In-depth analysis of iMac Pro

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.

Specifications of the model analyzed

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.

iMac Pro

A workstation processor and a familiar display

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.

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.

-The processor is an Intel Xeon W, never used before on a Mac and with up to 18 cores-

The processor is flour from another side. 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.

-The two graphics card options differ basically in the amount of video memory-

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.

On the iMac Pro we have an evolution of this processor, called T2. The computer does not have Touch ID but it does serve as support to bring together different system management controllers, FaceTime HD camera image processing, SSD encryption

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.

Silent development and real-time 4K video editing

As for video editing, we have let our video team of Weblogs SL, made up of Angela Blanco and Mario Merinowski, use the iMac Pro for their work for a few hours. After using it to edit 4K and 25fps video for a while, the iMac Pro has surprised them by the fluidity of working with this format.

They could see in real time how the video was looking while they were working on it. And the 32GB of RAM was also noticed when moving from one program to another, without any pull. It’s been like a dream to work on this Mac. So much so that we had to sneak the iMac Pro at the end of the day.

A equipment that is not modular but that allows for certain improvements

The iMac Pro is not a modular device. There is no easy way to open the case, exchange the processor or the graphics for a new one, close the latches and start it again. That’s not the iMac Pro, as this modularity is reserved for the Mac Pro that awaits us in 2019 and that we mentioned at the beginning.

That said, the iMac Pro does support some interesting improvements. Once purchased and with the equipment in your workplace, you can improve:

  • SSD memory as they are fastened by a screw.
  • The RAM, which we remember, is distributed in four channels.
  • The CPU, iFixit states that it can be replaced although according to Apple this is not possible.
  • The GPU is welded to the board, making it impossible for it to be replaced either way. But here, we go back to what we mentioned earlier with eGPEs and the possibility to acquire the iMac Pro with the Vega 64. In any case, modifying any of the internal components requires the iMac Pro to go through a qualified operating room and not the corner workshop or risk doing it yourself.

Clearly, this is not the same as modular equipment. But as we say, it’s a possibility even if it’s complicated and expensive. If you want to have a modular Mac, again, you’ll have to wait until 2019.

If they have it in black, I’ll take it.

Human beings are not rational all the time, no matter how much we pretend to be. Emotions play an important part of our life, nature and decisions. And sometimes the same product under a different color drives us crazy. To the point where we’re able to pay more, as was the case with the 2007 black MacBook that cost $224 more than the same blank model.

Stop bluffing. The iMac Pro is cool a lot. Its metallic gray is brutal and gives it a no-te-goals-with-me look that instills respect. Or, at least, until someone who sees an iMac for the first time says, «What a cool screen.» Then they hallucinate when you have that besides screen has all the components built into it.