Mac Pro Reviews Find Impressive Hardware, But Few Software Titles Take Advantage

After a weekend of testing, Engadget and The Verge have posted longer pieces on their Mac Pro review units, with mixed results.

As The Verge repeatedly notes, the new Mac Pro really only shines when used with software specifically optimized for its dual-GPU setup. At the moment, Final Cut Pro X is the best demonstration of the Mac Pro's prowess -- when using other software, the Mac Pro is only modestly faster than a new-vintage iMac, though, as Engadget points out, that should change soon.

Without belaboring the point, this brings me to one of my few concerns about the Mac Pro, which is that right now, at least, most programs won't fully harness its graphics capabilities. One of the reasons I spent so much time in Final Cut Pro is that it's one of the few programs designed specifically to run well on a new Mac Pro. It reminds me a bit of how Retina display MacBook Pros were initially short on compatible software. If that analogy holds true, we should see more apps retooled to play nice with the Mac Pro's dual-GPU setup. Just be prepared for some slim pickings if you buy one this week.


When the Mac Pro is running optimized software, however, performance is impressive. Engadget found similar results to those from Friday, reporting that 4K clips could render and display more than a dozen filters in real-time, and that the machine can play back as many as 16 4K streams simultaneously. File transfers are incredibly fast, and most apps launch immediately.

Perhaps the most immediately noticeable change is to the Mac Pro's design. The Verge noted that the location of the Pro's ports -- on the back of the device -- can make connecting and disconnecting plugs a pain, while also grumbling about the lack of an SD card slot. Engadget wasn't perturbed by the lack of a card slot, noting that the professionals that will likely purchase the device use a wide variety of storage cards so including a slot for just one of those formats would be rather arbitrary.

Engadget notes that the Mac Pro can get a bit warm -- unsurprising given the amount of horsepower under the hood -- but it doesn't get particularly hot.

For lack of a better word, you'd have to provoke the machine to really be bothered by the heat: The warmest area is at the top of the chassis, and even then, you'd have to be sticking your hand near the vents to feel it. Otherwise, the chassis does get a tad warm -- and can take a while to cool down -- but it's much cooler than the air blowing out of the top. Avoid sticking your fist into the opening at the top and you'll be fine. As for noise, I tried hard to get the fans spinning, but they stayed quiet. Actually, if you put your ear up to the opening at the top, you will hear a faint purring, but again, you'd have to be the sort of wise guy willing to put your ear next to the hottest part of the machine (not recommended).

While Engadget is largely impressed with the new device, The Verge uses Adobe Premiere for its video editing and found very slight performance improvements because Adobe has not yet updated its software to take advantage of the Mac Pro's dual-GPUs. In fact, Premiere puts most of its processing on the Mac Pro's CPUs, the tower's weakest performance datapoint.

When Adobe -- and other performance-focused applications -- are inevitably upgraded to take advantage of the Pro, it's likely the performance improvements will shine like they do with Final Cut Pro X. Until then, however, the Mac Pro is mostly an incredibly well-designed, and fast, Mac. With new Mac Pro orders currently delayed until at least February, perhaps it will give developers time to upgrade their software.

Related Roundup: Mac Pro
Buyer's Guide: Mac Pro (Don't Buy)
Related Forum: Mac Pro

Top Rated Comments

Renzatic Avatar
104 months ago
Yeah their idea that you simply turn the unit around and the ports light up shows that Apple didn't really think this through. Since this unit will require a lot of external accessories, turning it around will not be that easy and it will be really awkward to (un)-plug things into this Mac.

This is gonna seem like a really dumb question, but why don't you all turn it around so the ports are within easy reach?
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
budselectjr Avatar
104 months ago
Wow. Just realized what a pain it would be to have everything connected with cables in the back, then wanting to plug another drive or USB in. Not only is it an inconvenience, but ugly

Rotate 180 degrees and keep it there=Problem solved? :confused:
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Nugget Avatar
104 months ago
I swear, I think my '08 Mac Pro has figured out that its replacement has been ordered. It feels slower somehow, just in the last week.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
rGiskard Avatar
104 months ago
Hard to reach ports seems to be Ive's signature design motif. Reminds me of trying to plug a jump drive into an iMac.

I'd bet good money that the front ports on the Mac Pro tower were NOT Ive's idea.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Klae17 Avatar
104 months ago
Wow. Just realized what a pain it would be to have everything connected with cables in the back, then wanting to plug another drive or USB in. Not only is it an inconvenience, but ugly.

----------

The problem is, it's like having a supercar with a speed limiter. Smart purchase? Debatable.

