Mac Pro and monitor options

Yeah, it seems like a time to wait unless you are either in urgent need of a new Mac or can afford living on the cutting edge. The M1, like the A series used in iPhones, is a “system on a chip”. That’s a large part of the reason it gets such amazing performance. But it also means that the available resources are limited forever to what Apple put into that particular chip. There are some aspects of the M1 that are less than heavy-duty users would want. For example, the total memory (CPU and graphics use the same memory) maxes out at 16GB. Not bad, but not as much as demanding users need. It won’t affect single-thread SketchUp, but the number of cores is also small and fixed. The number of external ports on the M1 is too small for a pro-level computer. So, expect to see Apple roll out more advanced versions over the coming years.

And yes, it will take years - but probably fewer than you might think.

So far as I know, Apple themselves don’t put old models on sale. But they do allow resellers such as B&H to sell their old stock at reduced prices.

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I didn’t say it was so powerful. I said it is hard to match in hardware spec. And that is the stuff beyond the processor and gpu. Once you start trying to match the pci expansion and memory capacity, you realize what they accomplished. And yeah, once you try to match it becomes incredibly expensive. The equivalent HP clocks in at $6k also and still can’t match in some areas.

I was in no way implying that the stock video card would beat a gaming card. The two don’t compete even. The Mac Pro can’t be compared to typical PCs because it really isn’t one. And yes it doesn’t have a good gpu. But you can easily add one. Or many.

This is true of all processors.

I have a 2018 15” MacBook Pro. The M1 is a proof of concept. And it proves they can get 8-10x the performance per watt of their best competitor. On, literally, their lowest price entry level machine. No doubt they will have much much much much MUCH MUCH faster and capable M processors within the year in their lineup. They will have more cores, more memory, more efficiency, and more power than we are really even used to. It will be embarrassing to the competition. It has to hurt intel that apples entry level machine can outperform their lineup on day one at a fraction of the effort. Things will get interesting fast. And it won’t be very long.

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Back to the topic of a 2nd monitor, I’ve never been able to make this work. It used to work- previous to the 4 and 5k monitors, ie- previous to ~2015 iMacs, you could chain old iMacs as a 2nd monitor, but now they claim that it is technically too difficult to drive multiple 5k monitors, so no using another iMac as a 2nd monitor. As far as I know the functionality itself is removed from newer versions of OSX as well.

I would be thrilled to be wrong and find a way to use an older iMac as a 2nd screen, but it’s not officially possible and I’ve not found a hack to make it work either. :frowning:

I considered upgrading my 2013 iMac to an SSD, then I watched the “how to” video on Scary stuff!
Instead, I just got an external 1 TB SSD, plugged it into the USB port, and booted from that. Works fine, lasts a long time.
The only issue was that some of my software, including SketchUp, considered the external drive to be a different computer, so I had to reinstall or at least dig up my old serial numbers, etc.
Was well worth it, though. The SSD gives you a MAJOR speed-up!

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Thanks slbaumgartner,
I appreciate your thoughts … I’m hopeful that Apple will move their new chip architecture into the Mac Pro, along with continued access to customization and upgradeability. Hopefully this “system on a chip” format can be modified enough to allow "user upgrade/customization?

Depends on what you mean by “small”. The M1 has only 4 cores, 2 high performance and 2 low power. The Ampere Altra has 128 cores!

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I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Apple is famously tight-lipped about future products. I agree that pros who spend top dollar for a computer won’t be satisfied if it can’t be upgraded or customized later.

Much of the performance of the M1 results directly from the tight integration of all the units on a single chip. The distances between units on a single chip is small, which lets signals move fast at low power. Any connection to an external unit must go a longer distance and take more power to drive a peripheral bus. So, there will be serious engineering challenges for Apple to get comparable performance with external graphics, etc. Of course, there are also serious engineering challenges in cramming still more stuff onto a single chip!

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I meant all processors have a fixed configuration. It’s not a critique of Apple to say it has a limited amount of cores and they are fixed. That is true for every processor ever mad, ever.

