Apple’s iMac Pro is an odd beast: Meet the ultra high-end workstation all-in-one

“No one was allowed to touch the single iMac Pro that Apple had in its hands-on area following the WWDC keynote today,” Andrew Cunningham writes for Ars Technica. “Big and dark and imposing, the computer is the first step toward making good on Apple’s promises to recommit to its desktop users. It’s not a new Mac Pro (a computer that’s still coming, I’ve been assured), but it is a more concrete commitment to high-end desktops than the (nice, but straightforward) standard iMac refresh we got Tuesday.”

“Intriguing as it is, the iMac Pro is also an odd machine, one that’s unlike pretty much any other computer that exists,” Cunningham writes. “It’s an ultra high-end workstation that includes anywhere from eight to 18 CPU cores (which almost certainly means that it’s using Intel’s new X299 platform and its accompanying Skylake-X processors) and a GPU based on an architecture that is expected to be as big a leap forward for AMD as Pascal was for Nvidia. At the same time, it comes in the form of an all-in-one PC, and one that doesn’t appear to have any user-accessible parts to boot (the RAM hatch present on regular 27-inch iMacs isn’t apparent here, and Apple’s spec sheet doesn’t mention user-accessible memory).”

Apple's all new iMac Pro staring at $4999, available in December 2017
Apple’s all new iMac Pro staring at $4999, available in December 2017


Apple's all new iMac Pro with rear case removed
Apple’s all new iMac Pro with rear case removed

“Apple ought to be able to update the iMac Pro on a regular cadence if it wants. And an iMac Pro that gets updated regularly can at least partially deflect concerns about its hardware getting stale,” Cunningham writes. “Even if you need to replace the whole thing more frequently, it’s a little more justifiable if you actually have a faster version of the same computer you can upgrade to.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The iMac Pro’s target market, however slim it may be, will flock to this machine.

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    1. The cheese grater chassis does not meet European safety standards. That’s why Apple stopped selling it. They were forced to move in another direction, which did not work out very well. By the time they figured that out, they had to rebuild a proper expandable Mac Pro team from the ground up and develop entirely new hardware.

      1. Any pointers to the details of that? Maybe I’m missing something, but I’ve seen an awful lot of computer chassis in my 40+ years in this field, and few if any safer than the Mac “cheese grater” chassis.

      2. Yes, I would love to see any links on that claim. I follow Apple news pretty rabidly, and I never remember hearing that the old Mac Pro tower failed to meet some safety spec in Europe.

            1. In other words, Apple could have modified the tower to meet the Euro specs with a new model, since the cheese-grater tower internals were modified at least once. But the demi-Trashcan Mac Pro was waiting in the wings.

      3. Well many PC Workstation tower makers have made the form safe so I think Apple could too (frankly I don’t know what was so unsafe about the Cheese Grater).

        Apple needed a new Mac Pro with their own branded monitor much more than an iMac Pro.

        1. Apple stopped shipping the first-generation Mac Pro in Europe on March 1, 2013 after an amendment to a safety regulation left the professional Mac non-compliant. The last day to order was February 18, 2013… The first generation Mac Pro was removed from Apple’s online store following unveiling of the redesigned second generation Mac Pro at a media event on October 22, 2013. — Wikipedia

            1. Safety engineers and the unified power board valiantly defending against corporate predation of unsuspecting consumers! The finest instincts of the Nanny State brought to bear! The 220-volt toaster incinerated too many infant hands, and negligent Apple computers could have done the same or worse! It was in the Daily Mail, I think.

    2. The iMac Pro is Apple’s pathfinder for SkyLake-X massively multi-core. While many people would have preferred that the desktop Mac Pro come before the iMac Pro, it did not happen that way. And that might be a good thing because Apple will work out a lot os the bugs of the new architecture on the iMac Pro. In addition, it gives Apple more time to engineer the new desktop Mac Pro in great detail – to do it right – now that the company has re-committed itself to the task.

    3. Millions? I highly doubt that. The number of Macs sold in a year was 21,567,000. Approximately 75% of those were laptops. Of desktops sold (about 5,391,000) only 25% were Mac Pros.

      So your “millions” is actually about 1.35 million, a very large number, but not nearly as important as the other 20 million Macs purchased by the non-creative consumer.

      Besides, getting angry at Apple for its lack of upgrades is stupid. Apple is completely dependent on Intel’s ability to deliver improved processors. In the last 18 months Intel’s delivery of improved processors slowed dramatically. Kaby Lake (just recently released) breaks that drought.

      1. I’ve been schooled that laggards in any part of Apple’s supply chain, including Intel, provide Apple no excuse — as if constraints of any sort could easily be swapped out by a company as rich as Apple, if they only cared to do so. But crucial dependencies are a fact of life, even for a largely vertically structured organisation like Apple.

  1. The new iMac Pro is a very elegant solution for the Pro market. This will meet the needs of 90% of the pro desktop market (which admittedly is probably only about 2% of the total Mac market). Brilliant move.

    Most pros use MacBooks and iMacs. Some will use this. A very few still need something modular.

    1. “This will meet the needs of 90% of the pro desktop market …”

      In a word: Bullshit.

      The iMac Pro will meet 90% of the prosumer desktop market. It might even meet 25% to 40% of the true pro desktop market. It absolutely, in no way will meet 90% of the true pro market.

      Absolutely NO true pros that I know or have met use “MacBooks and iMacs”. They use MacBook Pro laptops and upgraded 2012 Mac Pro machines. (A few use MacBook Pro laptops and 2013 Mac Pro machines.) I know of no true pros that would be caught dead trying to do their work on a MacBook.

      Pros need machines that can evolve as their needs evolve. Pros have new needs crop up all the time. Pro machines need to be able to be modified to meet those needs as they change.

