Back to My Mac (Pro)

If Apple is looking forward with the Mac Pro, they should start by taking a hard look back.

I use a 5k iMac for work and am interested in VR production and gaming. Some friends told me to build a dedicated Windows box and others suggested building a Hackintosh, but I was sure there was a better way to get what I wanted.

So I turned a 2009 Mac Pro that I picked up off of eBay for $1300 into a superb professional workstation, gaming, and VR platform, simply by adding an SSD drive and a new video card.

Behold, the glory of a bygone era.

Here are the basic stats:

  • 12 Intel Xeon cores running at 3.3 GHz
  • 32 GB RAM
  • 1 TB SSD startup disk
  • NVIDIA 1080 Ti graphics card
  • Dual boot macOS Sierra/Windows 10

Running Sierra lets me use it as my primary work machine. When I boot to Windows the machine works flawlessly with the HTC Vive and runs Fallout 4 in Ultra mode without a hitch. Continuity isn’t supported, but I couldn’t care less; this machine is a monster.

VR ready!

As I put it together over the weekend I reflected on just how good it felt to work with real high-end gear again.

I realized that the corner that Apple has painted us into is just another “sweet solution” (similar to Jobs’ proposal that we develop web apps for iPhone instead of native apps).

I can do the work that Apple feels is appropriate with a 5k iMac, but the massive pile of external disks and their power supplies stacked up behind it speaks to the adaptions I’ve quietly had to make in order to get it to meet my basic needs.

Apple’s agenda has been to stay focused on its cash cow: the iPhone. As a result, it has quietly mothballed some amazing products and technologies along the way, seriously impaired the economics of commercial software sales, and neglected macOS in efforts to homogenize it with iOS.

This eight-year-old machine is a beast. It is everything that I have been missing. It embodies the zenith of industrial hardware design. It is literally bristling with ports, has four internal drive bays, and can support two of the most cutting-edge graphics cards available on the market today.

I’m ditching my 5k iMac. I’d forgotten what a great experience working with real big iron could be. The only thing I’m missing is Continuity, and I can sure as hell live without that.

Apple, you recently announced that you were revisiting the Mac Pro concept. Here are a few thoughts:

  • Bring the 2012 Mac Pro back into production, if you can.
  • Provide a few modest updates: USB C, faster motherboard, updated SATA and PCIe specs, updated Bluetooth for Continuity support, etc.
  • Save face by slapping “Classic” in front of “Mac Pro.”
  • Realize that the dream that professionals will just accept an iMac or the trash can Mac Pro is your dream, not theirs. People are demonstrating it with their dollars on Hackintosh machines, Windows boxes, etc.
  • Stop worrying about the size of this particular market compared to the iPhone’s. Instead, think of it as a support cost, like opening a new factory or … a gigantic, spaceship-sized office, only this will be subsidized by paying customers and people generating content for your platforms.
  • Having said that, VR is an emerging industry and the Mac Pro is the perfect machine for developing VR titles on, even if it’s just while running Windows. There may be more of an upside to this opportunity than meets the eye.

Give up on the dream of people settling for prosumer machines, or get used to watching them leave you for something (anything) else.

Also, good god, Space Pirate Trainer is fantastic.

Next up, learn how you can turn a 2009 Mac Pro into a powerful machine for work, VR, and gaming, too.

EDIT: I’ve begun a how-to guide for doing this update, which you can read here:

Part II of the how-to has also been posted.

This article was originally published by Black Pixel CEO Daniel Pasco.

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