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iMac Pro Review

Written by 260Blog

The iMac Pro, as the name suggests, is a powerful, sleek and stylish all-in-one computer with the familiar form factor of Apple’s iMac range, but with the power, features and, yes, price that is squarely aimed at professional users.

When Apple unveiled the iMac Pro at its WWDC event last year, it touted the computer as ‘the most powerful Mac ever made,’ and it is clear that the Cupertino company has succeeded. This is an incredibly powerful machine that’s been built for professional use.

And, it’s not about power for power’s sake – this is a carefully-built machine whose powerful components can help speed up the workflow for professionals. Sure, the price tag is steep, but if it can help reduce the time you work on projects, the time you save that can be put into working with clients or taking on further projects could be invaluable.

 Price and availability

Despite it looking a lot like a standard iMac, the iMac Pro is aimed squarely at professionals, with workstation-level computing power that will be easily more than what most people need for day-to-day computing, and with a price tag to match. However, if you are a professional photographer, game designer or architect, then you’ll probably be looking at the iMac Pro as an investment.

So, how much is the iMac Pro going for? As you’d expect from a computer that’s aimed at professionals, the iMac Pro comes in a number of configurations, so there is scope for configuring the iMac Pro to suit the needs of you and your business, as well as your budget.

The baseline model of the iMac Pro costs $4,999 (£4,899, AU$7,299). For this price, you get a 27-inch 5K Retina display, an 8-core Intel Xeon W processor, AMD Radeon Vega 56 (8GB) graphics, 32GB of error-correcting code (ECC) memory and a 1TB solid-state drive (SSD).

Next, you can buy an iMac with a 10-core Xeon W CPU, 16GB of high-bandwidth memory (HBM2) AMD Vega 64 graphics and a whopping 2TB SSD. That model costs $7,999 (£7,599 and AU$9,539).

The top-end iMac Pro comes with an 18-core Intel Xeon W processor, 128GB of RAM, 4TB of SSD storage and the same AMD Radeon Vega 64 GPU for $13,199 (£12,279, AU$20,419). Of course, that’s a huge investment, but you’re getting a heck of a lot of power as well.

You can also tweak each of these configurations further, for example changing the SSD size, adjusting the amount of RAM or going for a 14-core Intel Xeon processor, which will alter the final price of the machine.

These specifications and the price tags involved alone will let you know if the iMac Pro is for you. If spending almost as much as a new car on an iMac seems extravagant, then this is not the machine for you. If you rarely use graphic-intensive programs, and you wouldn’t know what to do with a graphics card with 8GB – let alone 16GB – of HBM2 memory, then, again, the iMac Pro isn’t for you.

However, if you’re heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem, love the all-in-one designs of previous iMacs, and need a workstation that will handle intensive workloads, then the iMac Pro could be your ideal machine, and the undeniably high cost could justify itself. If you find yourself hanging around while your current machine compiles code, or renders 3D images, then spending that sort of money to drastically cut down (or even eliminate) that time could be a no-brainer.

 Design

Considering the boosted specifications of the iMac Pro compared to the standard iMac, Apple has done an excellent job of maintaining the iconic look of the all-in-one machine. All those impressive components are located behind the 27-inch screen, leading to an attractive, minimalist machine that looks great in any office or studio.

The fact that Apple has kept the body as thin as it has is also testament to the effort, and careful design considerations, involved in the creation of the iMac Pro. At its edges, the iMac Pro is an impressive 5mm (0.2 inches) thick, meaning it won’t hog too much space on your desk. It also weighs just 9.7kg (21.38 pounds), which means it’s easy enough to move from desk to desk if needs be.

Having such powerful components, which require more power and therefore produce more heat, means that a capable cooling system is required – especially considering the slimline design of the iMac Pro. Thankfully, Apple’s engineers have created an impressive cooling system for the iMac Pro, with dual fans that help circulate cool air over components, while expelling hot air.

In our tests, this did an excellent job of keeping the iMac Pro cool while under a lot of pressure: editing 4K HDR content in Final Cut Pro X, a pretty strenuous task, while also reducing the noise of the fans. Sure, it emits heat while being used, but that’s the point of the cooling system, and we are impressed with how quiet it is. With an all-in-one machine that sits in front of you on your desk, you don’t want any distracting fan noises while you work, and the iMac Pro does an excellent job of mitigating that. 

According to Apple, the cooling solution, which includes a high-capacity heat sink and extra venting on the back of the device, allows for almost 75% more airflow and an 80% increase in system thermal capacity. All the while, the iMac Pro uses 67% more power than a 27-inch iMac.

So, if you’re a fan of the iconic look of previous iMacs, but want a device that offers some serious hardware for professional use, then you’re going to be very pleased with the iMac Pro. One particularly noticeable difference with the iMac Pro’s design, compared to regular iMacs, is that it comes in a new color scheme: Space Gray.

As you’d expect from an Apple product, the Spay Gray iMac is gorgeous to look at, and the included Magic Mouse 2, Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad 2 also come in the new color, looking just as fantastic.

