Apple Mac Pro M2 Ultra review: a powerful computer in search of an audience


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Apple’s latest Mac Pro was finally revealed at this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference as a machine for the most power user of power users. The video discussed audio engineering, color grading, and video transcoding. Apple’s product page mentions code compiling, animation, compositing 8K scenes, 3D rendering, and “analyzing enormous datasets.” This isn’t just for pros, Apple seems to claim; it’s for capital-P Pros.

Exactly who these pros are and why the Mac Pro is the perfect device for them remains somewhat unclear to me, even after testing the new machine for a few days and speaking to various professionals that Apple is ostensibly targeting. That’s in part because Apple, on the same day it announced the Mac Pro, also announced a smaller, M2 Ultra Mac Studio with the exact same RAM, storage, and processor options. The former, nevertheless, costs at least $3,000 more and carries a towering starting price of $6,999.

I wanted to know whether Apple’s purported target demographic — people who spend their days animating, making visual effects, and doing various other tasks generally associated with big, powerful computers — were actually interested in purchasing this machine. So I asked a bunch of them, and the answer, basically across the board, was no. Not because the Mac Pro is bad but because Apple’s other computers, namely its laptops, have just gotten too good. 

Zach Passero, who does editing, animation, and visual effects for films, has been a diehard Mac Pro user for over a decade. “I’m still a big champion of the old trash can,” he says, referring to the oft-maligned 2013 design. He was skeptical when the M1 Max chip was announced — he’d never envisioned that a laptop could handle his heavy workload. But he gave the 16-inch MacBook Pro a shot and was surprised — and a little bit sad — to find that it felt just as fast as his older desktop. “Video editing, even doing effects, compositing, animating — it has been a smooth and fluid process,” he says. “I’m like, ‘This might actually suffice for a while.’”

Passero still loves the Mac Pro, but he can’t justify buying the latest one when his laptop is so good. “There’s…