Apple's new Mac Pro GPUs promise a huge performance boost

This might be as good as it gets for the workstation in 2021.


Apple might be focused on Macs with in-house silicon, but that doesn't mean it's completely neglecting the Intel-based models. The tech firm has updated the Mac Pro with new high-end GPU options that promise big strides forward for graphics- and compute-intensive apps. AMD's Radeon Pro W6800X, W6800X Duo (shown here) and W6900X cards tout 50 percent improved performance per watt over their Vega II predecessors, Apple claimed, and that translates to significant speed boosts in relevant apps.

You can expect up to 84 percent better performance in the Octane X rendering app, Apple said. The 26 percent and 23 percent claimed jumps in Cinema 4D and DaVinci Resolve aren't quite so impressive-sounding, but they're still meaningful if you're either buying a new Mac Pro or upgrading from one of the more modest GPUs.

Apple isn't shy about the origins — these are workstation-oriented parallels to the Radeon RX 6800 and 6900 series consumer boards. The biggest differences, as you might guess, are tweaks to cater to the pro market. All of them include four Thunderbolt 3 ports and an HDMI 2 connector, and they support an Infinity Fabric Link that lets up to four GPUs (such as two W6800X Duo modules) talk to each other five times faster than PCIe. Both individual GPUs include 32GB of GDDR6 memory, while the W6800X Duo unsurprisingly includes 64GB.

These GPUs are replacing the Vega II and Vega II Duo cards in the lineup, and they're priced accordingly. It will cost you $2,400 extra to configure a new Mac Pro with the W6800X inside, $4,600 for the W6800X Duo, and $5,600 for the W6900X. Go all-out and you can spend $9,600 on two W6800X Duos or a staggering $11,600 on two W6900X modules.

The Mac Pro has otherwise gone untouched with this update, and it won't be surprising if this is the only hardware refresh for Apple's pro tower in 2021. There are rumors of Apple giving the Intel-based Mac Pro one last hurrah with an Ice Lake Xeon update, but that wouldn't happen until 2022. It might not happen at all when there's also talk of a 40-core Apple Silicon model that same year. It's safe to say that you'll want to strongly consider a W6000-equipped Mac Pro if you absolutely depend on high-end x86 apps or just need the kind of macOS performance that only the Pro can currently deliver.

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