Tough tests to the iMac Pro

Thanks to Apple’s kindness, we’ve been able to test the new iMac Pro input range with 8 cores and 32GB of RAM on AppleSoltions. A machine that is a dream in itself and that comes to restore the illusion to a professional sector that I saw with sadness that Apple no longer cared about them as it once did. It is true that the professional market is not the one that gives the most money, but it is certainly the one that generates the most prestige for a brand.

In my case, I set out to try this equipment, invitation through colleague Eduardo Archanco, to test for a whole morning the team in what I master best: development. Development of applications for iOS or For Android, use idEs like Xcode, Android Studio or Visual Studio and even, of course, create 3D video games with Unity. Real tests with real projects that I do in my day to day, to test the iMac Pro and discover its virtues (or its weaknesses) in a professional field that is often not taken into account as such, but that corresponds to a lot of disciplines various. Started…

Contextualizing us

I’m not finding any secrets if I say that there’s been a sense of neglect by the professional sector for years when it comes to Apple. Professionals of video, 3D design, self-editing, photography or architecture, among others, do not finish being as satisfied and excited as they are usually with Apple products. And the saddest thing is that this is a user sector that is historically one of the longest-lived in terms of the use of Macs, defenders to the brand and who have felt abandoned by Apple and in many cases, forced to move to the PC platform. Those users who bought delighted those Mac Pros of huge tower and completely modular and that now do not find in Apple the mime that they once had for the professional market that they have so much to thank as a company.

-The professional sector is made up of users who are historically one of the longest-lived in terms of the use of Macs, but who have felt abandoned by Apple-

The launch of the 2013 Mac Pro cylindrically was a breath of fresh and revitalizing air of the illusion of the professional sector (although some did not see the concept clear). But the sector bet and, there is no doubt, that those who own this model have been able to see how magnificent the team is in many respects. The problem, as even Apple itself has acknowledged, would come in that its conception was not a bet of the future and began to pass the years without a continuity in the renewal of it or in the release of components that allowed to update and put it a day to date.

As the years passed (and due to the huge hermetism of the brand, which we all know) the professional sector began to wonder what was going on with that Mac Pro and what was going on with themselves. The disappearance of apps like Aperture or the redesign of MacBook Pros in 2016 (the range with Touch Bar) didn’t help solve that feeling. The term «Pro» seemed more than ever a marketing term rather than ever a feature that distinguished the market objective of a product.

That’s why, in April 2017 Apple would play the mea culpa and talk candidly with journalists, acknowledging their mistakes in the bet with the Mac Pro 2013, and ahead of the launch of an iMac focused on the professional market and a new Mac Pro modular , was quite a hit on the part of the brand. But of course, for things to be done right, they take time. It took a few months to see a version of the iMac with the surname Pro, which became Cupertino’s first all-in-one workstation. And we still have to wait until 2019 where we will see that longed-for modular Mac Pro to be able to update and change any component at our will.

-The development standard for Machine Learning is CUDA, not supported by the ATI graphics chipsets that Apple bets on. However, there are official Nvidia drivers to support their latest GPUs on Mac-

IMac Pro design

The design of the iMac Pro is the same as the design of the non-professional-range iMac 5Ks. But the use of the color space grey suits him very well and gives him that look more «aggressive» or we would say «serious» which makes it seem silly, you take it more seriously. The spatial gray keyboard suits you and the mouse as well. Although in my case, used to the trackpad, the mouse now becomes a little uncomfortable (since it came out, there is a Magic Trackpad on my table for my own iMac).

But we already know that Apple not only takes care of the exterior design, it also takes care of the interior. And this one looks like the sum um of Apple’s design in terms of the iMac, where the order, good taste and placement of components seems made by someone with extreme care for detail. And it also provides an extra that is the most remarkable in the whole day of work that I could enjoy the machine: silence.

No matter what you’re asking for: one of the endless installations of Android Studio with patches and thousands of small files, the compilation of a complete Visual Studio project, the start of an xcode iOS simulator to boot for the first time, the compilation of a rather heavy app of resources running on several iPad and iPhone simulators at the same time… even Unity generating the project for Mac, Windows and Linux of a game with 4K textures and great load of scenes, music, sounds and hundreds of different assets… I tried to put all the «bad milk» I could on and abuse it (at the development level) everything I came up with: nothing… not a noise… not a murmur. The rear fan in the higher load and work processes cast a slight hot breeze, some parts of the rear had higher temperature (by the CPU area)… but nothing to do with runway planes ready for takeoff (like my poor 2011 MacBook Pro).

-I’ve never seen a computer that gave a sense of robustness and response to such abuse on my part as the iMac Pro-

I must confess that I have tried almost every Apple team of every generation to a greater or lesser extent (including the cylindrical Mac Pro 2013) and I have never seen a computer that gave that sense of robustness and response to such abuse on my part, where to finish «play it» I didn’t even close the programs while I was using them. In this way, Unity (which was the last to try) did its heavy lifting while Xcode 9.3, Android Studio 3.1 and Visual Studio 2018 were still open, in addition to the iOS Simulator with several devices open at once and a couple of different Android emulators also open. The iMac Pro didn’t even flout. Like a walk through the lushness of Apple Park.

