Why Apple silicon Mac Pro might not support user-upgradeable GPU and RAM

The next Mac Pro probably won’t permit RAM or GPU upgrades because the memory and graphics are now part of the Apple silicon processor.

Configuring the Mac Pro GPU on the online Apple store
The Intel model offers a bunch of GPU options | Image: Christian Zibreg/iDB
  • What’s happening? Mark Gurman says an upcoming Apple silicon update to the Mac Pro “may lack user upgradeable GPUs in addition to non-upgradeable RAM.”
  • Why care? That would be a step back from the current Intel-based Mac Pro, which is big on modularity and provides a plethora of expansion options.
  • What to do? Don’t get rid of your Intel-based Mac Pro just yet! It could become popular with folks who value expandability once the Apple silicon model drops.

Will Apple silicon Mac Pro support PCIe GPUs?

The current Mac Pro is the most user-upgradeable Mac Apple has produced, but an upcoming Apple silicon refresh may not support GPU upgrades via PCIe slots like the Intel-based model. You can pick from several GPU upgrades, which are AMD Radeon graphics cards that you plug into one of the available PCI Express slots.

Gurman has made an informed guess about the lack of GPU expandability on the next model by noting that Apple silicon hasn’t supported external GPUs.

The company offers some choices regarding the number of GPU cores, but you have to decide when configuring your Apple silicon Mac on the company’s online store. These GPU cores are provided as part of a system-of-a-chip and share the memory with other parts of Apple silicon to improve overall performance.

On the other hand, the lack of PCIe GPU expansions may not matter much—Gurman said on Twitter that the “Mac Pro GPU will be powerful with up to 76 cores.”

But what about RAM upgrades?

Configuring the Mac Pro RAM on the online Apple store
The Mac Pro always supports after-market RAM upgrades | Image: Christian Zibreg/iDB

That one could easily prove to be tougher to swallow. The kinds of people who rely on Apple’s juicy workstation are used to after-market RAM upgrades. But again, with the RAM chips now part of an Apple silicon package, there’s nowhere to plug additional RAM modules into. Read: 30 things to do after setting up a Mac

Even if it were, those RAM modules wouldn’t be part of Apple’s unified memory architecture which shares the available on-chip memory between the CPU, GPU, Neural engine and other parts of a system-of-a-chip package.

“That will leave storage as the main user-upgradeable component in the new Mac Pro,” Gurman added. The Bloomberg reporter says an Apple silicon Mac Pro will have the same design as the current Intel model.

“The big difference between a Mac Pro and a Mac Studio—in addition to M1 Ultra to M2 Ultra—should be performance from more cooling,” he speculated.

To be compeltelty honest with you, that sounds more like a Mac Studio Pro than a proper Apple silicon reboot of the Intel-based Mac Pro.