This year at WWDC, Apple announced a major hardware refresh. All Macs now have Intel’s latest Kaby Lake chips and upgraded graphics. But the peak of the announcement was the new iMac Pro.
It features up to a 18-core Xeon processor that can turbo boost up to 4.5GHz, up to 128GB of DDR4 ECC RAM, AMD Radeon Vega graphics with up to 16GB VRAM, and up to 4TB PCIe SSD storage. Apple managed to cram all of that into the same iMac shell that we have come to love since 2012.
Apple also seems to have learned a lesson when it comes to ports. Instead of going all USB-C like they did on the MacBook Pros, they fitted the iMac Pro with a headphone jack (courageous), a full size SD card slot, 4x USB-A 3.0 ports, 4x USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports, and a 10Gb Ethernet port.
Oh, and it comes in the fancy Space Grey color along with Space Grey peripherals.
There is no word on pricing right now, although Apple did announce a starting price of $5,000 on stage. And the iMac Pro will only start shipping this December.
All of this seems pretty impressive and I will admit, it is. But to fully understand the iMac Pro, here’s some story time.
A few months ago, Apple executives Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi held a round-table meeting with the top journalists in the industry about the state of the Mac Pro. Now this on its own is pretty rare for Apple. Even rarer, they offered a near apology for the 2013 Mac Pro, which although looks very smart and sleek, features zero-upgradability down the line.
Long story short, Phil Schiller acknowledged their mistakes with the Mac Pro and agreed upon the consequences of their decision. Which in this case, was pro users turning away from the Mac platform.
Phil also promised that a new, modular Mac Pro was coming early 2018 and Apple was going to release new workstation PCs that would get pro users back into the Mac platform.
This was a rare occurrence for Apple and it proved two things. One being that Apple is feeling the pinch of pro users leaving Apple’s ecosystem. Two being that Apple haven’t abandoned the pro market as conspiracies would suggest.
At WWDC, Apple continued to prove that they do care about pro users. For example, macOS will now support VR and Final Cut Pro will allow you to edit spherical video. With iOS, they announced the ARkit for developers.
But then, they announced the iMac Pro. On paper, everything seems impressive about it. But when you consider the history behind the iMac Pro, it makes one wonder if this is really the machine that pros asked for? Especially when you realize that the iMac Pro will only start shipping in December, and by that time the new Mac Pro will be right around the corner.
Think of a computer as a car. You buy it once off. You expect your car to last for as long as possible. Now after a few years, your car is starting to show signs of slowdown. You spend a grand and a half and upgrade some parts in the car, thereby breathing new life in your car so it can last you a good 3 years more.
That is what pro users need from their computer. No one can afford to buy a new computer every 3 years because their GPU got outdated and is terribly slow. Instead, they want to be able to pop the side panel off, throw out their aging GPU and install a shiny new one that makes their computer perform like new.
That was one of the biggest complaints about the 2013 Mac Pro (nicknamed the trashcan PC by the community). Everything from storage to processors were soldiered on to the motherboard. The only thing you could upgrade was the RAM.
And an AIO like the iMac Pro only makes things worse. You can’t upgrade the RAM nor the storage, let alone the main components such as the GPU or CPU. It is clear that this is not the answer to the Mac Pro’s problems.
In all honestly, I find the iMac Pro confusing. The question started to circulate whether Apple’s plans to release a modular Mac Pro have wavered, but Jonathan Morrison had a chance to speak to Apple execs and they confirmed that the iMac Pro is not a replacement for the Mac Pro, and that a modular Mac Pro indeed coming early next year.
So the question remains, who will buy the iMac Pro? If I were in the market for a pro computer, I wouldn’t. I would like to stress again that the iMac Pro starts shipping in December, and by that time, the new Mac Pro will be right around the corner. I would rather wait a few months and make sure I am getting a machine that will last me as long as possible and that I can upgrade it when I wish.
I am still confused at what Apple was thinking when they started work on the iMac Pro.
So these are my thoughts on the new iMac Pro. What do you guys think of it? Do you think that there is a market for this type of workstation, especially considering the fact that Apple is regretting its decision with the Mac Pro? Let me know down in the comments section below.