Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Why photographers should be excited about the new upcoming Mac Pro from Apple

Many of you have seen the recent Apple announcement about the new Mac Pro, and for those of you photographers, you might wonder if this is the right computer for you. I have been waiting for Apple to address the high end market for the last couple of years, frustrated with what seemed like endless new iMacs and no super power machine. I know that I am VERY excited about this announcement and can not wait to get my hands on one of these.

I have been using a Mac Pro for more than 5 years now, and even though it is a workhorse of a machine, it is getting pretty dated. What frustrates me more than anything about the current computer is the following:

* The machine has only USB 2.0 ports and not USB 3.0. This means that my Lexar Dual-Slot USB 3.0 reader and Drobo 5D are severely slowed down! I have installed a Caldigit USB 3.0 card into my Mac Pro but it is a little flakey and does cause periodic kernal panic errors. Not fun.

* The Mac Pro does not have Thunderbolt ports. This means that my fastest data connection is through Firewire 800, which is outdated and mostly forgotten at this point.

* The processor is now 5 years old, which I like to equate to dog years. It is like having a car that is 35 years old. I want more speed!

* I only have VGA output. No mini display port or HDMI.

* The DRAM expansion is limited to and the memory is not very fast.

* The computer is LARGE and it gets REALLY hot! There are times in the summer when I dread working on my computer since it seems to generate as much heat as my furnace.

Here are my thoughts on the new Mac Pro and how it will work in my workflow:

* I am really looking forward to the having a lot more horsepower! From everything I am reading, it sounds like the new Mac Pro will be at least twice as fast as my current machine. Less time waiting means faster editing and more time shooting!

* I look forward to 4 USB 3.0 ports. Ahhhh, this will be bliss. The fast data transfer of the SuperSpeed USB will make downloading my Lexar 1000x cards and backing up a dream.

* I look forward to connecting my 30TB of hard drives to the Thunderbolt 2 ports. I have two Drobo 5D units waiting for a high speed connection. I plan on using one unit as primary storage and the other as backup.

* Faster graphics processing should help Photoshop move even quicker. I am really tired of watching large files open with the dread beach ball. Need I say more!

* I am happy to recover some desk space. I can replace this monolithic beast with something less than 10" tall and really thin. It will be like having a Mac that just went through a full term at "The Biggest Loser" camp.

* No more heater (hopefully)! This one really gets me. Sure, during the winter, it is nice to cozy up to my Mac Pro and spoon, but during the summer, the heat in my office gets unbearable and I dread editing. I also look forward to saving some energy costs. I believe that my current Mac is dimming the lights in our neighborhood.

* What display will I connect? This is a really big question right now, since I am currently using the Apple 30" Cinema Display and not sure it will connect.  I have to do a little more research on this one. It might be time to switch to the Wacom Cintiq 24HD. That would be pretty darned cool!

* Is it time for a new Apple Airport Extreme router with 802.11ac? Since I move so much data between my computers and my Drobo 5N, I am thinking that the new wireless speeds may really benefit me. Add another $200 to the price tag!

* Speaking of price, I am wondering what this little powerhouse is going to cost me. Apple has not announced pricing and options yet, but I am budgeting assuming that this will cost in the range of $3-$4k for what I want.

* I was hoping for a couple of internal drive bays. Since I currently have all 4 drive bays filled in my Mac Pro, I am used to having a lot of onboard storage. The thought of moving all of my data to external devices is a bit troubling. I know that Thunderbolt is REALLY fast, but it still freaks me out having my primary storage outside the box. I am also curious to see how fast Western Digital is going to come out with a large capacity external drive with Thunderbolt 2.

So...for now...it is a waiting game to see when Apple is going to release the new Mac Pro. But I am transferring all my data from my internal drives to one of the Drobo 5D units, investigating the display options, and rearranging desk space in preparation.


Ron Acord said...


This is sort of off topic, but have you done a review of Drobo? I have heard good things, and also alot of train wrecks.
Thanks for your work by the way. Your talk on B&H about you shooting helped me tons!

Jeff Cable Photography Blog said...

Ron - not yet, but once I get the new Mac and I am using the Drobos to their full potential, then I will write a review. Good idea.


Chris Johanson said...

I work at a Best Buy retail store in Massachusetts and I'm hoping to potentially see some of these arrive as display models sometime soon. I think we've all been waiting just as long as you and its nice to finally hear Apple listening to everybody on the "higher-end" of computing. As for me, I would also like to see more on the lines of internal-storage capacity but I guess you can't win 'em all right? I think this beast has generated as much hype as it has power. Great blog as usual... loved the part about spooning the old Mac...

Michael Ball said...

You can certainly use the 30inch monitors with a Mac Pro! What you'll need is this:http://store.apple.com/us/product/MB571Z/A/mini-displayport-to-dual-link-dvi-adapter?fnode=53

Little pricey, but it works. You also may want a Thunderbolt to Firewire adapter, and a FW400-800 adapter, but honestly... There's not much point in using the FW ports unless you have an iSight or low bandwidth device.

I would also recommend getting a USB2 hub, to use for plugging slow devices into the Mac Pro (like the monitors) to save room for the useful things which need USB3.

Eric Reagan said...

Will Thunderbolt 2 offer any advantage to external HDs over Thunderbolt 1? I didn't think we were close to seeing Thunderbolt 1 speed limits approached on external HDs... Unless you are looking to RAID 0 several SSDs...?

Are there other advantages than transfer speed limits?

Ralf said...

Interesting thoughts...

But instead of thinking about the new airport extreme it might make more sense to have a decent setup with gigabit cables... :)

And another question comes to my mind... Drobo? Really? I've heard a lot of negative feedback from my clients concerning Drobos. Did you already check out the Multi-Bay-Enclosures from Promise? Could be a very nice choice... I hope that Promise and G-Technology will come up soon with a Thunderbolt2 enclosure... :)

But: the new Mac Pro is definitely on my list for next year and I can't wait to have this little baby standing right in front of me... :D


Chris said...

I love Apple, but they sure can be a tease. Thanks for the info Jeff. Until your post, I haven't seen more than just a picture of the thing.

I am hoping to get one soon!
Off topic as well, but what is your recommendation for screens these days? There are so many options out there!

Tom said...

I have to ask about selecting WiFi for your home network. With a Gigabit (or faster) wired connection, it will be faster, way less interference from other signal emitting devices, and if it's connected to the other device through a switch, it will be faster than going through the AP to the switch. Just a thought!

Ralph Lisak said...

fauspeEric Reagan said...
Will Thunderbolt 2 offer any advantage to external HDs over Thunderbolt 1? I didn't think we were close to seeing Thunderbolt 1 speed limits approached on external HDs... Unless you are looking to RAID 0 several SSDs...?
Are there other advantages than transfer speed limits?

I don't believe that there are any advantages of Thunderbolt (1 or 2) at the moment. Data transfer speed is limited by SATA interface of HDDs. You may want to check a post on this on my blog here: http://photocrossroads.com/2013/06/22/whats-the-fuss-about-thunderbolt/

Velva said...

This is cool!

Unknown said...

Hi Jeff, I was in our local Apple store and they told me the new pro goes on sale in February and they should have one in the store to look at by the end of December. It looks so cool! I just want it so I can stare at it on my desk!

Cheers buddy,

Brett D.

Unknown said...

Hey Jeff,

Was in my local Apple store on Saturday. They told me the new Mac Pro's will be ready to ship in February and they should have one to look at in their store by the end of December.

I want one just to look at on my desk! Looks so cool, like a jet engine. Being a pilot, I'm obviously attracted to that.

Cheers buddy,

Brett D.