back to article iFixit surgeons dissect Apple's pricey Mac Pro: Industry standard sockets? Repair diagrams? Who are you and what have you done to Apple?

DIY repair site iFixit has announced the results of its teardown of the 2019 Mac Pro – the latest eye-wateringly priced, professional-oriented computer from fruit-branded-biz-turned- kitchenware supplier, Apple. And while the Mac Pro looks like cheese grater and costs a lot of cheddar, you’ll be delighted to discover it’s no …

  1. wolfetone

    First Labour heartlands vote for the Conservatives, now Apple release a computer that I can fix myself.

    I just don't recognise the world I live in any more.

    1. Stuart Castle

      Until the 2013 Mac Pro (which I currently have on my desk), Mac Pros have traditionally been relatively easy to take apart or put together. Getting parts was sometimes an issue, as while they've tended to use standard sockets recently, they've required custom firmware on the devices, which makes things a little expensive.

      1. Joe W Silver badge

        According to the ElReg article on Darth Vader's dustbin that one got 8/10 repairability, not too shabby. It reads like both memory and storage could be upgraded (even the CPU itself).

        1. fobobob

          I also went and looked back into that one and was surprised by the level of modularity (despite not accepting standard graphics cards).

    2. JDX Gold badge

      Indeed, everything is on the up

      1. Martin-73 Silver badge

        <takes bait> except for the whole voting thing?<disappears to eat bait in comfort>

    3. N2 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Excellent

      Wonder if Apple will continue this new mantra with its next crop?

    4. deadlockvictim Silver badge

      Repairability

      Computers from Apple Inc (née Computer) have long been very easy to get into and repair. It is the curse of Steve Jobs who wanted to make it as hard as possible for users to get inside «home» machines.

      So, the Apple II series were user-friendly because they were designed by Woz. The compact macs (essentially Jobs' brainchild [1]) were harder to get into and more dangerous once within. But once Steve Jobs was gone in 1985, almost all of the desktop Macs produced by Apple until the Second Coming in 1998 were upgrade-friendly. The plastics in that later era became very brittle (as anyone with a Quadra 840av can testify to). And even after SJ's return, the Power Macs were the epitome of upgradeability while the iMacs & eMacs became laptops in desktop form.

      [1] actually Jeff Raskin's brainchild before he was booted off his own project by SJ.

      1. J. Cook Silver badge

        Re: Repairability

        Yeah. extracting the hard drive and safing an eMac for proper disposal was an interesting business. First (and last) time I've ever used my 'big' flat blade screwdriver (which doubled as a prybar) as a discharge rod for the CRT with an appropriate grounding lead clipped to it. Also the first and last time I've ever worked directly on a CRT; One of the few things I'm glad to not have to deal with anymore*.

        *Welllll..... except for the RGB Apple IIGS monitor and the monochrome CRTs I have sitting in the archive. I have a goal to deal with both of those this year to either get them out the door, or make them no longer my problem.... :)

  2. chivo243 Silver badge

    you can’t just swap in a drive from Crucial

    No, probably not. Not at this time, check back in a few months? If not with Crucial, I'll bet another vendor will have it. Still won't be cheap, but won't be the dry strip search from Apple.

    1. DougMac

      Re: you can’t just swap in a drive from Crucial

      Surprisingly few 3rd party vendors for weird Apple proprietary flash. Just one that I know of, OWC has replacements for the trash can, and MBP/MBA flash drives.

      They most likely will have replacements for the 2019 MacPro as well (already a category on their website).

      I do wish Apple switched over to the "standard" version of the products after they pioneered the stick form factor, but they keep on with their own thing for some vendor lock.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Its really not that proprietary

        It is basically a raw flash module, an SSD without a controller. Apple uses the controller in their T2 chip (the technology they bought from Anobit some years ago) which also manages the storage in the iPhone.

        There's no reason a third party couldn't make such modules, but the market has to be large enough for them to think it is worth it. How many Mac Pros will Apple sell over its lifetime, a million or two? How many of those people would potentially be in the market to replace the built in storage? Probably a single digit percent. That's probably not a big enough market to design/sell these modules and undercut Apple's pricing by enough to make it worth it.

