5 Reasons to Buy the New Mac Pro for Capture One (And 4 Reasons It Shouldn’t Be Right Away)

There’s been a lot of buzz around Apple’s recent announcement of a successor to aging 2013 “Black Trash Can” version of the Mac Pro. We’ve been deluged with questions from customers about how this new “Cheese Grater” Mac Pro will handle Capture One. In short: if you’ve got the budget, and want the best possible performance in Capture One, this is the Mac for you. Here are five reasons you should buy the new Mac Pro to use with Capture One, but… not yet.

    1. GPU (a.k.a. Graphics Card): Phase One has really jumped on board the GPU train in the last few years. Capture One 12 makes extensive use of frameworks like OpenCL that allow imaging math to be done via the GPU far faster than can be done on a general purpose CPU. The power provided by these GPUs is leveraged across the board in Capture One 12, accelerating preview generation, rendering changes when using adjustment sliders near-instantly, and batch processing hundreds raw files to output formats faster than ever. The new Mac Pro features up to four top-of-the-line graphics cards that C1 should be able to use in parallel. We expect this to boost C1 performance far beyond that of any previous Mac.

    2. Port Quality: Not all ports are created equal. We’ve consistently found fewer tethering issues using ports on Apple’s pro-series computers than on  their consumer line. It’s hard to tell how much of this is because of better physical build quality, higher quality internal components, or tighter quality control, but it’s something we’ve experienced time-and-again for the 16 years we’ve been serving the professional photography community. While only time (and intensive field use) will tell, there is every reason to expect that this trend will continue with the 2019 Cheese Grater Mac Pro.

    3. Internal Storage: DT’s support experts suggest that, wherever possible, Capture One sessions in active use should be stored internally. Of course that is not always possible or practical, but it’s the surest bet for fast and reliable performance. With the MacBookPro, iMac, and Black Trash Can Mac Pro the amount of internal storage was limited to 2TB. With the new 2019 Cheese Grater Mac Pro up to 4TB of storage is available via standard SSD and at least 32 TB (in RAID 5) via the MPX Module system.

    4. Upgradeable: Digital Transitions bought three top-spec Black Trash Can Mac Pros in 2013. At the time they were cutting edge and blew away any other Mac we could purchase. Lots of things have changed In the six years since – a new president was elected, Game of Thrones went from ground breaking to heart breaking, and four (core) royal babies were born – but the Black Trash Can Mac Pros we owned remained the same. The upgradeability of the Black Trash Can Mac Pro and the iMac, MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini range from “limited” to “none” in the years following their purchase. In contrast, the new Cheese Grater Mac Pro features user-accessible slots for upgrading RAM, user-upgradeable GPUs, and additional PCI expansion ports; it’s likely even the CPU and storage will be upgradeable, though this remains to be confirmed.

    5. C1’s Development Focus: Phase One has an entire laboratory with test computers of virtually every make, model, and configuration. But it’s impossible to test every feature of every release on every computer. So, while a huge variety of computers are tested, some are tested more intensively than others. Since Phase One’s development focus is professional users and serious enthusiasts, they place special emphasis on testing the most common high-end computers. There is also a “bragging factor” that comes into play; P1’s engineers are, unsurprisingly huge nerds (a term I use with love; I am a proud nerd), and revel in maxing out the performance of their product on the fastest systems available. That places the Cheese Grater Mac Pro squarely in the middle of their development and testing. Any bugs related to using C1 on this new Mac Pro they will be squashed much more quickly than bugs related to using C1 on an uncommon mid-tier PC. If tweaks or improvements can make to maximize performance on the new Mac Pro, Phase One will prioritize making those changes over eking out a few extra percentage points of performance out of yet-another-vanilla-PC. Expect every core of the 28-core processor and every flop of the 56.8 teraflop graphics processors to be used to their fullest.


    But before you rush out to place an order, you should consider these four reasons to wait a bit.

    1. It’s not even shipping: The new Cheese Grater Mac Pro was previewed at Apple’s recent WWDC conference but it doesn’t start shipping until “this fall” (rumors places that as “September”). Moreover, such timeframes should be considered “confident guesses” more than “written in stone proclamations” as the ship date could easily slip. Finally, many customers will want to customize the Mac Pro at the time of purchase (e.g. selecting combinations of ram, gpu, and storage that aren’t one of the “standard builds”), and these built-to-order configurations may take even longer to ship.

    2. There will be bugs: It’s likely the new Cheese Grater Mac Pro will ship alongside the new Mac OS Catalina. Furthermore the new Mac Pro is a completely new hardware platform rather than a slight refinement of previous hardware; it has a new CPU, new MPX module system, new Infinity Fabric system for GPU interconnects, new fans, new power supply, and numerous other new components. This combination of very-new hardware and very-new operating system makes it extremely likely that there will be more bugs on Day 1 than on current Macs (which are evolutionary iterations of previous hardware) running Mojave (on it’s 5th dot update of refinement). Both Apple and Phase One will have to work out these bugs in the trial-by-fire that is a global release. So if you like being on the bleeding edge, more power to you; just know that you’ll bleed.

    3. Accessory Ecosystem: Especially for those using the new Cheese Grater Mac Pro on location, it will take a few months for accessory manufacturers to update their products and catch up on backorders. For example, Tenba will surely make a new Air Case for shipping the Cheese Grater, Innovativ will surely make the hooks/grapples to solidly mount it to their tricked-out professional carts, and a dozen pop-up accessory makers will make fabric slip covers, orientation-changing stands, and other gizmos and gadgets that improve the daily usability of the new Cheese Grater. 

    4. Field Testing Required: I can wax poetic about how important GPU performance is to C1 and how excited I am by the GPU options on the Cheese Grater. But until it ships, the bugs are worked out, C1 is updated (at least for us alpha testers) to perform well on it, and we can run real-world tests, I cannot give you evidence-based advice on which upgrades will provide which level of performance. Of course, DT will be purchasing a tricked-out Cheese Grater on Day One, so we can run our own tests, and welcome any of our clients to make an appointment to use it for their own testing. Stay tuned!

    All in all, we cannot possibly be more excited that Apple has finally listened to its pro users and created a truly powerful and upgradeable tower system again. But if you don’t have an absolutely pressing reason to buy it on Day One (whenever “this fall” comes) you might consider letting the dust settle a bit before biting the bullet. We’ll bleed, so you don’t have to.