Should you buy an imac Pro?

Ap­ple most pow­er­ful Mac is an at­trac­tive com­puter. Ja­son Snell asks whether you re­ally need it

Macworld - - Contents -

Ap­ple’s big­gest sell­ers have been on store shelves for a while now, but for fans of high-pow­ered Macs, Christ­mas came early last year with the re­lease of the imac Pro. It’s un­doubt­edly go­ing to take the crown as the most pow­er­ful Mac ever made – and will un­doubt­edly

hold onto that dis­tinc­tion un­til a new Mac Pro ar­rives on the scene.

There’s a lot to be said for the imac Pro. It’s the first Mac with work­sta­tion-level pro­ces­sors with a plethora of pro­ces­sor cores (8 and up) since the Mac Pro in 2013. The Radeon Pro Vega is the most pow­er­ful graphic pro­ces­sor ever in a Mac.

If you’re some­one who uses a 5K imac to get work done today, should you con­sider buy­ing the imac Pro or not? Here’s a list of rea­sons why you should – and also a few rea­sons you might want to keep that credit card in your pocket.

Not ev­ery work­flow is built equally. Though mod­ern pro­ces­sors usu­ally fea­ture mul­ti­ple cores ca­pa­ble of ex­e­cut­ing code si­mul­ta­ne­ously, not all soft­ware is writ­ten to spread the work­load across those cores. There are cer­tain au­dio plug-ins I use

that will ab­so­lutely swamp a sin­gle core of the i7 pro­ces­sor in my 5K imac – while the other cores re­main en­tirely un­taxed.

But the right tools, writ­ten to grab as many cores as pos­si­ble and use them to their fullest, will ab­so­lutely fly when given the abil­ity to max out the eight to 18 cores in the imac Pro.

Talk to pro­fes­sion­als and you’ll prob­a­bly find that they know ex­actly what their most pro­ces­sor in­ten­sive tool is: for me, it’s the Spec­tral De-noise fil­ter in the au­dio pro­cess­ing pack­age izo­tope RX 6. That fil­ter, which does a re­mark­able job of re­mov­ing back­ground noise from au­dio tracks, will max out my imac’s cores. Even with that, it still takes a very long time to do its job, which is why an imac Pro would prob­a­bly be a big time saver for me.

If you don’t know if har­ness­ing many pro­ces­sor cores can help you do your job, open the CPU Mon­i­tor win­dow in the Ac­tiv­ity Mon­i­tor app. It’ll show you all your cores (in­clud­ing ‘vir­tual cores’ used in In­tel pro­ces­sors sup­port­ing hy­per­thread­ing), and you can see whether the most in­tense work you do is spread across all your Mac’s pro­ces­sor cores, or is limited to just one.

If you feel the need for more speed and your apps are al­ready push­ing your Mac’s cores to the limit, the imac Pro would prob­a­bly give you a big speed boost.

If you need graph­ics power

Pow­ered by the Radeon Pro Vega, the imac Pro is a work­sta­tion with graph­ics abil­i­ties that out­strip

any cur­rent Mac. If you’re in­ter­ested in work­ing in ad­vanced graph­ics, or VR de­vel­op­ment, while re­main­ing on the Mac plat­form, this is the Mac that’s go­ing to be the most ca­pa­ble.

But be­yond sheer pro­cess­ing power, the imac Pro sup­ports twice the num­ber of ex­ter­nal dis­plays as the 5K imac. If you’re some­one who needs two eter­nal 5K dis­plays, or four ex­ter­nal 4K HDR dis­plays, you need the imac Pro.

If you want the best 5K imac

Priced at £4,899, the base model imac Pro comes with 1TB of flash stor­age and 32GB of RAM. The

top-of-the-line imac, out­fit­ted with the fastest pro­ces­sor avail­able on that model and with RAM and stor­age specs to match the imac Pro, costs £3,509. That ex­tra £1,260 nets you a much faster pro­ces­sor with twice the cores, a ma­jor graph­ics power boost, and more. (In fact, if you max out the specs on the 5K imac, you can get one for £4,949, more than the imac Pro’s start­ing model. But that model has more RAM and more flash stor­age than the base model imac Pro.)