Of course, as nice as the body and peripherals look, the most important aspect, especially if you’re a professional photographer, video or image editor, is the screen. The 27-inch 5K screen is described by Apple as it’s ‘best ever,’ with 500 nits of brightness, an increase of 43% over the screen brightness of previous iMacs. The 5,120 x 2,880-pixel resolution is just as impressive here as it is on high-end iMacs, which also feature this resolution, and the boost over 4K resolution (3,840 x 2,160) means video editors can work on 4K video at full resolution, while also having room on screen for their editing tools.

It’s little touches like this that make the iMac Pro such a compelling choice for professionals, and help speed up your workflow by eliminating the need to enter and exit full-screen mode if you’re on a 4K – or lower – monitor.

Because the iMac Pro is designed for professionals, color reproduction has to be as accurate as possible. This is essential for photographers, graphics artists and video editors, amongst others. The screen supports the P3 wide-gamut color space, an RGB color space that is widely used in digital movie production. If you work with digital film, then this support will be hugely welcome, though not too surprising. Apple iMacs have supported it since 2015, as does the iMac’s competitor: the Surface Studio all-in-one by Microsoft.

While P3 is wider than sRGB, it’s not quite as wide as Adobe RGB. So, if you’re relying on Adobe RGB – for example, if you work in printing and publishing – then you may be disappointed with the lack of Adobe RGB support here. For many people, however, the P3 color space will be perfectly fine and a big improvement over sRGB.

On the bezel above the top of the screen resides the FaceTime camera, like with other iMacs, but there are a few major improvements here. For a start, it can record in 1080p resolution, whereas previous FaceTime cameras on iMacs were 720p.

The boost in resolution is immediately apparent when using the iMac Pro for video calls. So, for client meetings, or chatting to work colleagues, this increase in video quality is greatly appreciated. 

The webcam also features four microphones, compared to a single one on the 5K iMac. This array of microphones also helps eliminate background noise and, as they are placed at the top of the screen (rather than at the bottom with previous iMacs), it does an excellent job of noise cancelling. Of course, if you work in very noisy environments, you’ll still want to use a headset for the best possible sound quality, but these improvements are very welcome.

While Apple has caught flack for limiting the ports in its professional-oriented MacBook Pro, the iMac Pro suffers no such problems, with a decent array of ports that will allow you to hook up many peripherals to the device.

At the base of the back of the iMac Pro, you get a 3.5mm headphone jack, SDXC card slot, four full-size USB 3.0 ports, four Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports and a 10Gb Ethernet, which offers incredible network speeds. The four USB 3.0 ports are welcome for older, legacy, peripherals and devices, while the Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports support Thunderbolt devices with up to 40Gbps data transfers, and USB 3.1 devices.

The Thunderbolt 3 ports can also be used to connect extra displays, such as two 5K external displays at 60Hz, or four 4K UHD displays at 60Hz. Basically, you’re pretty much set for ports, and we’re glad to see that Apple hasn’t skimped here.

However, while the slimline all-in-one design certainly looks impressive, it does mean that this is a workstation you won’t be able to easily open up, tinker with and upgrade components yourself. This may not be an issue for many people; however, if you want an easily-upgradable device for future-proofing, then this won’t be a device for you.

Overall, the design of the iMac Pro is everything you’d expect from Apple: gorgeously made, with some genuinely innovative features and excellent professional-focused details that go some way to justifying the steep price tag.

Magic peripherals

The iMac Pro comes with the Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad, Magic Mouse 2 and, optionally, the Magic Trackpad 2 – all of which come in the new (to the iMac range) Space Gray color. Apart from the new color, these peripherals should be pretty familiar.

We’re glad to get the Magic Keyboard version with a numeric keypad, as that’s definitely a convenient addition for quickly writing up sums. While we wouldn’t describe the typing experience on the keyboard as ‘magic’, despite its thin keys and shallow travel, it’s comfortable enough to type on. However, if you’re planning on doing a lot of writing, then you may find a more tactile keyboard is more comfortable.

In our view, the Magic Mouse 2 is much more successful. While the design hasn’t changed (apart from the color) since its debut in 2015, many would argue that if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

The mouse feels smooth and responsive in use, and handles well on a variety of surfaces. If you’re used to using Macs, then you’ll feel right at home, though again, for some tasks you’ll probably find it better to plug in a specialized pointing device.

There is something we do still think is broken with the Magic Mouse 2, and which we’d love Apple to fix: the fact that to charge it, you need to plug the Lightning cable into the bottom of the mouse.

Not only is this a rather inelegant way to charge, it also means you can’t use the Magic Mouse 2 while recharging its battery, a baffling design decision that we’re frustrated with Apple for failing to rectify.

Finally, the Magic Trackpad 2 is a handy addition with an edge-to-edge surface that allows you to control the iMac Pro in a similar fashion to a MacBook. Used alongside the mouse and keyboard, it’s quite a nice alternative method for scrolling through files and websites, and zooming in and out of photos (amongst other uses).