      Hardware is evolving all by itself thus competing pros will always have faster hardware. With the iMac Pro the hardware is set at purchase. If Radeon or Nvidia comes out with a radically new GPU or Intel comes out with a next generation CPU (pin compatible or not) then a Pro will be facing competition from others using that new hardware that is significantly faster. The iMac Pro user is stuck using old hardware.

      EXTREMELY few people are going to buy a $10,000 iMac Pro. If the base 8 core machine with the lowest form of GPU and the least amount of RAM is $5,000, you can bet a fully maxed out iMac Pro is going to be in the $10,000 range. Why are very few going to be buying such an iMac? Because in a year (18 months maximum) they have a machine that has not kept up. Replacing a $10,000 computer is not in any professional’s mindset.

  2. I can understand that manufacturing one design of case has cost savings but would any pro have cared if it was twice as thick if it improved performance? Also why can’t we regular users get it in that colour and with that keyboard? I can’t see anybody looking at it who doesn’t need the spec but spending the money just because it has black keys. It seems one of those odd variations that will leave people disappointed they can’t get it when the deciding factors are different.

  3. “Additionally, Apple has confirmed to us that the RAM in the iMac Pro will not be user-replaceable. This shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise given Apple’s other recent products, but nevertheless it means users are stuck with however much RAM they purchase from Apple. Currently, the 27-inch iMac features user-upgradeable RAM, while the 21.5-inch model does not.”


  4. Apple along the way it’s forgotten about the idea of customization upgradability on the end-users ability to choose. Instead apple became a company that unfortunately set a standard for Manny and in doing so made the industry shift and choice. Technology has shrunken and in doing so so have choices upgradability and so on. Fortunately it is the cost of having a small system realistically having a laptop as small as a MacBook Air would be a pain in the ass to swap out a CPU chip and replace it with something stronger biggest reason it was probably in my book be keeping it potentially cool. That is the cost of mobility even gaming laptops that have become much more mobile are usually nowhere near as tricked out is a much block you are more powerful version because space is needed if you want power Cosmetics have to go out the window. If you want you upgradability Cosmetics has to go out the window and I’m not talking about small stuff like SSD storage that’s easy. I’m talking about CP chips and if you’re lucky you’ll be able to have a GPU in there with the level that computer companies are starting to go for you lose that. A lot of people would love to easily repair their own iPads for Microsoft surface tablets but if you really sit down and think about it not everybody is technically experienced enough to do so either not by steadiness of hands or just by choice. Then there’s the fact that people just not honest when it comes to screwing something up to them selves they usually like to blame something or somebody else. Unfortunately my place true to technical issues. So expect the future to be small nano and obsolescence trends to continue.

  5. For those who buy entry level machines (the $1.1K versions), I suppose the price is a panty twisting event. Those who buy the current high end iMacs (the $5.3K versions), this pro version looks VERY nice. I plan on getting one as long as the cooling is done well enough that under load it doesn’t sound like a jet taking off (a problem those cheese graders had).

    1. Agreed. Just whiners whining – as usual on this site. Still amazes me how people always think their needs are the same as everyone else’s. If it’s not the computer for you, then it’s not the computer for you. What’s the point in complaining about it?

  6. If you are above Wedding Guy video editing, working as a freelance specialist, video editing student, high-end photographer, or small graphics shop, outsourced by Nike, or AVON internally, or any other type of creative based firm, this machine is going to be used to great effect.

    Anywhere a creative makes money doing what they do (not the Pro-Sumer/Enthusiast), but a person that creative is their livelihood, this machine will save them massive amounts of time, and that converts into being more profitable. Anyone that complains of price is a prosumer who does NOT have creative as their only-job status. This one will be a no-brainer for most in this category.

    What will the Mac Pro hold? More power? Maybe. But much more likely, massive expansion and flexibility.

    1. I radically disagree.

      This iMac Pro is effectively a 2017 version of the 2013 Mac Pro with an integral screen. Yes, it will have updated hardware, but the basic premise is the same.

      If you look at my posts from the summer of 2013, I said that the maxed out 2013 Mac Pro was a beast. (I even went into showing how buying an equivalent machine from HP or Dell would cost you more than a maxed out 2013 Mac Pro.) When it started shipping in late, late 2013 it was still a beast. I even argued against those who lamented its lack of being expandable as the potential for expansion through what was then a full set of state-of-the-art ports was huge.

      What I railed against on the 2013 Mac Pro announced four years ago was its lack of upgradeability. It would forever remain what you purchased (though adding RAM became an option through third parties since Apple did build it in a way that let you relatively easily get to that).

      This iMac Pro is even more egregious. *IF* the RAM is replaceable, you will have to tear the machine apart to get to it (removing the front panel, not for the faint of heart). Very, very few will do that. Thus, for as long a you have it, the iMac Pro will be as it was the day you purchased it, which is the major complaint true pros have had about the 2013 Mac Pro.

      In 2013 an absolutely maxed out 2013 Mac Pro would have met 95% or more of my needs (with added external storage). In 2017? Not so much (to put it mildly). If the absolutely maxed out 2017 iMac Pro were shipping today it would meet 90% of my needs. But within the next year simulations and analytical efforts will be re-written to take optimal advantage of Nvidia’s new V100. Even if I were to rewrite things to be optimized for Radion’s lesser chips going into the iMac Pro will the iMac Pro meet even 50% those needs in a year from now? Absolutely not.

      Being able to evolve hardware is key to a high end pro machine.

      The iMac Pro does not fulfill that need.

      And, about the price. The price of $5,000 to $10,000 for a non upgradeable machine IS stiff for a professional. Even professionals won’t want to spend that amount every 2 – 3 years to stay current.

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