Mac Pro (2019) is really piece of art, and I love every aspect of it – except – price. It is definitely not machine for everyone, Pro’s and businesses are main audience for this machine. Still, there is no reason not to save some money to yourself or your company. 🙂
This will be a huge wall of text, but if you have patience I think you can learn a lot and save a bit on your Mac Pro.
You are mad for buying that overpriced piece of…
As I already said in the introduction part, I really love new Mac Pro (2019), it is beautiful machine with great engineering and exceptional attention to every detail. I’m surrounded with Workstations and servers, and all I can say is that new Mac Pro is piece of art. All that said, price is a bit high for what you get in the base model.
I see lot of hatred on the internet for new Mac Pro, mainly fueled by it’s high price. Arguments are “you could buy a PC and a car for that price”, “You can build great Hackintosh for fraction of that price and it would make Mac Pro run for its money …”.
These are all valid points, and you can build PC with parts that are same grade (Xeon W, ECC RAM) for much less money, I wrote about that here, since I built for myself another workstation for various workloads.
But, in the end, both of these machines I have (Mac Pro and PC) are my working/company machines. They are used every day for 10 hours at least, and will be used for next 6-7 years and bring (hopefully) money from my work.
These machines are work machines, and that is something people miss in their comments. There are some proprietary software and hardware components (especially in audiovisual industry) that work only with Macs – so some people need Mac Pro, they have no choice. Another thing to have in mind, robustness (Xeon CPU, ECC RAM) is sometimes more valuable than speed.
Hackintosh is not a solution (at least not in my mindset) since it is illegal, I covered that topic in part here. Illegal software can be very problematic if you are running a business (at least in EU it is). While Hackintoshes are all around very stable, I personally would not to risk my projects and workloads with possible downtimes.
Downtime or data loss can cost me a lot more that hardware would.
Now, you will say: Yes, but Mac Pro could also break, so you still have downtime. That is correct, but in case you need to replace machine (faulty MB), you (at least I would) will lost hours and days researching best components and then installing and tinkering with Hackintosh to get back your workflow and components you need.
In the meantime, if you maintain backups, you could be up an running with new Mac Pro in few hours (depending how big your backup/data is).
Now, rambling aside, there is no reason not to save a few bucks or euros on a new machine. If you can, you should.
(Almost) Everything is cheaper if you have the will to upgrade your Mac Pro yourself
Ok, I will give you my example, you can easily scale to your configuration and needs. You will need to research a bit, since you would need to know what CPU socket you have, what type of RAM and storage you need…
If you are not skilled with computer hardware, you will save money even if you take it to qualified computer shop to get these upgrades done.
What I wanted is – 16 core CPU, 384GB of memory (RAM) for a start (yes I know how to make it busy), around 6TB of SSD storage. GPUs are not huge deal for me, since im in IT and not in audio/video/graphic industry. Anyway, I considered AMD RX 5700 since Nvidia is no-go in Apple machines.
Price for machine I want:
If I ordered that directly from Apple (with 4TB storage), price would be 18.999,00€ ($22.486).
Price and configuration of machine I got:
Instead, I went “cheapest” route and ordered 8 Core machine with 32GB of RAM, 256GB SSD and Radeon Pro 580X GPU – for 6.499,00€ ($7.691).
Just to be clear, 6.499,00€ for this configuration is awful lot of money. But it is the only way if you want modular and legal Mac that you can completely upgrade later. That is just how it is.
Components I upgraded, and how much did it cost me
I upgraded literally everything. I will specify here expenses by every component I got.
I will also say how much every component was, and in the end we will make grand total and see if I saved any money.
I already stated, I wanted 16core CPU. There is a huge range of Intel Xeon CPUs that fit CPU socket that is in Mac Pro 2019 (FCLGA3647).
However, I know for certain that Xeon W series on socket LGA3647 will work. Probably some of the (pure) Intel Xeon CPUs will work, but I don’t have money to experiment with that now, at it can be hit or miss. I will do it when these CPU get cheaper.
I got Intel Xeon W 16core (W-3245) CPU. Price for it was 2.400,00€ ($2.840).
CPU that was in my Mac Pro (8-Core one) is Intel XeonW-3223
If you are interested in guide on replacing CPU, I have one here.
