Apple has just unveiled the most powerful Macintosh ever made in history – the iMac Pro. It’s the Frankenstein child of Apple’s desktop lines, taking after the insanely powerful internals of the 2013 “Trash Can” Mac Pro and merging them with the svelte, compact body of the 5K iMac. After the unfortunate decline and mismanagement of the 2013 “Trash Can” Mac Pro, can Apple win back its audience of hardcore designers and creatives with this all-in-one beast?
Beautiful space grey design and accessories
The iMac Pro looks like a visual combination of the dark grey Mac Pro and the shining silver iMac we’ve come to be familiar with in recent years. It’s encased in a space grey alloy darker than the 2016 Macbook Pro, and somewhat reminiscent of the black Macbooks of early 2006. Even the touchpad, magic mouse and keyboard come in space grey – its a marked departure from Apple’s usual bland, light white, silver and gold colors and we love it. Apple says that these accessories are exclusive to buyers of the iMac Pro, so you won’t find these accessories anywhere else other than the retail box.
Apple has pulled out all the stops on with the iMac Pro. It’s got absolute top of the line specs:
- 27-inch 5K retina screen (500 nits, 43% brighter than previous iMacs)
- up to 18-core Intel Xeon processors
- 16GB Radeon Vega Graphics card which can provide up to 22 Teraflops of graphics computation at a bandwidth of with 400GB/s
- up to 128GB of 2666MHz DDR4 ECC RAM (high end, server grade memory)
- up to 4TB SSD
- 10GBPS Ethernet Port
- 4 x Type C Thunderbolt 3 Ports
- 4 x Type A USB Ports
- SD Card Slot
- 1080p Facetime camera
- 1 x cowardly Headphone Jack
The cherry on top of the cake? This powerful hardware configuration supports VR solutions, and can be used to power two additional external 5K displays. Just imagine working on a desktop with three massive 27-inch screens!
It’s probrably a little overkill for the average consumer, but can be a liberating experience for creatives who need more desktop space.
All this power, and for what?
So, what’s all this power for? Well, this beast of an all-in-one is aimed at professionals who need raw computing power, such as creatives in the video, graphic design, architecture and 3D modelling industries. Pursuing large scale projects in these fields takes a massive amount of time, effort and raw computing power. Take 3D movie making for example – creating an animated character can take up gigabytes in hard drive space and an insanely high amount of processing power. Conventional computers like your 13-inch Macbook or XPS 13 can’t even open or display these characters without running out of memory.
This animation of a car probably took a day or so to render.
Rendering animations on these characters (making them move) takes anywhere from between ten to twelve hours to fully process and play correctly. Now, just imagine the time it takes to render an animated film with multiple characters, backgrounds and special effects.
James Cameron’s Avatar took several hours to render 1/24th of a second of the movie – you get the picture.
At the end of the day, all that hardware in the iMac Pro is there to speed things up for industry professionals.
A faster processor and graphics card mean that animators can finish their jobs faster – more RAM means that they can multitask across various applications better, and all those Thunderbolt ports and 10GB Ethernet socket mean that transferring information in and out of the Mac Pro will be blazing fast. The processing power of the iMac Pro isn’t just for creative industries though – it’s also perfect for computer-aided design, medical imaging and super high resolution image editing.
A “redesigned” cooling system
All that processing power taxes the hardware considerably though – at high loads, computers can reach boiling hot temperatures of 100 degrees and over and will slow down. So how does the iMac Pro stay cool?
This is the regular 5K iMac disassembled – it’s cooled by one fan.
Apple has typically used a one-fan solution in the iMac to blow heat generated by the tightly-packed components out the back of the computer. It has worked relatively well in the past, but many individuals have experienced issues with overheating when running graphically intensive applications and games. At its current state, the single fan is probably not going to help cool down the power-packed iMac Pro that much.
To overcome the heating issues, Apple’s has simply added another fan.
Apple claims it’s more than that though – they say that this new system has almost 75 per cent more airflow and a 80 per cent increase in system thermal capacity, which lets iMac Pro handle all that power.
John Ternus, Apple’s vice president of Hardware Engineering, says that their engineers have re-designed the whole cooling system typically used in iMacs from the ground up to better dissipate heat. “We’ve designed an entirely new thermal architecture to pack extraordinary performance into the elegant, quiet iMac enclosure our customers love — iMac Pro is a huge step forward and there’s never been anything like it.” Sounds impressive, but only time will tell if this new cooling system is effective, or if the iMac Pro will suffer from the same overheating issues some of its predecessors are cursed with.
Is it worth the money?
The base configuration gets you a 8-core xeon processor, 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD and will set you back a whopping USD$5000. This sounds super expensive at first, but considering that the next best thing (Dell’s Precision 27 Inch 5270, specced similarly) sets you back USD$4,088, it’s not such a pricey investment after all.
Should you get it?
- We’d say that you should consider getting the iMac Pro if you need to use a super powerful MacOS computer for work, or if you’re looking to upgrade from the 2013 “Trash can” Mac Pro. You can even consider this if you’re a freelance graphic designer or creative with lots of cash to spare.
- If you don’t need to use MacOS and don’t need such a high level of computing power, consider a lower specced version of Dell’s Precision 27 inch (starting at USD$1,699) or the HP Z1 G3 (USD $1,282).
- If you’re an everyday consumer, we recommend not getting the iMac Pro.
For high-performance portability, get the Macbook Pro.
If you want a basic desktop, get the Mac Mini.
If you want a all-in-one desktop, get the iMac.
If you want a high performance all-in-one, get the 27-inch 5K iMac.
We recommend holding off on buying the “Trash Can” Mac Pro as Apple is developing a successor to be released in the next year or so.
Unfortunately, the iMac Pro isn’t available for purchase yet – it will only available in December. We’ll be first in line to check it out when it’s on display on the Apple store, but in the meantime, stay tuned to Thirty Seven Tech for more updates on Apple, Mac and iOS!
Apple’s also announced a few more products at WWDC 2017, including upgrades to its current line of non-pro iMacs and Macbooks. Check them out here.