel Mac Pro, a high-point of workstation design that Apple hasn’t reached since). This one, on the other hand, isn’t really a workstation at all: It has high-end workstation pricing, but it’s a mid-range performer, with a lot of desktop-PC-like limitations.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        In my day, 'Workstation' merely meant "Certified Workstation", a specific model of PC that had been tested by the vendor of the CAD software you were using. That is, a Dell 123 Quadro 456 or Lenovo XYZ Fire Pro PQR. And rightly so.

        Testing and guaranteeing software is easier for a limited range of hardware combinations. Mac almost qualify for that by default.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > In my day, 'Workstation' merely meant "Certified Workstation", a specific model of PC...

          In my day "Workstation" meant, not a PC, but this was before someone thought they'd be able to sell a bunch of DEC chip designers off to Intel which caused them to bugger off en-mass to AMD and bring out the 64bit x86 processor and kill off the "workstation" market over night.

          Before then only non PC's could handle enough memory to handle "workstation" workloads.

          1. Down not across

            And not just memory. I/O throughput as well.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        My statement would be that if 192GB RAM is nowhere near enough for your needs then you are not the target market. The Pro is a niche machine and I imagine Apple know exactly who this is targeted at and what their needs are. That you could have used an older Intel model with 1.5TB RAM is neither here nor there in the grand scheme of things, and I sincerely doubt Cupertino gives a shit. Likewise for my needs and wants. Apple has chosen the "take it or leave it" market and it's clearly working for them.

    4. 43300 Silver badge

      Wheels are probably not included in the cost, either...

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oh yawn, here we go with the memory thing again, and in general the whole idea of customisation: wrong brand, and wrong argument to boot.

      In the last decade or so I ordered one machine with extra memory. Frankly, that was a monumental waste of money as it never even got close to using any of it, and that was with running a few VMs. I found MacOS to be a lot more memory efficient than Windows so the whole whining about wanting to add more memory later is just that: whining.

      Yes, you should not use the bottom spec because you get what you pay for, but even the midrange machines are sufficiently equipped to last for years. If your plan is to mod machines, don't whine at Apple, buy something else. Easy.

      1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

        These computers aren't for gaming or editing your iPhone media. There are a lot of tasks where RAM installed is proportional to performance.

        Knowing MacOS, the $$$$$$ model will probably swap or dump active caches at 120 GB used for apps. That's not much memory. The drop from 800GB/s to 1GB/sec is going to be brutal for research work where it's all random access to data.

        The computer has enough for vlogging, sound mixing, and photo editing. The extra speed will be nice but maybe not worth the cost.

  3. trevorde Silver badge

    Most important detail missing

    Are the wheels for the Mac Pro still $700?

    Will I be able to use my old wheels with the new Mac Pro?

    1. 45RPM Silver badge

      Re: Most important detail missing

      At that price I’d expect them to have motors, a steering wheel and a saddle so that I could drive my computer around the office.

      1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker

        Re: Most important detail missing

        Battery not included -- that's another $700.

  4. andy 103

    Other things that start at $6,999

    - Common sense

    - Life experiences. You can have a fair few good ones.

    - Holidays. Plural.

    - Dining out in nice places. Very plural.

    - Upgrading the environment you live in. YMMV depending on what you do.

    - Investing in your future / pension provision. I know that's boring...but...

    Things you probably don't need to spend $6,999 on? A fucking computer, in 2023. You could spec up a Dell XPS for half that price, and no, your "creativity" wouldn't be severely limited by that machine.

    1. StrangerHereMyself Silver badge

      Re: Other things that start at $6,999

      Or you can buy a pre-owned HP ProBook for a couple hundred bucks and run Linux Mint on it and not seeing any difference in speed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: buy a pre-owned HP ProBook

        ok until your in memory db grows to 50Gb. Then watch the HP device thrash itself to death.

