I’ve seen a bit of chatter in the Apple scene claiming that the Mac Pro isn’t overpriced. I won’t point out anyone specifically, though, as it’s likely these articles are designed as clickbait and I’d prefer not to give them what they’re aiming for. But, those people’s opinions are misguided. The Mac Pro is overpriced. Maybe it isn’t overpriced when compared to similar PC workstations, but Mac users don’t typically decide between Apple’s offerings and those from PC manufacturers. Mac users like running macOS and Apple is the only game in town if that’s one of your requirements in a new computer.
But the Mac Pro is overpriced from a historical perspective — the starting price point is just so much higher than previous iterations of the machine. The most recent version, the trash can Mac Pro started at $3,000 — half the price of the new model. Even adjusted for inflation, that would be about $3,300 today.
Going back a little bit further, to the cheese grater Mac Pro, that machine’s standard model was $2,500. But you could even configure it with a lesser CPU option and purchase it for only $2,300. That’s just under $2,600 when adjusted for inflation.
I don’t care about the Mac Pro’s pricing on the high-end either. It’s a good thing that buyers can configure a Mac with premium components. I don’t know who needs a 28-core computer with 1.5 TB of RAM, but if Apple didn’t offer it, those people would have to go elsewhere.
The issue with pricing is on the low end — the starting price point is too high for an entire swath of users that used to use older iterations of the Mac Pro as their primary machine and many of those people would use one today if a lower-cost option was available.
When I bought my first Mac in 2006, many of the “influencers” in the Apple scene owned Mac Pros. And as a young adult who just graduated high school, I was always envious of them. The Mac Pro had so much to offer — the ability to upgrade and expand its capabilities with aftermarket components, it was more powerful than any other computers in Apple’s lineup, and all inside of a nifty looking, cool and quiet chassis.
I believe there is still a market for such a machine. There are plenty of hobbyists and independent pros that would love to use a computer that offered these attributes, but their budget might not allow for the current Mac Pro.
Could they use another computer in Apple’s lineup? Yes, they could. But the iMac, Mac Mini, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air all offer something a bit different in terms of form factor and compromises — there isn’t anything that fills the role of the Mac Pro quite like the Mac Pro.
Speaking personally, I’m in the market to replace the Mac Mini that we’ve been using as our home server. It’s a 2011 model and doesn’t support the last two versions of macOS, so it’s about time to upgrade. It won’t be long before some of the software I rely on won’t receive updates for the Mac Mini’s OS. Currently, the machine runs Plex, regularly rips and converts DVDs/Blu-rays, acts as our Time Machine server, and stores a backup of our photo library.
Since I purchased the Mac Mini, the rest of our computing setup has changed substantially. My wife and I use iPads and iPhones as our primary devices and I have a work-issued laptop. Neither one of us have a good reason to justify owning personal Macs anymore. We would be much better served with a machine that can perform the duties of our home server while also acting as a family computer for those rare times when we need to use a specific piece of software or perform a task that’s difficult or impossible on iOS — albeit a rare occurrence these days.
If it was 2012, the Mac Pro would be the perfect computer for the job. There would be no question about it. I could buy the base model at a relatively affordable price with the idea of upgrading it in a year or two to increase its lifespan and overall performance. I could load it up with a bunch of internal hard drives to store our photos, media, and the Time Machine backups from my work laptop — no messy external drives necessary. And it could handle just about any task we threw at it while performing all of its other duties. I wouldn’t even need an additional display because I could simply connect the one I already use for work whenever I needed to use the Mac Pro directly.
But because of the current Mac Pro’s pricing, I’m left having to make compromises. I either buy a Mac Mini and deal with the fan noise coming from the corner of my office and the messy rats nest of cables from the external drives or I get an iMac. And that would come with its own set of compromises — the iMac comes with a built-in display that I don’t need, restricting where I can place the computer, I’d still have to deal with external drives, and I wouldn’t have the option of a 2TB internal SSD because Apple doesn’t offer it in the iMac.
Neither of those options are particularly cost effective, mind you. The Mac Mini configured in the way I’d want it — with an upgraded CPU and 2TB SSD — would set me back about $2,100. And a similarly configured iMac would cost about $2,200. A theoretical $2,500–3,000 Mac Pro would give me even more power than the Mini or iMac, with plenty of room to grow through upgrades in the future.
There’s a huge hole in Apple’s desktop offerings between the Mac Mini and the Mac Pro. And I think it would be in their best interest to fill that void with a computer that featured iMac-like performance in a Mac Pro-like package. The iMac might be a good option for some, but it isn’t right for everyone. And I’m sure there are plenty of podcasters, developers, video producers, enthusiasts, hobbyists￼, and more that would love the option of a lower-cost Mac Pro like this.
In the end, I’ll probably end up with a Mac Mini, but I’m not happy about it. It might be the best machine for me when considering the alternatives, but it’s not the best machine for me.