What's Next for the iMac Pro
According to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who often has accurate insight into Apple's plans, Apple is working on a new version of the iMac Pro that has a mini-LED display.
Mini-LED technology will allow for thinner and lighter product designs while also offering good wide color gamut performance, high contrast and HDR, and local dimming, which dims the backlight behind black areas of the screen while keeping bright parts lit. Kuo believes Apple will release the new iMac Pro in the fourth quarter of 2020, but analyst Jeff Pu has suggested the mini-LED iMac Pro could launch in 2021 rather than 2020.
Any upcoming iMac Pro is also likely to adopt Apple silicon chips. Rumors suggest Apple is working on chip designs with as many as 16 power cores and four efficiency cores, but higher-end desktop models could have as many as 32 high-performance cores. Apple is also testing 16 and 32-core graphics components along with developing more expensive 64 and 128-core GPUs for its highest-end machines.
Apple released the iMac Pro in December 2017, but introduced new Radeon Pro Vega 64X graphics as a build-to-order upgrade option in March 2019 and increased the maximum RAM to 256GB. Apple in March 2019 lowered the pricing of some of the higher-end build-to-order options, dropping the cost of the 64 and 128GB RAM upgrades by $400 and the 2TB and 4TB SSD options by $200 to $400. SSD prices dropped even further in July 2019.
In August 2020, Apple upgraded base iMac Pro models with a 10-core processor, so the entry-level iMac Pro now ships with an 10-core processor instead of an 8-core processor.
The iMac Pro features the same design as the standard iMac, but with an all-flash architecture and a new thermal design that supports an Intel Xeon processor with up to 18 cores and a top-of-the-line Radeon Pro Vega graphics. Apple is offering 10- to 18-core configurations.
A dedicated Apple-designed T2 processor integrates the SMC, image signal processor for the camera, audio control, SSD control, a Secure Enclave, and a hardware encryption engine, bringing new functionality to the iMac and ensuring greater security.
The iMac Pro is equipped with a high-quality 5K display that supports 1 billion colors and it comes in a unique space gray enclosure with matching (and exclusive) space gray accessories, plus a black Lightning cable, the first Apple has released. Aside from these unique design elements, the iMac Pro is otherwise similar in design to the existing 27-inch iMac.
iMac Pro features four Thunderbolt 3 ports powerful enough to drive multiple 5K displays at once, and it supports up to 4TB of solid state storage, 256GB of ECC RAM, and a Radeon Pro Vega 64X graphics card with 16GB of HBM2 memory.
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The iMac Pro looks much like a standard iMac, with an ultra-thin slim-bodied design and a minimal footprint, but it is set apart with a unique space gray enclosure and a new thermal design that delivers 80 percent more cooling capacity and 75 percent more airflow to support up to 500 watts of power, which equates to 67 percent more power than the previous iMac.
The updated thermal design results in a wider ventilation grill at the back of the machine. While standard 27-inch iMacs feature a hatch at the back to allow RAM to be upgraded, there is no such hatch in the iMac Pro, as it is not upgradeable. The lack of upgradability is one of the major downsides to the new machine, with no way for users to swap out the RAM, processor, or hard drive.
iMac Pro owners can get the RAM in the machine upgraded, but doing so requires taking it to an Apple retail store or an Apple Authorized Service Provider. Apple will not install third-party RAM in the machine, and the company is requiring service providers to install Apple-provided RAM modules.
At the back of the iMac Pro, there are four Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, 4 USB-A 3.0 ports, a 10Gb Ethernet port, a 3.5mm audio jack, and an SD card slot.
Like the regular 27-inch iMac, the iMac Pro features a Retina 5K display that supports a billion colors with a P3 wide color gamut. It has more than 14.7 million pixels and a 500 nit brightness level, which is 43 percent brighter than previous iMac displays.
To match its new space gray enclosure, the iMac Pro ships with matching space gray accessories that are exclusive to the high-end machine and not otherwise available to Apple users. Those accessories include a wireless Magic Keyboard with a numeric keyboard, a black Lightning cable, a black Thunderbolt 3 cable, and either a Magic Mouse 2 or a Magic Trackpad 2.
CPU and GPU
The iMac Pro uses Intel Xeon-W processors with 10, 14, and 18 core chips available as optional configurations with Turbo Boost up to 4.5GHz and up to 42MB of cache. The Intel-W is an Intel workstation-class processor, introduced in August of 2017. The Intel Xeon-W processors use an LGA2066 socket and are built on Skylake-SP architecture. The iMac Pro's CPU is not soldered, but it may not be user replaceable as Apple is using custom hardware.
iMac Pro benchmarks have suggested the entry-level 10-core model with a 3.0GHz Intel Xeon processor is 45 percent faster than the high-end 2013 Mac Pro and up to 93 percent faster than the top-of-the-line 2017 27-inch 5K iMac. 14 and 18-core models offer even more significant performance improvements than the 10-core model when it comes to multi-core processing tasks.
In Apple's testing, the iMac Pro has proven to offer performance improvements for a range workflows and apps, including Autodesk Maya 2018, Maxon Cinema 4D, OsiriX MD, Wolfram Mathematica, Adobe Photoshop CC, Logic Pro X, Final Cut Pro X, and more. With Final Cut Pro X, for example, the 10 and 18-core iMac Pro models offered much faster render speeds than the 12-core Mac Pro and the 4-core iMac.
