Apple started to sell the iMac Pro in December 2017 - more than two years ago, but it first introduced the iMac Pro at WWDC 2017. Three years on - and with the arrival of the Mac Pro in December 2019 - you might be thinking that the iMac Pro has been forgotten - or even worse: that Apple might discontinue the iMac Pro!
Well it looks like there could be new iMac Pro in 2020 - but it might not arrive until much later in the year. More on those reports below.
On 10 November, Apple unveiled three new Macs, powered by its M1 chip. The new MacBook Air, 13in MacBook Pro and Mac mini all boast the M1 chip that Apple claims can deliver up to 3.5x faster CPU, 6x faster GPU and 15x faster machine learning capabilities.
"M1 is by far the most powerful chip we've ever created," said Apple CEO Tim Cook. This is the chip (or at least a variation of the chip) we're expecting to come to iMac Pro soon, but the 10 November event itself did not house an iMac Pro announcement.
What is the iMac Pro and that's the point of it?
The iMac Pro was the first new creative pro-focused product to arrive after Apple's admission in April 2017 that it had let its dedication to creative pros slide. The company promised that it would launch an iMac Pro that year, and then later on a Mac Pro and a dedicated display.
The iMac Pro arrived at the end of 2017 and it was an impressive beast. It offers Intel's Xeon W processors (8-cores as standard, but up to 18-cores), more RAM (32GB as standard, up to 256GB) and better graphics (Radeon Pro Vega 56 as standard). The iMac Pro price starts at £4,899/$4,999.
However, as impressive as the iMac Pro was when it launched back in 2017, since its arrival the standard iMac has become even more powerful - closing the gap between the standard and pro machines.
There are currently various build to order options for the iMac that include 64GB RAM, a Radeon Pro Vega card, 2TB SSD, and the option of a 9th-generation 3.6GHz 8-core Intel i9 processor. If you maxed out your iMac with build-to-order your new iMac would cost £4,544/$4,849. (These specs are just the March 2019 iMac, should Apple update the iMac again then the gap will close even more.)
While the iMac is nipping at the iMac Pro's tail from one side we have the new Mac Pro at the other end. The Mac Pro starts at £5,499/$5,999 - which isn't that different to the price of the iMac Pro - although the latter does at least include a display.
On that basis, is there any need for the iMac Pro? We think there is. The iMac Pro caters for a group of people who need the ultimate machine, but don't need the Mac Pro. It's seems that Apple recognises this, if the rumours about a new iMac Pro coming later in 2020 are true.
What can we expect from the next update to the iMac Pro? Read on to find out.
iMac Pro 2 Release date
In a note to investors at the beginning of March 2020, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said in an investor note that he expects Apple to release an updated version of the iMac Pro in Q4 2020.
Impatient iMac Pro fans may wonder why they have had to wait so long. One reason may be due to the fact that, as Kuo indicated, Apple is planning to use a new technology for the display. The iMac Pro and various other new products are expected to feature a mini-LED backlit display, according to Kuo. More on those plans below.
Another reason for the delay could be the wait times for Intel's next generation of Xeon W processors. However, those chips are available: Intel rolled out a number of new Cascade Lake Xeon W processors in 2019. We have more on Intel's Cascade Lake W chips below. Perhaps Apple is holding out for the Ice Lake W chips instead.
There may be more changes coming to the display. We believe that Apple intends to increase the screen size of the iMac, and the iMac Pro might be the first to see the new look, read about what we expect from the 2020 iMac here.
iMac Pro 2 Price
The iMac Pro price currently starts at £4,899/$4,999.
It is likely that the UK price of the iMac Pro will adjust due to inflation, and as we anticipate the iMac prices will also. As a result it is likely that the UK price of the new machine will be £4,999. The US price will probably remain the same.
That might seem like a high price, but when you consider that the current top-of-the-range 27in iMac can be specced-up with an 8-core 3.6GHz 9th-gen processor and other pro-focused features to the tune of £4,544/$4,849, there are two similarly priced machines aimed at a similar audience.
