What I Want in the New Mac Pro

Justin Williams recently wrote up what he’d like to see in the new Mac Pro, from his standpoint as a software developer.

I’m not a developer, but I am a pro user. While my 5K iMac is plenty of machine for me, I would like to have the option of a viable Mac Pro when it’s time to replace this computer down the road.

Like Williams, I really just want a tower I can plug into a display. Here’s what I’d like that product to include:

On the Inside

I don’t expect Apple to match what the Cheese Grater offered in terms of expandability ever again. However, I would like to see some expansion slots:

  • Four M.2 slots for additional SSDs. There are a growing number of third-parties offering these parts today, so it’s not like this would be some custom thing for the Mac Pro.
  • Plenty of RAM slots. The Trash Can got this right, so I expect the new Mac Pro to do so as well.
  • Room for a second GPU. The whole dual workstation GPU thing didn’t work in 2013, and still doesn’t make much sense. Apple should put a solid GPU in by default and have a slot open for those who need more. This slot should double as a regular expansion bay for things like capture cards. I think one slot would be fine for most people; two would be awesome.

Going back to a multi-processor setup (coupled with ECC RAM) is more than welcome. Gimme those cores, Apple.

As far as I/O, there’s no doubt that this machine should be stuffed full of Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports. As Williams wrote in his piece:

I’d hope that without the space constraints of a laptop, every port has the same sort of bus speed. I don’t want to have to think about the upper-left USB-C port being faster than the lower-right one.

In addition Thunderbolt 3, I would like to see dual Ethernet jacks, as well as both audio in and out. The Trash Can only has audio out, limiting its usefulness in certain recording setups.

It’d be cool to have a “legacy” USB A port or two, but by the time it actually ships, USB A may really be on the way out.1

On the Outside

Even if a new Mac Pro had everything I’ve listed and more, I still bet the machine could be smaller than the Cheese Graters. A modern Mac Pro should be able to live on or under a desk. The Cheese Graters were too big and heavy to go anywhere but the floor, while the 2013 Mac Pro begged to be behind a display somewhere. Flexibility here is key. If the new Apple display has a built-in cable, it should be long enough to reach the floor.

As far as the actual design, I’m not picky. If it’s heavy, it should have a handle. If it’s big, there should be ports on the front and back. It should run quietly, even under load.

I’ll take it in any color, as long as it’s black.

The Balance

The key to a successful Mac Pro is balance. It should support what pros are using today, while also being equipped for tomorrow. It should offer expansion, but probably not to the extent that it supports everything the Cheese Grater did, like dual SuperDrives and 3.5″ hard drives. Apple will need to work out how to use the limited number of PCI lanes at its disposal, something I didn’t do in this post.

Whatever they do will involve change. Some things should be left behind, but the Trash Can took that too far.

  1. I’d like to see it, but out of my entire list, I feel the most unsure about this item.