The lack of change with these peripherals will please anyone who’s a fan of them, and annoy anyone who doesn’t like them, and was hoping for something a bit more special for the iMac Pro. The new color makes them look fantastic, it has to be said, and the Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse 2 paired with the iMac Pro as soon as they were switched on. 

Strangely, the Magic Trackpad 2 didn’t pair automatically – we had to connect it to the iMac Pro via the included Lightning cable (which comes in black) before we could use it with the iMac Pro wirelessly.

The configuration that Apple sent us to review comes with a 3.0GHz 10-core Intel Xeon W processor, 128GB of DDR4 RAM and a Radeon Pro Vega 64 graphics card with 16GB of HBM2 memory. With those specs, and the price tag that’s attached, you’d expect the iMac Pro to perform brilliantly – and it does.

The latest macOS High Sierra feels incredibly smooth and snappy when in use, thanks to the 2TB SSD it’s installed on, and the desktop looked gorgeous on the 27-inch display. Of course, you won’t be buying an iMac Pro to just stare at desktop wallpaper, or mess around in the operating system.

It’s how the machine performs under intense workloads that’s important, and again, the iMac Pro is seriously impressive.

Apple is at great pains to make clear that the iMac Pro is designed for professionals, and the software that they rely on. In our time with the iMac Pro we saw how well the machine copes with various workloads and intensive professional software, and how the power behind the machine can positively affect your workload.

The iMac Pro’s performance when working with Final Cut Pro X is a great example. Thanks to the processor and graphics card inside the iMac Pro, editing large, high-resolution video files is made much quicker, as you’re able to edit, add effects, tweak colors, add more to scenes and then watch your changes back instantly – even in real time.

You’re never having to wait for a preview of your changes to be rendered, potentially saving you hours of time on every project.

This computer is also capable of on-the-fly editing of 360 video, where you can edit the footage while someone else views the changes on a connected HTC Vive virtual reality headset. This might not be a particularly common use case, but it shows the powerful multitasking versatility of the iMac Pro – and remember, the one we’ve tested isn’t even the highest specced version.

The powerful CPU also makes the iMac Pro a brilliant machine for transcoding video files. We used Handbrake to turn a 10 minute-long, 4K 60 frame-per-second (FPS) file into a 1080p 30FPS file, and it took just four minutes using the normal settings. Again, if you find yourself hanging around waiting for large video files to transcode, then the iMac Pro’s ability to drastically reduce those times will make its price tag seem increasingly justified.

Another good example of how the power of the iMac Pro can help professional workflows is with the Twinmotion program, which is aimed at architects, allowing them to create virtual representations of their planned buildings. As well as showing the buildings in high fidelity 3D graphics, the application uses physics, weather simulation and more to demonstrate what the final building will be like, allowing architects to present their plans to their clients. 

All of this is pretty demanding stuff, and on the iMac Pro it ran impressively smoothly.

As you can see from our benchmark results, this iMac Pro model is certainly a bit of a beast when it comes to power. Just by comparing the benchmark results against last year’s iMac – with the Cinebench CPU benchmark score of 2,049cb compared to the iMac’s 544, and Geekbench 4 multi-core score of 37,070 compared to the iMac’s 13,363, you can see what a huge leap in performance the iMac Pro brings.

The iMac Pro certainly performs like a workstation at around this price point. If you have a number of Mac applications you rely on for work, and you’d like them to run faster than ever before, then you should definitely consider the iMac Pro; otherwise, you may be better off sticking with a standard iMac with mainstream components (and a more palatable price).

We liked

As a professional workstation, the iMac Pro ticks a heck of a lot of boxes. It has cutting edge components that can make drastic improvements to your day-to-day workflow, freeing you up to concentrate on other aspects of the project you’re working on.

Plus, the design remains second-to-none. The Space Gray color scheme looks attractive, and being able to set it up on a desk in a few minutes, thanks to its all-in-one nature, is a definite bonus.

We didn't like

The price is undeniably high, but for the most part it’s justified, thanks to the powerful components and Apple build quality; however, you are paying a premium to get a device from the Cupertino company. The Magic Mouse 2 still has that annoying quirk of needing to be charged from beneath, and we’d have like to have seen that altered.

Finally, no Adobe RGB support on the screen may make some professionals think twice, though for the vast majority of people, the P3 color space will be more than enough.

Final verdict

In many ways, the iMac Pro is the pinnacle of Apple’s computing division – it’s easily the most powerful machine the company has ever made, and yet it still retains that irresistible slimline design and build quality that iMacs are known for.

It goes without saying, due to the price and power levels displayed here, that the iMac Pro is not aimed at the general consumer. For day-to-day tasks, and even casual photo or video editing, the immense power of the iMac Pro will be wasted.

If you are in need of a workstation machine that packs loads of power, but you’re not too fussed on looks – and being able to open up, tinker and upgrade the machine is essential to you – then look elsewhere.

However, for people working in industries that use software that’s extremely complex and power-consuming, then you’ll find a brilliant workstation-grade device inside a sleek and attractive iMac design. For many professionals, that means the iMac Pro is a dream come true, and even the high price should not dissuade you.

Source: TechRadar

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