Having promised that a professional-grade iMac would arrive in 2017 back at a briefing in April, Apple now launched the iMac Pro, a Space Grey beast of a machine, as promised, just days before the end of 2017.
The company started shipping the iMac Pro on 14 December 2017.
In this article we gather all the information available about this powerful new machine, from its clever cooling design and impressive tech specs to its UK price and release date. Read on to find out more!
iMac Pro release date
The iMac Pro went on sale on 14 December 2017.
There was a staggered launch of the various models: the 8- and 10-core configurations were available to order right away, while the 14- and 18-core machines were added to the roster at the end of January. The latter have been showing longer delivery times – as of 5 Feb we’re seeing an estimate of “20 Feb – 6 Mar” on the 18-core – so check the times before ordering.
How much will the iMac Pro cost?
The iMac Pro starts at $4,999/£4,899. That may sound a lot (and is!), but Apple claims that if you built a PC equivalent it would cost $7,000 – and that’s without the display.
The maximum configuration available is a 2.3GHz 18-Core Xeon W processor (Turbo Boost up to 4.3GHz), Vega 64 Graphics, 128GB memory, 2TB Storage, and 4TB storage for £12,279.
Earlier in 2017, ZDNet estimated that a full-spec build-to-order iMac Pro with an 18-core CPU, 128GB RAM, 4TB SSD and Radeon Pro Vega graphics with 16GB HBM2 memory could cost more than £17,000! Luckily it’s come in below that number.
Who is the iMac Pro for?
Following criticism that the company had been neglecting the creative pro audience, Apple revealed that it was working on an iMac Pro back in April 2017.
Talking to a small group of journalists, Apple VPs Phil Schiller, Craig Federighi and John Ternus acknowledged that the Mac Pro in its current form hadn’t been meeting the needs of many pro users, and revealed that the company planned to update the iMac to suit them. Apple also intends to redesign the Mac Pro – we have information about the 2018 launch of the new Mac Pro here.
Despite the fact that the Mac Pro wasn’t answering the needs of its users, not all creative pros were leaving the platform, it seems. Instead some were adopting the iMac as a solution. Federighi revealed that Apple had found that: “So many of our customers were moving to iMac that we saw a path to address many, many more of those that were finding themselves limited by Mac Pro through a next-generation iMac”.
Apple revealed more information at WWDC, and then gave Final Cut Pro users a look at the new iMac Pro when the company showcased the new Mac at the Final Cut Pro X Creative Summit in October 2017. The iMac Pro units were used to demonstrate new features coming in Final Cut Pro X 10.4, such as 360-degree VR. Final Cut Pro X 10.4 launching alongside the iMac Pro.
The company seeded units to a few creative pros, who have given the iMac Pro glowing reviews following the short time they have had with the unit.
Director and photographer Vincent Laforet said that if you are “editing 8K RED video, H.264 4K Drone footage, 6K 3D VR content or 50 Megapixel RAW stills you can expect a 200-300% increase in performance in almost every industry leading software with the iMac Pro…” He added: “The iMacPRO tears through footage and images, allowing me to spend less time behind a computer, and more time shooting.”
Aerospace software developer Craig A. Hunter said he “Saw reductions in compile time of between 30-60% while working on apps when I compared the iMac Pro to my 2016 MacBook Pro and 2013 iMac…” He added that “When developing for the Mac this makes a pretty noticeable improvement in repetitive code-compile-test cycles.” He also noted that: “I’m used to choosing between performance or detail when visualizing complex 3D datasets, and the iMac Pro gives both.”
YouTuber Marques Brownlee, who’s YouTube video can be found below, said: that although the iMac Pro is very expensive and not upgradeable “It’s actually a fairly well-priced machine”.
iMac Pro design
The new iMac Pro will have a new, darker look, shrouded in a Space Grey case.
But it’s not just the outward appearance that’s changed: on the inside, Apple has had to completely rethink the thermal architecture in order to house the new components. The result is a new fan system that offers a claimed 80 percent increase in cooling capacity. Apple says the new system “allows for upgraded internals without making more noise”.
A company spokesperson added: “We reengineered the whole system and 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.”
