Nerd Fun Tech Trends

Mac Pro

Search for “Mac Pro” and you’ll get this article, You probably won’t be buying a Mac Pro this year, this video, Do I Regret buying the Mac Pro? 3 Weeks later.., and this Quora question, Is the New Mac Pro worth the price?

The conventional wisdom is that Mac Pro is expensive, for professionals only, over powered, and there are better options from Apple for consumers and business users.

I don’t agree. Don’t get me wrong, if you need a computer for today’s challenges, then these helpful explainers on the Internet have good points.

  • The Mac Pro is pricy if you all you’re doing is web browsing, emailing, and game playing.
  • The Mac Pro was definitely designed and built for professional video producers all the other professionals who need multiple CPU core and GPUs to get their jobs done.
  • The Mac Pro is hard to push to its limits. Its hardware and software are so well written and integrated that most of time the professionals see only a small percentage of their CPU and GPUs utilized.
  • There are better options for consumers, business people, and even software developers (like me). MacBook Pro, iMac, and even Mac Mini are powerful and well suited to the typical computation required by word processors, spreadsheets, image editors, and developer tools.

But I have a problem with all of the above. When I bought a Mac Pro, I didn’t buy it just for my today problems. I bought it for my tomorrow problems as well.

Because the Mac Pro is a workstation-grade computer that runs cool it’s going to last a long, long time. Heat and the build up of dust are the enemies of computer durability. Computation creates a lot of heat and that heat warps computer components. Heat also attracts particle in dust that start to stick to these components. I don’t know about you but my personal computer runs 24/7 (like I do). I don’t every want to turn it off because I’m always in the middle of two or three mission critical projects.

Because the Mac Pro is modular and design by Apple to be easy to upgrade it can be a computer for many different types of users. I’m not the kind of professional that is going to chew through 28 CPU cores and 1.5 terabytes of data (ordinarily). This is why I bought the entry level Mac Pro with 8 CPU cores, one GPU, and 1/4 quarter of a terabyte storage. Today, I’m a lightweight. Once in a while I edit a video or render a 3D model. Usually I write words, draw diagrams, present slides, and compile code. Tomorrow is another story. Maybe I’ll get into crypto or machine learning; Maybe I’ll get into AR or VR; I don’t like limits. I don’t like to buy computers with built-in limitations.

It is true that I am not pushing Mac Pro very hard at the moment. But Mac Pro is much faster than the Mac Mini I replaced. Geekbench says that a far less expensive Mac Mini is faster for single core work than an entry-level Mac Pro. I’m sure those benchmarks are true. But software doesn’t work with just a single core any more. Almost all modern software uses multiple threads of execution to save time and boost performance. Your web browser does this when loading a page and rendering images or paying video. Your word processor does this. Your developer tools do this. Everything I do with my Mac Pro happens faster than it did with my Mac Mini. I’m getting more done and spending less time waiting for files to load, images to render, and code to compile. Maybe its only 10% faster but over time that timesaving adds up.

It is true that I don’t use Mac Pro for every task. Sometimes I’m on the road (although not recently because of this virus situation) and a MacBook Pro is the only option. Sometimes iPhone or Apple Watch, or iPad Pro is the better option. But when the task requires me to sit for hours in the same position in the same room Mac Pro is the best option. Now that I have a Mac Pro I realize I was misusing my other computers. iPhones are not great for writing 70-page documents. You can do it but it’s not great.

Most of my life I felt had to go with the budget option. But I’ve always found the budget option to be barely worth it over the long run. If I keep this Mac Pro for five to ten years it will become the budget option. Otherwise, the budget option is to buy a cheap computer every 2-3 years. Over time the costs of those cheap computers start to add up to serious money.

Yes, it’s a risk to bet that Mac Pro will last for and still be relevant for five to ten years. Won’t we have quantum computers with graphene nanobots by then?

Maybe, but I (most likely) will still be using the same von Neumann type of computer in ten years that was I using ten years ago. I think most us will continue to use personal computers for work and play just as we will still need to type with our fingers and see images on a screen with our eyes.

Based on my analysis (see below) a Mac Pro gets less expensive over time as its upgrade components fall in price and the cost of a total replacement is avoided.

Mac Pro Cost Projection over 10 years
Mac Pro cost projection over 10 years vs. custom built PC and Dell

In the pass I’ve found I’ve needed a new computer every two years. Why? The applications I use get more sophisticated, the components become outdated, and there are security flaws that need to be addressed that the OS alone can’t fix. And sometimes the computer just freezes up or fizzles out. With Mac Pro I’m betting that instead of replacing it every two years I’ll be able to update it, as needed, and that Apple and the industry’s storage, memory, CPU, and GPU prices will continue to fall (Moore’s Law).

In 1987 I bought a Macintosh II for almost the same price that I paid for the Mac Pro in 2020. Like Mac Pro that Mac II was an expandable powerhouse. It helped launch my carrier in software development. It didn’t last me 10 years (it was not as upgradable and modular as Mac Pro) but I got a good five years out of it. It was a huge expense for me at the time but as time wore on it was completely worth it. Those were five years when I had a computer that could do anything I asked of it and take me, computationally speaking, anywhere I needed to go.