The Problem With The 2013 Mac Pro

Last month Apple finally launched it’s completely redesigned Mac Pro. Now it’s a much smaller, sleeker and shinier desktop system that Apple say “can actually sit on your desk”, acknowledging the fact that the older Mac Pro was on the large side. Apart from this new Mac Pro looking like “Darth Vader’s trash can” there are some other issues that run deeper than the widely criticised bold new cylindrical design. Expansion capabilities.

The old Mac Pro’s enclosure was older than many people thought. With it’s outer shell design dating back to 2003, from the Mac Pro’s predecessor the Power Mac G5. Of course the internal design was drastically different between the two. The Mac Pro was praised for it’s modular design and the ability to upgrade most components with what was generally non-proprietary hardware. Internal expansion was abundant in the old Mac Pro.

The new redesigned Mac Pro is internally expandable to a certain degree. You can upgrade the memory which as before is standard ECC memory, but it’s a little faster being DDR3 at 1866MHz. It features standard Intel Xeon processors, which contrary to previous beliefs is supposedly not soldered to the motherboard. But that’s about it for the non-proprietary hardware. You could potentially upgrade the SSD but it’s a proprietary component and is in the form of a PCI express card. Now you may be thinking “Well that’s ok, I’ll just get the beefiest model and I won’t need to upgrade anything, plus Thunderbolt connectivity is all the expansion that anyone needs”. That may be true for some people, but remember this is designed to be a power user’s computer, the image below illustrates the exact nature of the problem.

Mac Pro Problems

3 External Hard Drives, 2 External Blu-Ray Drives, 1 Fibre Channel Adapter, 1 Matrox DS1 and a bundle of cables later, you’ve matched the potential expansion capabilities of your previous gen Mac Pro. Essentially, the new Mac Pro is kind of an ironic story. A sleek, elegant, minimalist design but it will turn your desk into spaghetti junction.

I’m all for making things easier, cleaner and faster, but when it ends up creating a mess somewhere else, that just seems backwards. This is not to say that the new Mac Pro is a bad computer or you shouldn’t buy it, even benchmarks have proven that the new Mac Pro runs laps around the previous generation equivalents. And certainly it is quieter too. But I for one feel that too much has been sacrificed in order to make it smaller and more efficient.

Currently I own the previous generation Mac Pro, which is still more than fast enough for my requirements, but I feel that when it comes time to upgrade I may have to switch to something a little more mainstream and cheaper such as the iMac (even though I’ve expressed my distaste for all in one desktop systems in the past). I’d say the Mac Mini, but it would likely be a step down as high resolution multi monitor setups (my 2 x 2560×1440 displays) with standard Intel HD Graphics wouldn’t be as smooth as with a dedicated graphics chip, and underpowered mobile-oriented processors in a desktop system is never fun.

What’s your take on the new Mac Pro? Not enough internal expansion or does it make up for it with it’s smaller footprint and faster components?