Apple’s sealed, non-upgradable iMac Pro is not as crazy as it seems

“For a very long time, I considered upgradability to be a non-negotiable aspect of any computer I bought. As long time readers will know, I used to love the 17-inch MacBook Pro,” Ben Lovejoy writes for 9to5Mac. “The moment I bought it, I immediately upgraded both the RAM and the hard drive. Further down the road, I upgraded the hard drive again, and also swapped out the optical drive for a second one. Later still, I swapped out both hard drives for SSDs.”

“So, instinctively, the idea of a non-upgradable machine aimed at professional users feels wrong,” Lovejoy writes. “But I think there are a few counterpoints to this view… First – and this is a crucial one – Apple wouldn’t be making a machine that nobody wants. A lot of people absolutely love the iMac form-factor, and that includes a lot of professional users. They love the convenience of an all-in-one machine. They love the fact that, while it isn’t exactly portable, it is pretty easy to transport from place to place for on-location work. What many of them have asked for is a more powerful version of the iMac, and that’s exactly what Apple has given them.”

“Second, most people don’t need to upgrade their machines annually,” Lovejoy writes. “Not even most pro users.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As we just oh-so-conveniently wrote:

There is a market for a sealed, very powerful Mac. Most professionals who will purchase the iMac Pro look at it in terms of cost per year. A $6,000 iMac Pro that will be used for the next 36 months and then “upgraded” simply by buying a new one is an expenditure of $2,000 per year or less than the cost of a well-equipped MacBook Pro.

Of course, there is also a viable market for a true, modular, expandable Mac Pro.

Different tools for different users and different jobs.

Apple tries again to sell professionals an all-in-one Mac – December 15, 2017
Apple’s monstrously potent iMac Pro is for these professional computer users – December 14, 2017
How pros are already using Apple’s powerful iMac Pro – December 14, 2017
Apple’s iMac Pro, the most powerful Mac ever made, is now available starting at $4,999 – December 14, 2017


  1. There is no point to a sealed machine IMO. A sealed machine only serves Apple, an pgradable one only serves Apple.

    This becomes a non-issue when/if the upgradable one ships and when if/it can use readily available parts.

    1. Upgradeability may add small amounts of overhead into interaction between components. If you know exactly what is going into a device, there may be shortcuts you can design that make it faster overall.
      I don’t know that is true, but it seems like a plausible possibility of a “point to a seal machine” and one that “serves” the user, in addition to Apple.
      But, I agree with you that Apple really needs to get an expandable modular Mac Pro out for the people who consider that a required feature.

  2. It’s hard to argue with the idea that some level of upgradeability wouldn’t have been possible or desirable — or even simply a reasonable expectation.

    But something to consider….resale value.

    If you’re in the market for this thing due to what it IS…then I’d say buy the one you need, use it for a few years, and then sell it for a pretty darn decent amount to apply toward your next purchase.

    I look at these the same way I look at cars. I buy what I need and I don’t plan on tweaking the engine or adding a spoiler… I use it, trade it while it has value and move up to a new one. Perhaps resale value could take a hit down the line with the guy who buys it as a junker and wants to stretch it out another few years…maybe that’s the part of the market that is most affected.

    1. Professionals who need computers as powerful as this don’t waste their time tweaking their computer system. They want a system that reliably does the job it’s expected to do. Their time is much better spent doing what earns them money.

      A sealed iMac pro offers a certified level of performance under all circumstances. That’s a crucially important issue when it comes to running demanding high-end software.

      If you’ve ever seen the difference in resale prices between official spec Macs and extensively modified Macs, you’ll see why a sealed iMac is a good proposition for retaining maximum resale value later.

      A sealed iMac is also a very attractive proposition for companies leasing out computers. The spec is known and will stay that way once the user returns it. Leasing can be a very tax-efficient way to finance high-end computers in some tax regimes and is very popular.

      A non-upgradeable Mac isn’t for everybody, but while it might not be right for you, it’s exactly what a whole load of other people need.

    2. Both you and the writer of this article actually get it. As a pro user who has had 5 machines since 1988 all I have done is upgrade the ram on a couple occasions and added an SSD on my present machine which I will never do again (unless through necessity) because I would never buy a non SSD computer again, but it was a painless task. Like most Mac users I don’t like fiddling I prefer to be working on my creative stuff. As the writer says those pros who need to upgrade during lifetime use is a minority and hopefully that minority will be serviced by the Mac Pro when it finally arrives. Personally I would never leave the all-in-one design now, it’s just so convenient and practical for my needs, but I do hope for those who still need the extra flexibility and expansion that something special arrives in the next Mac Pro, the trash can really was style over substance.

    1. Apple is purely maximizing profits here. It isn’t about the customer, if that were the case it would be upgradeable to some extent, it foley about forcing people to buy high end an maximize profits. Anyone who believes otherwise is a fool.. Typical corporate America philosophy.

      1. > Apple is purely maximizing profits here.


        Within a day of this announcement, one “Mac Pro 7,1” group that I’ve been following had already dissected Apple’s prices for the BTO upgrades.