With the advanced thermal cooling built into the iMac Pro, it supports AMD's newest Radeon Pro Vega and it includes a next-generation compute core and up to 16GB of on-package high-bandwidth memory (HBM2) and 400GB/s memory bandwidth.
The high-end Radeon Pro Vega 64 delivers 11 teraflops of single-precision computing power and up to 22 teraflops of half-precision computation performance, meaning it's powerful enough for real-time 3D rendering and immersive, high frame rate VR. The iMac Pro, like Apple's new iMacs, supports VR hardware.
Apple says the Radeon Pro Vega is more than three times faster than any previous iMac GPU, packing the power of a double-wide graphics card into a single chip.
While the base iMac Pro comes equipped with a Radeon Pro Vega 56 with 8GB HBM2 memory, there is an upgrade option for a Radeon Pro Vega 64 with 16GB HBM2 memory. In March 2019, Apple also added a new Radeon Pro Vega 64X upgrade option.
Alongside the Intel Xeon-W processor, the iMac Pro is equipped with a custom Apple-made T2 chip, the successor to the T1 chip in the MacBook Pro that powers the Touch Bar.
The T2 integrates the system management controller, image signal processor for the camera, audio control, SSD controller, a Secure Enclave, and a hardware encryption engine.
The T2 image signal processor brings enhanced tone mapping, improved exposure control, and face detection-based auto exposure to the FaceTime HD camera, and it works to encrypt all the data on the SSD using dedicated AES hardware with no effect on the SSD's performance.
It also ensures a secure boot to make sure your software isn't tampered with and only OS software trusted by Apple loads at startup. Because of the T2, an iMac Pro that needs restoring might require a second Mac and Apple's Configurator software.
SSD and RAM
The iMac Pro can be configured with up to 4TB of solid state storage, though the base machine ships with a 1TB SSD. It also supports up to 256GB of 2666MHz DDR4 ECC memory, which minimizes errors in data. The entry-level $4,999 machine comes with 32GB RAM, and RAM can be upgraded after purchase by Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider.
In the entry-level machine, there are four 8GB DIMM RAM modules, while upgraded models feature 4x16GB and 4x32GB arrangements. While the iMac Pro supports quad-channel memory, customers who are planning to upgrade the RAM after purchase need to replace all four modules. The RAM maximum, 256GB, needs to be purchased when ordering from Apple as upgrading to 256GB after purchase is not an option.
There are four Thunderbolt 3 ports built into the iMac Pro, which can power up to two high-performance RAID arrays and two 5K displays at the first time. Thunderbolt 3 supports data transfer speeds of up to 40Gb/s.
The iMac Pro includes 10Gb Ethernet, the first time it's ever been included on a Mac. It also supports Nbase-T industry-standard 1Gb, 2.5Gb, and 5Gb link speeds.
Enhanced stereo speakers are included in the iMac Pro, which Apple says deliver a broad frequency response, rich bass, and more volume.
Space Gray Accessories
The iMac Pro comes Space Gray accessories that were originally only available through an iMac Pro purchase but were later made available on a standalone basis. These accessories include a space Gray Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad, a Space Gray Magic Mouse 2, and a Space Gray Magic Trackpad 2.
The Magic Keyboard and the Magic Mouse 2 are included in the purchase price, but upgrading from the Magic Mouse 2 to the Trackpad 2 costs an additional $50. For an additional $150, customers can get both the Magic Mouse 2 and the Magic Trackpad 2.
Apple also includes a black Thunderbolt 3 cable and a black Lightning to USB-A cable with the iMac Pro, both of which are also exclusive to the machine.
For those who want to mount the iMac Pro to the wall, there is a VESA Mount Adapter Kit available in Space Gray for $79. Unlike other accessories, the VESA mount can be purchased without an iMac Pro, so it is something iMac Pro owners can pick up after purchasing a machine.
Apple offers a single entry-level iMac Pro configuration that can be customized with a range of upgrades.
The base iMac Pro model is priced at $4,999 and comes equipped with a 3.2GHz 10-core Intel Xeon W processor with Turbo Boost up to 4.2GHz, 32GB 2666MHz ECC RAM, 1TB SSD storage, and a Radeon Pro Vega 56 with 8GB HBM2 memory.
Apple also has several "Recommended Configurations" with 8 and 10-core processors, upgraded RAM, improved graphics, and more storage, but there are upgrade options even beyond these recommended configurations. Below, we've listed all of the available upgrade options and their price when added to the base machine.
2.5GHz 14-core Xeon processor: +$800
2.3GHz 18-core Xeon processor: +$1,600
64GB 2666MHz ECC RAM: +$400
128GB 2666MHz ECC RAM: +$2,000
256GB 2666MHz ECC RAM: +$5200
Radeon Pro Vega 64 with 16GB HBM2 memory: +$550
Radeon Pro Vega 64X with 16GB HBM2 memory: +$700
2TB SSD: +$400
4TB SSD: +$1,000
How to Buy
The iMac Pro is available for purchase from the online Apple Store or from Apple retail locations. Apple in May 2018 began selling refurbished iMac Pro models from its refurbished store at a 15 percent discount.