AMD’s new Radeon Pro GPUs are perfect for a Mac Pro update
AMD launched its new line of Radeon Pro cards on Tuesday. the Radeon Pro W6800, W6600 and, on laptops, W6600M use the RDNA 2 architecture within AMD’s RX 6000 consumer line. The W6800 is already available and the W6600 will arrive later this year as a PC expansion card, but it’s not clear if Apple will support these updated cards in the Mac Pro.
Apple has a long history with AMD and uses Radeon graphics cards exclusively in the Mac Pro. Right now, the Mac Pro supports one or two W5000 or Vega II GPUs. Prior to AMD’s announcement, these were the best professional Radeon cards available. That said, they are based on the older RDNA and Vega architectures, respectively, while the newer W6000 cards are based on RDNA 2.
AMD claims that the new architecture offers up to 79% performance increase over the previous generation, which is a huge boost for workstations. When Apple launched the Mac Pro in 2019, it promised modularity through its MPX expansion cards that would allow users to easily upgrade their components without spending tens of thousands of dollars on a new machine. However, Apple hasn’t really kept that promise, which doesn’t bode well for AMD’s new cards heading for the Mac Pro.
The W6800 is now available for $ 2,249, and the W6600 will retail for $ 649 when it launches. Meanwhile, Apple charges $ 600 more for the W5700X – the card the W6800 performs 79% better than – and $ 2,400 for the Vega II. This is in addition to a base $ 6,000 machine, which is hard to swallow given the performance increases brought by new cards from AMD.
For context, the Vega II provides up to 14.2 TFLOPs of FP32 power, while the new W6800 provides up to 17.83. TFLOPs don’t just matter – the Vega II uses HDM memory instead of GDDR6, for example – but it shows how much power the Mac Pro ages.
Two years ago, the Mac Pro was one of the most powerful machines on the market with great flexibility. It’s still an extremely powerful workstation, but pros looking for the latest and greatest might find it hard to justify a Mac Pro over the next couple of years. Hopefully Apple will finally extend its MPX range to accommodate the new cards.
As for AMD’s new cards, they bring a host of features to the professional space. This includes Smart Access memory with Ryzen 5000 and select Ryzen 3000 processors, Infinity Cache, and hardware accelerated ray tracing. The W6800 ships with 60 Computing Units (CU) for a total of 3,840 stream processors and 32 GB of GDDR6 ECC memory. The W6600 and W6600M come with 28 CPUs for a total of 1792 stream processors and 8 GB of GDDR6 ECC memory.