By: +David Herron; Date: March 7, 2019
Apple has promised the next Mac Pro, due during 2019, would be modular without explaining what they mean. As I've been documenting on TechSparx, Apple's current design style is unrepairable unmodifiable machines. The sort of Pro users who would want a Mac Pro, however, want upgradeability for example to swap in new graphics cards or max out the memory. In short, the design ethos Apple should follow is precisely the 2009/2010 Mac Pro design.
I'm back telling Apple what to do. A year ago I tried telling Apple to make the new Mac Mini more like the Intel NUC. But Apple did not listen and while the 2018 Mac Mini is getting good performance reviews, the repairability and upgradeability Apple promised is a big fat lie. Basically I want Apple to go back to selling repairable upgradeable products, like Apple used to do. My 2012 MacBook Pro is excellent, I can take it apart any way I like, upgrade or fix anything, etc, but I hear the newer models are not good in this regard.
Instead Apple's quest for uber-thinness caused the so-called Flexgate problem in the latest MacBook Pro's due to cables that were too short. The overly short cables fray and start cracking after a few months. Replacing the cable instead requires replacing the entire display unit at a huge cost.
Getting back to the Mac Pro -- the 2013 Mac Pro is widely regarded as a ridiculous design, and as a result the earlier models are still highly sought after.
I've never owned any kind of Mac Pro, but I've been watching YouTube videos and pondering. The title above explicitly said "2009 Mac Pro" but everything in this post applies to Mac Pro models between 2007 or so and 2012. The 2013 Mac Pro was an extreme departure that many think was ridiculous. The three videos below are spot-on with why the older Mac Pro's had such an excellent design, and even calls for Apple to return to this design ethos for the 2019 modular Mac Pro.
What's shown is the ability to open the Mac Pro case without tools, replace parts without tools, yet the innards are Pro-grade parts and reliability. Opening the case is accomplished with a latch on the front panel, after which a side panel easily slides off. Replacing a PCI card starts by moving a latch that makes it possible to add/remove cards from the slot, along with some thumb screws holding the card in place. The CPU modules and memory sticks are on a tray that easily slides out. The disks are also on trays that slide in and out.
It looks like an excellent design.
Further the machines can be upgraded to 12-core dual Xeon's running at over 3 GHz, with 64 GB of memory, up to four 3.5" drives (e.g. 40 terabytes of storage is quite possible), and two 5.25" bays for other drives.
Because the old school Mac Pro's have regular PCI slots, regular modern graphics cards will run on these Mac Pro's with the only caveat being driver support. As the one video points out, certain graphics cards use chipsets almost identical to what's in the iMac Pro, meaning Apple will be directly supporting those graphics cards by osmosis.
Mac OS X compatibility with the 2006/2007/2008/2009/2010/2011/2012 Mac Pro
Most of these machines have been declared by Apple to be obsolete. As such macOS upgrades are no longer directly available for most of the pre-2012 Mac Pro's. But in some cases you'll be able to work around this, such as by flashing the firmware so that the machine believes it is a later Mac Pro model. I do not know the details on how to do this, so you're on your own in regards to finding instructions.
How to buy a 2006/2007/2008/2009/2010/2011/2012 Mac Pro
Old school Mac Pro's are often available at bargain basement prices on eBay:
- 2006 Mac Pro
- 2007 Mac Pro
- 2008 Mac Pro
- 2009 Mac Pro
- 2010 Mac Pro
- 2011 Mac Pro
- 2012 Mac Pro
- 2013 Mac Pro -- Not really recommended, but listed here for completeness