As I sit here in July of 2021, the latest cheese grater Mac Pro (released on December 10th, 2019) has been out for just over 18 months, since then I’m sure you’ve seen, read, or heard everything possible about the Mac Pro wheels. From the fact that they don’t lock, to the fact that Apple charges seven hundred freaking dollars for them, they quickly became the latest Apple product on which the Apple haters could focus their rage. In an odd twist, though, this time even the Apple fans like me thought they were stupid. There was just one problem: I have one of the new Mac Pros, and the simple truth is that I really needed the wheels.
I’ve had my Mac Pro for about nine months now, and while it was ludicrously expensive, I am a power-user who needs all the power I can
get afford. Mine has 24 cores, 176GB of RAM, a 2TB NVMe system drive, two additional 4GB NVMe drives, two 8TB spinning disks, and a 4x8TB 24TB Promise RAID array. I bought it from the Apple Refurbished store, but it was still a ridiculous amount of money, especially with all those extras. While I’m more than willing to pay for such a beast, I can tell you that at purchase time there was absolutely no way I was paying the stupid amount of money that Apple wanted for four freaking wheels. And when you buy them with the Mac Pro, they’re only $500! Only a sucker would pay $500 for wheels, right?
The problem is that with all those drives, my Mac Pro weighs about as much as a small car, and since I have enormous hairy dogs any computers running in my house needs to be taken outside monthly for a visit with the air compressor. Sure, it’s got handles on it, but I’m here to tell you that as the decades pile up, my pathetically aging body complains vigorously when I pick something like that up. As I watched Ebay daily for anyone who might sell their Apple Mac Pro wheels, I tried many alternatives, the most useful and the least elegant being the carpeted moving dolly that I keep in the garage.
Finally, after months of watching, I made a deal with someone and bought a set of new-in-box Mac Pro wheels for $400. Ha! I beat the system by paying $100 per wheel! I are smart!
The first thing I noticed was that the box was heavy! In fact, each of the wheels weighs over a pound, and all four of them with the box (minus the instructions and cover) weigh in at 4lbs 12.5oz (2.17kg). That may seem like an odd thing to notice, but I think it was telling that they weigh much more than I thought they would. That weight was the first indication that these are not cheap wheels. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they’re anything but cheap. These wheels exude a sense of quality the likes of which I’ve not encountered before and brother, I know my wheels!
While I was waiting for a deal on Mac Pro wheels, I discovered that a company called Shepherd makes 3-inch casters that look a lot like the Mac Pro wheels (which are only 2-inch) and you can buy them at Home Depot for a paltry $25 a piece! Not only that; they make locking versions that cost $32, too. Woohoo!
I bought a pair of regular and a pair of locking, and having spent about $120 plus shipping, convinced myself that I could assemble these wheels onto my Mac Pro, write a step-by-step guide, and be the hero of people like me who thought that the price of the Apple wheels was insane.
I never did figure out how to attach them, and the closest I came was an idea for a sort of tray that the Mac Pro could sit in that had these wheels on the bottom, after which I realized that I was just designing a nicer version of the freaking carpeted moving dolly, so now I have four nice casters sitting in a box in the garage. Some day something is going to get a nice set of wheels.
Having them side by side with the Mac Pro wheels made some things surprisingly obvious to me. First off, the Mac Pro wheels are absolute mechanical works of art next to the Home Depot casters. While those Shepherd casters aren’t bad at all, they feel like toys when compared to the Apple product. The Mac Pro wheels are smoother, have much tighter tolerances, are noticeably heavier, and just feel like solid substantial well-made items. The Shepherds feel like casters that I bought at Home Depot. Are the Apple wheels 5x better, though?
Yeah, they kind of are.
One of the main things to notice about the Apple wheels is the mounting interface. This is another example of the tight tolerances and extremely well-designed attention to detail in the product. To be fair, the Apple wheels are designed to interface to exactly one thing while the Shepherd wheels are designed to be screwed into anything, but the Apple wheel connector is an absolutely precision interface in and of itself.
Finally, even though smaller, the apple wheel is still heavier and feels substantially more robust. Honestly, aside from looks the Shepherd wheels are not even worthy of comparison. Then again, who goes into such detail when shopping for wheels? Oh, did you notice that the Apple wheels appear to be nickel while the Shepherds are chrome? Nah.. neither did I.
Installing the wheels was simple once I raced to Lowes and back just before closing so I could get the proper flexible bit extension. Without this tool the chances of a successful wheel install are probably on the order of 0.00003%. Why? Because the wheels were clearly not made to be installed by the end user. Hell, it wouldn’t surprise me if apple charges $700 for the after-market wheel kit just because they assume that there will be roughly $200 worth of angry ranting via phone support for every home-installed set of wheels.
I mean, it’s not really all that difficult. You just have to get the included bit into the impossible to reach location using the special not-included flexible bit extension, after which it’s a forceful turn and then POP the screw turns like any other screw. When the screw is loose enough and the foot pops out from the two recessed pin sockets, you can just spin the old foot off. Put the new wheel where the foot was, thread the screw into the wheel, align the two little pins, and tighten the screw. It almost couldn’t be simpler, except for the fact that it could absolutely be simpler in almost every way.
With the wheels installed, I was once again impressed by just how damn great they look. They also work great which was no surprise given how robustly they seem to have been made. I know they’re just wheels, and I know it seems ridiculous to need wheels on a computer, and it seems doubly ridiculous to pay so much for wheels for a computer, but honestly I think they are wheels worthy of Apple’s top of the line Mac Pro. Whether or not the Mac Pro is worth the price paid is a discussion for another time.
Perhaps most importantly, I now have come to terms with the fact that I am not only the kind of person who shelled out the money for a Mac Pro, but I am now someone who shelled out the money for a Mac Pro with wheels. I’m not sure what I think of that… Should I mock myself? Should I embrace the madness? Should I commit myself? All I know for sure is that I no longer have to pick the damn thing up and carry it outside like a barbarian. Now I can roll it, and dammit I can roll it in style.
So what’s the truth about the Mac Pro wheels as promised by the title? The truth is that they’re absolutely worth $400, I’m glad I didn’t pay $500, and $700 is just insulting. I mean, only a sucker would pay $700 for wheels!