        The Mac Pro has PCIe slots and SATA connectors, so nothing stops you from buying the standard model with the 256GB SSD and using that as your boot drive, and using standard PCIe or SATA SSDs for supplemental storage. Or set it to boot from that storage and ignore Apple's SSD entirely.

        1. Robert Sneddon Bronze badge

          Re: Its really not that proprietary

          It is basically a raw flash module, an SSD without a controller. Apple uses the controller in their T2 chip (the technology they bought from Anobit some years ago) which also manages the storage in the iPhone.

          That sounds like they want to enable their own end-to-end hardware encryption and security protocols for the boot/OS SSD rather than relying on software encryption over a standard data bus like PCIe or SATA/SAS. It would explain them going with a non-standard "standard" for the device. Interesting.

    2. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: you can’t just swap in a drive from Crucial

      You can already put in your own storage, you can even boot from it. But the original ones are tied to the T2 chip, so they have to be there...

      It’s not really a huge problem... if you need more than a TB or so then it should probably be on a proper NAS anyway...

  3. HCV

    Stinking Bishop

    It's a kind of cheese, and by the "name like Smuckers" test, I'm guessing it must be awesome.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stinking Bishop

      Famously appeared in the film Wallace and Grommit in the Curse of the Were Rabbit.

    2. richardcox13

      Re: Stinking Bishop

      > I'm guessing it must be awesome.

      Perhaps not awesome, but certainly very nice (very much like Chaumes)

    3. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Re: Stinking Bishop

      And it reall does pong - but tastes very fine. My partner insists it is kept in a sealed box - preferably out of sight of the unwary.

  4. Roger Greenwood

    "...the equivalent of a two-bedroom terraced house in West Yorkshire on a computer"

    We may live in hovels but it's worth it to be this far from London :-)

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: "...the equivalent of a two-bedroom terraced house in West Yorkshire on a computer"

      I will point out that this computer, fully loaded, does not cost as much as my 2-bed terraced house in East Yorkshire, bought in 2017.

      That being said, it's only £7k off...

      1. el_oscuro
        Boffin

        Re: "...the equivalent of a two-bedroom terraced house in West Yorkshire on a computer"

        Over on the other side of the pond one of these fully tricked out will set you back a cool 73k. At least you don't have to pay the Microsoft tax:

        https://system76.com/desktops/thelio-massive-b1/configure

      2. deadlockvictim Silver badge

        Re: "...the equivalent of a two-bedroom terraced house in West Yorkshire on a computer"

        And in 2030 you'll probably be able to buy it secondhand for €30. Your house in Yorkshire will probably be worth what it is now, Brexit aside.

    2. Roger Kynaston
      Go

      Re: "...the equivalent of a two-bedroom terraced house in West Yorkshire on a computer"

      OK, the price of a quarter of a broom cupboard in Kensington.

      1. d3vy Silver badge

        Re: "...the equivalent of a two-bedroom terraced house in West Yorkshire on a computer"

        "OK, the price of a quarter of a broom cupboard in Kensington"

        Price of a pint in South Kensington.

  5. Stuart Castle

    I remember a couple of months back, I was watching someone talking about the Silicon Graphics Workstation range (Onyx IIRC). The workstation he was talking about was over £70,000 including Academic discount (likely well over £100k without). He said that the users who pay for those workstations are paying for reliability, machine speed and speed of maintenance. The system, as with the new Mac Pro, was totally modular, with many parts also having redundancies. It was designed to keep the machine running 24/7 under potentially heavy loads, and also ensure that even if an engineer was needed, the relevant parts could be swapped in within 30 seconds, sometimes without powering down the machine.

    I don't know how much redundancy there is in the Mac Pro, although bearing in mind the size, I'd say not much, but the kinds of people that use machines that cost as much as this are likely to need it to be extremely reliable, and fast.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      I just checked. The basic model is €6000. For that price, I damn well expect reliability and ease of upgrade/repair.

