Having promised that a professional-grade iMac was on the way back at a briefing in April, Apple has given us a first look at the new iMac Pro, a Space Grey beast of a machine, and promised that it will arrive in December this year.
In this article we gather all the information available about this powerful new machine, from its clever cooling design and impressive tech specs to its UK price and release date.
The iMac Pro reveal
WWDC in June 2017 gave us our first peek at this new professional-grade iMac, but Apple revealed its existence a bit earlier.
Back in April, talking to a small group of journalists, Apple VPs Phil Schiller, Craig Federighi and John Ternus acknowledged that the Mac Pro in its current form hadn't been meeting the needs of many pro users, and revealed that the company planned to update the iMac to suit them.
"So many of our customers were moving to iMac that we saw a path to address many, many more of those that were finding themselves limited by Mac Pro through a next-generation iMac," Federighi said.
But all this talk remained vague until WWDC in June 2017, when the iMac Pro was officially revealed.
(The iMac Pro appeared alongside updates to the rest of the iMac range. If you want to find out more about the new 21-inch iMac, our review of that model is here: 21-5inch 2017 iMac review; and if you want to find out more about the 27-inch iMac, our review of that model is here: 27-inch 2017 iMac review.)
Design - dark, cool and quiet
The new iMac Pro, when it arrives, will have a new, darker look, shrouded in a Space Grey case.
But it's not just the outward appearance that's changed: on the inside, Apple has had to completely rethink the thermal architecture in order to house the new components. The result is a new fan system that offers a claimed 80 percent increase in cooling capacity. Apple says the new system "allows for upgraded internals without making more noise".
A company spokesperson added: "We reengineered the whole system and designed an entirely new thermal architecture to pack extraordinary performance into the elegant, quiet iMac enclosure our customers love. iMac Pro is a huge step forward and there's never been anything like it."
Let's take a look under the hood. Here are the tech specs of the 2017 iMac Pro.
Display - 5K, but not a touchscreen
The 27in iMac Pro will still offer 5,120x2,880 resolution 5K Retina display, like its non-Pro cousin.
As for whether the iMac display will double up as a touchscreen, the answer is no.
Back at the April briefing, Phil Schiller was asked about whether Apple would consider adding a touchscreen display to the iMac. His response was simple: "No". His colleague Craig Federighi suggested that the iPad Pro offers a far better drawing experience.
Could Apple be planning to increase the pixels of the new iMac Pro display? Or could the new iMac Pro be available in a size larger than 27-inch? We think that there could be a market for either option.
The company has revealed that it is intending to launch a new display to sell alongside it's Mac Pro, this new display could be even better than the Retina displays on the iMac, perhaps even offering 8K. Read more about the new Apple Display here.
The new iMac Pro will ship with 8-, 10- or 18-core Xeon processors making it the "most powerful Mac ever made". Apple describes this as "workstation-class performance", noting the 22 teraflops of GPU performance, fast storage and Advanced I/O.
Xeon chips are better suited to applications involving complex data - such as large, multi-layered Photoshop files, 4K video or 3D scenes with huge textures - as they are generally more robust and reliable than Core chips. They can also use ECC (error-correcting code) RAM, which can prevent errors that could, for example, crash your computer during a long render, explain our colleagues at Digital Arts.
During the keynote Apple talked often of machine learning and other high performance uses, in a bid to emphasis the pro nature of this machine.
Apple hasn't actually confirmed the exact processor that it'll be using in the iMac Pro, but according to blog Pike's Universum, it'll boast Intel's Xeon Purley processors.
Pikes Universum found this information within the macOS High Sierra developer beta. Firmware files within the beta reference Intel's server-class LGA3647 socket rather than the desktop-class LGA2066 socket. The 3647 socket is the one used by the Purley chips.
In July Intel revealed details of 50 Xeon chips including these most likely contenders for the iMac Pro:
- 6134 (an 8-core, 3.2GHz chip, 3.7GHz Turbo Boost)
- 6144 (an 8-core, 3.5GHz chip, 4.2GHz Turbo Boost)
- 6150 (an 18-core 2.7GHz chip, 3.7GHz Turbo Boost)
- 6154 (an 18-core 3.0GHz chip, 3.7GHz Turbo Boost)
However, these chips doesn't match the specs Apple revealed in the WWDC keynote. Apple said that the iMac Pro would offer 18-cores and run to 4.5GHz with Turbo Boost but the most powerful Purley chip revealed by Intel maxes out at 4.2GBz with Turbo Boost, according to Mac Rumours.
The most likely explaination is that Intel hasn't yet announced the relevant Purley chips yet. Another possibility is that Apple will use the next generation of Xeon chips in the iMac Pro. Cascade Lake is set to follow Purley, but it's not expected until 2018, which might mean Apple would miss it's deadline of 2017.
Reports also also suggests that the iMac Pro will have Secure Enclave, which means it could have an ARM coprocessor for additional security like the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar already has. In theory the security aspects of this would allow the addition of Touch ID capabilities for the iMac Pro, using a (so far unannounced) peripheral accessory, but that's pure speculation at this point.
The iMac Pro will offer 32GB ECC memory as standard, but will be configurable to 64GB or 128GB, according to Apple.
The iMac Pro will offer a 1TB SSD as standard, but is configurable to up to 4TB SSD.
The iMac Pro will offer "advanced graphics editing", according to Apple, mentioning such uses as virtual reality content creation and real-time 3D rendering.
The iMac Pro will ship with the just unveiled Radeon RX Vega graphics card with offers up to 16GB on-package high-bandwidth memory. This is the most advanced graphics ever in a Mac and it will delivers up to an 11 teraflops of single-precision compute power for real-time 3D rendering and immersive, high-framerate VR, says Apple.
In comparison, the top-of-the-range 27in iMac offers 8GB video memory with the Radeon Pro 580.
AMD Is now rolling out the Radeon Vega 56 and 64 graphics cards.
During the keynote at WWDC, Apple went to lengths to demonstrate its eagerness to join the VR revolution. Read more: How to use VR on a Mac
The iMac Pro will boast 10Gb Ethernet, available on a Mac for the first time, and offering up to 10 times faster networking. You'll also find four Thunderbolt 3.0 ports.
The latter will enable it to power two additional 5K displays or connect to up to two high-performance RAID arrays.
The new iMac Pro will ship with a Space Grey keyboard and trackpad to match its darker design.
How much will the iMac Pro cost?
The iMac Pro starts at $4,999/£4,949. That may sound a lot (and is!), but Apple claims that if you built a PC equivalent it would cost $7,000 without the display.
Another price comparison that's a little closer to home: if you add all the build-to-order options to the top-of-the-range 27in standard iMac it tops out at £4,949... In this case, you might prefer to wait for the new machine to launch.
But, of course, it's important to remember that the £4,949 figure is just a starting price. ZDNet has estimated that a full-spec build-to-order iMac Pro with an 18-core CPU, 128GB RAM, 4TB SSD and Radeon Pro Vega graphics with 16GB HBM2 memory could cost more than £17,000!
When is the iMac Pro coming out?
The iMac Pro is scheduled to ship in December; Apple hasn't been any more specific than that, but we'll let you know if we hear any rumours on the grapevine.
Hopefully it won't be delayed like the Mac Pro was; in that case it was supposed to be available in December but shipping slipped to January and in some cases February and beyond.