App IDs (Android Studio, Xcode, and Visual Studio)

Xcode had behavior like I’ve never seen him before. Very fluid, fast… It was faster than I’m used to, improving the times of a next-generation iMac 5K by reducing them by almost half. The screens open with «screens», one after the other. Nice to meet you. Obviously until we click on the storyboard units that have a greater weight for the system. Or when we start a new simulator from a start state or even if it’s the first one to do it. In those processes, the iMac Pro looks, but not so much anymore. The feeling you have left at the end, using Xcode, is that it goes faster than usual. Like you’ve got a new team on a new team and you came from another one or two generations behind. You see it all more fluid, but the things that cost work still cost you.

However, I do have to point out that the performance of the playgrounds was quite remarkable and now there was almost no time for me to think about the rebuild. At times, it almost looked like it was actually an interpreter and not a prototype compilation. Definitely a major improvement.

Android Studio had spectacular performance. Here you could see more of the change in speed. Android emulators for testing were instantly booted thanks to the new snapshot feature implemented by Google and the compilation of a heavy project with the use of several network libraries and multimedia playback, were generated without problem. Generally speaking, the iMac Pro seemed to suit you better than Xcode.

Visual Studio left Xcode-like prints. I used it as a code editor for Unity and then to try to make a native game in SpriteKit but in C. Also to debug code from a Unity game. He behaved well, but the overall feeling was similar to Xcode. It improves, yes, but nothing to go crazy.

So, here I have to make an important point because, you reader who is now excited while describing a beast of such portentous power, must be thought: then is it really worth buying if you are a developer? And here we have to make a stop for reflection.

The iMac Pro that I was testing is the 8-core model whose entry price in Spain (VAT through) is about 5,500 euros. Lots of money. It is obvious to say that the components that carry them well and that looking for another computer with the same features in the competition (including a 5K monitor of that quality) we would notice that the equipment economically comes to account with those components. It’s worth it. But the question to be answered here is: does it deserve me, developer, to pay the cost of two iMac 5Ks for the improvement in seconds that I will receive regarding an iMac 5K with SSD disk? (an iMac with mechanical disc or Fusion Drive is that I don’t even think about it as a comparative option).

It depends on what: if we’re going to make apps because it’s our day-to-day job and we’re going to be users of Xcode, Android Studio, Visual Studio (or any other IDE or infrastructure) the improvement is there. But is that an improvement of twice the price? As I can see, approximately one iMac 5K today would take 1.5 to 2 times longer to perform the same process in Xcode (to name a empirical data). That means a Build in Xcode to run on a wired iPhone on an iMac 5K, would take 40 seconds (being a heavy project) and on the new iMac Pro between 20 and 25 seconds. When we open a storyboard with many controllers (something that usually costs) the time is also about half. From 25-30 seconds to open, we move to 10-15. It’s faster but… is it worth paying twice the price of a machine for that time difference? It’s an important question to be asked.

-The huge economic difference with its younger brother does not deserve the disbursement if we are to dedicate ourselves, solely and exclusively, to the development of apps-

In my opinion, and being a machine of spectacular quality, I believe that the huge economic difference with its younger brother does not deserve the disbursement if we are to dedicate ourselves, solely and exclusively, to the development of apps or backend systems emulated in our own machine. The 32GB is pure magic, obviously, and we’ll be able to load Docker instances or virtualized machines as if there wasn’t a tomorrow, but here is almost more merit of the amount of memory itself, obviously.

the iMac Pro shines with Unity

When I opened Unity I suddenly noticed the first thing that caught my attention (we tried the recent Unity 2018.1f2): the editor ran under Metal and not on OpenGL. Can you imagine what it’s like to try a 3D game in Full HD, with all the quality to the maximum, from the editor itself, at 60fps without blinking? That’s what Unity did. It left me crazy: the game worked better and smoother than I’d ever seen it on any machine and already compiled, running it in the same editor with the Play button.

When you entered the program’s own editor, it moved at 60fps. Any movement of camera, character, element… any geometry with all its textures moved with a fluidity and ease in which I had never seen Unity. Even calculating the lights in real time instead of the baked ones (which for a change had been erased when changing the version).

When testing how Unity worked, it became clear to me that if we’re going to work on video game development, there’s a difference here to keep in mind. And if we’re going to do it with virtual reality games, then there’s nothing to think about it. Here the iMac Pro shines brightly. You have no competitor and you do notice that power of the beast. Obviously, even the smallest graphical configuration of iMac Pros support the use of HTC Vive glasses to play and, what we are interested in, developing virtual reality games.