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Apple Releases the iMac Pro

As promised, Apple released the iMac Pro before the end of 2017, quietly showing the date orders would start on its Web page a few days early and taking purchases as of 14 December 2017. We wrote a bit about the first impressions from a few YouTubers and others who Apple seeded with early units in “The iMac Pro Arrives on December 14th” (12 December 2017), but more details have since been revealed.

Specs and Options -- Most notably, the iMac Pro will seem expensive, with the base model starting at $4999. For that you get a machine with the following specs:

  • 3.2 GHz 8-core Intel Xeon W processor with Turbo Boost up to 4.2 GHz
  • 32 GB 2666 MHz ECC memory
  • 1 TB SSD storage
  • 27-inch Retina 5K 5120-by-2880 P3 display with a 1080p FaceTime HD camera
  • Radeon Pro Vega 56 with 8 GB HBM2 memory
  • 10 Gb Ethernet, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.2
  • Four Thunderbolt 3 ports, four USB 3 ports, an SDXC card slot, and a headphone jack

One fascinating addition is the iMac Pro’s ARM-based T2 chip, which manages encryption and security throughout the system, among much else. It can provide a secure boot option in which the T2 processor validates every aspect of the boot process to make sure it hasn’t been tampered with. We hope to have more in-depth analysis of the T2 processor in the future.

You can spend more to soup up the iMac Pro even further. Here are your CPU options, although the 14-core and 18-core models aren’t shipping for 6–8 weeks.

  • 3.0 GHz 10-core Intel Xeon W processor with Turbo Boost up to 4.5 GHz ($800)
  • 2.5 GHz 14-core Intel Xeon W processor with Turbo Boost up to 4.3 GHz ($1600)
  • 2.3 GHz 18-core Intel Xeon W processor with Turbo Boost up to 4.3 GHz ($2400)

And your RAM options:

  • 64 GB of 2666 MHz ECC memory ($800)
  • 128 GB of 2666 MHz ECC memory ($2400)

Although you cannot upgrade the iMac Pro in any way yourself, Rene Ritchie of iMore noted that you can have more RAM installed later by taking it to an Apple Store or an Apple Authorized Service Provider.

Those hoping for a user-upgradable professional machine will have to hold out for the promised modular Mac Pro redesign, which Apple said would appear sometime after 2017. The company has given no hints as to what it will look like, how much it will cost, or what its specs might be. However, Rene Ritchie says that it will be accompanied by Pro Displays — yay!

If you want more solid-state storage space, you can get it, but brace yourself on the pricing:

  • 2 TB SSD ($800)
  • 4 TB SSD ($2800)

There’s only one option for a video upgrade:

  • Radeon Pro Vega 64 with 16 GB of HBM2 memory ($600)

The iMac Pro comes with a space gray Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad, as well as a space gray Magic Mouse 2. However, the space gray Magic Trackpad is a $50 add-on. Since you cannot buy the space gray accessories separately, you might want to consider spending $149 to get both the Magic Mouse 2 and Magic Trackpad 2. There’s also a VESA Mount Adapter Kit for iMac Pro available, which will set you back $79 if you want to attach the iMac Pro to a desk or a wall.

About That Price -- Fully maxed out, the iMac Pro will set you back a whopping $13,348. Some are reporting a top price closer to $14,000, but that’s including a VESA Mount Adapter Kit and pre-installed copies of Final Cut Pro X ($299.99) and Logic Pro X ($199.99). AppleCare+ for the iMac Pro remains priced at $169.

That’s undoubtedly a lot of money, but in general, if you think it’s too expensive, you’re not in the target audience. Apple is aiming the iMac Pro at the sort of people — video editors, audio professionals, engineers, and developers — for whom time translates directly into money. If you can turn an edit around or compile a complex app sufficiently faster, you’ll soon make up the cost of the iMac Pro in increased productivity.

There’s still no reason to spend money unnecessarily. Developer Marco Arment recommends ordering through the business rep at your local Apple Store (assuming you’ll be using this machine for business) to get a 5 to 15 percent discount and looking at state sales tax exemptions like New York’s ST121.3 exemption for computer system hardware used by programmers and Web developers (who knew?).

Early Coverage -- Some of the first coverage to appear came from YouTuber Marques Brownlee, who Apple seeded with an early-access unit. His video is a pretty good analysis of how the iMac Pro works for video production with the latest version of Final Cut Pro X.