My point is this: if you’re in the mar­ket for a high­end imac any­way, it’s worth con­sid­er­ing the imac Pro. The leap in price isn’t as dra­matic once you’re max­ing out the specs of the 5K imac in or­der to get the most pow­er­ful model.

If you want Space Grey pe­riph­er­als

Here’s a rea­son not to buy an imac Pro: yes, it comes with Space Grey ver­sions of the Magic Key­board, Magic Mouse, and Magic Track­pad, colour vari­a­tions that are not avail­able any­where else – at least for now.

While I have no doubt that th­ese key­boards and in­put de­vices will be hot items on ebay, please do not buy a £5,000 com­puter for a key­board in a slightly darker shade of sil­ver.

(Look, I am not the fash­ion po­lice: Buy what you want. It just seems a bit silly to spend that much money on a colour vari­a­tion of the same in­put de­vices we’ve had for ages. The imac it­self is a sim­i­lar story: if you’ve al­ways wanted a Space Grey imac, you can get one now. But the ‘black tax’

for this model is much higher than the one for that black Mac­book back in the day.)

If you like in­stalling af­ter­mar­ket RAM

The imac Pro, un­like the 5K imac, doesn’t have a RAM door on the back, which means you can’t buy the low­est amount of RAM pos­si­ble from Ap­ple and then in­stall cheaper RAM from a third party later. Yeah, that’s kind of a downer; that’s what I did when I bought my 5K imac. If you’re frus­trated with Ap­ple block­ing the very last bit of user up­grade­abil­ity on the 27in imac line, I get it.

If you’re afraid of first-gen­er­a­tion hard­ware

This is a brand-new model. The imac Pro, first of its name, with new pro­ces­sors and hard­ware (and even an Ap­ple-built ARM co-pro­ces­sor, the T2, which prob­a­bly won’t bring about judg­ment day). The con­ven­tional wis­dom has al­ways been, first­gen­er­a­tion hard­ware has quirks and bugs, so it’s best to let the brave jump in on the first go, while the savvy shop­pers wait a year for the first hard­ware it­er­a­tion that stamps out all the un­ex­pected bugs.

It’s not a bad strat­egy, if you’re a pa­tient per­son. Are you pa­tient? If you’ve waited this long for a new pro­fes­sional Mac desk­top, maybe you are.

If you’re re­ally in the mar­ket for a Mac Pro

We know lit­er­ally noth­ing about the com­po­si­tion of the Mac Pro whose ex­is­tence Ap­ple ex­ec­u­tives ac­knowl­edged ear­lier this year. They made no com­mit­ments about when it would ship or what it

would con­tain. We can as­sume that it will be more pow­er­ful than the imac, and pos­si­bly more ex­pand­able (it couldn’t be less), and won’t ship with a 27in dis­play at­tached to its front.

If you sim­ply don’t want to own an imac, if you re­ally would pre­fer a (po­ten­tially) more ex­pand­able and pow­er­ful Mac Pro, then it’s prob­a­bly a good idea to wait. But if you’re some­one who uses Macs to get work done, and who needs the fastest Mac in ex­is­tence to do that job, you might con­sider this: There will prob­a­bly be a ro­bust re­sale mar­ket for the imac Pro when the Mac Pro comes out. You could al­ways buy this thing and use it un­til 2018 or 2019 or when­ever the Mac Pro ar­rives, then sell it and put that money to­ward the Mac Pro.

Maybe you’ve been so pa­tient wait­ing for this imac that you’re will­ing to be even more pa­tient. Or maybe you’ve waited long enough. In the end, the dif­fer­ence be­tween those two states may be the ul­ti­mate fac­tor in de­cid­ing whether the imac Pro is right for you.

Ap­ple’s Ac­tiv­ity Mon­i­tor can be found in Ap­pli­ca­tions > Util­i­ties

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