It seems that the cooling works well. Our US collegue Roman Loyola has seen the machine, and wrote in his First Look, that: “In the software demos I mentioned previously, not once did I notice any fan noise. Not a whirl or the white noise of air blasting through the vents. During the Xcode demo we were encouraged to feel the back of the iMac Pro for a heat check, and it was warm to the touch, but I think I’ve felt more heat from my MacBook Pro.”
“In the software demos I mentioned previously, not once did I notice any fan noise. Not a whirl or the white noise of air blasting through the vents. During the Xcode demo we were encouraged to feel the back of the iMac Pro for a heat check, and it was warm to the touch, but I think I’ve felt more heat from my MacBook Pro.” Writes our US colleague
iMac Pro tech specs
Let’s take a look under the hood. Here are the tech specs of the 2017 iMac Pro.
The 27in iMac Pro will offer the same 5,120×2,880 resolution 5K Retina display as its non-Pro cousin. That means 500 nits brightness and P3 wide colour, as well as 10-bit colour support. It is not an HDR display.
As for whether the iMac display will double up as a touchscreen, the answer is no.
Back at the April briefing, Phil Schiller was asked about whether Apple would consider adding a touchscreen display to the iMac. His response was simple: “No”. His colleague Craig Federighi suggested that the iPad Pro offers a far better drawing experience.
The company has revealed that it is intending to launch a new display to sell alongside it’s Mac Pro which is expected to launch in 2018. This new display could be even better than the Retina displays on the iMac, perhaps even offering 8K. Read more about the new Apple Display here.
Apple revealed the specs of the iMac Pro at WWDC in June 2017, confirming that the new iMac Pro will ship with 8-, 10- or 18-core Xeon processors making it the “most powerful Mac ever made”. Apple describes this as “workstation-class performance”, noting the 22 teraflops of GPU performance, fast storage and Advanced I/O.
We now know that Apple will also ship a 14-core iMac Pro model, although these 14-core and 18-core models aren’t going to be available until 2018.
We also know that these are Xeon W chips. These are workstation grade hardware and they support the AVX-512 instruction set. This instruction set enables the system to process twice as much data in same clock cycle – doubling the throughput.
Xeon chips are better suited to applications involving complex data – such as large, multi-layered Photoshop files, 4K video or 3D scenes with huge textures – as they are generally more robust and reliable than Core chips.
One YouTube video has appeared that looks at a 3GHz 10-core Intel Xeon W iMac Pro with 128GB DDR4 Ram and the Radeon Pro Vega 6416GB.
That Intel Xeon W is . Watch the video below.
Benchmarks for what was assumed to be the iMac Pro had already appeared in late October 2017. Those benchmarks related to a 3.2GHz 8-core Xeon W-2140B and a 3.0GHz 10-core Xeon W-2150B chip.
The Xeon chips that appear to be being used in the new professional 10-core iMac offer a Multi-Core Score of 35917 in Geekbench 4.1. The single-core score is 5345. This score is faster than the current 12-core Mac Pro.
The 8-core iMac Pro’s average Multi-Core score was 23536 (assuming those processors benchmarked are indeed those of the new iMacs). The 18-core iMac Pro hadn’t been benchmarked.
This compares to our tests of the 3.4GHz 27in iMac which scores 14017 in Multi-Core and 4833 in Single-Core, while the 2.9GHz quad-core i7 15in MacBook Pro scored 15731 in Multi-Core and 4739 in Single-Core.
Where the MacBook Pro has a T1 chip to power the Touch Bar and provides the secure enclave for Touch ID, the iMac has a T2 chip which controls components and tasks like the FaceTime camera, LEDs, and storage devices. This will free up the CPU from these menial tasks so it can focus on the processing. It will also provide the secure enclave for file encryption (FileVault) and a new startup security feature.
It is thought that this chip could also be used to handle an always-on Hey Siri feature, although this hasn’t been confirmed.
Siri is standard on Macs, but rumours suggest the iMac Pro will take this one step further and offer Hey Siri. This means the machine will always be listening out for the trigger phrase, and is not a trivial feature to include. (Hey Siri’s demands on battery life, for example, are well known. For some time Apple only allowed Hey Siri to work on iPhones and iPads that were plugged into a power source.)
