Ap­ple iMac Pro

En­try-level model £4,899 inc VAT from fave.co/2COcC5s Re­view unit £9,039 inc VAT from fave.co/2D0cCTy

Tech Advisor - - Contents -

We’re still wait­ing for the new Mac Pro (and don’t even know which year it’ll be launched in), but in the mean­time Ap­ple is pla­cat­ing its pro users with this high-pow­ered slab of pro­cess­ing mus­cle.

It’s avail­able with any­where from eight to 18 cores, and from 32- to 128GB of RAM. The ther­mal ar­chi­tec­ture, so prob­lem­atic on the Mac Pro, has been re­designed with ‘dual blow­ers’ for a claimed 80 per­cent in­crease in ther­mal ca­pac­ity. And the ma­chine looks

great too, with the cur­rent ‘preg­nant iMac’ de­sign given a new and rather lovely Space Grey fin­ish, and match­ing pe­riph­er­als.


Pic­ture the 2017 27in iMac (the i7 model – we’ll be mak­ing com­par­isons with this ma­chine); now imag­ine it in Space Grey. That, in most ex­ter­nal re­spects, is what you get with the Pro.

It’s an at­trac­tive, clas­sic de­sign. There are ra­zor-thin edges around the mon­i­tor, giv­ing the il­lu­sion of a flat screen de­vice, but most of the in­nards are con­cealed within a gen­tly bulging belly on the back.

We like the re­as­sur­ing heft and min­i­mal­ist look of the stand, too, which is made from a sin­gle bent piece of alu­minium of sub­tly vary­ing thick­ness (thick­est at the bend and ta­per­ing away as it ap­proaches the user) and fea­tur­ing a clev­erly sim­ple cutout to keep your power ca­ble tidy and tucked away. And while it could never be de­scribed as light­weight (it’s 9.7kg) or mis­taken for a por­ta­ble de­vice, the iMac Pro’s bal­ance and shape are such that it’s sur­pris­ingly easy to pick up and lug to an­other room.

This is all old news, of course, since we’ve had this de­sign in the iMac range for sev­eral years. So is the new colour worth talk­ing about?

Colour fin­ish

We’re go­ing to be drilling down into hard­core pro­cess­ing per­for­mance in this ar­ti­cle so it’s tempt­ing to dis­re­gard cos­metic changes like colour fin­ish; but this would be a mis­take. The Space Grey fin­ish looks

su­perb, and given that you’re go­ing to be look­ing at this ob­ject for mul­ti­ple hours a day that isn’t an unim­por­tant fac­tor. It looks mod­ern, and classy, and still un­mis­tak­ably Ap­ple. It will look great in a stu­dio.

The Space Grey Magic Key­board, Magic Mouse 2 and Magic Track­pad 2 that are avail­able with the Pro are also stun­ning to look at, al­though the mouse in par­tic­u­lar is a lit­tle less stun­ning to use; it’s so prone this re­viewer col­lect­ing fin­ger­prints that our art di­rec­tor made us work with a sub­sti­tute un­til we’d fin­ished do­ing pho­tog­ra­phy.

And hi­lar­i­ous though it might seem to nor­mal peo­ple, the bun­dled black Light­ning ca­ble that you use to charge the pe­riph­er­als has tick­led the fancy of Ap­ple fans.

Ther­mal de­sign

In its mea culpa to the cre­ative and de­sign com­mu­nity who de­pend on the Mac Pro, Ap­ple ad­mit­ted that ma­chine’s ther­mal de­sign was un­sat­is­fac­tory, mak­ing it next to im­pos­si­ble to up­grade. The company ex­pected the in­dus­try to move in the di­rec­tion of mul­ti­ple GPUs, whereas the trend was ac­tu­ally to­wards larger sin­gle GPUs, which gen­er­ate more heat and which the Mac Pro’s trash can de­sign is un­able to deal with ther­mally.

The iMac Pro should have no such prob­lems. Ap­ple says it of­fers 75 per­cent more air­flow than the 27in iMac (thanks to the ‘dual blow­ers’) and 80 per­cent more sys­tem ther­mal ca­pac­ity.

