WWDC 2019: First look at Apple Mac Pro (2019) and Pro Display XDR

SAN JOSE – As it had promised two years ago, Apple has updated its professional desktop computer with the new Mac Pro (starts at US$5,999 or S$8,190) during last week’s WWDC 2019 event at San Jose.

The upgrade-unfriendly cylindrical “trash can” design of the 2013 Mac Pro has been, well, trashed for what I think is essentially an update of the 2010 Mac Pro’s “cheese grater” design.

At the hands-on area of the WWDC, the media were not even allowed to touch or test the new machine, so this is literally a first look.

From what I can see, it is function over form this time with its regular rectangular shape that looks similar to many desktop machines.

The chassis of the Mac Pro (2019) has a stainless-steel frame that stretches from the top as fixed handles down to the four footers at its bottom that can be replaced with optional wheels.

Its aluminium housing can be easily removed by turning and lifting a semi-circular handle on the top to reveal its innards. This housing has what Apple calls a lattice pattern – circular holes (thus those cheese grater memes) drilled into its front and rear that also act as airflow vents. Three front fans and a thermal architecture help to provide optimal cooling for the machine.

But it is the modular nature of this Mac Pro that professionals have been asking for. It supports up to 28-core Intel Xeon processors, up to a whopping 1.5TB of system memory across 12 RAM slots and up to four graphics processing units (GPUs) using Apple’s new MPX module.

With the new Mac Pro, AMD’s new GPU also debuts in the form of the Radeon Pro Vega II graphics card with 14 teraflops of graphics performance and 32GB of video memory. The Mac Pro can house two MPX modules, with each module able to accommodate two Pro Vega II units. Thus, you can have four GPUs running a staggering 56 teraflops of graphics performance and 128GB of video memory. There are also up to eight PCIe slots that users can utilise for various needs.

At the various audio, video and photo sections of the demo area, all the heavy-duty audio-mixing, photo-editing and video-rendering processes look smooth and seamless. Given its horsepower, it will be a surprise if that were not the case.

But what impresses me the most is Apple’s new 32-inch 6K (6,016 x 3,384 pixels) monitor – the Pro Display XDR (US$4,999). It uses a direct backlighting system with a large array of LEDs that produce 1,000 nits of full-screen brightness, a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, P3 wide colour gamut and more than one billion colours.

Apple placed some reference monitors – used specifically for colour grading – side by side with the Pro Display XDR during a demo session and its colour uniformity and high-dynamic range (HDR) quality were impressive across a variety of demo videos.

Even more impressive is the constant colour integrity despite its 1,000 nits brightness, with the monitor maintaining superb details in bright highlights and deep blacks. While I can see reflections on the standard Pro Display XDR, a model with the nano-texture matt option did not show any reflection of the lighting at the venue on its display. It was truly amazing.

Yes, the optional Pro Stand costs US$999, but you can always get other stands to work with it using the Vesa adaptor (US$199). But considering how some reference monitors can cost as much as US$43,000, the Pro Display XDR can be considered a bargain.

Local film-maker Chai Yee Wei, 43, who also owns a post-production facility, tells The Straits Times: “For those who think the Pro Display XDR is expensive, they are not in the same market and don’t understand how hard it is to make a proper HDR monitor.”

His studio owns a US$43,000 reference monitor, but Mr Chai is already thinking of getting the new Mac Pros and Pro Display XDR. “Of course, I need to test it first. But I think Apple has nailed it,” he says.

The Mac Pro (2019) and Pro Display XDR will ship in autumn, or around September, this year.

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