iMac Pro

Ex­treme price, ex­treme power

Mac|Life - - CONTENTS -

$4,999 From Ap­ple, ap­ Fea­tures 5120x2880-pixel Retina dis­play, 3GHz, 10-core In­tel Xeon W, 128GB 2,666MHz ECC, 2TB SSD, AMD Vega 64 16GB, 4x Thun­der­bolt 3, 4x USB 3 (Type-A), 10Gb Eth­er­net, SDXC card slot, 3.5mm jack, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Blue­tooth 4.2

The iMac Pro is a wolf in sheep’s cloth­ing — some­how, Ap­ple has packed a work­sta­tion with up to an 18-core Xeon pro­ces­sor in a frame the ex­act size of the reg­u­lar 5K iMac. The only thing more amaz­ing than the en­gi­neer­ing feat of pro­duc­ing it is the price you might pay for one. But this is a truly pro ma­chine, and that kind of power comes at a cost.

Ap­ple pro­vided us with a very high­end unit for our re­view (see the specs above), but the “ba­sic” $4,999 model of­fers an eight-core, 3.2GHz In­tel Xeon pro­ces­sor, a less-po­tent 8GB AMD Vega 56 graph­ics card, 32GB of mem­ory, and a 1TB SSD. It’s all hugely con­fig­urable — even be­yond our beefy unit, you are able to choose a 14-core pro­ces­sor (a $800 up­grade from the en­try-level spec­i­fi­ca­tion) or an 18core op­tion ($1,600 more). Go­ing from 32GB of mem­ory to 128GB costs $2,400. Cus­tomiza­tions add up fast.

If you’re won­der­ing what the ben­e­fits are of spend­ing that kind of money on a hulk­ing su­per­com­puter that fits be­hind a mon­i­tor, you can prob­a­bly al­ready rule out the iMac Pro as be­ing for you, even if you can af­ford it.

If you’re a video edi­tor, how­ever, you will see big ben­e­fits from hav­ing mul­ti­ple cores to ren­der high-res footage and play it back in real time. Pro­gram­mers com­pil­ing code will ben­e­fit from big par­al­lel com­put­ing out­put, and ex­treme Pho­to­shop users will find the gi­ant mem­ory op­tion use­ful. To make it worth­while, you prob­a­bly have to be some­one who looks at the price of the iMac Pro, cal­cu­lates how much time it could save them, and then works out whether the two will bal­ance. Ei­ther that or a mil­lion­aire who just re­ally wants the (ad­mit­tedly ir­re­sistible) Space Gray fin­ish for their pow­er­ful desk­top com­puter.

But the gist is this: the rea­son this costs so much is that it’s us­ing work­sta­tion parts like ECC (er­ror­cor­rect­ing code) mem­ory, which means your huge, vi­tally im­por­tant work is less likely to be­come cor­rupted and crash apps out, los­ing you time and money. If you need it, you need it. If not, go cheaper. Power play Okay, enough sen­si­ble money and specs talk. You want to know how fast it ac­tu­ally is to use, right? Ob­vi­ously, it’s fast. Re­ally fast. Ev­ery­thing you do is ef­fec­tively in­stant, though that’s partly down to the stor­age, which is

The only thing more amaz­ing than the feat of pro­duc­ing thei Mac Pro is the price you pay for one

com­i­cally speedy, just like all Macs with flash stor­age these days. This is part of what makes it so good for video work (see op­po­site for our video pro’s opin­ion of what it’s like to ac­tu­ally use for 4K video edit­ing). Since this per­for­mance isn’t unique to the iMac Pro, its speed only re­ally stands out from other Macs once you start per­form­ing pro­ces­soror graph­ics-in­ten­sive tasks.

So, the next thing we tried was our video ex­port test in Hand­Brake. In the bench­marks op­po­site, you’ll see that there was a huge boost over the reg­u­lar 5K iMac: this Pro model is three times faster! That’s what we mean about the price be­ing worth­while if hav­ing this ma­chine saves you a lot of time.

