When Apple made its plans to move from Intel processors to its own custom-made chips known there was a lot of apprehension about whether Apple could compete with Intel - and for that matter AMD. Apple's proven itself capable of making powerful chips - the M1 Macs are proving that Apple is very capable of producing not only a benchmark-smashing processor but also GPUs that make Intel's integrated solutions look weak. But what about the professional Macs - including Apple's Mac Pro workstation?
Will there be an Apple Silicon Mac Pro?
Apple has said that it will be transitioning all of its Macs to its own chips over the next two year. So yes, the Mac Pro will, at some point before the middle of 2022, gain Apple processors (which Apple refers to as Apple Silicon - the first iteration being the M1 Chip).
Then we may see the 16in MacBook Pro and the 27in iMac, and finally the Mac Pro.
A Bloomberg report in November 2020 claimed sources had confirmed that Apple is "already at work on a redesigned iMac, the company's all-in-one desktop, and a new Mac Pro model, Apple's highest-end desktop."
Another Bloomberg report in January 2021 said that two new Mac Pro computers are in development at Apple. One will maintain the current design (from 2019) and may also retain Intel processors. The other is said to be smaller and utilise Apple's own chips. More information about this redesign below.
Apple has given itself a deadline of two years from June 2020 - so we'd suggest that we can expect the Apple Silicon Mac Pro by June 2022.
We may see an update to the Mac Pro before that date though - as per the Bloomberg report mentioned above, Apple may update the Intel processors in the Mac Pro at some point in 2021.
One likely reason why we will have to wait longer for Macs like the Mac Pro to start to use Apple Silicon, is that Apple's high end desktops and laptops will involve considerably complex development with Apple encountering more challenges.
We wouldn't be surprised if Apple misses its deadline and we don't see the new Mac Pro until later in 2022, but we'd hope to see it by October 2022.
Those Bloomberg reports we mentioned above had a great gem about this new Mac Pro: the November report indicated that it will be "Half the size of the Intel one".
The January report goes a step further and suggests it might recall the design of the G4 Cube from 2000 (below).
The November Bloomberg report stated: "Apple engineers are currently developing a new Mac Pro that looks like the current design at about half the size."
We're not sure that making the new Mac Pro smaller would be a wise decision on Apple's part. One of the biggest problems with the 2013 Mac Pro was that Apple designed it in such a way that it became impossible to update it. Therefore when the 2019 Mac Pro launched it was no surprise that it was bigger (and more akin to the pre-2013 Mac Pro).
It would be strange to see Apple return to a smaller form factor in the wake of those issues.
There is a suggestion over on Bloomberg that: "It's unclear if that Mac will replace the current Mac Pro or if it's an additional model. Apple's chip designs could help the company reduce the size of its computers due to increased power efficiency, but the current Mac Pro is large, in part, to fit components like additional storage drives and graphics chips."
Perhaps this new Mac Pro could replace the iMac Pro?
Those Mac users for whom the Mac Pro is targeted will be interested in the capabilities of the machine. Will Apple be able to make a processor to rival the workstation processors of Intel.
Currently the iMac Pro offers 18 cores while the Mac Pro offers up to 28-cores. Both machines feature the Intel Xeon processor.
In comparison AMD offers up to 64 cores for some of its high-end chips for gaming PCs.
A Bloomberg report in December claims that the new processor that Apple is working on for the Mac Pro will offer 32-cores.
That report states that these Apple Silicon processors will "will significantly outpace the performance of the latest machines running Intel chips".
Bloomberg's sources indicate that: "Apple is testing a chip design with as many as 32 high-performance cores."
The January 2021 Bloomberg report does suggest that the Mac Pro that will maintain the current design may also retain Intel processors.
Graphics is the other area of interest for anyone requiring a high-end Mac such as the Mac Pro. As we discuss in this article: Details of Apple's Silicon graphics plans. Apple's new GPUs will use tile-based deferred rendering technology. This Tile Based Deferred Rendering (TBDR) architecture will evidently be more efficient than current methods.
This is unlikely to stop concerns that Apple GPUs will struggle to complete with the discrete GPUS of AMD and Nvidia.
However, as per the December 2020 Bloomberg report, the Mac Pro could gain 64- and 128-core graphics processing. "Apple is working on pricier graphics upgrades with 64 and 128 dedicated cores aimed at its highest-end machines," according to Bloomberg's sources.
The new Mac Pro is unlikely to be any cheaper than it is currently - with prices starting at £5,499/$5,499. However it is possible that if the company does introduce the rumoured smaller model in place of the iMac Pro we might see something at a lower price.
Read more about how Apple's Silicon plans threaten Intel and AMD.