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Apple iMac Pro (late 2017) review: An AIO for the Pro crowd

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  • Editors' rating
    8.5 Excellent
  • $4,999.00

Pros

  • Workstation performance in slimline AIO design
  • High-quality 5K display
  • Up to 18-core Xeon W CPU
  • macOS now supports HTC's Vive headset

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Poor upgradeability/repair options
  • Integrated display, inflexible non-modular design

Apple unveiled the new iMac Pro at its World Wide Developer Conference last June, and the high-end AIO desktop subsequently shipped in small volumes -- more or less on schedule -- towards the end of December last year. But, aware of the unease among its professional customers following the mixed reception for the most recent MacBook Pro updates, and the admission that it is "completely rethinking the Mac Pro" range, Apple has kept this new workstation-level iMac closely under wraps and has only allowed limited access to the press.

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.

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The iMac Pro is aimed at users in creative industries who demand serious computing power. Powered by 8-, 10-, 14- or 18-core Xeon W processors with Radeon Pro Vega graphics, prices range from £4,899 ($4,999) to £12,279 ($13,199).

Images: Apple

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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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.

Our own tests confirm that the iMac Pro significantly outperforms previous versions of the iMac. Single-core performance for the 3.2GHz Xeon W is nothing special, with Geekbench 4.2 recording a score of 5134 that's only slightly faster than last year's standard 27-inch 3.4GHz Core i5 iMac. But while the quad-core iMac achieves a multi-core score of 14,000, the 8-core iMac Pro races ahead with 31,400. The solid-state drive performs strongly too, with write and read speeds of 3,020MB/s and 2,487MB/s respectively.

Our Cinebench R15 video test results are more mixed, with 120fps for the iMac Pro compared to 99.5fps for the standard iMac. That might not seem to justify the far higher price of the iMac Pro -- and for some tasks, the dual-GPU configuration of the existing Mac Pro might still have advantages. However, Cinebench doesn't fully reflect the multi-tasking capabilities of the 8-core Xeon W, which excels at tasks such as simultaneously handling multiple streams of 4K video, or performing 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.

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Ports at the back of the iMac Pro are: 3.5mm headphone; SDXC card; 4x USB 3.0; 4x Thunderbolt 3/USB-C; 10 Gigabit Ethernet (RJ-45). There's no external access to the RAM slots for memory upgrades.

Image: Apple

The iMac Pro will certainly be tempting for existing iMac users who have been waiting for a high-end pro upgrade (other than the effectively obsolete Mac Pro). But it's not all good news. Like the MacBook Pro, the iMac Pro lacks even the option for simple memory upgrades, as the back-panel slot that provided access to the memory slots on other iMac models has now been eliminated, so it's advisable to budget for as much memory as you can afford at the time of purchase.

However, the iMac Pro doesn't actually have its memory soldered onto the motherboard, so an adventurous IT manager who is prepared to separate the front and back panels could perform their own upgrades and repairs if necessary. And, as the brave team at iFixit have reported in their latest teardown, it seems that even the Xeon W processor could potentially be replaced as well.

That's not the case with the Vega 56 GPU, though, which is firmly soldered into place. On the plus side, Apple has announced that it's 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.

Conclusions

Its all-in-one design and lack of internal expansion won't suit all professional users, but the iMac Pro does go a long way to restoring the credibility of Apple's professional desktop line-up.

The impressive 5K display and significantly improved performance mean that the iMac Pro is well suited to specific tasks such as high-end video-editing, 3D design and visualisation -- and even VR content creation at long last. However, Apple still has its work cut out to deliver the more 'modular' replacement for the existing Mac Pro that it has promised for later this year.

