Ap­ple iMac Pro

Made for video edit­ing, 3D graph­ics, soft­ware de­vel­op­ment and VR, this pro Mac is an engi­neer­ing feat, writes RO­MAN LOYOLA

Tech Advisor - - Contents -

The long-awaited iMac Pro is fi­nally here. Late last year, Ap­ple’s new work­sta­tion-class Mac be­came avail­able on the com­pany’s web­site. The 8- and 10-core iMac Pro ships im­me­di­ately, while the 14- and 18-core mod­els ship in Jan­uary.

The re­lease of the iMac Pro is sig­nif­i­cant for Ap­ple. The Mac Pro, re­leased in 2013, has had only one

mi­nor up­date in four years, and Ap­ple ear­lier this year ad­mit­ted that the ma­chine is a mis­take. And while the com­pany could say that a top-of-the-line iMac has plenty of processing power, it’s not the work­sta­tion-level com­puter that de­mand­ing pro­fes­sion­als want. This ma­chine is a sign that Ap­ple still values pro users and wants to of­fer a Mac that can meet their de­mands. Dur­ing an iMac Pro me­dia event, com­pany ex­ec­u­tives and third-party de­vel­op­ers in at­ten­dance ham­mered that point home. Prices starts at £4,899 for the 8-core base­line con­fig­u­ra­tion. The 10-, 14- and 18-core pro­ces­sors are of­fered as con­fig­ure-to-or­der op­tions, along with RAM (32GB, 64GB, or 128GB), flash stor­age (1-, 2-, or 4TB), and graph­ics.

Pro­ces­sor and graph­ics

At the heart of the iMac Pro is an In­tel Xeon pro­ces­sor. Specif­i­cally, the Xeon W, a work­sta­tion-class CPU tar­geted at work­sta­tion-class soft­ware that uses mul­ti­ple processing cores. The pro­ces­sors in­cor­po­rate Ad­vanced Vec­tor Ex­ten­sions 512 (AVX 512), In­tel’s in­struc­tion set for 512-bit SIMD (sin­gle-in­struc­tion, mul­ti­ple­data) op­er­a­tions. Ap­ple of­fers four dif­fer­ent pro­ces­sor con­fig­u­ra­tions: 8-core, 10-core, 14-core, and 18-core. Ap­ple con­sid­ers the 10-core model the one that will ap­peal to most users, hit­ting a sweet spot be­tween price and per­for­mance; it also of­fers the high­est Turbo Boost fre­quency of the four mod­els at 4.5GHz. The 14-core iMac Pro was not pre­vi­ously an­nounced as part of the line-up.

Push­ing the pix­els to the iMac Pro’s dis­play are AMD Radeon Pro Vega graph­ics. Base con­fig­u­ra­tions come

with 8GB Radeon Pro Vega 56 graph­ics, with an op­tion to up­grade to the 16GB Radeon Pro Vega 64.

Ap­ple re­it­er­ated through­out the event that these pro­ces­sors and GPUs were the fastest ever used in a Mac. In soft­ware demos of Adobe Di­men­sion CC, Osirix, TwinMo­tion, Maxon Cin­ema 4D, high-res­o­lu­tion 3D im­ages ren­dered on the fly in real time, with barely any no­tice­able jit­ter or lag. In VR demos with Grav­ity Sketch and Servios’ new Elec­tro­nauts, 3D ob­jects and an­i­ma­tion flowed smoothly. Most im­pres­sive was a demo of Ap­ple’s Xcode, which ran sev­eral UI tests and VMware Fu­sion vir­tual ma­chines at the same time with­out the iMac Pro break­ing a sweat.

Dis­play and de­sign

Just as the iMac Pro’s pro­ces­sor and graph­ics are the best ever in a Mac, so too is the dis­play, ac­cord­ing to Ap­ple. The spec­i­fi­ca­tions of the dis­play cer­tainly are im­pres­sive. Sport­ing a 5120x2880 res­o­lu­tion and 500 nits of bright­ness, the 27in Retina dis­play is ca­pa­ble of dis­play­ing bil­lions of colours and uses the P3 colour gamut. It is not, how­ever, an HDR dis­play. At the event, it wasn’t pos­si­ble to spend any time re­ally ex­am­in­ing the dis­play’s pic­ture qual­ity and per­for­mance, and

the specs match up with the cur­rent 27in 5K iMac. Ap­ple’s iMac dis­plays have al­ways been of top qual­ity, and chances are this dis­play will fol­low suit.

As for the ex­ter­nal de­sign, Ap­ple made a con­scious de­ci­sion to main­tain the look of the iMac that we all know; it even has sim­i­lar di­men­sions to the iMac. One main dif­fer­ence is that the iMac Pro al­lows for user-con­fig­urable VESA mount­ing – the con­sumer iMac must be con­fig­ured with a VESA mount at the time of pur­chase. Other dif­fer­ences in­clude the ob­vi­ous space grey fin­ish (which is quite im­pres­sive in per­son) and rear air vents.