The iMac Pro will offer 32GB ECC memory as standard, but will be configurable to 64GB or 128GB.
This is the first time Apple will use EEC memory. EEC memory will protect against memory data corruption, which should minimise crashes and data loss. However, EEC memory is very expensive
When Apple showed off some iMac Pro units at the Final Cut Pro X Creative Summit it was possible to get a closer look at the back of the screen, which revealed the fact that there was no RAM door. We can now confirm that the RAM is not user upgradable – at least not officially. Apple says it can be upgraded but a service provider will need to do it. The RAM is not soldered onto the motherboard though, so hopefully it won’t be a difficult job for someone used to getting their hands dirty.
The iMac Pro will offer a 1TB SSD as standard, but is configurable to up to 4TB SSD.
The SSD will be capable of transfer speeds of 3GB/s.
The iMac Pro will offer “advanced graphics editing”, according to Apple, mentioning such uses as virtual reality content creation and real-time 3D rendering. Apple’s Final Cut Pro X is also likely to benefit from the fast GPU.
The iMac Pro will use the Radeon Pro Vega 64 and Radeon Pro Vega 56 graphics cards and will offer up to 16GB on-package high-bandwidth memory. This will be the most advanced graphics ever in a Mac and it will deliver up to an 11 teraflops of single-precision compute power for real-time 3D rendering and immersive, high-framerate VR, says Apple.
Interestingly, it sounds like the Radeon Vega 64 can be configured for 16GB while if you were to purchase the same card as a standalone unit it would only be configurable to 8GB.
This is HBM memory rather than the typical VRAM and it sits with the GPU for faster throughput.
In comparison, the top-of-the-range 27in iMac offers 8GB video memory with the Radeon Pro 580.
AMD is already rolling out some of its Radeon Vega graphics cards – so far the two cards have been released for the desktop PC gaming market – the Radeon RX Vega 64, and the Radeon RX Vega 56. The Radeon RX Vega 64 offers a Base speed of 1,247MHz (air) or 1,406MHz (liquid) while the Radeon RX Vega 56 offers 1,156MHz and 1,471MHz. Those cards have 8GB memory, while the Radeon Pro Vega 64 will have 16GB, so you can expect even better stats from the iMac Pro.
During the keynote at WWDC, Apple went to lengths to demonstrate its eagerness to join the VR revolution. Read more: How to use VR on a Mac
Ports & peripherals
The iMac Pro will boast 10Gb Ethernet, available on a Mac for the first time, and offering up to 10 times faster networking. This will support Nbase-T 1Gb, 2.5Gb, and 5Gb. Essential for those transferring big data over a local network.
You’ll also find four Thunderbolt 3.0 ports, which support USB-Type C too. The latter will enable the iMac Pro to power two additional 5K displays or connect to up to two high-performance RAID arrays. The Xeon CPU will also allow for 48 PCIe lanes.
There will also be an SDXC slot offering UHS-II (that’s Ultra High Speed) for even faster data transfer rates.
Keyboard & Mouse
The new iMac Pro will ship with a Space Grey keyboard and trackpad to match its darker design. There had been suggestions that the new keyboard could include a Touch Bar, but as yet none of the prototypes or early models has shown up with this feature.
You can buy a Magic Trackpad for an additional £50/$50, or pay £149/$129 to get both. It’s not clear if these devices will be sold separately.
According to Apple, the two speakers will deliver “broad frequency response, rich bass, and more volume”.
There will also be four microphones (the iMac normally has a single built-in mic). It is thought that these mics may be there to facilitate Siri.
The iMac Pro’s FaceTime HD camera is Full HD 1080p.
The other area where audio matters is the sound the iMac Pro makes – and the good news is that operation is quiet. Neil Bennett, who was one of a few reporters to be briefed prior to launch remarked that: “I’ve sat next to iMac Pros doing demos of everything from Cinema 4D and Adobe Dimension to VR to medical imaging, and haven’t heard a fan noise yet.”