Thoughts on the New Mac Pro and Apple’s Pro Display

June 7 2019

I’m a Mac fanboy, and the new Mac Pro looks astounding. The Afterburner card, as Apple’s calling it, makes it possible to render three 8K video streams of RAW footage in real time. Mind-blowing.

Of course, the Afterburner is a module that can be installed after purchase, or when you order a Mac Pro. Every Mac Pro can be configured to the user’s needs. So while I don’t need to edit three 8K streams of video without proxy files, I definitely need a ton of RAM and some solid GPU options (seriously, Lightroom turns every machine into a jet at takeoff). I could see a future version of myself relying on a version of the Mac Pro Apple unveiled this week.

The display looks incredible too. The Pro Display XDR (seriously, why didn’t they just call it the Pro Display?) looks amazing. But it’s going to cost nearly $10k in Canada to get the display and the stand — because the stand alone comes in at $999 USD. And that’s without the Mac Pro. That’s just the monitor.

For some professional environments, that cost is minimal. But for me, it’s more than it’s worth.

And I get it: I’m not necessarily the target market. The freelancing creative pro is not the upper echelon Apple is going for. But despite that, I miss the days of the Thunderbolt Display. I’d love to see Apple take the 5K display out of their iMacs and put that in a nice enclosure again, just like the old times.

There’s a serious gap in the market where a Retina-resolution, well-designed monitor could exist.

If you wanted a standalone Retina 27”-class monitor, you’d better order the LG UltraFine 5K display. Before it sells out. But it’s also nearly $2000 Canadian, and it frankly isn’t that great of a display. (The screen is lovely, but the enclosure is garbage. I’m currently rocking LG’s similar 21.5” 4K display, which is nice, but cramped. Its enclosure is also garbage.)

This all causes a problem: currently, there is no good way to live a single-machine lifestyle. Back in 2012, you could buy a quad-core 15” MacBook Pro and a top-of-the-line display for a few grand. That was a great setup: you got an excellent, fast machine with a great (Retina) display, and a nice way to get work done at a desk, all without the hassle of syncing files across machines.

There isn’t a great way to do that today. The current lineup of MacBook Pros are largely lacking (thanks mostly to the keyboard), and there are no great low-end external monitors. Most professionals who can afford it will likely end up with a desktop in their production environment and a laptop on the go. In between, you’ll be syncing everything between a combination of Dropbox/iCloud/OneDrive, Git, and external disks (hello again, Lightroom). It’s not ideal.

We always say things were simpler back in the old days, but 2012 wasn’t that long ago, and frankly, things were simpler then.

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