Perhaps more mysterious than the stealthy look of Apple's upcoming Mac Pro desktop is its price tag, which has yet to be announced.
Apple detailed some of the specs, and even showed off prerelease versions of the hardware to attendees at its annual developers conference earlier this month, but there are still many unknowns as to just what Apple will put inside the machine -- details that have a dramatic impact on what it costs to buy one.
So how much will the machine -- previous models of which have, for a decade, hovered around a $2,500 entry-level price tag -- cost when it arrives later this year? CNET reached out to IHS iSuppli to find out, and the answer is not so simple.
Based on some rough estimates of comparable hardware, components, and labor, just the raw cost of the machine could total $2,800, the firm said. That's $300 more than the price Apple sells its existing, entry-level model for. Ramp it up with a higher-end processor, more SSD storage and RAM, and that could climb to $4,755. None of this, by the way, is taking into account the extra cost that goes on top, where Apple makes any profit.
Why is the price so hard to pin down? Many of the components that are going into the machine have merely been stated by Apple, but not detailed. That includes three of the most important, and also most expensive, parts: the processor, graphics chips, and flash storage, which are all bleeding edge.
Apple has said it plans to use Intel's latest Xeon E5 series chips and AMD FirePro GPUs to power the machine, both of which could send the cost up drastically, depending on what configuration Apple begins with at the entry level. Those Xeon chips, for instance, can go well past $2,000 (though Apple gets discounts from buying in bulk). The graphics cards could be even more, as Apple is making dual GPUs a standard feature. Also unclear is built-in storage, which IHS expects to start at 512GB.
Even if the two estimates end up being in the ballpark of the retail price, it shouldn't be too shocking for most Mac Pro buyers, who Apple has described as video editors, musicians, photographers, and graphic designers. A 12-core version of the existing model starts at $3,799, and can ramp up to more than $12,350 if you add in all the bells and whistles. But there might simply not be that much room for adjusting the hardware in this machine. Apple's done away with the idea of a case that can be opened up and tweaked, in favor of loading the back up with high-speed I/O ports, like USB 3 and Thunderbolt 2.
One other thing to keep in mind is that Apple plans to make this machine in the United States. At first blush this might seem like it would add more to the cost versus making it overseas, though IHS says that's probably not the case for a high-end product like this.
"When you're talking thousands of dollars to build hardware -- exceptional high-end stuff like the GPU and CPUs -- the cost of putting it all together is almost noise," says Andrew Rassweiler, the senior director of cost benchmarking services at IHS. For something like a phone, a jump in labor from $10 to $20 dollars would be "a bomb," he says. But U.S.-based service providers want to do smaller runs of hardware, and overseas manufacturers have designed businesses around producing high volume products like phones, and would charge more for something like a high-end desktop.
Apple is expected to detail all the options, along with a price and firm release date, at an event later this year. In the meantime, the company has been steering potential Mac Pro shoppers toward waiting for the newer model.