iMac Pro, analytics: the Mac in real time

Where’s the limit of a computer? This is the question that Apple wanted to answer with the iMac Pro, a team we’ve been testing in its inbound version for four weeks. It is a Mac for professionals but it is not for all professionals. For that group of users who have other priorities, the company plans to launch a Mac Pro in 2019.

The iMac Pro is therefore the first act of rescuing Apple’s professional computer, followed by a second part that will complete Cupertino’s professional portfolio. But it is not less capable, because we are looking at the first Mac where it is possible to work in real time on the most demanding tasks.

iMac Pro: Specifications of the analyzed model

  • 5K 27-inch retina display and 5,120 x 2,880 pixels.
  • Wide chromatic range P3 and brightness of 500 nits.
    Intel Xeon W 8-core processor (10, 14, and 18 core option).
  • Radeon Pro Vega 56 graphics processor with 8 GB of HBM2 memory (Vega 64 option).
    Controller and safety T2 chip.
  • 1TB SSD memory (2 and 4TB option).
    32GB DDR4 2.666 MHz ECC memory on four channels (64GB and 128GB option).
  • Ports: four USB 3.0, four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, SDXC card reader, audio jack and 10GB NBASE-T Ethernet.
  • Wireless connections: bluetooth 4.2 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi.
  • FaceTime HD camera at 1080p.
  • Included in the box: Magic Mouse 2 in spatial gray, Magic Keyboard with spatial gray number keys, Black Lightning cable and black power cable.
  • Color: spatial gray.
  • Price of the model analyzed: 5,499 euros VAT included in Apple.
  • In the last few days we have also analyzed three accessories that may interest you.
  • More ports and more convenience: This is the Satechi hub for iMac and iMac Pro.
  • Support for iMac and iPhone: we analyze Satechi and Elago accessories.
  • Family display and a «workstation» processor

We start this analysis of the iMac Pro with the screen, which is perhaps the only familiar aspect on this computer. Because all other specifications change completely. The retina display of the iMac Pro is the same as that of the 27-inch iMac of 2017 that we analyzed last year with 5K resolution. Then Peter Aznar said of her:

In this generation, Cupertino’s company maintains the astonishing resolution of 5120 x 2880 pixels, but improves the amount of colors to a billion – almost nothing – and rises up to 500 nits of brightness. A nit is an estimated measure of light over an area, and typically desktop monitors typically reach 200 or 300 nits. With its 500 nits, this new generation of iMac is at the level of hdtelevision, which usually start at 450 – and according to the company itself, is 43% brighter than the previous model.

Whoever comes from any other computer other than a 2017 27-inch, 27-inch iMac will come across an amazing screen. Whether it’s for useful workspace, retina resolution or P3 color gamut used in the film industry. In my experience and coming from a 2017 iMac with 21 inches, I am surprised by the amount of space it adds, so much so that in the end you do not realize the notifications that come to it.

Beyond this anecdote, the truth is that this screen makes you a spoiled child. Any other device with lower quality or resolution jumps into view and is a grievance to the eyes. Its 5K resolution makes me sloth to see photos taken before having my iPhone 7 Plus and that all those holidays in paradisiacal places do not look in all their splendor.

Top-of-range iMac drivers ask what type of Intel it is, whether an i5 or an i7. But we’re actually looking at an Intel Xeon W-2140B, a processor released in late 2017 designed for the iMac Pro. It is not a domestic or consumer processor with the «i» series. It is a workstation processor with enterprise performance.

It is manufactured in the process with better 14nm+ performance and based on the Skylake architecture, operating at 3.2GHz and with a maximum turbo of 4.2GHz. In addition, it is capable of supporting ddr4-2.666MHz ECC four-channel RAM, which is the one that mounts the iMac Pro (the top-of-the-range iMac only reaches 2,400MHz).

The configuration we’ve analyzed has 8 cores, although Apple offers 10, 14, and 18 core options. Each of these processors represents an additional disbursement of 960 euros, reaching 2,880 euros in the 18-core model.

Graphics to play and develop in Virtual Reality

The iMac Pro features two Radeon Pro family graphics card configurations: Vega 56 and Vega 64. The main difference between the two is in the amount of memory of each. In the first we have 8GB while the second has double, 16GB. In both cases it is HBM2 memory.

The Vega 56 is enough to play virtual reality games loosely. Thanks to this, the iMac Pro is the second Apple team capable of running virtual reality games as soon as you leave the box, after last year’s 27-inch iMac. There are more affordable alternatives to play this type of games, the difference is that the iMac Pro also allows the development of this content.

After consulting with some experts, the Radeon Pro Vega 64 would be more convenient for this type of task. Especially for those who work developing virtual reality with a high level of framerates. The 16GB of video on this card will be thanked even though it is an additional 720 euros.

You can always choose the base model and increase the graphics power through an eGPU. To do this, you’ll need to buy a box in which you’ll have to incorporate the graphics card later. This solution is more expensive than that offered by Apple, since the cost of this box starts at 320 dollars and the card itself costs around 600 euros.

It must also be said that it will allow you to use it with other equipment capable of benefiting from this support, such as the latest generation MacBook Pro. So the decision will depend on your circumstances.

T2 or the first ARM processor on a desktop Mac

In late 2016, Apple found that its MacBook Pro with Touch Bar featured an ARM processor called T1. In our analysis, Pedro Aznar told us about this chip:

-The company uses a new T1 chip, which through its own ARMv7 processor manages all requests that arrive from the main Intel chip via macOS Sierra. It has your own GPU to display graphics independently of the rest of the system, and is controlled by parts of the operating system that are very reminiscent of watchOS. This Apple T1 is also in charge of managing the Secure Enclave – the «safe» of touch ID – and even protects in this generation the use of the front camera against malware attacks or the like.-

On the iMac Pro we have an evolution of this processor, called T2. The team does not have Touch ID but it does support to bring together different controllers of system management, FaceTime HD camera image processing, SSD encryption (preventing someone from «transplanting» the memory to put it on another computer) and the secure enclave.

In the end, this processor helps to offload the intel main processor from work, taking on very heavy tasks such as disk encryption so that they are transparent to the user. And so it is. At no time do you wonder if the disk is encrypted, encrypting or not.

Who the iMac Pro is for

We tend to think that professional Mac users are a homogeneous mass of similar needs. But this is not the case. Talking to people from different careers one realizes that there is no professional monolithic user of Apple that the company should content.

With this in mind, the iMac Pro is not a universal Mac. Those looking for the flexibility of a modular team will not be satisfied with its limited possibilities for improvement. Going through a workshop whenever you want to swap SSD memory, the processor or upload ingesting the RAM not only greatly increases the process but also wastes a lot of time.

The secret of this iMac Pro is that it preserves the body of an iMac. Its all-in-one design, with a spectacular, quiet and blunt 5K display. With a graphic power that allows to work in real time in numerous applications, programs and types of work, reaching limits that a traditional iMac is not able to reach. With enough memory to use multiple programs simultaneously and switching between each other without jerking.

But the iMac Pro is also the real-time Mac because it’s now available. Here and now for whoever you want and I can afford it.