Price for that CPU on Apple site is 2.500,00€ ($2.958)
So, I saved 100€. Not much, but I’m always in for saving some money
However, if I wanted I could now sell 8 core Intel Xeon W-3223 that was in my Mac Pro. Cheapest one I found on eBay is 682€. So if I put cheaper price, just to get rid of this CPU (say 182€ cheaper than cheapest currently), I could still get 500€ for it.
This is the part you will save most on, in every Mac Pro configuration.
There are some limits on memory (RAM) upgrades, depending on which CPU you have. Besides that, there are two types or memory you can get for your Mac Pro. I you wish to find out all these details and see how to upgrade memory in your Mac Pro, head on here.
I wanted 384GB of memory, and that would cost me 7.500,00€ ($8.876) through Apple.
Kit I got is 6x64GB ECC DDR4 2666Mhz LR-DIMM RAM
Exact model I got is Crucial CT64G4LFQ4266
It cost me 1.800,00€ ($2.130)
I saved massive 5.700,00€ ($6.746) just on this one.
This one is tricky. If you have a lot expansion cards that you need PCI slots for, then it would be a little difficult for storage upgrade for you since every fast SSD (NVMe) solution is also PCI based.
If you need just every last one of the PCI slots, or maybe your cards will cover free PCI slots, then many PCI based SSD solutions are not for you.
Make sure you think about this one before you do anything.
Apple removed support for booting from RAID 0 since MacOS 10.13, so in case you thought about booting from some kind of RAID card, be sure to check if it is possible.
All that said, you can also have classic HDD options, but in order to get enclosure for it, you would have to buy it from Apple
You will also need extra power cables Belkin is selling through Apple Store for this to work.
But, I digress. I wanted 6TB of SSD (NVMe) storage, because I need fast storage.
Apple does not have 6TB option in their configurator.
They have 4TB for 1.750,00€ ($2.071) and 8TB for 3.250,00€ ($3.846)
I got 3x Samsung 970 Evo Plus NVMe 2TB drives for 1.515,00€ ($1.793).
Great deal you say. Well, maybe not. I also needed card to put on these three drives, since there are not M.2 slots in Mac Pro. There are proprietary slots supported with T2 chips, so you can use only Apple made SSDs in them.
I went with Amfeltec Squid 3 m.2 expansion card (which supports up to 6 SSDs) and that card was extra 936,00€ ($1.107).
So, my 6TB of SSD storage cost 2.451,00€ ($2.900). So, this is 408,50€ per TB in my case, Apple sells 4TB for 437,50€ and 8TB for 406,25€ per TB. Not much of a saving when compared with 8TB from Apple.
However, this is only because I wanted these components. Samsung 970 Evo Plus has R/W values of 3500/3300 MB/s which is very important for my work, I need really fast storage.
If you don’t need that speed, but still want capacity, you can get Intel 660p 2TB SSD for (R/W at 1800 MB/s) 212,00€.
Also OWC offers PCIe M.2 expansion card (with four slots) for 323,00€.
So If I went with Intel/OWC combination it would cost me 959,00€ for 6TB of storage. 8TB of storage would cost me 1.171,0€ (card included).
My point here – It all depends what you want. I would argue that storage is very important component, that all your data and work is residing on – go only with verified and good quality solutions.
One last recommendation – get at least 500GB drive from Apple, 256GB will not be enough. If you go with my storage expansion route, you can use that space for data storage, and originally shipped drive for OS.
This is also hard one, if you are graphics professional and need every atom of power GPU can provide, then look for advice somewhere else. 🙂
You cannot attach Nvidia graphics to Apple machines at the moment, so all of the Nvidia lineup is out of the window at the start.
Again, I cannot give sound advice to the all graphics/movies or any professionals who use GPU power heavily for their work, since I’m not one, and have no extensive experience with graphics/video tools. My limits are on the amateur and gaming side.
By raw numbers, these Radeon Pro Vega II with 32GB of RAM per card should crunch every workload which you throw on them.
Anyway, I can speak a little bit about basic offerings which I’m interested in. So, in my configuration I got 8GB Radeon Pro 580X GPU.
I would like something faster, and If Nvidia was an option in Apple machines probably would get GeForce RTX 2080 (Ti).
If I had to select from Apple Configurator I would get Radeon Pro W5700X with 16GB or GDDR6 memory.
