The Mac Pro 2022 is barely a day old and already the Mac Pro 2022 vs Mac Pro 2019 debate is in full swing, with professionals across various industries pouring over the different specs for the two workstations to see which is the better option.
It's understandable, too. Both the Mac Pro 2022 and Mac Pro 2019 are expensive computers, there's no getting around that – especially when you push the specs up into the more powerful configurations. These desktop workstations are capable of some of the most resource intensive tasks like industry-scale film, TV, and music production, as well as major 3D rendering projects, and they are among the best video editing computers you are ever going to find.
Considering the target market for these workstations, though. no one is expecting either of them to be cheap. What everyone is expecting is for them to be the best workstations on the planet at these prices.
So how does the new Mac Pro 2022 stack up against the Mac Pro 2019? Which one is worth your hard-earned money, and which is going to give you the flexibility you need to get the job done, no matter how big that job happens to be?
Mac Pro 2022 vs Mac Pro 2019: Price
When it comes to the Mac Pro 2022 vs Mac Pro 2019, price is naturally going to be the first thing that leaps out at you.
The Mac Pro 2019 starts off very expensive ($5,999/£5,499/AU$9,999), and its price soars astronomically as you upgrade to bigger and better parts. The entry-level configuration will get you an 8-core, 3.5GHz Intel Xeon W CPU with a boost frequency of 4.0GHz, a Radeon Pro W5500X graphics card with 8GB VRAM, 32GB DDR4 ECC RAM, and 512GB SSD storage.
If you wanted to max everything out, then you'll be looking at a much more substantial investment. The highest-level configuration comes with a 2.5GHz, 28-core Intel Xeon W processor with a boost frequency of 4.4GHz, two linked AMD Radeon Pro W6900X graphics cards with 32GB VRAM each, a staggering 1,536GB DDR4 ECC RAM, and 8TB SSD storage.
Before you whip out your credit card on this one, you might want to sit down. This configuration will set you back $51,799/£51,299/AU$78,699. You read that right, this three year old workstation will cost you more than a Tesla or the downpayment on a house in the suburbs.
What about the Mac Pro 2022? We don't think the Mac Pro 2022 will be nearly as expensive as the Mac Pro 2019, at least on the high end of things, since Apple's in-house silicon doesn't require (and isn't really designed for) the kind of obscene amount of RAM the Mac Pro 2019 topped out at. In fact, more than half the price of the Mac Pro 2019's highest configuration was just for the RAM modules.
If we look at our Apple Mac Studio review, for example, the maximum configuration with M1 Ultra, 128GB Unified Memory, and 8TB SSD will run you $7,999 / £7,999 / AU$12,099.
We imagine the storage options for the Mac Pro 2022 will likewise top out at 8TB, but if the rumors are true and it is set to sport a pair of M1 Ultras linked into a single chip, then we could maybe see a dual-M1 Ultra configuration with 256GB Unified Memory and an 8TB SSD as the max configuration.
If so, we can see that configuration pushing closer to the $18,000 / £18,000 / AU$27,000 price point. This is certainly steep, but its still less than half the price of the Mac Pro 2019's best configuration and is certain to be more powerful as well.
Mac Pro 2022 vs Mac Pro 2019: Design
The design of the Mac Pro 2019 certainly had its critics and its admirers, though it's understandable why the word "cheesegrater" often comes up in those conversations. That said, there was an undeniable charm to the Mac Pro 2019, especially if you're a fan of the industrial aesthetic.
We don't think that the Mac Pro 2022 will follow suit into a tower form factor, but instead might opt for something similar to the Mac Studio, but bigger. That's not certain though, since the Mac Pro 2022 will definitely have to have a bigger footprint than the Mac Studio. The Studio is the same size regardless of whether the M1 Max or M1 Ultra configurations are chosen, which indicates that the chassis for the Studio was designed around the M1 Ultra, with a smaller M1 Max board option being viable as well.
If the Mac Pro 2022 does, in fact, go with a scalable M1 Ultra model where at least two M1 Ultras are connected on the motherboard, than there is no getting around the fact that you will need a larger motherboard to accommodate that hardware as well as the up to 256GB Unified Memory that buyers can opt for.
It'll be interesting if Apple somehow manages to bring back the old flatten desktop PCs like we had in ye olde dayes of computing where a monitor was meant to sit on top of the computer itself. That would certainly be a natural design choice given the Mac Studio form factor, but Apple could also keep with the tower form factor as well, since this just as easily fits a larger motherboard that two M1 Ultras would require.