        As is typical for Apple, there’s many which are nowhere near being competitive with current Street Prices. And that’s despite how Apple has massive buying power in comparison to us mere mortals.

        So without a doubt, this is (once again) ALL about profits…and trying to invoke a faster hardware turnover is a very deliberate strategy (despite how a shorter functional lifecycle definitely makes these Apple products significantly less “Green”).

        1. No huge bulk buying power for these parts — this box will not be a major seller for Apple.

          I wish they would just get out of the market if they’re gonna get out of the market.

  3. “MDN take:
    There is a market for a sealed, very powerful Mac. Most professionals who will purchase the iMac Pro look at it in terms of cost per year. A $6,000 iMac Pro that will be used for the next 36 months and then “upgraded” simply by buying a new one is an expenditure of $2,000 per year or less than the cost of a well-equipped MacBook Pro.

    Of course, there is also a viable market for a true, modular, expandable Mac Pro.

    Different tools for different users and different jobs.”

    Seems to me that “caretaker” CEO Tim Cook knows what he is doing.

    In your cost per year analysis you neglected to deduct resale value. If that resale value is only $3000, then annual cost is $1000 per year, or stated another way $83/month.

    If a “professional” can’t afford $83 per month to double his output he isn’t a “pro” by any means. He’s a very small operator unwilling to invest in himself or his business.

    1. Or a troll. Seething self-righteousness can turn you into one of those. It happened even to me—the very model of understanding and grace. Quarreling in the mud with pit bulls strips away the outer layers of civilised demeanor.

  4. I’ve never considered myself a financial genius so I’m not going to criticize a company that seems to be making money hand over fist with their business model. I’ll admit I don’t fully understand why Apple doesn’t allow simple user upgrades of memory or storage on their mid-range products.

    The thing is, why would a company that seems to be one of the wealthiest companies on the planet, try to limit sales on their products? Apparently, no MDN commenter thinks Apple will be able to sell this iMac Pro because it’s not upgradeable. OK, it’s supposed to be a professional machine, so why would Apple build a professional computer NO ONE wants? Apple shouldn’t be that stupid to deliberately hinder sales. How does that help them? Apple said it learned it’s lesson, yet it seems no one, except myself, wants to buy an iMac Pro.

    It just doesn’t make any sense to build a computer NO ONE wants. Why would Apple deliberately give up market share to Dell, HP, ASUS or any company building upgradeable workstations? I just can’t believe Apple is that stupid. They must have asked some enterprise corporations for input before designing a workstation computer. Right?

    So what gives? Has Apple completely gone crazy?

    1. Perhaps they are not limiting their sales, but increasing them by including the set of people who want a powerful machine, but don’t want either a bunch of different objects connected by wires in their workspace or don’t want a larger form factor that results from openable panels and chases made for taking parts out easily.

      LOL – or am I just stiffing my purchase yesterday of an iMac Pro?! Seriously, I personally am not interested in a Mac Pro sitting on the desk or on the floor connected to a screen by a wire. With the popularity of the iMac, I may not be the only customer in this category.

      1. Yes but that floor and wire thing sounds simply GREAT to me and many others, along with a 32” Apple 8K monitor, something an iMac Pro won’t have for a while, if ever.

  5. No one buys and adds a new engine for their car every two years for increased performance or mileage. They trade in their old one and buy a new one. Why would this be any different? A two year old iMac pro would generate a great buy for someone looking to upgrade their exixting non pro machine or in business relegated to a dept where the up to date technical advantages are not required.

    1. I keep my cars for 10 years. 10 years later is still drives as fast as the day I bought it.

      During that 10 years I do many upgrades and repairs myself.

      If I see a fancy need radio with bluetooth and Apple play, I install it myself.

      I get the choice of any options or upgrades I want. I can add performance enhancements at my pleasure.

      So, what was you stuipd point again? Oh, yeah you’re one of those people Apple counts on to buy sealed up computers and be wet nursed through any problems.

      1. Your example of a new radio is a far cry from a new engine the delivers more power, speed, fuel economy, bigger gas tank, suspension that requires tougher suspension, etc.

        Computers have evolved just as have cars. If your business evolves to require you to have a more powerful car, or what ever new technology that comes along, I doubt you will be ‘tinkering’ with the old one, especially if you need to make more money, and now.

      2. Please, let’s keep it civil. I think it depends on the economic value of the use of the computer: professionals weigh near-term productivity more than costs since they make money and pass overhead on to customers while semi-pros and amateurs weigh cost (and longevity) more because they they completely absorb the costs. In the end, there are markets for both non-upgradeable and upgradeable systems and Apple gets to decide which (or both) markets they choose to serve.

    2. True, that’s how we manage our cars …

      But all you’re really doing is illustrating the limitations of an automotive analogy.

      Because in 2017, a Mustang isn’t even 2x faster than a 1977 Mustang…

      …but the iMac Pro’s 8-core, 4GHz CPU is much, much, much more powerful than the Apple ][‘s single core, 1 MHz 6502.