While true but one can always upgrade to a higher version if it is pin-to-pin compatible (and not soldered on). I recently upgraded my 4th gen i5 cpu to a higher end and hyper-threaded 4th gen i7 in my home desktop (Dell Precision T1700). I gained more cache, higher clock speed and double the threads (for rendering). I think this is what slbaumgartner was talking about.

I think we are just stressing different aspects of the situation without really disagreeing.

I meant that the number of cores (4) in the M1 is smaller than what is now common in Intel, AMD, and others (8 or more, effectively 16 with hyperthreading). And, as @SeanB noted, unless Apple uses a pin-compatible socket on all versions of M chips instead of soldering it down, there is no chance you could ever upgrade it.

So even with a 2x per-core speed advantage, on a task such as rendering that can use multi-threading, the M1 would likely come out closer to even than to blowing the competition away. Using hyperthreading, an 8-core CPU has effectively 16 cores vs the M1’s 4, so the M1 might actually lose. It’s a complex tradeoff because the M1 CPU has on-chip fast access to all of memory and shares it with the GPU, whereas an Intel or AMD has on-chip fast access only to the cache and must ship data to and from main memory and to the GPU over a bus.

And again, the point is that unless Apple does something out of their usual for the top-end Mac Pro, you will likely be stuck with whatever comes on the original chip.

I think we’re making a totally unfair comparison here. This is a first gen, proof of concept chip on their lowest price, entry level computers they’ve ever priced and sold. Critiquing the number of cores is funny, because it isn’t a beast. But what it is doing is showing that single core is outperforming all other processors on the market at an energy consumption that is ~10x lower as well.

It’s funny to me that anyone is still comparing this to a beast of a DIY PC with a 1000W powersupply and a $300 Intel processor. Of course those can outperform and be upgraded; those aren’t computers you can toss in a backpack, either. This is a different generation.

The point is that at the entry level, it’s amazing. All Apple needs to do is add more cores and a beefier graphics portion, and anything else is going to weep in comparison.

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Most people don’t upgrade their CPUs, ever. That is reserved for people who usually build computers. In fact, most computers and laptops out there don’t allow upgrades just like Apple. This is because they are getting smaller and smaller and the form factor dictates custom builds that are increasingly hard to self repair. Not an Apple thing exclusively.

Yes. A 16 core chip that requires 20-30x more power, and costs about 3-4x more will definitely beat an entry level, very cheap and affordable chip with 4x fewer cores. Why would you compare them even? The fact is, the M1 is actually keeping up and beating expectations even with its paltry core count.

Somewhere along the way, the original point got lost and I am being cast as disparaging the M1, which I actually view as quite amazing.

The question was speculation about what might be in a future Mac Pro using Apple silicon vs if they stay with Intel. The emphasis on per-core performance was meant to underscore where Apple has to go for their chips to beat out the current (and future) high-end systems on performance.

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You’ve got this wrong: M1 is an 8 core chip: 4 IceStorm and 4 FireStorm.

While there are high end chips with greater core counts, this puts M1 in the upper end of the middle tier.

I agree. This idea that pros won’t buy non-upgradable computers depends largely on what you mean by pro. Many pros just want their computer to be a dependable and performant tool for the depreciation period of the capital expense.

When the asset is fully depreciated, they will sell it (or trade it in) and buy a new system rather than upgrading CPU/GPU etc.

The demand for user upgrades / customizations (as a deal-breaker) comes more from gamers — pro or otherwise.

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Well I’ll be. I’d swear I saw it written up as 4. My mistake then!


Hey, I just stumbled across this topic, and while the conversation changed towards discussion of the M1 chip, I am going back to the 2nd monitor question, specifically the retina 5k iMac

It wasn’t possible to use the 27" retina 5k screen iMacs as second screen until recently, but now it 100% is. I am sat here with with a two of them, running one as a second screen thanks to this:

You install two small apps, one for the primary, one for the secondary screen, plug a little dongle in to a Thunderbolt port, and you can run a 27" dual screen set up.
The only limitation is it won’t run the second screen at 5k resolution.
But then as I never actually used it anyway, I’m perfectly happy with them both at 4k

Hope someone finds that useful!