The 'Trashcan' Mac Pro: Remembering One of Apple's Most Controversial Designs Nine Years Later

Apple launched the controversial "trashcan" Mac Pro nine years ago today, introducing one of its most criticized designs that persisted through a period of widespread discontentment with the Mac lineup.

mac pro creativity

The redesign took the ‌Mac Pro‌ in an entirely new direction, spearheaded by a polished aluminum cylinder that became unofficially dubbed the "trashcan." All of the ‌Mac Pro‌'s components were mounted around a central thermal dissipation core, cooled by a single fan that pulled air from under the case, through the core, and out the top. The fan could spin more slowly than smaller fans and keep the Mac extremely quiet, even during intense operations.

Apple announced the radically redesigned ‌Mac Pro‌ at WWDC in 2013. During the announcement, Apple's Phil Schiller infamously remarked "Can't innovate anymore, my ass." The comment was directed at armchair critics who pointed at the previous ‌Mac Pro‌'s lack of updates and claimed Apple had largely abandoned its pro user base and was out of ideas.

schiller mac pro‌Phil Schiller‌ unveiling the redesigned ‌Mac Pro‌ in 2013

Apple said that the new ‌Mac Pro‌ offered twice the overall performance of the previous generation while taking up less than one-eighth of the volume, thanks to its unified thermal core. The ‌Mac Pro‌ twinned Intel Xeon processors with dual AMD FirePro workstation GPUs, enabling it to deliver seven teraflops of computing power.

While the striking design was undoubtedly ambitious, users were unhappy with the way that almost all expansion had to be served externally by Thunderbolt 2 ports. Professional users who were reliant on powerful hardware could not get past the ‌Mac Pro‌'s lack of internal slots to add graphics cards and memory.

The result was a device that was unable to adapt to changing hardware trends. Even Apple seemed unsure how to offer a meaningful hardware update for the ‌Mac Pro‌ – as recently as 2019, it was possible to buy a trashcan ‌Mac Pro‌ from Apple, with no upgrades coming to the device during the six years since its release.

This led Apple to make a rare admission of the product's failure during a meeting with reporters in April 2017, explaining in detail why the device didn't succeed in the way it had hoped. In 2019, Apple's full mea culpa came in the form of yet another ‌Mac Pro‌ redesign, which took the machine back to a highly modular tower form factor with eight PCIe slots and three impeller fans.

Yet in many respects, what the 2013 ‌Mac Pro‌ set out to achieve – a small, powerful computer for professionals, with external expansion only – lives on and has been executed more effectively by 2022's Mac Studio.

Related Roundup: Mac Pro
Buyer's Guide: Mac Pro (Don't Buy)
Related Forum: Mac Pro

Top Rated Comments

pdaholic Avatar
1 week ago
We all joked about it, but secretly we all felt the design was pretty cool ?.
Score: 45 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Nozuka Avatar
1 week ago
IMHO great product engineering wise.

Sadly not what the target customers needed.
Score: 41 Votes (Like | Disagree)
moshind Avatar
1 week ago
I remember the announcement, and even though I don't have the needs of a PRO, I wanted one for myself, even today i still like this design.
Score: 40 Votes (Like | Disagree)
NightFox Avatar
1 week ago
Loved mine, the only thing it was missing was the hiss of compressed air and maybe a bit of dry ice smoke when you slid the case open.
Score: 35 Votes (Like | Disagree)
andrewxgx Avatar
1 week ago
basically what mac studio became, minus the controversial shape
Score: 31 Votes (Like | Disagree)
steve09090 Avatar
1 week ago
At least they were trying and didn’t produce a beige machine like the other mob do.
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

A16 iPhone 14 Pro

iPhone 14 Pro Faced 'Unprecedented' Setback Leading to Removal of New Graphics Processor

Friday December 23, 2022 6:32 am PST by
Apple planned a major generational update for the iPhone 14 Pro's graphics capabilities, but was forced to scrap plans for the new GPU late in development after "unprecedented" missteps were discovered, according to The Information. In a paywalled report, The Information claimed that Apple engineers were "too ambitious" in adding new features to the graphics processor designed for the iPhone ...
apple wallet drivers license feature

These 12 U.S. States Will Let You Add Your Driver's License to Your iPhone

Monday December 19, 2022 10:26 am PST by
Apple continues to roll out a feature that allows residents of participating U.S. states to add their driver's license or state ID to the Wallet app on the iPhone and Apple Watch, providing a convenient and contactless way to display proof of identity or age. The feature has only launched in Arizona, Colorado, and Maryland so far, but Apple shared a list of additional U.S. states committed...
General iOS 16 Feature Yellow

5 New iOS 16 Features Coming to Your iPhone in 2023

Saturday December 24, 2022 6:06 am PST by
Apple recently released iOS 16.2 with many new features. Now, attention turns to additional features coming to the iPhone in 2023. We've recapped five iPhone features that Apple has previously promised to launch or expand, such as an Apple Pay Later financing option and an Apple Card savings account for earning interest on Daily Cash. At least one feature listed below will be part of iOS...
top stories 24dec2022

Top Stories: All-New Mac Pro in Testing, AirTag Updates, and More

Saturday December 24, 2022 6:00 am PST by
It's Christmas Eve, but that doesn't mean there hasn't been much in the way of Apple news and rumors in recent days as we've been hearing details about Apple's plans for the Mac Pro, iPhone SE, and more. In other news, Apple has detailed changes it made in a couple of recent AirTags firmware updates, while the company appears to have pulled back a new Home app architecture it began offering...
santa tracker 1

Track Santa's Journey From the North Pole Using Google's Santa Tracker

Saturday December 24, 2022 2:01 am PST by
If you have been good this year, you may be interested to learn that Google today launched its annual Santa tracking feature, allowing Santa to be tracked in real time on his mythical journey to the North Pole as he prepares to deliver presents to kids around the world. Google's Santa Tracker continues a 19-year tradition for the company, allowing excited children (and parents!) to keep up...
3nm apple silicon feature

3nm Chips From Apple Supplier TSMC to Enter Mass Production This Week

Sunday December 25, 2022 11:41 pm PST by
Apple's main chip supplier TSMC will kick off mass production of 3nm chips this week, with Apple being the primary customer of the new process, which could first be used in upcoming M2 Pro chips expected to power updated MacBook Pro and Mac mini models. According to the new report by DigiTimes, TSMC will start mass production of its next-generation 3nm chip process on Thursday, December 29, ...
netflix1

Netflix to Begin Cracking Down on Password Sharing in Early 2023

Wednesday December 21, 2022 2:14 pm PST by
Popular streaming service Netflix is planning to put an end to password sharing starting in early 2023, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal. There have been persistent rumors about the end of password sharing, and Netflix has been exploring methods to crack down on it, but the changes are set to officially go into effect next year. Netflix has long known that password...