The sig­nif­i­cance and suc­cess of this re­design is hard to es­ti­mate at launch, since the Mac Pro seemed fine ini­tially and the prob­lems emerged only later. Look­ing

at the mat­ter sub­jec­tively, how­ever, we can re­port that when us­ing the Unig­ine Val­ley graph­ics test on a loop (with Ex­treme HD set­tings) the GPU topped out at 91ºC. That’s a lit­tle on the high side for what we’re used to, and a touch warmer than the iMac 2017, which peaked at 87 de­grees while ad­mit­tedly pump­ing out sig­nif­i­cantly lower frame rates. But it didn’t cause any de­tectable slow­downs, and there was very lit­tle noise from the fans. All the parts of the cas­ing that are reach­able from the front re­mained cool to the touch, al­though nat­u­rally there was a de­cent flow of hot air pump­ing out of the vent.


The Pro has a solid bank of ports round the back: four each of USB 3 and Thun­der­bolt 3/USB-C. In this re­spect

it sits neatly be­tween the 27in iMac (which has four and two) and the trash can Mac Pro (four and six, al­though the lat­ter are only Thun­der­bolt 2).

There are four mi­cro­phones on the Pro’s chas­sis: one on the top edge, just above the FaceTime cam­era (like on the 2015 iMac), one ei­ther side of the cam­era, and one on the back. The 2017 iMac has only one, on the bot­tom edge.


The dis­play is the same Retina 5K 27in unit you get with the larger of the 2017 iMac range. That means a whop­ping res­o­lu­tion of 5120x2880, claimed sup­port for a bil­lion colours, and 500 nits bright­ness. Sub­jec­tively it’s beau­ti­ful to look at: crisp, vivid and bright.


The iMac Pro is a pow­er­house of a sys­tem. We re­viewed the 10-core model with 128GB RAM and the Vega 64 GPU with 16GB of mem­ory; Ap­ple has been keen to stress that in terms of both pro­ces­sor and GPU chips the new iMac Pros are the fastest ma­chines it’s re­leased.

With all this power at our fin­ger­tips, we were ex­cited to put it through our bat­tery of tests. Here’s what we found out.

Geek­bench 4.2 (64-bit)

The iMac Pro av­er­aged 5,424 in the sin­gle-core seg­ment of Geek­bench 4.2’s CPU test, and a mon­strous 36,901 in multi-core. This is a test of pure pro­cess­ing speed, and higher scores are bet­ter. The Pro’s re­sults dwarf the num­bers we saw with the 3.4GHz ver­sion

of the 27in iMac (2017) in the multi-core seg­ment, al­though that de­vice man­aged a shade more in sin­glecore: it scored 5,507 and 17,567 re­spec­tively.

This cat­e­gory of per­for­mance is niche to say the least, and you’re un­likely to see much dif­fer­ence be­tween those two ma­chines in any­thing but the most pro­ces­sor-in­ten­sive ap­pli­ca­tions - al­though the gap will be­come more read­ily ap­par­ent in the years to come. But even now video edi­tors, vis­ual ef­fects artists and 3D il­lus­tra­tors, among oth­ers, will ap­pre­ci­ate the ex­tra pro­cess­ing welly.

AJA Sys­tem Test Lite

We used AJA Sys­tem Test Lite next. This bench­mark eval­u­ates drive per­for­mance, and again higher scores are bet­ter. (We tested us­ing the set­tings 5K RED, 4GB, sin­gle file and disk cache dis­able.)

The iMac Pro recorded an av­er­age of 3,149MB/s write speed (an ex­cep­tional re­sult, and far higher than the iMac’s 1,985MB/s) and 2,636MB/s read speed (roughly the same as the iMac’s 2,606MB/s).

Ap­ple pre­dicted im­pres­sive drive per­for­mance for the iMac Pro partly be­cause it’s split into two drives (512GB each in the start­ing con­fig­u­ra­tion) for greater through­put. You’re also au­to­mat­i­cally given an SSD: there’s no op­tion for a mov­ing hard drive.