      The model with all the bells and whistles is a full 10 TIMES the price (okay, with over 700GB or DDR4 RAM - who the hell needs 700GB of RAM ???). You can buy a brand new BMW Series 3 Hybrid for that price. If I had the money to buy that and I couldn't maintain it myself with ease, someone would be hanging from a tree.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "who the hell needs 700GB of RAM?"

        Anyone editing large 4k video files for starters - which is one of the target markets for these machines

        1. d3vy Silver badge

          "who the hell needs 700GB of RAM?"

          Anyone doing any light web browsing using chrome?

          1. Midnight

            Only if you want four or more tabs open at once, and what kind of madman is going to do that?

          2. baud Bronze badge

            To be fair, the Chrome versions available this year weren't that bad in regard of memory optimisation with a lot of open tabs: I had dozens of them and Chrome was only eating ~1G.

            1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

              Define "a lot".

              1. baud Bronze badge

                > Define "a lot".

                "dozens of them"

                Exact number is up for debate, but I think it might have been close to a hundred.

                1. fobobob

                  I routinely end a work week with > 3 browsers (Old FF ESR for Firebug, Normal Firefox, Firefox forks, Chrome), 10 windows, 100 tabs open. 12GB RAM in a Windows VM on an older laptop (Sandy Bridge) with 16GB RAM, and usually don't have to close anything unless some crap JavaScript takes it out. I'd say any given tab gets actively reviewed maybe 25% of the time, but most of them get used at least once as bread crumbs to help me recall what I was doing.

        2. J. Cook Silver badge

          I noticed they have a rack-mount version of it; while I wouldn't want to run virtual machines on top of MacOS, the hardware appears to be more than capable of it. (I have zero experience with Parallels, or VirtualBox. what little experience I have with VMware Fusion was for the windows version of it, and it was kind of weaksauce.)

          Also, 8K video is Apparently A Thing now as well.

          One just has to hope that the end users of this aren't keeping super valuable stuff on the on-board storage when the mainboard fails or the T2 chip blows out and takes the encryption keys for said storage with it....)

          1. Muscleguy Silver badge

            I expect they will still run TimeMachine. Apple make it ridiculously easy to schedule backups. Even over Wifi. An external in a case wired to a cheap Mac Mini will suffice.

            1. phuzz Silver badge

              Although the Mac users in my office have all been complaining about Time Machine not working since they updated to Catalina, so ymmv.

              1. fidodogbreath Silver badge

                There are other backup options for a system image, and even more for user data.

          2. andygrace

            Not only is it 'a thing' but these days it's everywhere, even prosumer.

            That's not for delivering 8K res selfies, but it's usually for pro production to be able to get 4K (or even just HD) quality vision out of a frame by zooming.

            But even pro 16K video cameras are starting to become available in prototypes in Japan. Ikegami and NHK have them and the 2020 Olympics will be full of them.

            Trust me, a Terabyte of RAM is nothing if you're editing that footage.

          3. Tim99 Silver badge

            In Parallels on an iMac with a Quad-Core i3, 16G of RAM, and an SSD: Windows 10 gets to a responsive desktop from start in about 10 seconds (assuming Windows is not in the middle of one of its interminable updates).

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Anyone editing large 4k video files for starters"

          Sounds like code making /very/ innefficient use of memory ...

          1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

            There is probably a great deal of scope for optimisation, but the cost of doing that for the relatively small number of users this type of machine possibly exceeds the cost of the memory. Short term thinking - possibly, but reality is calling I suspect.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Not a editor by any means, but presumably it would be easier to edit your masterpiece in a (relatively) lower resolution and then output at 4K?

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              >Not a editor by any means, but presumably it would be easier to edit your masterpiece in a (relatively) lower resolution and then output at 4K?

              Yes, in the same way that it's easier to write your novel without the long words and put them in later

              1. Baldrickk Silver badge

                He's not wrong though, in the sense that making cuts, replacing audio, stitching it all together... it's perfectly possible to pre-define these actions using a lower resolution copy of the files, or a low resolution preview, and then process the actual files to produce the final output. you don't need 4k resolution in your preview window - you just need enough to work with.