Mac Pro 2022 vs Mac Pro 2019: Specs
The Mac Pro 2022 vs Mac Pro 2019 debate will always boil down to their respective specs, since at the end of the day, what matters is how well you can get your work done and the specs are the most essential part of that equation.
For the Mac Pro 2019, the two main components of note are the Intel Xeon W processor, which starts at a 8-core chip and scales all the way up to a 28-core processor with a max boost frequency of 4.4GHz. Released in 2019, the Xeon W is still plenty powerful, and the 28-core version allows for up to 1,536GB DDR4 ECC memory (12 x 128GB), which makes light work out of the most resource intensive workloads like encoding 4K and 8K video, heavy-duty realtime rendering, and professional film scoring – something that was demonstrated on stage as WWDC 2019 when the Mac Pro was shown processing audio samples for over a thousand instruments at once while recording a track.
Add to this the variety of discrete graphics card options available in the Mac Pro 2019, starting with the AMD Radeon Pro W5500X with 8GB VRAM up to dual, linked AMD Radeon Pro W6900X cards, each with 32GB VRAM, enabling up to 22.2 TFLOPS of FP32 compute performance. The storage options for the Mac Pro 2019 are what one would expect at this level of workload, starting out at 512GB and increasing to as much as 8TB SSD storage with plenty of external storage options as well.
As far as the Mac Pro 2022, we don't have much to go on beyond a few hints that it is likely to be powered by a pair of M1 Ultra SoCs using the same kind of interconnect bridge that allows two M1 Max chips to create an M1 Ultra. We don't expect this new chip to have a different model name since Apple's Senior Vice President of Hardware Engineering, John Ternus, said before the M1 Ultra's reveal during Apple's Peek Performance event in March that there was "one more" chip to introduce alongside the M1, M1 Pro, and M1 Max processors to complete the M1 line.
As for what two M1 Ultras laced together would mean for overall performance, we have some pretty clear extrapolations based on what we know from the M1 Ultra. The M1 Ultra is a 20-core SoC with 16 performance (Firestorm) cores and four efficiency (Icestorm) cores. It's GPU comes with either 48 or 64 GPU cores, and each M1 Max chip features a 16-core neural engine for machine learning tasks and applications.
With two M1 Ultras working as one, you'd have a beastly 40-core SoC with 32 performance cores and eight efficiency cores, a GPU with 96 or 128 GPU cores, and a 64-core neural engine.
Each M1 Max chip is able to support 64GB Unified Memory, and has a memory bandwidth of about 400GB/s, so an M1 Ultra can support up to 128GB Unified Memory at about 800GB/s, which puts a dual-M1 Ultra configuration at 256GB Unified Memory and a staggering 1,600GB/s memory bandwidth. This alone would more than compensate for the 6-fold decrease in total GB RAM from the Mac Pro 2019 to the Mac Pro 2022.
This, of course, assumes that you will only be able to unite two M1 Ultras in the Mac Pro 2022. The way the technology works, there's no reason to think that you can't have four M1 Ultras or even eight in a high-end Mac Pro 2022. Eight M1 Ultras gets you up to 1,024GB Unified Memory, and even though there is going to be deminishing returns on the bandwidth and data trasfer speeds the more chips you add to the mix (that data does have to travel a longer distance, relatively speaking, after all), you are still going to get an obscene amount of memory performance using these interconnect bridges between these SoCs.
How the new Mac Pro 2022 will handle the modularity of the Mac Pro 2019 is an open question, but from everything we've seen from Apple on this, it appears that it is moving away from the Mac Pro 2019's modularity and towards the predefined configurations of the Mac Studio. Given how everything on the M1 Ultra SoCs work, there really isn't a capacity for expandability the way you have with Intel and AMD chips, which are meant to work with a wide variety of hardware, while the M1 Ultra just have to work with the hardware Apple designs for it.
In the end, giving up that modularity would likely be well worth the sacrifice considering all the potential performance you'd gain by making the jump to interconnected M1 Ultras. We'll have to wait and see what Apple announces at WWDC 2022, hopefully, before we'll know for sure.
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John (He/Him) is the Components Editor here at TechRadar and he is also a programmer, gamer, activist, and Brooklyn College alum currently living in Brooklyn, NY.
Named by the CTA as a CES 2020 Media Trailblazer for his science and technology reporting, John specializes in all areas of computer science, including industry news, hardware reviews, PC gaming, as well as general science writing and the social impact of the tech industry.
You can find him online on Threads @johnloeffler.
Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 (just like everyone else).