London-based video editor Thomas Carter wrote up his initial impressions for Randi Altman’s postPerspective. In short: “These tests really blew me away. They aren’t necessarily going to be everyday scenarios for most people, or even me, but they make it possible to imagine editing workflows in which you’re working at close to the highest quality possible throughout the entire process. … While I really haven’t had enough time to do a deep dive, it’s clearly the best Mac I’ve ever used — it’s stupidly powerful and great to work on.”

At least one developer received an early iMac Pro: Craig A. Hunter of Hunter Research and Technology, who tested the iMac Pro with some NASA tools for aerodynamic design and development. He summed up his review with:

There’s an old saying about money burning a hole in one’s pocket. Every once in a while, a product comes along that has a similar but reverse effect on me — it’s a product that’s so compelling, so exciting, so gorgeous to look at, that it causes my wallet to heat up and maybe even burst into flames. The new iMac Pro is one of those products.

For what is perhaps the most interesting article, though, turn to Ars Technica, for whom writer Samuel Axon profiles professional uses of the iMac Pro already underway. He said, “There’s no question that the performance on display here is cutting edge — especially for an all-in-one. Creative professionals who are entrenched in Apple’s ecosystem will probably be delighted to have such a powerful machine to work with, even if it may not be as adaptable as the promised Mac Pro update we’re still waiting for.”

We won’t be ordering an iMac Pro for anyone at TidBITS because nothing we do requires such power, but if you get one, we’re curious to hear how its performance enhances your productivity.


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Comments about Apple Releases the iMac Pro
(Comments are closed.)

Jeff Porten  An apple icon for a Friend of TidBITS 2017-12-15 15:01
If Adam wants to revisit that purchase policy, I’d be willing to carry one around at CES to review its portability.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-12-15 16:16
I don't think the TidBITS health insurance is up to what lugging an iMac Pro around CES would do to your back. ;-)
Mike Noonan  2017-12-15 16:24
Regarding the $149 combo trackpad and mouse price, where is that available?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-12-15 16:46
If you configure an iMac Pro in Apple's online store, it's one of the options you can get.
Does Apple actually allow splitting an AppleStore (online) order across several credit cards? My debit cards are limited at $1000 per purchase and my CCs don't allow purchases beyond $5000. What about Apple's brick and mortar stores?
Gary Ammons  2017-12-16 16:23
Impressive performance stats, but what I want to know is, which model has "BackGround-Rendering" in FCPX ?
I've NEVER experienced BACKGROUND rendering in any version of Final Cut Pro X whilst I'm working in my FCPX Project. Now, BackGround-QUEING, YES ! But, while working in FCPX on my 27 inch 3.2 Ghz i5 iMac, nothing in my TimeLine has ever Rendered in the BackGround. Not until I click off the Timeline or Stop working, does Rendering commence.
Do the additional "CORES" NOW allow for background rendering ? Maybe a Second CPU is needed in the iMac Pro to do Only Rendering. Signed "Really Curious".
xandra  2017-12-19 11:33
Count me out. Even ignoring the lack of "Upgradeability" I just won't fork up big bucks for a machine that will be a doorstop the moment a single element fails. Speed is only one factor needed for a "Pro" machine. Missing: serious connectivity (2 net - min. 6 USB, room for at least 2 internal drives etc) most of all: User interchangeable components.
Sure hope they get all this right in the next version.
You can get a second Ethernet interface via TB3 adapter and more fast external drives should also work well thanks to TB3. I agree though. The things you mention would also be part of "pro" in my world, but I think Apple's use of "pro" is primarily related to the price tag. At least in the case of extra fast drives or additional network interfaces things can be solved. Keeping graphics, soldered CPU, etc. up to date cannot. And this on a $6000 machine. :/
Come to think of it, the whole iMac all-in-one deal doesn't really go well with Tim's otherwise we're-oh'so-green-and-holy mantra. Am I alone in assuming the very nice display can easily outlast the non-upgradable circuitry? You can upgrade components on a Mac Pro (cheese grater generation) and you can replace a mini when its internals become outdated, but with this iMac Pro you'd end up throwing a perfectly nice monitor into another landfill just because the CPU is no longer competitive or you've filled up the SSD. Now how green is that, Tim?
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2017-12-20 21:48
An 8 to 18 core CPU no longer being competitive? What kind of work are you talking about? As for your SSD filling up, what do you think all those high speed ports are for? Troll much?
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2017-12-20 21:50
If I were in the market for an iMac Pro I'd still want to wait to see what the new Mac Pro looks like. For those prices I think I could wait. I suspect I'm not alone in that regard.
Blondie  2017-12-24 18:10
Yep, that's me you're talking about. I can wait a bit longer to see what the Mac Pro will bring to the table.