2023 Mac Pro Teardown: Still Grate?

2023 Mac Pro Teardown: Still Grate?

Just look at the size of that chip.

The Mac is back, back again. The Mac Pro, that is. After a 4 year hiatus, the ultra-modular Mac desktop is back and more powerful that ever—at a cost. And no we’re not talking the $7,000 device cost, we’re talking proprietary and non-upgradable parts.

Check out the video below to get some sweet grating action, or keep reading for the tl;dw.

Ordinarily, I love a compliment sandwich, leave the criticism in the center with a gentle wrapper on either side. But sometimes the device deserves a bit of bitterness, with only a sweet central respite. So here goes:

RIP Modular RAM

The 2019 Mac Pro was pretty capacious, allowing for lots of upgrades, and the 2023 takes this even further. With integrated graphics and RAM, the interior is positively barren. This move allows for ultra-quick, pun intended, processing with the M2 Ultra, but also locks down future upgrades. No more RAM stick replacements or additions, you’re stuck with your at-purchase configuration.

Maximized Minimalism

It is phenomenal how few cables are in this machine. The boards are modular blades that plug into the logic board leaving snarled wires to the PC peasants. Modular I/O boards (though, non-modular ports), plug and play powers supply, spring-contact fans. But that’s not particularly new, what has changed since the 2019 edition is the improved heat sink removal and SSD placement.

The heat sink is a beast, and different enough from last model that Apple’s official manuals aren’t enough to get it off. But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. 2019’s heat fin behemoth required an ultra-long driver to get at the T15 screws securing it to the logic board. This year the process is much smoother, so long as you have the proper documentation. Or in my case, just a lot of trial and error.

No longer hidden, the SSD is immediately accessible. Thanks in part to the lack of upgradable RAM, the SSD slots got, well, an upgrade. But that brings us to the final bitter pill.

SSD—Sad, Sad, Disappointing

Apple has been using M.2 blade SSDs for awhile, but despite the easily swappable form factor, they’re rarely ever compatible with third-party options. Our unit has a beefy drive and a spare slot, but that slot is at best and overly pricey future upgrade—if Apple sells the parts—and at worst, a reminder of what we can’t have.

At the launch of the Mac Pro (remember when they released guides? wild!) and with the glacial rollout of the Self Service Program, our hopes were reluctantly rising. Maybe Apple will commit to modularity and user-serviceable upgrades? So far it seems like support is pricey and sporadic—some devices waiting a year between launch and part support.

We’d love to hear from the pros that this Pro is allegedly catering to. Is at-purchase configuration enough? Will the investment be worth the risk of integrated memory? We’d love to hear from you. Until then, I’ll just be grating cheese on my $7,000 cheese grater. Ciao!

A woman holds a block of cheese up in front of a 2023 Mac Pro case, which is full of cheese.