And the price comparisons don't stop there. The entry-level Mac Pro, starts at £5,499/$5,999. Apple may choose to further differentiate the prices of these three Macs by dropping the iMac Pro price slightly, but it is unlikely.
iMac Pro 2: Design
When it launched in 2017 the only outward design change for the iMac Pro was the Space Grey colour and this is unlikely to change.
The 2017 iMac Pro might have maintained the iMac look, but Apple made changes to the inside. These changes helped accommodate a cooling system that included a high-capacity heat sink and extra venting to allow 75% more airflow and an 80% increase in thermal capacity, as well as using 67% less power than the standard 27in iMac.
That was quite a feat, and we think that the iMac Pro is unlikely to receive a redesign so soon after it launched (especially as Apple hasn't yet redesigned the standard iMac).
However, with Apple having reduced the bezels on the MacBook Air, iPhone and iPad in the last few years, we think it's time that Apple reduced the bezels of the iMac Pro. It's feasible that we could see a 30in display on a similarly sized iMac if Apple did reduce the bezels.
iMac Pro 2: Screen
As we mentioned above, Apple is said to be planning to use a Mini-LED display for the new iMac Pro.
The rumour comes from reputable Apple analyst Ming Chi Kuo. Kuo thinks Apple wants to use Mini-LED rather than OLED for its displays because it offers the benefits of OLED (such as a wide color gamut and localized dimming, without problems like OLED burn in).
However, Kuo has adjucted his prediction about Apple's use of Mini-LED since he made his initial forcast in March 2020. As of May 2020 Kuo is suggesting that the COVID-19 pandemic could result in delayed adoption of the technology. This could push the release to 2021.
Speaking of the display, the company could also look towards upping the pixel count of the iMac Pro's 5K display.
When the company unveiled the new Mac Pro it also unveiled a new Apple Display. The Pro Display XDR is 32in and offers 6K (6016 x 3384) resolution. Apple's XDR 6K Display also features a lot of other impressive tech, along with an astonishingly high price of $4,999.
The current iMac Pro has the same 5K, 5,120 x 2,880-pixel resolution screen as that on the current iMac. It’s a great screen but there is room for improvement. Just by reducing the bezels Apple could increase the size of the screen without the dimensions of the iMac changing. With many pro-focused monitors bigger than 30in the 27in iMac's screen is small by comparison.
Looking at some of the monitors on the market, there are a couple of areas where we could see change.
The current model offers 500 nits. Nits is a measurement of brightness. Apple's Pro Display XDR can put out an impressive 1,000 nits of sustained brightness.
Even HP’s Book Studio x360 has a 600-nit display and Dell’s Ultrathin 24-inch and 27-inch monitors also offer 600 nits.
Those HP and Dell displays also offer 85% DCI-P3 coverage. Since 2015 Apple has supported P3 wide-gamut colour space, which is an RGB colour space developed for the movie industry. Apple’s Display P3 is a little different to the movie industry’s DCI-P3.
Some critics of P3 complain that it is smaller than Adobe RGB in the cyan and green area so it covers less of typical CMYK printer colour spaces.
The Dell Precision 5530 manages to cover 100% of Adobe RGB, apparently.
Adobe RGB has been the de facto standard for a long time - but many also consider sRGB (standard RGB) to be sufficient, and Apple’s displays already exceed the colour gamut of sRGB.
Another area where we could see improvements is in 10-bit. Apple’s iMac Pro screen supports 10-bit spatial and temporal dithering - which means that despite being an 8-bit monitor, it is able to display 10-bit colour by switching some pixels very very quickly.
The Dell Precision 5530 claims to support true 10-bit colour, while Apple's own Pro Display XDR offers 10-bit colour.
The current iMac Pro uses the Xeon W-200 series, based on the 14nm Skylake server microarchitecture and using the Purley platform.