                If on the other hand you're rendering or doing more complex edits, maybe you do need native resolution to be available, to make sure it looks right.

                1. Is It Me Bronze badge

                  I am pretty sure that this is the way it was done in the early days of digital video editing.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    It was - I remember using the original AVID system. Digitising the tapes, do all your creative stuff - then output the EDL

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Disagree - using your example, I'm using the same long words, just a different font size

            2. fidodogbreath Silver badge

              Sort of like how scaling up a highly-compressed JPG pic from your 2005 flip phone is exactly the same as taking a high-res pic in RAW with a modern DSLR.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "who the hell needs 700GB of RAM?"

          I'm still using smaller HDD's than that.....

      2. JDX Gold badge

        Can maintain your BMW Series 3 Hybrid with ease?

        1. IGotOut

          If you believe the myth about German engineering, the the BMW will never go wrong. If you look at the facts, this Mac is going to be way more reliable.

        2. The First Dave

          More to the point, can you edit 4k video on your BMW ?

      3. hmv Silver badge

        If I fire up all my lab VMs at once (would be nice when doing the upgrades), I would be using in excess of 700GB memory. Different strokes for different folks.

        1. Robert Sneddon Bronze badge

          Dell's Sad Corner Bargain

          I happened to be poking around the Dell.co.uk site recently and checked out their bargain basement where they sell off custom-built systems that didn't get shipped to customers or returned for some reason. There was a "scratch-and-dent" dual-Xeon (2 x 8-cores) workstation with 1TB of RAM fitted (16 x 64GB), yours for only £11,360 exc. VAT.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I need one of these

    for my browsing and email.

    I will pay through the nose.

    Where do I queue up.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: I need one of these

      What, you can't send your personal shopper?

  7. JDX Gold badge

    Proprietary Flash

    I am not sure what "Flash storage" is in this context. Do we mean RAM or something else? How long before whatever it is sees 3rd party alternatives?

    1. d3vy Silver badge

      Re: Proprietary Flash

      "I am not sure what "Flash storage" is in this context"

      The SSD - Though the term "flash storage" is becoming more popular as its no longer a disk - certainly not the first time I'd heard it.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Proprietary Flash

        Nice to see an honest question getting flamed by the community in the voting. Thanks at least one person could be bothered to help.

        Not all of us know the ins and outs of computer hardware.

        1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

          Re: Proprietary Flash

          Downvoted, not really flamed.

    2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Proprietary Flash

      proprietary flash is a dirty mac...

      flash storage is also know as a coat rack.

      And ssd is what you keep underneath the mac....

      In all fareness, there is now alot of different ways of connecting storage on a system, nevermind over a network. Some are protocols, some are physical connectors and some both. It can be daunting if you're not deep into the hardware (off the top of my head there's sata, mSata, sas, m.2, u.2, NVMe and Pci-e. Don't even get me started on external connections and I'm not mentioning legacy connections else we'll be here all day).

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Proprietary Flash

      It's a special encrypted storage area for your dogging pics...

      Mine's the one I'm wearing; would you like to see what's under it?

  8. erikscott

    How much did apple have to do with it?

    I'm not being sarcastic, snarky, incendiary, whatever (I know, it's The Register, right?)... I'm genuinely curious. Does this machine contain much Apple-designed content? When they said they were going to "make" them in Austin, I figured that was a code phrase for "rebadged Dell", maybe an R740 in a deskside case. Or an emergency white box clone. The clandestine meeting with Gruber _et al_ suggested a desperation move.

    1. dinsdale54

      Re: How much did apple have to do with it?

      It's a custom designed case containing a custom designed motherboard with mostly standard chipsets and a couple of Apple specific chips. There are a lot of tech companies in Austin, including Texas Instruments who make a bunch of stuff for Apple.

      1. J. Cook Silver badge

        Re: How much did apple have to do with it?

