Apple decided to end 2017 on a high note with the release of its iMac Pro. Made for professionals dealing with large files day-to-day, the iMac Pro is a top-end workstation for the people in need of power.
On appearance, the iMac Pro looks much like the 27-inch iMac released earlier in the year. You have those disappointing bezels around the display and a rigid stand that makes tilting the screen awkward. But inside the Pro, you’ll find upgrades to the graphics processing unit (GPU) and central processing unit (CPU). The result: a super-fast machine that’ll help creative pros (and anyone else running programs that devour memory) work at speed.
You can’t introduce the iMac Pro without referencing the elephant in the room – its gargantuan price tag. The cheapest model is £4,899, though I’d recommend going for the more expensive configuration that includes the superior Vega 64 graphics card. If you’re going to spend big, you might as well get the best.
So, how exactly does the iMac Pro trump the older iMac (2017)? Here are the five areas where the Pro outshines its older brother.
1. Faster processing
The iMac Pro takes multitasking to an entirely new level. The standard model has eight cores, although 10, 14 and 18-Core options are available. By comparison, the 27-inch iMac (2017) has only four.
The more cores a PC has, the easier it is for the machine to break down tasks and complete them efficiently. Each core takes its share of the workload. So, if you need to edit a video, browse the web and pull data from a spreadsheet at the same time, every core takes a different job.
What’s more, the iMac Pro comes with the latest Intel Xeon W processor, which records clock speeds upwards of 4.2GHz. Not only this, but it has a larger cache than a normal processor – the Pro holds 42MB of memory when most processors hold just 8MB. As a result, the iMac Pro can get instructions to its processor at lightning speed, stopping slow file renders wasting your time.
The iMac Pro is a terrifically powerful workstation. But, I stress you only need that much juice if you’re moving and editing massive files. For your average Apple fan, a normal iMac’s specs do the job just fine.
2. More up-to-date graphics card
The standard iMac Pro has a Radeon Pro Vega 56 graphics card. The card runs 8GB of high-bandwidth memory (HMB2), which is ideal for designers working on projects that require heavy rendering. For example, in the production of VR.
In fact, Apple claims the Radeon Pro Vega GPU is over three times faster than any iMac GPU that’s come before it. If you’re a videographer working on 8k RAW footage, this enhanced performance is going to accelerate your productivity.
However, it’s worth noting that the Radeon Pro Vega 64 GPU (which comes in all versions of the Pro other than the cheapest standard model) performs disproportionately better than the Vega 56. The Vega 64 has double the amount of memory (16GB) plus faster shading and texture mapping. Because of this, I’d recommend biting the bullet and going for the next price tier up.
3. Lots of memory & storage
Working with Adobe’s Creative Suite burns through memory and storage. Apple understands this, which is why they’ve increased the Pro’s memory and storage options.
The iMac Pro has 32GB of memory as standard, but you can get up to 128GB if you choose a higher configuration. By comparison, the 27-inch iMac 2017 will only go up to 32GB. All this onboard memory will work with that excellent Radeon Pro Vega graphics card to optimise your render times.
For those handling large files, the iMac Pro’s internal storage also outdoes previous iMacs. Although the iMac Pro comes with 1TB as standard, you can increase this to 4TB by investing more. This amount of space will lessen your need for an external hard drive, giving you quick and immediate access to important files.
4. Tighter security
If you’re a creative agency with big clients, having your work pinched is a serious threat. A cyber-attack could see you paying out to retrieve work before clients see it up online without their consent.
Therefore, it’s reassuring that the iMac Pro has a T2 chip with a secure enclave for storing files safely. As part of this stepped-up security, there’s a separate hardware encryption engine within the chip. By moving the burden of encryption away from the CPU to a separate component, Apple has stopped encryption tasks slowing the iMac Pro down.
Another security feature of the T2 chip is a secure boot. The feature verifies the software loading when the iMac Pro starts up, ensuring only trusted programs launch.