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Specifications

General
Product Form Factor All-in-one
Packaged Quantity 1
Built-in Devices 4 microphones, stereo speakers
Processor / Chipset
CPU Intel Xeon W 3.2 GHz
Max Turbo Speed 4.2 GHz
Number of Cores 8-core
Processor Main Features Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2
Cache Memory
Installed Size 19 MB
Cache Per Processor 19 MB
Per Processor Size 19 MB
Installed Size 19 MB
RAM
Memory Speed 2666 MHz
Features quad channel memory architecture
Technology DDR4 SDRAM
Installed Size 32 GB
Data Integrity Check ECC
Memory
Max Supported Size 128 GB
Form Factor SO-DIMM 260-pin
Environmental Parameters
Min Operating Temperature 50 °F
Max Operating Temperature 95 °F
Humidity Range Operating 5 - 95% (non-condensing)
Display
Widescreen Display Yes
Monitor Features LED-backlit, Wide Color Gamut
Type LED
TFT Technology IPS
Diagonal Size (metric) 68.6 cm
Display Resolution Abbreviation 5K
Hard Drive
Type SSD
Capacity 1 x 1 TB
Type SSD
Installed Qty 1
Capacity 1 TB
Input
Type keyboard, mouse
Localization & Layout English
Communications
Wireless Protocol 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2
Optical Storage
Drive Type no optical drive
Type none
Processor
Installed Qty 1
Max Supported Qty 1
Type Xeon W
Manufacturer Intel
Clock Speed 3.2 GHz
Card Reader
Type card reader
Supported Flash Memory Cards SD Memory Card, SDHC UHS-II Memory Card, SDXC UHS-II Memory Card
Storage Removable
Type none
Header
Brand Apple
Product Line Apple iMac Pro
Model with Retina 5K display
Localization English
Country Kits United States
Packaged Quantity 1
Compatibility Mac
Networking
Data Link Protocol 10 Gigabit Ethernet, 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11n, 5 Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth 4.2, Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet, IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11ac, IEEE 802.11b
Compliant Standards Bluetooth 4.2, IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11ac, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11n
Wireless LAN Supported Yes
Miscellaneous
Color space gray
System
Type personal computer
Hard Drive Capacity 1 TB
Introduced Late 2017
Monitor
Monitor Type LED - IPS
Native Resolution 5120 x 2880 (5K)
Diagonal Size 27 in
Image Brightness 500
Dimensions & Weight
Width 25.6 in
Depth 8 in
Height 20.3 in
Graphics Controller
Graphics Processor AMD Radeon Pro Vega 56
Video Memory 8 GB HBM2
Chassis
Form Factor all-in-one
Manufacturer Form Factor all-in-one
Built-in Devices 4 microphones, stereo speakers
Manufacturer Warranty
Type 1 year warranty
Audio Output
Sound Output Mode stereo
Keyboard
Keyboard Name Apple Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad
Connectivity wireless
Interface Bluetooth
Printer
Type none
Mouse
Mouse Name Apple Magic Mouse 2
Connectivity wireless
Technology laser
Interface Bluetooth
Features Multi-Touch
Physical Characteristics
Form Factor all-in-one
Weight 21.38 lbs
Power
Type power supply
Min Operating Temperature 50 °F
Nominal Voltage AC 120/230 V (50/60 Hz)
Max Operating Temperature 95 °F
Operating System / Software
OS Provided: Type Apple macOS 10.13 High Sierra
OS Provided Apple macOS 10.13 High Sierra
Type App Store, Apple AirDrop, Apple Pages, Apple Preview, Apple Safari, Apple Spotlight, Apple Time Machine, Apple iBooks, Apple iMovie, Apple iPhoto, Apple iTunes, Calendar, Apple AirPlay, Contacts, Dictation, Facebook, Family Sharing, Game Center, Maps, Messages, Notes, Notification Center, Photo Booth, Apple Dashboard, Power Saver, Reminders, Twitter, iCloud, Apple FaceTime, Apple GarageBand, Apple Keynote, Apple Mac OS X Mail, Apple Mission Control, Apple Numbers
Video Output
Graphics Processor AMD Radeon Pro Vega 56
Graphics Processor Series AMD Radeon Pro Vega
Video Memory
Technology HBM2
Installed Size 8 GB
Service & Support
Type 1 year warranty
Service & Support Details
Type limited warranty, technical support
Service Included phone consulting
Full Contract Period 1 year, 90 days

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Where To Buy

Apple iMac Pro

Part Number: MQ2Y2LL/A
Price
$4,999.00