        *nods* the T2 chip is an Apple exclusive thing. It's also responsible for screwing up old USB2.0 style audio hardware, according to a certain New York City based independent repair tech...

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Re: How much did apple have to do with it?

      Why do you question whether Apple designed it or not? You think they are able to design their own phone, including a completely custom SoC that includes a custom designed CPU core, GPU, NPU etc. but would be forced to rebadge a Dell for their highest end Mac - a product they've been selling for 35 years? Why would designing the Mac Pro somehow be so much harder than the iPhone and all the custom stuff in it (yes, they buy cameras, modems, displays etc. from others but no one including Samsung designs 100% of the individual parts in their phones, or their PCs)

      Of course they design Macs themselves, and always have except possibly during the dark days of the early 90s when they sold stuff like the Performa. Those were so bad they may have been designed by ODMs.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: How much did apple have to do with it?

        Not harder than a phone but less cost effective.

        Having a team developing a standard PC motherboard that you will sell a handful of might not be the best use of resources

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: How much did apple have to do with it?

          But it isn't standard - notice there are ZERO internal wires/cables? I wish I could do something like that when I build myself a new PC, getting a board with dual m.2 slots will some by getting rid of SATA data/power cables, but you still have wires for the fans, the front panel switches/buttons/ports and so forth, as well as multiple power connections. Designing the board, the various modules and case together allowed Apple to dispense with all that.

        2. confused and dazed

          Re: How much did apple have to do with it?

          I'm sure they'll make money on it. The volumes will be relatively low, but their margins are high when you look at the price they're charging for the base machine, and how much more they charge for upgrades.

          On top of that they offer a much needed sop, to their "pro" customers

  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "without making an appointment at the Genius Bar."

    If it needs its own set of wheels maybe they're worried the Genius might have a hernia lifting onto the Bar.

    1. Louis Schreurs

      They’ve raised the Bar, now looking for Stable Genius.

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
        Joke

        So does an Apple store maintain a stable of geniuses and how do they feed and exercise them (curious minds and all that)

  10. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Coat

    1990's called

    "...the ease in which punters can open the case, remarking that some simple procedures require no tools at all."

    reminds me of an IBM PS/2 Model 95

    1. IGotOut

      Re: 1990's called

      Or a Compaq desktop.

      No tools required, but a first aid kit was essential when you sliced your hand open on the internal metalwork.

      1. Omgwtfbbqtime

        Re: 1990's called

        However the blood sacrifice did ensure it would work after the case was back on.

    2. fidodogbreath Silver badge

      Re: 1990's called

      reminds me of an IBM PS/2 Model 95

      So you could easily install your new $2000 micro channel Token Ring and pSCSI cards...

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: 1990's called

        So you could easily install your new $2000 micro channel Token Ring and pSCSI cards...

        Well, on this side of the pond, the normal MCA TR adapter was something like £150, and the Bus Master version was probably double that - but definitely was not 4 figures,

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 1990's called

      Or any desktop/tower PC.

  11. John Savard Silver badge

    Just Throwing It Into Sharper Relief

    The expensive Mac Pro just illustrates even more sharply the greed of Apple for not making all its computers, even the least expensive models, the same way, as repairable and upgradeable as possible.

    But it no longer matters. It's not as if one is missing out on the ability to use any good software because of having Windows instead of a Mac, since Apple's behavior has sent its market share down to very low levels. They're now only hurting themselves.

    1. phuzz Silver badge
      Gimp

      Re: Just Throwing It Into Sharper Relief

      "Apple's behavior has sent its market share down to very low levels"

      Er, are you sure you've been looking at the right Apple?

      Admittedly there's no really solid statistics on OS share, but Apple's share seems to have been slowly increasing for the last 4-5 years (src, src2).

      Personally I think they make nice (if very pricey) hardware, but OSX makes me feel like I'm operating a computer in kid-friendly mode. Each to their own I suppose.

      1. Tim99 Silver badge
        Gimp

        Re: Just Throwing It Into Sharper Relief

        but OSX makes me feel like I'm operating a computer in kid-friendly mode

        Us oldies use Zsh in a real UNIX CLI for the hard stuff. The GUI is just for show >>=========>

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. iLurker

    This is far from new...

