Who Really Needs A Mac Pro?

Joel Lee 07-11-2014

Not to be confused with the Macbook Pro Is The New Retina MacBook Pro For You? [Opinion] When Apple announced the MacBook Pro with Retina display a few weeks ago, I was pretty sure it would end up being my next laptop. I’ve waited a long time to upgrade and after being... Read More , the Mac Pro is Apple’s high-end desktop model built for power and performance. It’s in the big brother to both the Mac Mini and the iMac but aims for a different and specific audience. If you’ve thought of buying a Mac Pro, you may want to reconsider.


Let’s take a look at what it offers and whether or not you would benefit from it.

Mac Pro Overview & Specs

There are a lot of customizations available to tailor-fit the Mac Pro’s configuration to your needs. The absolute lowest-end model starts at $2,999 and comes with the following specifications:

  • 3.7GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon E5 CPU
  • 12GB 1866MHz DDR3 ECC RAM
  • Dual AMD FirePro D300 GPUs w/ 2GB GDDR5 VRAM each
  • 256GB PCIe-based flash storage

There’s also the six-core model for $3,999 that offers some more punch:

  • 3.5GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon E5 CPU
  • 16GB 1866MHz DDR3 ECC RAM
  • Dual AMD FirePro D300 GPUs w/ 3GB GDDR5 VRAM each
  • 256GB PCIe-based flash storage


Those are just the base configurations, so to speak. By upgrading the individual components, you can end up with a massive powerhouse of a machine, but be prepared to take a $9,599 hit to your wallet:

  • 2.7GHz 12-Core Intel Xeon E5 CPU
  • 64GB 1866MHz DDR3 ECC RAM
  • Dual AMD FirePro D700 GPUs w/ 6GB GDDR5 VRAM each
  • 1TB PCIe-based flash storage

These prices don’t include monitors, keyboards, mice, accessories, protection plans or pre-installed software. If you throw all of those into the mix, you could easily end up spending over $15,000 USD. Is it really worth it?

Reasons To Buy A Mac Pro

The price tag for this machine is comparable to buying yourself a car. By comparison, you could instead spend:

  • $1,099 for a low-end Macbook Pro, or $3,199 for the best Macbook Pro available right now
  • $1,099 for a low-end iMac, or $3,949 for the best iMac available right now

It’s hard to justify spending so much money on a machine, especially if all you’re going to do is browse the web and send a few emails. So why does the Mac Pro exist? Who is it meant for? Do you fall into the target audience? Here are some things to consider.

World-Class Image & Video Editing

If you’re working with raw footage that takes up hundreds of thousands of gigabytes in hard drive space, then you won’t find better performance outside of the Mac Pro’s PCIe-based flash storage; it’s a much faster type of solid-state drive How Do Solid-State Drives Work? In this article, you'll learn exactly what SSDs are, how SSDs actually work and operate, why SSDs are so useful, and the one major downside to SSDs. Read More with tangible speed gains.



While you currently can’t enjoy the Retina 5K display (only for iMacs), the Mac Pro’s graphical capabilities are powerful enough to support the Sharp 4K display to full effect. For normal users, the extra screen space will be nothing more than a luxury, but for graphics-heavy workers, it’s a godsend.

Incredible Graphical Performance

For those who work with demanding 3D applications, the Mac Pro will calculate and render scenes much faster than a Macbook Pro or iMac. Keep in mind that we’re talking about professional-grade software here; if you’re more of a hobbyist or prosumer, you may not actually end up making full use of the Mac Pro’s potential.

In addition to everything mentioned so far, potential avenues where the Mac Pro can really shine include: computer-aided design, architecture, medical imaging, and RAM-intensive image editing that involves concurrent editing of many ultra-high-resolution files.


Gaming & Development

Macs aren’t known for being high-end gaming machines, but it’s entirely possible to use a Mac Pro for gaming in tandem with Bootcamp. Along the same lines, Mac Pros could potentially be used as game development workstations 5 Free Game Development Software Tools to Make Your Own Games Free game development software is a great way to start video game making. We've compiled the best game software on the market. Read More for high-end 3D gaming – they’ve certainly got the hardware required to run many of today’s most demanding games.

Be Smart & Settle For Less

To put it bluntly, if you need to ask whether or not you’d benefit from a Mac Pro, then there’s a high chance that you wouldn’t. It truly is a computer built for professionals. To be absolutely clear, you don’t need a Mac Pro unless you are a professional in the fields of video editing, image editing, or 3D rendering.


So if not the Mac Pro, which Apple offering is best for you?


