Apple Hardware Chief Explains Why M2 Ultra Mac Pro Lacks Graphics Card Support

The WWDC 2023 event was fully packed. Apple brought out multiple upgrades to its existing lineup of products. Among all, there’s the M2 Ultra Mac Pro, which is the current high-end workstation from Apple. And considering the fact that it is the current highest-end hardware option from Apple, we expected it to be packed with features.

However, while the new Apple Mac Pro is a powerhouse, it does not have the support for a graphics card. This means that power users will need to use the in-house GPU solution that Apple offers with the M2 Ultra. As you might have guessed, this raised a lot of questions. Well, Apple’s hardware engineering chief, John Ternus, has provided answers.

Why Does the M2 Ultra Mac Pro Not Have Graphics Card Support?

Upon closer inspection of the Mac Pro’s internal design, you will find six PCI Express expansion slots. In a regular system, all these expansion slots would support all PCI Express hardware components, including external GPU support. However, unlike the previous Intel-based model, the new unit does not have that support.

Apple M2 Ultra Mac Pro PCIe Slots

To be exact, you get a dedicated slot for installing a graphics card with the previous Mac Pro. That allows the users to extend the GPU capabilities of the system and get more out of the workstation. But for the new model, you are stuck with the GPU solution of the M2 Ultra chipset.

Apple M2 Ultra

Now, while the performance of the M2 Ultra’s GPU is great, many power users would want to use external graphics cards to get more out of the system. But as per the official announcement, the PCI Express slots of the new Mac Pro are just for storage and other PCI Express-compatible hardware components.

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Apple Went With a Unified Architecture For Better Optimizations

Apple hardware engineer chief John Ternus has come forward with answers that many of the power users want about the new Mac Pro. In an interview with Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, Ternus stated that the new model “does not need an external graphics card because the entire operations are handled by the M2 Ultra chip.”

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Ternus explains that the M2 Ultra chipset architecture of the new Mac Pro is based on shared memory and optimizations. According to the hardware engineering chief, the optimizations would have been compromised if there had been support for external graphics cards. Ternus states, “It hasn’t been a direction that we (Apple) wanted to pursue.”

Apple M2 Ultra

Talking of which, Apple M2 Ultra Mac Pro is three times faster than Intel-based Mac Pros in terms of video transcoding and 3D simulations. To be exact, the video processing of the new model is on par with the Intel-based units with seven Afterburner cards.

Also, a recent report suggested that the chipset is very comparable to RTX 4080, which is the second fastest card from Nvidia.

So, as the system offers great overall performance, the unified nature of the Apple Mac Pro is justifiable. But do note that you need to pay $1299 for a fully-fledged model. In other words, the performance comes with a price.

What About User-upgradable RAM on Mac Pro?

Another factor that has disappointed the power users is the lack of user-upgradability in the RAM department. Again, this falls under the unified nature of the M2 Ultra chip. Compared to Intel-based Mac Pro models, the M2 Ultra ones have every component linked with each other.

For that reason, Apple has soldered the RAM to the chipset. And I think the 192GB of unified memory that the M2 Ultra Mac Pro comes with should be more than enough for most of the power workloads. But that’s just my two cents.

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