Speak­ing of the air vents, that brings us to the in­ter­nal de­sign of the iMac Pro. Though you’ll prob­a­bly never see the in­sides, Ap­ple made a great ef­fort to ad­dress the cool­ing needs of this Mac. The iMac Pro doesn’t use a hard drive or a sep­a­rate solid-state-drive mech­a­nism; all of the flash stor­age is on the moth­er­board. This al­lowed Ap­ple to in­stall a mas­sive heat sink and dual blow­ers, which Ap­ple says re­sults in 80 per­cent bet­ter cool­ing than the iMac’s de­sign.

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.

A de­sign de­ci­sion that some users won’t agree with is the in­abil­ity for users to ac­cess the iMac Pro’s RAM. For­tu­nately, the RAM is in­stalled in DIMM slots, not sol­dered on to the moth­er­board, so if you have

the abil­ity to open up the iMac Pro, you can up­grade the RAM. You don’t have to or­der more RAM than you need at the on­set, but if you want to up­grade later, Ap­ple con­sid­ers this task one that needs to be done by a ser­vice provider.

T2 chip for se­cu­rity

In the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, Ap­ple in­tro­duced the T1 chip, which han­dles processing and dis­play for the Touch Bar and pro­vides the se­cure en­clave for Touch ID. With the iMac Pro, Ap­ple de­buts the T2, which con­trols com­po­nents and tasks that were once cov­ered by other dis­crete chips, such as the Face­Time cam­era, LEDs, and stor­age de­vices. The T2 es­sen­tially

frees the main CPU from these me­nial tasks so it can fo­cus on se­ri­ous processing.

The T2 chip also pro­vides a new set of se­cu­rity fea­tures. The T2 pro­vides a se­cure en­clave for file en­cryp­tion (FileVault) and a new startup se­cu­rity fea­ture, which, un­for­tu­nately, wasn’t demon­strated at the event. Ap­ple says that the iMac Pro will in­clude a soft­ware util­ity for con­fig­ur­ing the se­cure boot process.

Ap­ple doesn’t usu­ally com­ment on fu­ture prod­ucts, so the com­pany won’t say if the T2 will be used in other Macs. But if you’ve been fol­low­ing the busi­ness side of Ap­ple, you’ve prob­a­bly heard about Ap­ple’s deal­ings with third-party chip fab­ri­ca­tors and the com­pany’s de­sire to make their own sil­i­con. It’s a fore­gone con­clu­sion that we’ll see the T2 or a later gen­er­a­tion of the chip in other Macs, it’s just a mat­ter of when.

Space grey in­put de­vices

A space grey iMac Pro wouldn’t be com­plete with­out space grey ac­ces­sories, and Ap­ple in­cludes a Magic Mouse 2 and a Magic Key­board with Numeric Key­pad that prop­erly match the iMac Pro. For £50 more, you can get a space grey Magic Track­pad 2 in­stead of a mouse, or you can pay an ad­di­tional £149 to get both.

Colour aside, these de­vices as the same as of­fered with Ap­ple’s iMacs, so if you hate the flat feel of the key­board keys, you’ll hate the feel of the space grey key­board. And I’m not a fan of the Magic Mouse 2, but man, the space grey mouse is gor­geous.

Ap­ple wouldn’t say whether these de­vices will be avail­able for sale sep­a­rately, but there’s al­ways a pos­si­bil­ity if the de­mand is great enough.

Ver­dict

The iMac Pro it­self is a beast, both in power and price tag, ca­pa­ble of han­dling the most dif­fi­cult processing tasks you can throw at it. If you aren’t sure whether an iMac Pro is the Mac for you, take a look at the rea­sons why you should or should not buy an iMac Pro.

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

27in (5120x2880) Retina 5K dis­play macOS High Sierra 3.2GHz In­tel Xeon W (4.2GHz Turbo Boost), eight cores, 19MB cache Radeon Pro Vega 56 graph­ics pro­ces­sor, with 8GB of HBM2 mem­ory 32GB of 2,666MHz DDR4 ECC RAM 1TB SSD Wi-Fi 802.11ac Blue­tooth 4.2 1080p Face­Time cam­era Stereo speak­ers Four mi­cro­phones 3.5mm head­phone jack SDXC card slot with sup­port for UHS-II 4x USB 3.0 ports 4x Thun­der­bolt 3 (USB Type-C) Space Grey Magic Key­board with Numeric Key­pad Space Grey Magic Mouse 2 650x516x203mm 9.7kg

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