New Mac Pro Or Old Mac Pro - How Do The Numbers Work For Pro Tools Systems?

01-17-2014 09:00 AM

I got my hands on the new Mac Pro this week, it’s hard not to be wooed by the cute (it’s very small) little powerhouse, it was an almost religious experience for this Mac fanboy.
Even better I had the chance to try it out on some familiar apps during the demo, as we’ve already said in a previous post right now most apps are not optimised for the new Mac Pro, so most of the apps in the Apple store were things like Final Cut - it was fast. Although I’m guessing not having my trusty Mac Pro next to it to compare speeds, that some of it may have just been my wishful thinking as I was trying hard not to buy it.
However when the mist has cleared it is time to sit down and do some sums.
If I was to replace my current Mac Pro - 2010 Quad Core 2.8, 24GB Ram with a new Mac Pro and upspeccing it on the way then this is the bill I’m left with.

  • 3.5GHz 6-core with 12MB of L3 cache
  • 16GB (4 x 4GB) of 1866MHz DDR3 ECC
  • 1TB PCIe-based flash storage

£3939.00 inc VAT
However, I also have a HDX card and a UAD card so I need something to put those guys in, so a Magma Expressbox sets me back £835.00 inc VAT
I also have 4 3TB internal drives as well as a 1TB SSD drive so I need a high speed chassis for these as they won’t fit inside the new Mac Pro. A decent USB2 4 bay drive unit to host the 3.5 drives is around £150.00 inc VAT
Total cost for this system is just shy of £5000.00 inc VAT with the cables needed.
However if I’m not bothered by having the sexy little beast and not being entirely up to date then there is an alternative option, that is a used top of the range old Mac Pro, today I got the price of this Mac Pro (5,1)

  • 2.93Ghz 12 core
  • 48GB
  • 1TB SSD

Total cost of this system is £2700.00 inc VAT
Even better, I can simply buy one of these and swap out my 1TB SSD drive and all the internal drives and cards in a matter of minutes.
Their are pros and cons for both options, here they are:
New Mac Pro

  • Latest generation processor
  • Thunderbolt and USB3 connectivity
  • Small
  • Quiet
  • 4K monitor support with dual GPUs


  • No internal expansion
  • No ESATA support
  • Firewire only with conversion cables
  • Expansion chassis needed for HDX/UAD cards
  • Not many applications take advantage of power
  • Costly to upgrade from base models, for example 256 to 1TB drive upgrade £640

Old Mac Pro

  • Hosts HDX/UAD cards
  • ESATA, USB, Firewire support
  • Some bargains to be had for top machines


  • Old technology
  • Noisy
  • No Thunderbolt
  • Possibly unsupported by future software

One big area of improvement for the new Mac Pro is the graphics performance, but for many Pro Tools users this is not really going to be as important as it is for those working in video, 3D or graphics.
Of course my comparisons here are Mac v Mac and don’t even add into the equation possibilities such as a PC running a Hackintosh, this is where you could build a latest generation super powered PC with Thunderbolt and then run Mac OS X on it.
So returning to where I started, seeing and holding the new Mac Pro was like bumping into Megan Fox - cute, sexy and utterly irresitable (for me anyway), for those who prefer the other sex then I would say Daniel Craig, but then in view of the size of the new Mac Pro then Tom Cruise may be a more appropriate comparison. However when you start to do some comparisons both in terms of cost and performance, then it may be a better option to take an alternative route as I’ve suggested here.
Some people will simply buy a new Mac Pro, I know how the Apple spell works, trust me I own EVERYTHING they make, yes really EVERYTHING. I’ve seldom regretted any Apple purchase and you won’t change my mind otherwise, but I wanted to give an alternative view for those who may be thinking of shelling out several thousand pounds on one - it is truly gorgeous and a simply amazing piece of design, but it may not be the best computer for all Pro Tools system.
Some reading this will think that to compare the new Mac Pro with the old Mac Pro is simply insane, well that depends on what you need the computer to do, I’d like to counter anyone with the insane view of this article and suggest that making a £5000 purchase without serious consideration is insane. Discuss.