Apple makes Macs great again with iMac Pro

In what may turn out to be this year’s most significant news for Mac users, Apple's powerful iMac Pro will be “available to order” starting Dec. 14.

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In what may turn out to be this year’s most significant news for Mac users, Apple managed to squeeze one more product release into the year this side of Christmas, confirming that its iMac Pro will be “available to order” starting Dec. 14.

An iMac — with superpowers

On first glance, the new iMac Pro looks like any other iMac, apart from its distinctive grey (Apple calls this "Space Grey") chassis.

Inside the system is a lot more powerful, a tangible articulation of Apple’s promise to deliver something nice for Mac users while we wait on the next-generation Mac Pro.

Announced in June, the company claims the new iMac Pro is: “Packed with the most staggeringly powerful collection of workstation-class graphics, processors, storage, memory, and I/O of any Mac ever.”

The iMac Pro is the most powerful Mac ever — at least it will be until Apple ships the Mac Pro next year.

Earlier this year we saw some leaked Geekbench figures that indicated massive performance gains, even in comparison with top-of-the-range PCs. Apple has already promised will exceed 22 Teraflops of GPU performance.

In other words, if you are in the business of high-end video creation, want to build augmented reality (AR) apps, or are involved in music, CAD or any other form of professional digital creative expression, these are (for now at least) the Mac desktops you might aspire to use.

A few iMac Pro specifications

You can read everything Apple has to say about these Macs on the company website, but I’ve pulled out some of the specs below:

  • 8-, 10-, or 18-core Xeon processors
  • Turbo-boost speeds up to 4.5GHz
  • Up to 42MB cache
  • Radeon Pro Vega graphics — three times faster than a previous iMac GPU. This can fetch data at up to 400GB/sec.
  • 11 teraflops of single precision graphics performance, or 22 teraflops at half precision.
  • Up to 128GB 2,666MHz DDR4 ECC RAM
  • Up to 4TB SSD with 3GB/s throughput
  • Can drive two additional 5K monitors
  • 10Gb Ethernet
  • 27-inch Retina display

Apple has published more details here.

While these specifications are certainly exciting, the one more thing moment on these Macs will be the price.

Apple has said that the iMac Pro will cost from $4,999, meaning they are likely out of reach to many mass market Mac users. Despite which it seems inevitable that there will be many in the professional user communities who will feel able to justify the investment on the back of the powerful performance of these machines.

Here's Apple's introduction video, which you'll find all over the place this week:

A tangible commitment

With all the attention on Apple’s iOS devices, Mac users have felt a little left out in recent years. Apple eventually realized this and sent its vice president of marketing, Phil Schiller, out into the fray to apologize for the company’s lack of focus on the pro Mac markets.

“We wanna figure out how to better communicate with pros,” he said, “We understand their jobs rely on this stuff; they make important decisions about this stuff.”

Apple has certainly been thinking about what pro users need from a Mac.

This week Schiller told T3:

"One of the things we’ve learned over the last few years is the depth of love and loyalty for macOS by our pro customers. And pro is a very large term. It encompasses many different people with different needs.”

While it seems likely the price will be too high to boost mass market Mac sales, the release does provide a tangible expression of Apple’s much-needed commitment to its pro users.

I also think we’ll see the company’s high-end Macs become cheaper in the years ahead. Think about it this way: When you look at the iMac Pro you are not looking at a Mac you can’t afford to own; you are looking at the Mac we’ll all be using in a few years’ time, as component and manufacturing costs decline.

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