5. Cooler & quieter
To prevent the iMac Pro from overheating, Apple had to update the Pro’s fan system. Now, the Pro has two fans and more vents to remove heat efficiently. Apple claims the system is 80 percent more efficient than that of older iMacs. It needs to be because that much power is going to cause a thermal headache if left unchecked.
Early demos of the iMac Pro have shown the PC to be cool and quiet, even when running memory-hungry video applications. The long-term success of the cooling system is, however, yet to be put to the test.
What the iMac Pro doesn’t have over the 27-inch iMac 2017
Okay, so I’ve outlined the more important reasons you’d go for the iMac Pro over the 27-inch iMac (2017). But, you should also know that in some ways the iMac Pro is exactly like the older iMac.
For example, the iMac Pro has the same 5120 x 2880 5k Retina display as the older iMac. I’ve reviewed this display in other comparisons (see Apple MacBook Pro 2017 vs iMac 2017) and it’s truly brilliant. However, if you’re shelling out for an iMac Pro, don’t expect any improvements here.
Moreover, although the iMac Pro is superb at multitasking, the version of the 2017 iMac with an i7 processor is pretty good too. Like the iMac Pro, the iMac’s i7 processor has a feature called hyper-threading, which allows one core to work on several tasks. Even without the power and cache offered by the iMac Pro, running multiple ‘threads’ per core significantly improves performance.
Are there any reasons not to buy the iMac Pro?
Even if money was no object, there are a couple of reasons why the iMac Pro isn’t perfect. Firstly, it’s very tricky to upgrade the iMac Pro’s RAM yourself. The RAM door found on the back of the 27-inch iMac is gone, so you’re stuck with the amount of internal memory you buy in the first place.
Another sticking point for the iMac Pro is its design. The chunky bezels and bulky side profile aren’t overly pleasing to the eye. Plus, the inflexible stand for the screen feels old-fashioned next to PCs like the Microsoft Surface Studio.
The iMac Pro is built for a specific kind of user
Apple has built the iMac Pro for a specific niche – people whose priority is performance, storage and expandability. They don’t care about pleasing your run-of-the-mill Apple customer who perhaps dabbles in video editing but spends most of their time streaming tv series and gaming.
Instead, the iMac Pro is for professionals who heavily tax their machines. In this article, I’ve mainly pointed to the benefits for videographers and designers. However, people dealing with large volumes of data, like scientists and accountants, will also put this kind of power to good use.
The Pro might be more for enterprise-level customers, but it’s still intriguing to consider the direction Apple’s taking with its latest release. 2018 will bring a new version of the Apple Mac Pro, as Apple sets its sights on becoming the go-to provider for professional power users.
iMac Pro vs 27-inch iMac (2017) technical specs
|iMac Pro (2017)||iMac, 27-inch (2017)|
|Price||From £4,899||From £1749|
|Height||51.6cm (20.3 inches)||20.3 inches|
|Width||65cm (25.6 inches)||25.6 inches|
|Stand depth||20.3cm (8 inches)||8 inches (stand depth)|
|Brightness||500 nits||500 nits|
|Size||27-inch (diagonal)||27-inch (diagonal)|
|Number of cores||February 9, 1900||4|
|Speed||4.2GHz, 4.3GHz or 4.5GHz||3.4 or 3.5 or 3.8 GHz - additional built-to-order option available|
|Internal||1TB SSD (configurable to 2TB or 4TB)||1 or 2 TB Fusion Drive|
|Memory||32GB (configurable to 64GB or 128GB)||8GB (configurable to 16GB, 32GB or 64GB)|
|Charging & expansion|
|Ports||10GB Ethernet, SDXC card slot, x4 USB 3 ports, x4 Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, DisplayPort 1.2||2x Thunderbolt 3, SDXC Cardslot, 4x USB 3 ports, 1GB Ethernet, Kensington lock slot|
|Graphics card||Radeon Pro Vega 56 or 64||Radeon Pro 570, 575 or 580|
|Speakers||Stereo speakers||Stereo speakers|
|3.5mm headphone jack||3.5mm headphone jack|