    As anyone familiar with the original cheese-grater PowerMac from the early 2000’s would know, and the Blue & White PowerMac circa 1998.

    1. TimMaher Bronze badge

      Re: This is far from new...

      ... and my early 2008 Mac Pro.

      It has become a proper Trigger’s broom.

  13. Miss_X2m1

    Optical Illusion?

    The first time I saw a picture of it I thought, "why is B&H selling cheese graters?"

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Re: Optical Illusion?

      Surely, given the price, the question should be "why are B&O making cheese graters?"

  14. Daniel Feenberg

    why sockets?

    The motherboard has sockets because this is a low-volume item and the factory will make a year's supply of motherboards in an afternoon,. Apple doesn't want to buy CPUs a year in advance.

  15. phuzz Silver badge

    Any colour you like

    Dear PC motherboard manufacturers.

    Please sell me motherboards that are matt black, just like Apple's. They look really cool.

    None of that RGB bollocks though, I'm not a boy-racer from the late 90's thanks.

    Ta muchly

    phuzz

    1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

      Re: Any colour you like

      They can and do.

      (for the record I've got an MSI carbon black motherboard in just such a colour. Goes very nicely with the white accents on the graphics card and heatsink, I just need to get round to getting new black and white Sara cables to complete the look. )

      1. Kiwi Silver badge
        Terminator

        Re: Any colour you like

        I just need to get round to getting new black and white Sara cables to complete the look.

        Do the cables come with terminators?

        (#wishIwashereaweekago)

    2. hmv Silver badge

      Re: Any colour you like

      To be perfectly honest, I don't care if my motherboards look like a week-old pavement pizza - they're inside the case so I can't see them anyway. Being white could be handy when trying to fit ${something-thats-too-small-for-my-tired-old-eyes}. But I'd rather pay for proper features than a fancy paint job and unicorn vomit lighting.

  16. BGatez Bronze badge

    It's Apple to blame for the BS of "slimmer and mo' beeyou-tiful" that we have to thank for the spate of non service-able phones and laptops without even a remove-able battery. How does one replace or install RAM or drives (as many laptops enable end users to do) without the ability to de-power the machine?

    1. KLane
      Boffin

      Techy explanation follows...

      It's done by having the connectors disconnect the power, excluding ground, first, by having shorter 'fingers' on the connector for those lines. The rest is up to the motherboard having isolation between that connector and the others, so that the drop of all the data lines to basically zero won't affect the other circuitry.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    you can install all the parts you want without our geniuses, but they must be our parts at our prices....uh, just replace the box please.

  18. confused and dazed

    256GB SSD?

    You pay £5K and get a 256G SSD ... seems somewhat on the mean side of things

    I know value for money isn't this things selling point, but even so ....

    1. Tim99 Silver badge
      Gimp

      Re: 256GB SSD?

      The SSD is just to boot it. The OS and standard Mac use ~15G. The punter’s work will be on big RAIDS.

      1. jason 7 Silver badge

        Re: 256GB SSD?

        You'd want that with a Mac. I do a lot of data recovery work. I make a lot of money from Mac folks that their Mac didnt want to recognise their hard drive cos the wind blew in the wrong direction.

        I wouldn't use a Mac for critical data work. Wayyy too fussy with data connections and standards.

  19. jason 7 Silver badge

    Ahhh looks like they did screw up the case!

    As in they left the bottom strip of the case intact so you have to unplug all the cables to take the case off...then unplug all the cables to put it back on...then plug them all in again.

    oops.

  20. rcw88

    And what exactly is wrong with a 2 bed house in West Yorkshire

    An awful lot of cars cost more than houses all over the country.

    The overwhelming benefit of ANY house in ANY part of Yorkshire is that its not ANYWHERE near the obnoxious git who picked on God's Own County, who is obviously a lancastrian.

    A car depreciates like a stone, some faster than others, your 40 grand Mac won't.

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