If you need more help deciding on a Mac, check out our guide that compares the most powerful Macs Is the iMac Pro Right for You? The Most Powerful Macs Compared Wondering if an iMac Pro is worth it? Perhaps a MacBook Pro or an iMac would be better for you. Let's find out. Read More .

Image Credit: Mac Laptop & Desktop Via Shutterstock

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  1. Vivek Suhag
    January 13, 2019 at 4:56 pm

    I want to play CALL OF DUTY: WW2 and GTA5. Which one should I purchase, mac pro or Macbook pro?

  2. Pramodh
    December 2, 2017 at 12:37 am

    Well documented and quite to the point. Thank you!

  3. Sarmad
    January 15, 2017 at 9:29 am

    very clear reason for buying a Mac Pro, thank you for this article, planning to have an iMac for normal usage but I like retina display so much.

  4. Daniel F Allen
    October 3, 2016 at 5:26 pm

    Hi Joel, this is a great article with good analysis and it's great seeing someone take a position on an issue instead of the usual non-challenging near-spam that is the norm.

    So it with respect that I am suggesting considerations missing from this article that drive me to different conclusion.

    The work I do is not any of those you listed as the type requiring a Mac Pro, but I still need a Mac Pro, because I cannot afford to wait for my computer to do things. It is just a matter of putting a dollar figure on a minute of my time,. With a faster computer there is work I can do that I cannot do on al slower one. So even though an iMac can do the jobs I ask of my computer, I need Mac Pro because it can the work faster and the result is my clients get better results. Usually, my work is limited to what I can get done by a certain date. A slower computer does not provide more time, it means I deliver less. That is why I need the fastest computer I can get my hands on.

    Regarding costs, dang, those new Mac Pros are expensive but my Mac Pro with 12-cores running at 3.3GHz with 64G of RAM cost $1900 (US). How? I bought a 2012 Mac Pro, that's how. It's got a Geekbench 3 score of over 18,000.  So that beats the performance and the cost of a new iMac.

    What do you think of this approach?

    • Neil
      May 1, 2017 at 1:22 am

      Fair point, Daniel. I'm intrigued as to how much time you actually save though. In my experience of computer performance, it can be seconds, rather than minutes and hours faster. But then I am not doing any of the high compute, or graphic processing kind. What is it you are doing?

  5. M Rast
    September 23, 2016 at 6:01 am


  6. GildaKim
    November 25, 2014 at 7:01 am

    The one who really loves Blu-ray movie must need this kind of high-configuration machine as it always choppy in my Air. But since Mac Blu-ray player is improved with feature BluFast MX, it's much better than before. Mac Pro will work much better than mine, I'm pretty sure about that.

  7. Von Adam Martinez
    November 17, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    It is mainly for the rich layout artists, graphics artist and video hobbyist.

  8. John Williams
    November 11, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    We have two of the dual processor models at work to run Pro-tools multitrack audio edit. Sadly you can't downgrade the graphics spec - audio edit doesn't need all that grunt. We do video edit on an ordinary iMac.

    These are workstations, they run no other programs. These are the type of Mac that "just work" and "never get viruses" - mainly because they are not networked to anything (even each other!)
    They have audio "cards" costing £5k plus.

    With regard to the price, The audio mixing desk attached to these Macs cost £150k. The speaker monitors in the room another £40k. The microphone cabinet holds £100k plus of mics.
    The Steinway piano cost £150k, etc, & etc

    These Macs will be expected to last for up to ten years. They are grade one industrial computers. Not everyone hangs around in Starbucks "working" with their iPad or Macbook Air. Where do you think all that media content you watch and listen to all day comes from? The back of a laptop? A Macbook Pro would die of exhaustion after a month in a music studio.

    Similarly there are PC fileservers. There's a whole world of £10k Two processor machines out there. Grinding away all day every day spitting out the internet. They are expected to live about 3 years running flat out continuous ly. There is much more to computing than your tiny desktop.

    • Joel Lee
      November 12, 2014 at 8:03 pm

      Thanks for your input. The long life expectancy ("up to ten years") is a good point, especially in a professional-grade context. Another ancedote that confirms: Mac Pro is very good at what it does, but it's meant for an extremely niche market.

    • nic
      August 27, 2016 at 11:29 am

      thats a tricky double sided coin there...the latency is run out of the graphics processor which is the reason your graphics processor will fry if you dont use a audio interface..for instance i run a macbook pro with an akai digital interface. i have already used my macbook for 3 years solidly plan on using it at least 3 more.

