The new Mac Pro you’re waiting for has been delayed till 2019 at the earliest. Apple is working diligently behind the scenes to produce a machine that doesn’t fall victim to the same problems that plagued the 2013 redesign.
So what are your options when you you need a really powerful Mac? And what if you can’t put off your upgrade till next year? Here are a few choices.
The iMac Pro’s announcement wasn’t entirely surprising given the leaks that preceded it, but it was still one of the best Apple hardware announcements in recent years. Building on the design of the existing 5K iMac, the 27-Inch iMac Pro With Retina 5K Display uses a redesigned dual-fan cooling solution to keep its lightning-fast internals within sensible operating temperatures.
The base model iMac Pro is seriously powerful. It packs a a 3.2GHz Intel Xeon W processor that can reach 4.2GHz, a speed normally reserved for servers and other high-performance workstations. That’s backed up with AMD’s Radeon Pro Vega 56 with 8GB of high-bandwidth memory. That makes it a beast for video-related tasks, 3D modeling, virtual reality, and even gaming (though this isn’t designed with gaming in mind).
Every machine ships with 1TB of solid state storage. This is an important move by Apple to limit performance bottlenecking related to read and write speeds. Finally, a cool 32GB of RAM provides plenty of physical memory for all but the most intensive of processes.
The iMac Pro is Apple’s most expensive machine, but unlike the Mac Pro it comes with all the accessories you need. In the box you’ll find a matching Space Gray Magic Keyboard, Magic Mouse 2, and Lightning to USB cable for charging. This makes it one of the best Mac Pro alternatives you can get today.
If you have to ask “Do I need an iMac Pro?”, then the answer is probably no.
You’re better off investing in an iMac if you don’t need an exceptional level of performance on the macOS platform. If you’re not building complex 3D worlds, working with uncompressed 4K video, or processing huge quantities of data on a daily basis, you won’t need all that power.
The 27-Inch iMac With Retina 5K Display doesn’t include a server-grade processor but the base model is still a monster. Inside you’ll find an Intel Core i5 3.8GHz processor and 8GB of RAM, which you can upgrade to 64GB if you want. It also comes with a 2TB Fusion drive, a trade-off between the speed of a solid state drive and the affordable capacity of a hard disk drive.
It’s very powerful, but still a more reasonable Mac Pro alternative for mortals with budgets.
An AMD Radeon Pro 580 GPU will crunch through your 4K video editing tasks, 3D games, and VR experiences. Install Windows 10 and grab yourself some Boot Camp drivers, then you’ve got an all-in-one gaming machine that will hold a decent frame rate in most games at 1440p.
Your iMac also includes a silver Magic Keyboard, a white Magic Mouse 2, and some cables for powering and charging everything. You can add to the fun using the two spare Thunderbolt 3 ports and four USB 3 ports.
If you can’t have the power you want, why not have portability? Apple revised its MacBook Pro line in June 2017, introducing a new gimmick: the Touch Bar. This takes the form of a thin OLED panel that replaces the function keys at the top of your keyboard, but also includes a Touch ID fingerprint scanner for biometric authentication.
Even tough it’s a laptop, the current high-end 15.4-Inch MacBook Pro With Touch Bar is a workhorse and a viable Mac Pro alternative. It features a seventh-generation Intel Core i7 3.1GHz CPU, a whopping 16GB of RAM, and an AMD Radeon Pro 560 GPU with 4GB of memory. It’s like a mini iMac Pro, and it even comes in the darker Space Grey unibody casing.
Perhaps the most surprising addition to this machine is the 1TB of solid state storage, comparable with the base model iMac Pro. For mobile video editing and other performance-intensive tasks, that makes all the difference.
The argument for going portable in the absence of a serious desktop model has some merit. Even if you buy a new Mac Pro in 2019, you’ll still have a high-end portable machine that outperforms most other laptops. Of course, it’s not a cheap option.
4. 2013 Mac Pro
I can’t wholeheartedly recommend the old 2013 Mac Pro, and I’d even go as far as saying you shouldn’t buy it. Apple admitted that it dropped the ball on the current design, which detractors have likened to a trash can. It’s not had an update since 2013, and it’s common knowledge that a complete redesign is already in the works.
But what if an iMac won’t do, and you already have a MacBook? The Mac Pro is Apple’s most serious desktop model that isn’t built around a gorgeous display. It’s considerably smaller and more portable than an iMac, and the internal hardware isn’t that bad either. The iMac Pro can handle three 5K displays or six Thunderbolt displays connected via a daisy chain.
For your money you’ll get dual AMD FirePro GPUs, an 8-core 3.0GHz Intel Xeon E5, and 16GB of DDR3 RAM. The biggest drawback is the measly 256GB solid state drive. But if you’re in the market for a Mac Pro, you should probably already have reliable network-attached storage.
Be aware that you don’t get a mouse or a keyboard with your purchase, something the iMac Pro includes in its eye-watering price tag. Even though you really shouldn’t buy one, it’s still a serious chunk of computing power even if it will go down in history as a failed experiment.
As an Apple user, I know you’re not here to look at Windows machines. With that in mind, I couldn’t end this list without at least looking at what the competition is doing. Corsair is best known for sticks of RAM, but they also produce some ready-made high end machines like the Corsair ONE ELITE Desktop.
Inside the ONE ELITE you’ll find an Intel Core i7-8700K six-core processor, 32GB of DDR4 RAM, a 2TB hard drive plus a 480GB solid state drive, and a top-of-the-range NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti with a ridiculous 11GB of memory.
You’ll get a copy of Windows 10 in the box, but you need to supply your own display and peripherals. It’s not quite an iMac Pro since there’s no 5K display, and you only have access to one USB 3 port. However, it costs $2,000 less than Apple’s current offering.
The Corsair ONE ELITE is clearly built with gaming in mind, and it’ll deliver 60 frames per seconds at 4K in many titles. It’s also perfect for video editing, VR, 3D modeling, and rendering. But since it’s not a Mac, you’ll miss out on macOS, iCloud, and deep integration with the rest of your gadgets.
Can You Wait for the New Mac Pro?
If you can wait, then Apple’s redesigned Mac Pro might be worth holding out for. The company has taken a refreshingly honest stance on the 2013 redesign, and will likely doing everything it can to avoid letting power users down again.
One fact’s certain: the iMac Pro is an all-in-one tour de force for those who need it. If you can’t wait for the Mac Pro, now could be the best time to get a new iMac.