Unig­ine Val­ley

We ran the iMac Pro (and 2017 iMac) in Unig­ine Val­ley Bench­mark 1.0, which eval­u­ates per­for­mance and sta­bil­ity un­der high graph­i­cal work­loads.

Us­ing the Ex­treme HD pre­sets, it recorded an im­pres­sive av­er­age frame rate of 60.2fps (max­i­mum

106.8fps, min­i­mum 30.5fps) and scored 2,520 points. That com­pares to the iMac’s av­er­age 39fps and score of 1,633. You should note that while it’s ca­pa­ble of high frame rates, this isn’t a gam­ing ma­chine, and won’t pro­vide value for money if that’s what you’re look­ing for.

As men­tioned above in the ther­mal de­sign sec­tion, the Pro’s GPU got pretty warm dur­ing this stress test­ing, peak­ing at 91ºC, but didn’t dis­play any signs of dis­tress or slow­down. The ther­mal sys­tem coped fine.


Our col­leagues at Dig­i­tal Arts ran the iMac Pro in Cinebench, a bench­mark suite which tests a sys­tem’s abil­ity to ren­der 3D scenes and stresses both CPU and GPU. They used the test, in which higher scores are

bet­ter, to com­pare against the iMac 2017 and the late2015 iMac 5K, too.

The Pro scored 135 in the OGL test, and 2065 in the ren­der: both very high scores, al­beit not the high­est we’ve seen (the Len­ovo ThinkS­ta­tion P900 tops that par­tic­u­lar list). The iMac 2017 scored 126.93 and 892 re­spec­tively, and the late-2015 iMac 5K 94.74 and 595.

After Ef­fects

Again, our thanks to Dig­i­tal Arts for this set of test re­sults, us­ing Adobe After Ef­fects 2018 (and in most cases us­ing the CineWare plug-in) to eval­u­ate the iMac Pro’s abil­ity to com­plete com­plex graph­i­cal pro­cess­ing tasks. Th­ese are times taken to fin­ish the tasks, so in this case lower scores are bet­ter. In seven out of eight tests, the iMac Pro recorded a time less than half that of the iMac (which was no­tice­ably faster in turn than

the iMac 2015, as you’d ex­pect), but we’d like to fo­cus on the eighth test, Cin­ema 4D. This stresses the GPU, pro­ces­sor, disk in­put and out­put and RAM, and pro­vides the clear­est over­all assess­ment of a sys­tem’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties. In this test, the Pro took four min­utes 27 sec­onds; the iMac 2017 took six min­utes 16 sec­onds and the iMac 2015 took nine min­utes 27 sec­onds.


The iMac Pro is an ex­cep­tion­ally pow­er­ful and sta­ble sys­tem, but that was never in doubt. The real ques­tion is whether you need its power and can jus­tify its cost. This isn’t a gam­ing rig you’ll get sim­i­lar specs at a frac­tion of the cost else­where. This is tar­geted at the niche of users in the cre­ative, de­sign, vis­ual ef­fects and il­lus­tra­tion fields who need the abil­ity to process ma­jor graph­i­cal and 3D ren­der­ing and edit­ing tasks at a de­cent speed. Those in­volved in mu­sic pro­duc­tion may find it ticks their boxes, too, but this is likely to be ex­pen­sive overkill for the rest of us. We love the Space Grey fin­ish, in­ci­den­tally, and the match­ing pe­riph­er­als look fan­tas­tic. David Price


27in (5120x2880) Retina 5K dis­play macOS High Sierra 10-core, 3GHz In­tel Xeon W, Turbo Boost up to 4.5GHz, 23.75MB cache Radeon Pro Vega 56 graph­ics pro­ces­sor, with 16GB of HBM2 mem­ory 128GB of 2,666MHz DDR4 ECC RAM 2TB 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

Cin­ema 4D

Unig­ine Val­ley

AJA Sys­tem Test Lite (Write)

AJA Sys­tem Test Lite (Read)

Geek­bench 4 multi-core

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