I just went and bought AMD Radeon VII with 16GB for 516,00€.
That is a saving of 234,00€. Nothing to frown upon.
AMD Radeon VII or Radeon XT 5700 are two choices you can currently have on the market if you wish not to buy from Apple.
You can also have (older) Vega GPUs or AMD Radeon VII Pro which is just out.
So, I you need serious GPU performance for your workloads, Vega II from Apple configurator is more or less only choice you have.
Apple Mac Pro configuration:
Intel Xeon W 16 core CPU, 384GB of memory (RAM), 4TB of SSD with AMD Radeon W5700X 16GB GPU:
My basic Mac Pro configuration + upgrades:
Intel Xeon W 16 core CPU, 256GB system SSD, 384GB of memory (RAM), 6TB of SSD with AMD Radeon VII 16GB GPU:
I saved – 5.333,00€ (and have 2TB more of storage in my Mac )
Even if I count in that I spent 8 working hours on upgrading Mac Pro (I needed way less for whole process) at 100€ per hour, these are still huuuugee savings overall.
Optional savings calculation
If I sell 8-Core CPU that I got out of Mac Pro.
In case I decide to sell 8-Core Xeon CPU I got out from my Mac Pro, I would put (currently) low price of 500€ for it and hope to sell it.
If I sold it, I would get some money back, so alternatively I could say that I saved 5.833,00€
If I sell 8-Core CPU and go with the cheaper storage solution (max savings for my usage case)
If I sold 8-Core Xeon CPU and went with 3 2TB Intel 660p SSDs I mentioned above, all on OWC M.2 expansion card, my MAc Pro would cost me 12.174,00€, and I would save 6.825,00€.
Money I saved by upgrading Mac Pro myself is huge. I saved almost enough for one more basic Mac Pro model, or I can get 10 brand new basic office PCs for that money.
Obviously, memory modules are something you will save most on, and it is an easy upgrade. At some point we will need more Mac Pro’s and I will order basic memory configuration always (if Apple doesn’t lower prices). We got skills to tinker with hardware and even it will take literally 15minutes to upgrade memory.
CPU upgrades are not something you will save a lot on, if you upgrade them yourself at this moment (2020). There is an exception with 28Core CPU.
There are two versions of Intel Xeon W higher end CPUs. Those with M mark and those without M.
16 – core is called W-3245, there is also W-3245M version. Only difference is that M version support max of 2TB of RAM, while version without M letter supports 1TB.
Same goes for 24 core W-3265 and W-3275 CPUs.
I guess Apple uses 24 core W-3265M CPU and 28 core W-3275M CPU, because only these two Mac Pro configurations can have up to 1.5TB of RAM.
CPUs are all in line with the market prices. 12core CPU in Apple Configurator is even whole 10€ cheaper than if you would buy it in store. 🙂 If you live in the USA however, you could save more on this CPU.
If it suits you, you could try and go with 24 or 28core CPUs without M mark.
Only difference between 24 core W-3265/W-3265M and 28 core W-3275/W-3275M is max memory. M versions are supporting up to 2TB, and that is the only difference.
But there is a big difference in price (prices without VAT) –
W-3265 costs – 3.015,00€
W-3265M costs – 5.720,00€
W-3275 costs – 4.007,00€
W-3275M costs – 6.713,00€
So if you need plenty of CPU cores, and don’t need 1.5TB memory support (you can live with only 1TB), this is a huge saving that can be made on these more powerful CPUs (if it works).
In a two/three years, these used CPUs will be much cheaper and I would recommend update definitely.
In the storage department if you go for the high end M.2 or PCI SSD drives Apple is not that much more expensive, especially for 4TB or 8TB options. If you go with the bit cheaper solutions (like example I mentioned) you could save a few hundred euro on your storage.
And in the end GPU, I really cannot recommend anything special here. Mac Pro is highly oriented towards video/graphics pros and that can be seen with GPU offerings. Afterburner card and Vega Pro II is something you need or don’t need. There is no easy or cheaper aftermarket supplement for those.
If you need just a bit powerful GPU, I demonstrated that there are cheaper aftermarket solutions you can get.
All in all, If you are wiling to tinker with your Mac Pro, and understand what you are doing, you can really save a lot.