It’s a sim­i­lar story when it comes to the com­puter’s graph­ics. The Vega 64 chip in our re­view unit is AMD’s big pow­er­house, meant to bat­tle the top-end cards from ri­val Nvidia, and there’s big per­for­mance here. In Unig­ine Heaven bench­marks, it dou­bles the score of the 5K iMac, which is a good start. But that’s not real-world us­age. The more im­por­tant fact is that, if you want to play games in 4K or even 5K, you can. Not al­ways su­per-smoothly, but games a few years old, like the Tomb Raider re­boot, can hit 30fps in 5K and 60fps in 4K at higher qual­ity set­tings. This Mac is also pow­er­ful enough for VR con­tent cre­ation, which Ap­ple’s keen to push, though it’s still only just get­ting started on Macs.

One thing that soft­ens the price of the iMac Pro is that it’s ba­si­cally a work­sta­tion with a free 5K screen in­cluded. A stand­alone 5120x2880pixel, 27-inch dis­play that works over one Thun­der­bolt 3 ca­ble will set you back around $1,300, so get­ting it as part of the pack­age here def­i­nitely adds to the ap­peal.

That said, it’s the same panel you get in the reg­u­lar 27-inch, non-Pro iMac, so if that’s the bit that in­ter­ests you, you don’t need to stump up five thou­sand or more to get it.

Still, the im­por­tant thing is that the screen is to­tally gor­geous. It’s bright, the col­ors are fan­tas­ti­cally vi­brant, and ev­ery­thing looks su­per-sharp, of course. For pho­tog­ra­phy and 4K video play­back, it’s pretty much best in class, al­though we know some peo­ple don’t like the glossy, glass­coated fin­ish.

The iMac Pro does have one down­side, though, which is that it’s not rated for HDR at all — hav­ing a built-in way to check your HDR grad­ing would’ve been a boon for pro video edit­ing. The 500–nit bright­ness (com­pa­ra­ble to some mon­i­tors that say they are HDR-ca­pa­ble) is a start, but is way be­low the 1,000 nits ex­pected for true HDR LCD TVs. It’s also not a na­tive 10-bit dis­play, which is what HDR re­quires, in­stead us­ing spa­tial and tem­po­ral dither­ing tech­niques to mimic 10-bit color on an 8-bit dis­play. The dif­fer­ence is small and the com­plaint niche, but “small” and “niche” are the main words we’d use to de­scribe this Mac’s in­tended au­di­ence, so it’s worth not­ing. Ports mean pe­riph­er­als At the rear, it’s nice to see Ap­ple has avoided cutting back on con­nec­tions,


as it did on the MacBook Pro — you get four USB-A ports, an SDXC card reader, a 3.5mm jack, the hum­ble Eth­er­net port (but with sup­port for a not-so-hum­ble 10Gbps con­nec­tion) and four Thun­der­bolt 3 ports (which dou­ble as USB 3.1 be­cause that uses the same USB-C con­nec­tor). Again, the need for Thun­der­bolt 3 is niche, but it’s ab­so­lute heaven if you have 4K videos to im­port or if you need up to two more 5K dis­plays.

The ports have the same prob­lem reg­u­lar iMacs have, though, which is that they’re a real pain to reach eas­ily. It’s hard enough to get a USB-A plug the right way up first time any­way, but es­pe­cially while search­ing around the back of this beast. You could think about adding a USB hub or a Thun­der­bolt 3 dock to help rem­edy this prob­lem.

the bot­tom line. Would we rec­om­mend the iMac Pro, then? Ab­so­lutely, but only if it re­ally works out as be­ing worth it for you — and only if you have the busi­ness ac­counts to cal­cu­late that. How­ever, if you only want to know whether the iMac Pro is a stun­ningly pow­er­ful mir­a­cle of de­sign, though, then the an­swer is a def­i­nite, re­sound­ing yes. Mat Bolton

The Space Gray rear side pro­vides an es­pe­cially dra­matic view of the iMac Pro.

The Thun­der­bolt 3 ports look iden­ti­cal to plain USB-C, but they sup­port su­per-fast 40Gbps trans­fers and 5K dis­plays.

Ap­ple has ac­com­mo­dated the iMac Pro’s more pow­er­ful com­po­nents thanks to a re­designed cool­ing sys­tem.

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