      FWIW, where incremental upgrades come in for the Pro’s is that thanks to Moore’s Law, there’s new stuff that ships (and/or ships at reasonable prices) at a faster cadence than the typical lifecycle of a PC (and to some degree, tax codes).

      Plus there’s also the value of the Professional’s time, because the downtime to perform an incremental upgrade is typically less than migrating everything over to an entirely new machine …

      … and the same observation also applies to Workflow Disruption: yanking out 32GB of RAM and popping in 64GB simply isn’t as much of a hassle as is setting up an entirely new machine. Ditto for data storage, video cards, etc.

      Downtime is lost money … that’s why the ability to perform smaller incremental upgrades have alue.

        1. FWIW, I was thinking more of top speed … the 2017 can’t do 250mph.

          And while the GT is no doubt quick to accelerate, you’re also cherrypicking by not using the base model, since various special models have come & gone. For example, looking back into the “late great” era, we’ll find that a 2017 GT is only 25% faster than the 1969 Mach 1’s time of 5.6 sec.

          Oh, and the 2017 GT happens to be slower than the venerable 1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe, whose 0-60mph was 3.9sec.

  6. I can’t believe all the dumb people that believe a sealed up machine is “OK”..

    Let’s first remember that the BASE machine is $5k. That’s a machine that won’t fit the needs of many professionals, simply because there is not enough memory. NORMALLY, pros will go out and max out the memory.

    Well to go just from 32gb of memory to 64gb of memory, you get the pleasure of paying apple. $800.00 for that privilege. Something that should cost you $300 if you had a door to just plug it in. 128gb will cost you $1600. Thats’ INSANE.

    1. “stupid point”, “wet nursed”, “dumb people”, “insane”…

      Ohhhh, Lord God of all that is Correct and Wonderful, please pardon these sinners for daring to have a view point different from yours. Thank you for sharing your Grace with us.

      1. A lot of the comments here could be used to illustrate the definition of solipsism. Nobody exists other than the commenter, so nobody else can have legitimate needs that differ.

        Somebody who has the skills to do his own computer and car maintenance cannot imagine someone who buys a Mac or Ferrari with no intent of ever getting under the hood. Because an iMac Pro would not meet their needs, it must be inappropriate for everyone else as well.

        The other person must not just have different needs, but be stupid, dumb, or insane for thinking different. Their needs cannot be legitimate, because they aren’t the same as the needs of the only person who really exists.

    2. Exactly. This isn’t what we asked for. Nobody asked for a sealed machine.

      Because of the scandalous profit Apple takes on RAM and HD’s compared to prices which customers can individually purchase anywhere else. A sealed, non-upgradable machine is essentially anti-competitive protectionism.

      They have the added advantage of economies of scale, bulk purchasing power for huge discounts.

      Even if you prise the back off your new iMac Pro and drop in 128GB RAM at retail price, you still have to dump the 32GB which came with the base model: even if you shift it at RRP, you’ve still lost more than half of what Apple charged you for it.

      That’s not on.

      Nobody’s really expecting any manufacturer to sell you a machine like this with no RAM or HD’s, obviously; however, extracting 2.2x+ (retail), even 3x+ (bulk) is something Steve would have disapproved of from the money men — especially given the loyalty of the central core Pro users who stuck with Apple through thick and thin.

      He would probably think it overpriced without throwing in some desirable, high value extra in — such as free 3-year AppleCare, for example.

    1. The 2013 Mac Pro was supposedly upgradeable. Later on, it turned out that the custom GPU is not upgradeable after all. People like me who trusted Apple got the shaft. Apple won’t make good on their promises, when their products suddenly and mysteriously go EOL. Even Microsoft treated us better, by announcing Windows OS EOL dates far in advance. Apple’s disingenuous statements must be taken with a grain of salt.

    1. You are correct that Apple has been padding its profits and strongly lobbying to keepusers from maintaining and upgrading their machines. No mainstream company in the automobile industry goes to the lengths Apple does in screwing the consumer into overpriced parts and repairs. The mass market would not accept it.

      That is the point. Apple now thinks it is Ferrari. Don’t you want to drive a Ferrari? Problem is, Cook thinks you are willing to pay Ferrari prices plus the premium for Applecare, but he doesn’t improve the Mac to keep up with any of the competition.

      That’s right. if you claim professionals who need the most powerful computer are going to replace their machines every year or two to have the latest, that means that they will not be using Macs. Apple sells old concours Ferraris, not track ready racecars. Only reason rhe iMac Pro is being touted as the fastest Mac is because Apple’s other Macs are 2 or more chip generations behind.

      Enjoy your sealed 2013 Mac Pro.

      Enjoy your sealed 2017 iMac Pro.

      We have moved on to more capable computers for modeling and production work. We’re not sure we can trust Apple to produce and maintain any business critical computers anymore after being burned so many times with dead end products in the past.

  7. In the old days we had to do upgrades. Major changes are not as prevalent at the high end anymore.
    If you know what you want then max out your system and assume you will buy a new one in 2 to 3 years.
    I like the lease option if cost are the real concern.

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