Aimed at very specific audiences, Apple’s Mac Pro clearly does not come at a price point that seems reasonable for an average person. Nonetheless, the features it has are not present on an average workstation either. When launched back in December, one such exclusive was Apple’s Afterburner accelerator for video decoding, which was only available with a purchase of a new Mac Pro. Recently, however, the company has made the card available for purchase separately.

The Apple Afterburner Card is a FPGA-based PCIe 3.0 x16 board that accelerates the decoding of video streams encoded using the ProRes and ProRes RAW video codecs. ProRes is commonly used throughout the Mac video editing ecosystem, including in Final Cut Pro X, QuickTime Player X, and numerous third-party programs. Once installed into Mac Pro’s PCIe 3.0 x16 slot, an Afterburner card can support playback of up to 6 streams of 8K ProRes RAW, or up to 23 streams of 4K ProRes RAW, which, suffice it to say, is incredibly useful in the video post-production industry.

Unfortunately, while Apple is making the card freely available for purchase, its system requirements haven't changed. Specifically, it's only officially supported in the 2019 Mac Pro. So officially, at least, 2011 Mac Pro and Hackintosh owners are out of luck. None the less, it'll be interesting to see if hackers can get it to work in other systems, since the true linchpin for support is macOS itself.

The Apple Afterburner Card is available directly from Apple for $2,000.

Related Reading:

Sources: Apple, 9to5 Mac

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  • Roland00Address - Monday, March 23, 2020 - link

    Maybe I do not understand what change, but the Mac Website has allowed the Apple Afterburner Card as a standalone purchase since Dec 2019?

    I have a web archive dot org saying this page was available December 18th, 2019. Perhaps it even happened earlier on the days you could first buy the Mac Pro on December 10th, 2019, this is because web archive dot org does not instantly chronicle when a page first goes up instead having captures sometime after the fact.
  • FreckledTrout - Monday, March 23, 2020 - link

    They really should ship a block of cheddar with it. At least have a little fun with the fact it's great grandmother was a cheese grater.
  • nandnandnand - Tuesday, March 24, 2020 - link

    Ordered overpriced Xeon crap, but at least they gave me a moldy block of cheddar with it.
  • close - Tuesday, March 24, 2020 - link

    The problem is that it's hard to say "overpriced" when there's no comparable alternative being built. Pretty much all Threadripper motherboards are limited in the RAM department. They focus more on LEDs than extra features (ex.

    I have no idea why no other OEM builds a proper EPYC box that actually takes advantage of EPYC's massive core count AND memory capabilities among others. You're left with the DIY option which isn't really an option if you want to equip your company with them given the hurdles you'd have to jump through and hidden costs of building dozens of DIY boxes, making sure they all works the same, and support them for years.

    And that's not even taking into account the companies that have tens of thousands of $ worth of MacOS specialized software licenses for each workstation and for whom the cost of the metal is the accessory not the main one.
  • InTheMidstOfTheInBeforeCrowd - Tuesday, March 24, 2020 - link

    > They focus more on LEDs than extra features

    Shrinking market. Concentrate on the loyal customer segment which is committed to the market and which tolerates higher prices for stuff of same or lower quality (enthusiasts, the RGB crowd). Don't bother too much about other customer segments that exhibit a tendency/high probabiliy of leaving the market when it shrinks further or prices rise. That's how you can make good business and even grow it in a shrinking market. In other words: cater to the fools, damn the rest of us...
  • PeachNCream - Tuesday, March 24, 2020 - link

    Are there really that many companies using Mac PCs for anything these days? I see a few laptops around but workstation grade hardware is generally a Dell and HP thing as they cater to the same market with more cost effective systems. When we must render locally as opposed to sending jobs to a better equipped server farm, we typically do so on more commonly available Linux workstations.
  • eek2121 - Tuesday, March 24, 2020 - link

    Macbook Pros are used by a ton of people in a large variety of industries. As far as the desktop Macs are concerned, I have heard they are used in the video editing industry, though I haven’t witnessed it.
  • blppt - Tuesday, March 24, 2020 - link

    More concerning is triggering my mild trypophobia.

    (btw, if you don't know what that is, do NOT google search it)
  • Guspaz - Tuesday, March 24, 2020 - link

    It’s just a big ‘ol FPGA, so the fact that it still doesn’t support accelerating raw formats from Red, ARRI, Blackmagic, or others, is quite unfortunate.
  • web2dot0 - Tuesday, March 24, 2020 - link

    You need the T2 chip to make Afterburner card work ... so hackers can only make the Afterburner cards work with Macs not Hackintoshes.

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