      • Daniel F Allen
        October 3, 2016 at 5:14 pm

        Nic, interesting comment, but I don't understand part of it. Using an audio interface will prevent the graphics processor from frying? I don't understand what an audio interface is. I will tell you something I do understand. I fried the graphics unit in my macbook pro. I didn't know these machines can do things that will destroy them at the same time. It was not like I had it wrapped in a blanket. I was just using iMovie and apps at that level and down she went. My work is developing web -based apps, but I make a lot of screen capture videos for clients and students. I went for a 2012 Mac Pro with 12-cores, I think it's going to be great. But I don't what an audio interface is or why would take a load off the graphics unit. Thanks.

  9. reinkefj
    November 11, 2014 at 3:26 pm


    • Col. Panek
      November 12, 2014 at 7:13 pm

      128 RaspberryPis.

    • Joel Lee
      November 12, 2014 at 8:01 pm

      Have you read the article? It seems you might be confusing the Mac Pro with the Macbook Pro.

    • reinkefj
      November 12, 2014 at 9:55 pm

      yup. I'm departing the Apple and Microsoft experiment. Not that they are terrible, but Apple's planned obsolescence and Microsoft's quality issues are too expensive. Not that Google is "the next savior" but the Chromebox and Chromebook are the ultimate in "Thin Clients". About the only fault I have with them -- well two things -- they don't yet support ProXPN and there is not yet a robust set of web services to do the complex tasks that one would need a Thick Heavy Client for. But, I bet they will come as more folks seek "simplicity" and are willing to pay for the "complexity" they need.

  10. Daniel Smith
    November 10, 2014 at 10:49 pm

    For much less money, build a hackintosh, run it as a Mac:

    • Joel Lee
      November 18, 2014 at 12:52 am

      Last I heard, there were still some risks and caveats to running a Hackintosh, but it's a good that the option is still out there. Would you only recommend it for tech-savvy folk?

  11. Seb
    November 9, 2014 at 10:04 am

    This computer is seriously overpriced
    for that kind of money you could buy a car AND a decent computer

    besides who needs that processing power?
    sure if you edit hollywood movies it might be useful
    but how many people do that

    • Joel Lee
      November 10, 2014 at 2:46 am

      Exactly! It's a very specific computer for a very niche market. :)

  12. Peter
    November 8, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    7 GHz?? Hahahahahahaa!

    • Joel Lee
      November 10, 2014 at 2:45 am

      The mistake has been fixed. Decimals seemed to have been lost somewhere along the way. :P

  13. Don Riding
    November 8, 2014 at 12:10 am

    Who really needs a 500 HP Cadillac computer, WoW! I am saving my money right now for one because it's there.

  14. Jerry
    November 7, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    When the Mac Pro was first announced, I drooled about wanting to have one. But now, looking back in retrospect, for cost versus gain reasons presented in this article, I am glad I did not get on board with that machine.

    For my computing needs, I have two machines. I have the iMac with 5K retina for home as the main workstation. I also have the Macbook Pro 15" retina for the high-performance portability.

    • Joel Lee
      November 10, 2014 at 2:45 am

      Good choice going with the iMac and Macbook Pro. I trust that they haven't been giving you many problems?

    • Greg Wardlaw
      November 25, 2014 at 3:25 pm

      I was network admin on a Windows network. Since then, I have bought an Iphone, IPad, and a Macbook Pro. On getting an equivalent pc for half the price: First, good luck on getting an equivalent pc. Now, half the price we can do. Still looking for the equivalent pc. How's it working out for you?

    • Nicholas
      April 21, 2015 at 10:03 pm

      Greg Wardlaw I just got a windows (pc stands for personal computer so a mac is a pc) with almost the exact same specs has a mac pro for $1250. It's not that hard just build it yourself or get one off newegg/cyberpower.

  15. likefunbutnot
    November 7, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    By "5GHz" or "7GHz", you actually mean "3.5" or "3.7", since Apple isn't shipping Xeon CPUs encased in liquid nitrogen in chassis that disobey all the laws of thermodynamics, right?

    • saumyakanta
      November 7, 2014 at 2:41 pm


    • Anonymous
      November 7, 2014 at 3:23 pm

      Lol, the writer doesn't understand that haveing dual cpus does not mean their clock frequency doubles.

      A smarter idea, would be to get an equivalent pc for half the price.

    • Joel Lee
      November 7, 2014 at 4:11 pm

      Thanks, you're correct. It looks like WordPress stripped the pre-decimal numbers when posting. Will update the post ASAP!