It's like having a supercar in traffic and then hitting the autobahn. Smart purchase? Yep.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
anticipate Avatar
104 months ago
I've said this before in several other threads but it bears repeating again…

Many of these reviews compare this machine to the prior generation of Mac Pro. There is a solid number of owners who have MP 4,1 3,1 and even some 2,1 and 1,1. The point is, this machine is a massive upgrade in almost every way for those who have been holding out for 4+ years for a new machine.

And for those comparisons to today's iMac which doesn't have TB2 or the capability of having dual GPUs (which will dramatically increase processing power as more and more apps optimize for OpenCL) this machine has much longer legs than any other machine that Apple currently produces.

Yes, yes, and yes. After lurking in these boards for some time, I am amazed (not really) by how many people claim to know what they are talking about or claim they are "pros" (whatever that means) yet really don't have a clue about real world video work for real clients. If you perform video work for a living, you know that time = money and even in PPro CC your renders will be significantly faster with dual GPU support already baked in for export/render out.

The Verge review doesn't come close to telling the whole story. It is true that FCPX compared to Adobe CC as currently implemented may be much faster when editing in real time 4K files because it uses two GPUs at once not only for render/encode but for playback while editing. Adobe CC only uses 2 GPUs on rendering/exporting/encoding, not during editing. Hell, it doesn't even use the GPU at all for decoding of compressed formats (google for Adobe's whitepaper on GPU usaage). FCPX does, so of course real time debayer of RED 4K footage is going to be faster. That just makes sense.

It is probably true that, given 4 cores to 4 cores and even the dual 700s, that the top line iMac will be roughly the same speed as the nMP (give or take 10%) insofar as real time editing on Adobe CC is concerned. At first, that makes it seem like a glorious waste of money to buy the nMP until Adobe enables dual GPU enhancements while editing. However, that's only the surface of the pool. Dive in and it gets more interesting.

For example, up that CPU count to 6 or 8 cores, and you'll start to see significant speed increases across the board in Adobe CC because it's so CPU dependant. These won't blow your socks off though, because it's still COU rendering. But it's up to twice as much depending on your configuration so that's not "nothing". Now the real star - the dual GPUs - do not get utilized until export/render wth the current version of Premiere Pro under Adobe CC. When you click export/render or encode in AME, then you'll be saving a ton of time. And for those people where every minute costs time that they could be working on another paid project (or living their life), that nMP cost starts to look worth every penny.

People seem to miss in their fog of geekdom and odd interntian over-reaction that even in the Verge review they mentioned the Adobe CC render time was pretty damn fast. Apparently, that's not important to the Verge video team. Their video team wants to see effects rendered on 3 or 4 4K files in real time (never mind they never target 4K for distribution or source it with their C300s), and currently that's only possible with FCPX 10.1. But at the end of the day, when you render out, the nMP will blow away your iMac or rMBP in Adobe CC too. To me, that's what matters most.

Now don't get me wrong, I'd love to playback in full res for everything all the time while editing 4K in Adobe CC. (I can't even do that with some layered effects on my top line iMac in 1080 now, never mind 4K). But it's not the end of the world as long as my renders are quick. We all know Adobe will update CC to add dual GPU editing to stay competitive, so then we'll get that benefit too in time. To come back to the referenced post - this machine has legs as software improves, but let's not lose sight that it has a lot of power now too for current software.

The nMP is a long haul machine. It's not much faster than a (still very fast) last generation Mac Pro for real time editing in Adobe CC, but as FCPX 10.1 illustrates it has the legs to get much faster. It still offers far more rendering power than a last gen Mac Pro in CC, never mind an iMac. That's the reality of the situation, no matter what the hipsters at the Verge "feel".

The nMP however not necessary for anyone who can afford to render out and go do something else. For all those people, a rMBP (15") or iMac will be great. I have edited plenty of a major project on just those machines with no issue. So why did I order the nMP? To render faster so I can do more. The render speeds are the one thing that keep me from getting more paid work done. Time is money as they say. In the long run (3 years) this machine will pay for itself 15x over, and I'll be able to do more. That means it's an effective tool for people who are paid to create with it. Period. Let's not get caught up in the geekery minutia. If it's enabling people to do more faster and make more money, then it's a success. Even if I might forgetfully throw trash it in it now and then. ;)

P.S.: Through all of this, it may be time to take another look at FCPX, which I hated when it came out, after a brief excitement having seen it launch at NAB back when. It's been vastly improved over time, including the latest version which addresses some key flaws with media management. And at no additional cost to the user to boot. Competition is good.,=
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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