2017 models are as follows:
- 8-core 3.2GHz Intel Xeon W (TB 4.2GHz) 19MB cache (Xeon W-2140B)
- 10-core 3.0GHz Intel Xeon W (TB 4.5GHz) 23.75MB cache (Xeon W-2150B)
- 14-core 2.5GHz Intel Xeon W (TB 4.3GHz) 33.25MB cache (Xeon W-2170B)
- 18-core 2.3GHz Intel Xeon W (TB 4.3GHz) 42.75MB cache (Xeon W-2191B)
The Xeon W family replaced the Xeon E5 which features in the current Mac Pro. Xeon was a new brand for workstation-class processors that sit between server and consumer use.
Looking to the future, the Skylake versions of the Xeon W family will be succeeded by Xeon W processors based on the Cascade Lake 14nm microarchitecture. The Cascade Lake Xeon W was expected to be released in mid-2018 - however, it was delayed until 2019. Like Skylake, Cascade Lake based on the Purley platform.
At the beginning of May 2019 details of these new Cascade Lake processors were leaked in a Chinese webforum, via Tom's Hardware.
The details include the name: Intel Xeon W-3275. They have up to 28 cores and 56 threads. The maximum frequency is 4.6GHz with 38.5 L3 Cache. The line up should look something like this:
- Intel Xeon W-3275, 28 cores, 4.6GHz
- Intel Xeon W-3265, 24 cores, 4.4GHz
- Intel Xeon W-3245, 16 cores, 4.4GHz
- Intel Xeon W-3235, 12 cores, 4.4GHz
- Intel Xeon W-3225, 8 cores, 4.3GHz
- Intel Xeon W-3223, 8 cores, 4.0GHz
The W-2200 Cascade Lake-X Xeon processor is another contender. These were available from November 2019. These offer clock speeds of up to 4.8GHz and 18 cores and 36 threads.
- Intel Xeon W-2295, 18 cores, 4.8GHz
- Intel Xeon W-2275, 14 cores, 4.8GHz
- Intel Xeon W-2265, 12 cores, 4.8GHz
- Intel Xeon W-2255, 10 cores, 4.7GHz
- Intel Xeon W-2245, 8 cores, TBC
Following Cascade Lake W comes Ice Lake W which will use a 10 nm process and will move from the Purley platform (also known as Xeon Scalable CPUs) to the Whitley platform. These Xeons aren't expected to arrive until quarter three of 2020.
iMac Pro 2: Graphics
When it shipped in 2017 the iMac Pro had the option of the Radeon Pro Vega 56 with 8GB HBM2 memory, or the Radeon Pro Vega 64 with 16GB HBM2 memory. Apple later added the Radeon Pro Vega 64X with 16GB of HBM2 memory as an option (for an extra £630/$700).
What graphics treats could be in store for the next version of the iMac Pro?
A possible contender for the new iMac Pro include the Radeon Pro Vega II or the Radeon Pro Vega II Duo.
iMac Pro 2: RAM
The new Cascade Lake Xeon W processors mentioned above will also bring changes to the RAM in the next generation of the iMac Pro.
The Cascade Lake Xeon W will add support for DDR-T Optane DIMMs and 2933 MT/s DDR4 (up from 2666 MT/s).
Intel has already announced that Optane DIMMs are arriving in the second half of 2018.
Optane DIMMs will:
- Bring increased memory density
- Be as fast as DDR4 memory
- Be able to retain information without power
Traditionally you couldn’t have one without the other, it was a case of using slower NAND for data retention, or DRAM for speed.
The current iMac Pro line up offers:
- 32GB of 2666MHz DDR4 ECC memory
- 64GB of 2666MHz DDR4 ECC memory
- 128GB of 2666MHz DDR4 ECC memory
We'll update this article as soon as we learn more about the future components of the iMac Pro.
For more information about what Apple will launch in 2021 read: New Apple products guide to what's coming out in 2021