The iMac Pro was promised at a briefing in April 2017 but there was a long wait before it was finally on sale - it arrived just days before the end of 2017 on 14 December.
It's a Space Grey beast of a machine with an 8-core 3.2GHz Intel Xeon W processor as standard that can turbo boost to 4.2GHz (build-to-order options go up to 18-cores), and it has won rave reviews. However, with the 2019 iMac (reviewed here) now maxing out with 8-cores of processing power and a new Mac Pro in the pipeline for 2019, what can we expect from the next update to the iMac Pro? Read on to find out.
iMac Pro 2 Release date
We are assuming that Apple will be using Intel's next generation of Xeon W processors in the new iMac Pro - Cascade Lake W chips. Intel rolled out a number of new Cascade Lake Xeon processors at the beginning of April 2019, however, this latest generation of Xeon processors don't yet feature a W model. This could be because Intel is keeping those processors back until Apple makes its own announcement, or it might be that they aren't ready yet.
But they might be soon, on 7 May the specifications of Intel's new Cascade Lake W processors were leaked. More on that below.
We are fully expecting that Apple will soon launch a new iMac Pro with Cascade Lake W chips.
There is a potential reason why Apple might keep back a iMac Pro announcement until later in the year. Apple has just launched the Mac Pro at WWDC 2019.
iMac Pro 2 Price
The iMac Pro price currently starts at £4,899/£4,999. We think that this is unlikely to change, but it’s not out of the question.
It does seem like a lot of money to pay, but when you consider that the current top-of-the-range 27in iMac with 3.7GHz 6-core processor costs £2,249/$2,299 (although it can be specced up with an 8-core 3.6GHz processor and other pro-focused features to the tune of £4,904/$5,249), it does seem to be in line with that. You can buy one here.
There could be some change to the price if the pricing if the Mac Pro is significantly different when the new model launches, however.
The Mac Pro currently starts at £2,999/$2,999. Obviously the current price reflects the fact that the Mac Pro hasn’t been updated since it launched in 2013. It’s likely that when Apple launches the promised update to the pro Mac it will bump up the price, and at the same time the price of the iMac Pro could go down.
iMac Pro 2 Design
The 2017 iMac Pro maintained the iMac look, while changing the inside to accommodate a cooling system which 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. The company could also look towards upping the pixel count to 6K. This might make sense if Apple also unveils a 6K display as rumoured.
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.
iMac Pro 2 Screen
The current iMac Pro has the same 5K screen as that on the current iMac. It’s an 5,120 x 2,880-pixel resolution screen, and it’s pretty good. Is there room for improvement? Of course. As we said above - Apple could reduce the bezels and the screen could be bigger without the dimensions of the iMac changing.
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. 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 displays also offer 85% DCI-P3 coverage.
Since 2015 Apple has supported P3 wide-gamut color space, which is an RGB color 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.
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 April 2019, Intel rolled out a number of new Cascade Lake Xeon processors. However, the W model didn't feature. As we mentioned above, this could be because Intel is keeping those processors back until Apple makes its own announcement, or it might be that they aren't ready yet.
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, TBC
- Intel Xeon W-3245, 16 cores, TBC
- Intel Xeon W-3235, 12 cores, TBC
- Intel Xeon W-3225, 8 cores, TBC
- Intel Xeon W-3223, 8 cores, TBC
The Cascade Lake Xeon W will also address Spectre and Meltdown, as well as add support for DDR-T Optane DIMMs and 2933 MT/s DDR4 (up from 2666 MT/s), more on that below.
Following Cascade Lake W will come 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 - but that won’t appear until later in 2019 or 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?
In April 2018 Dell announced that it’s new Precision 5530 workstations (coming in August 2018) would ship with Radeon Pro WX Vega M GL graphics (not to be confused with the consumer Radeon RX Vega M GL).
We’ve mentioned the Precision 5530 a couple of times already. It’s a 15in laptop, so wouldn’t necessarily be seen as a natural competitor to the iMac Pro, but it appears it is certainly one to watch.
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.