        Yes, there are cheap solutions for the masses but for certain use cases, this is an ideal device and No, I'm not in the market for one. I do regret not getting 32Gb of Ram for my M1 Macbook pro but then I would have had to have bought it new rather than secondhand at a pawn shop.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Other things that start at $6,999

      In the target market for that machine it's actually not excessively expensive.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Other things that start at $6,999

        Given it will (or is designed to) be used as a business tool and hence will be written off as an expense the cost is not really that much of an issue. Only people wanting these things for personal use whine about the cost - it isn't meant for you.

  5. Jan 0 Silver badge

    Once again, I'm still waiting for a proper* Air to reappear.

    * 11" please, not even bigger than the current Airs.

  6. StrangerHereMyself Silver badge


    After the fanbois have bought their M1 Macbooks we'll see sales falling since many IT professionals need and demand an Intel processor to run Windows on. It was Apple's dual-boot capability that propelled Mac sales into the mainstream and now that this has been taken away I predict Mac will become a niche product. A very small nice at that.

    1. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: Falling

      I'm quite sure I've heard that before - "once everyone has bought an iPhone 3 they won't sell any more" and so on.

    2. RPF

      Re: Falling

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Falling

        As if anyone sane would install that. That's like buying a Ferrari and then equipping it with bicycle wheels.

    3. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Falling

      >It was Apple's dual-boot capability that propelled Mac sales into the mainstream

      Citation needed. I'm curious as to how you distangle the ability to boot into Windows from other factors that affected people's buying choices in 2006. It likely didn't hurt that Intels chips of that era ran faster and cooler than the Power chips Apple had been struggling with.

      I'm sure you can sketch other differences between then and now yourself, if you try.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Falling

      It was Apple's dual-boot capability that propelled Mac sales into the mainstream

      Absolutely not. It was Windows that propelled OSX and its supporting into the mainstream as a far better alternative. Apple could not have done a better job selling Macs, especially around 2006 when Windows Vista came along.

      Here's a little tip: people are a lot more expensive than hardware. That's why Microsoft studiously avoids adding the manhours they waste to Total Cost of Ownership studies..

      1. rcxb Silver badge

        Re: Falling

        Windows that propelled OSX and its supporting into the mainstream as a far better alternative. Apple could not have done a better job selling Macs, especially around 2006 when Windows Vista came along.

        You are suggesting that a little speed-bump between two beloved Windows releases caused millions of people to switch to Macs? Unlikely.

        When Vista came along, everybody just stayed on XP as it was still fully supported. After Vista flopped, Windows 7 came out and everybody upgraded.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Falling

          .. and still very few bought a Mac for its ability to dual boot. It would just be too painful to go from a functional, stable UI to the ever changing craziness that still is Windows.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Falling

          Macs are pretty big in education - they are the BYOD brand of choice in plenty of schools, especially when the younger years use iPads (the de-facto tablet these days) thereby making for a smoother transition. Ever tried getting an Android tablet working harmoniously with Windows? Best of luck.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Falling

          That's "beloved" as in "being so addicted you can no longer face reality" beloved, I guess?

          You moved the mouse, confirm/deny?

  7. Kev99 Silver badge

    What dropping all x86 chips really means is that anyone running a mac with an x86 chip is now SOL when it comes to any updates to macos. The same thing they did when they purposely crippled the original macpro so it couldn't be upgraded to 64 bit os.

    1. Marty McFly Silver badge

      I was seriously bent when I didn't have a path from Apple ][ to the original Mac OS. Made me feel abandoned as a fan-boi of the day. Took me a long time to get over that and come back to Apple.

      Dropping a big customer base and starting over was pioneering back in the day. Now it is status quo for any tech business wanting to double-dip and get more money from their customers.

      Icon because...well I was a teenager and those were the glory days of software procurement. I had a lot of time & effort invested in that Apple ][ software library.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Over how many years, exactly?

  8. Johnb89

    They've finally done it

    Early OSX days and maybe iphone days you'd wait for a .1 or maybe a .2 release for most of the bugs to shake out and things to settle down. For me, neither ios16 nor Ventura are yet stable/debugged enough x feature compelling enough to 'upgrade' to, and here they are announcing the next things.

    So they've finally done it: not even bothered to finish one big release before introducing the next. Twice. Sigh.

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