But, in early February, just as the most powerful 18-core configuration began to reach customers, Apple provided more detailed briefings to ZDNet and other publications. The burning question is whether this latest incarnation of the veteran iMac can win over demanding professional users — or at least hold the fort until Apple’s plans for a revamped Mac Pro bear fruit.
Fade to (space) grey
Superficially, the iMac Pro is virtually identical to the standard 27-inch models that have been available for several years, with the same physical dimensions and 5K Retina display, and only the new ‘space grey’ colour scheme to set it apart from its predecessors.
Internally, though, the iMac Pro is a completely different beast. Apple claims that removing the conventional hard drive used in previous models has saved a lot of space inside the unit, which is now devoted to an enhanced cooling system for the high-end CPU and GPU configurations that are available.
Rather than the three configurations Apple normally offers, the iMac Pro starts with one ‘standard’ configuration that costs £4,082.50 (ex. VAT; £4,899 inc. VAT, or $ 4,999). For this, you get an 8-core Xeon W processor running at 3.2GHz (up to 4.2GHz with TurboBoost), along with 32GB of ECC RAM, a 1TB solid-state drive, and a Radeon Pro Vega 56 GPU with 8GB of HBM2 (High-Bandwidth Memory) video RAM.
That standard configuration can then be modified with 10-core, 14-core and 18-core versions of the Xeon W, with up to 128GB of memory, 4TB of SSD storage, and a Vega 64 GPU with 16GB of HBM2 video RAM. Ticking all the boxes on those upgrades brings the price of a top-of-the-range iMac Pro to a startling £10,232.50 (ex. VAT; £12,279 inc. VAT, or $ 13,199).
‘A good computer’
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We’ll report back with independent benchmark results in our forthcoming full review, but Apple claims that even the standard configuration of the iMac Pro is considerably more powerful than any of the existing quad-core iMac models, offering 3.4x performance for 3D graphics and visualization, 5x improvement for scientific modelling and simulations, as well as the ability to edit eight streams of 4K video at full resolution and in real time.
Watching the iMac Pro handling real-time 3D visualisations and lighting effects in architectural apps such as Twinmotion is certainly impressive, as is 360-degree video editing for VR content in Apple’s recently updated Final Cut Pro X. And, at long last, Apple has quite pointedly been offering journalists the chance to wear the HTC Vive headset during demo sessions with the iMac Pro, as a way of letting everyone know that it has indeed released ‘a good computer’ that can actually handle VR.
One disadvantage of the new design is that the back-panel slot that allowed access to the memory modules for user upgrades on previous models has now gone, so you’ll need to budget for as much RAM as you can afford at the time of purchase.
On the plus side, Apple has announced that it is planning an update for the current macOS High Sierra that will support the use of external GPUs for the first time. That will provide an important upgrade path that the iMac has previously lacked, helping to ensure that this expensive piece of kit continues to earn its keep for years to come.
Build yourself a Windows-powered iMac Pro clone Like the look of Apple’s new iMac Pro workstation, but you’re a Windows user so macOS is a no-go zone for you? No worries! You can get all the power and performance of the iMac Pro while still being able to run Windows.