iMac Pro: iMac First, Pro Next - The360 Technology

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  • Wednesday, December 25, 2019

    iMac Pro: iMac First, Pro Next

    iMac Pro: iMac First, Pro Next

    While waiting for a renewal of the Mac Pro, Apple has tried to fit a professional machine in the body of an iMac to give birth to the iMac Pro. A bold and relatively new choice on the market, which oscillates between the superb and the inadequate.


    In the absence of renewal of the Mac Pro, whose latest edition "champagne bucket" is currently stuck in 2013, Apple had to find a way to make his Pro customers wait. The brand was split at the end of 2107 of an iMac Pro. A machine definitely intended for the professionals with the characteristics and the prices in adequacy certainly.

    But as the name suggests, it takes the "form factor" of the iMac, which is not really present as it is a reference in the market of fixed computers. And that's probably what makes the iMac Pro, a machine so special: having managed to offer such performance in such a fine setting. There is no equivalent today on the market, no one has found such a beautiful compromise between performance and design. Apple's engineers are clearly overwhelmed, but is it a good strategy? This is what we will see in this test.

    Our test configuration

    Before going into the heart of the matter, here is the configuration of our test machine:
    • Intel Xeon W with 10 cores at 3 GHz (4.5 Turbo)
    • 128 GB of DDR4 RAM
    • Radeon Pro Vega 64
    • 2 TB SSD


    So we received a higher range version, billed a little over 11,000 euros at Apple. The basic configuration (8 cores @ 3.2 GHz, 32 GB, Vega 56, 1 TB) will cost you 5 499 euros, while the 'ultimate' version (18 cores @ 2.3 GHz, 128 GB, Vega 64, 4 TB) will relieve you of 15 300 euros approximately.

    Sidery Gray

    Externally, the iMac Pro is an iMac, it takes all the physical finery with one exception, it is now "gray sidereal". This is the color "Pro" Apple, which is also found on the MacBook Pro. The object is still superb on a desk and we always take pleasure to watch it. On the other hand, the iMac Pro also inherits the ergonomic defects of the iMac...

    That is to say, a remote connector at the back of the machine. It is already boring consumer computers, and it is even more in the context of a professional use that multiplies the device connections. Photographers will probably find it quickly enough tiring to have to twist to insert the SD card in its location. But we applaud Apple for the presence of a complete connectivity, unlike portable machines.

    It's obviously nicer to have the ports in the back, but on a pro machine, maybe it would have been better to think about its... target. And if really, Apple did not want to touch the aesthetic, we could imagine ports deported via a Thunderbolt dock for example. In short, the iMac Pro is an iMac, with its qualities and defects.

    Beautiful slab but already seen

    We find on the iMac Pro the same 27 inch "5K" slab of the consumer version, we know its qualities, and it is still pleasant to use on a daily basis. Retina tile requires, this definition is used to offer the appearance "Retina", which corresponds to a "useful" surface of 2560 x 1440. The pro will also appreciate being able to work on a larger work area, which can mount up to 3200 x 1800 by selecting this mode in the settings, but we will obviously lose finesse.

    On the other hand, at a time when the market tends to offer borders reduced to their strict minimum we may regret the largesse of Apple. Since the brand has just taken back the screen of iMac Retina... we find very wide borders that are now a little stain. It's a shame on such a high-end machine. In the same vein, the brilliant slab can also be debated on a pro machine, we would have liked to be offered an option for a matt slab that professionals appreciate more willingly.

    A GPU problem

    With this iMac Pro we feel that Apple has especially put the package on the bowels of the object. And what guts! Between a processor that can mount up to 18 cores, 128 GB of RAM and even 4 TB of SSD, the configuration is at least high-end. But Apple seems to have forgotten a significant component: the GPU. It will be necessary to be content with GPU higher range certainly, but not frankly sized for such a screen, and especially "downclocked" compared to desktop models. A choice imposed by the factor form of the iMac Pro.

    Two problems actually intersect on this iMac Pro. The first relates to the processor. On paper, difficult to do better in terms of arithmetic performance, so it's no surprise that all uses using the CPU are simply bluffing speed, we managed to read 8K streams without saccade on Final Cut (in performance mode), to render on Blender in record time, for example.

    These apps support at least 10 cores. However, as Mac4ever notes, this is not necessarily the case for 18 cores. Before you invest, you'll have to make sure that your favorite applications can take advantage of the entire processor. This is all the more true as the number of hearts increases, the more frequencies fall. It should be noted, however, that our decarbonated model appears to be a good compromise. During our tests, mainly on Premiere, Final Cut and Blender, we noticed however a wise use of the whole chip.

    The second is related to the GPU, since the applications use more and more the power of the graphics card to perform various tasks, the Vega will be found from time to time be a bottleneck. We really would have preferred that Apple offers optional GPUs signed Nvidia better than what AMD offers, we think in particular the 1080 Ti or Titan X (Pascal), available at the time of the release of the iMac Pro. This weakness will be felt in 3D modeling applications, annoying for a pro machine. And at stake, less troublesome on a pro machine.

    Breathtaking fan

    Apple has long praised the heat dissipation of the iMac Pro, and one understands them since the fan is completely inaudible almost all the time, including during complex video editing. This is a beautiful feat, which will also please the sound engineers who more than others need silence. Even if you use 100% of the processor for a long time, the iMac Pro will only need a few seconds of fan, just to drop the temperature in the way and with a little bit of throttling. During our tests, the frequencies never fell below the advertised 3 GHz, even after 20 minutes of rendering under Blender using 100% of the processor.

    You will however guessed by reading the lines above, as soon as we will spend on 3D, the blower will start, and this time without stopping. That being said, if in the latter case, the fans are audible, the noise remains quite modest, and will be covered by your colleagues discussing in the open space.

    The theory of non-evolution

    Indisputably an extremely powerful workstation at the time of its release, it is unfortunately frozen in time. The iMac Pro is an iMac, so it is not scalable. Or almost not. You can only change one component: the RAM, since it is not soldered to the motherboard. However, it is not easy to access, Apple has not planned a hatch for this purpose. It will therefore disassemble the machine, which can only be done in the Apple Store, except to make a cross on the manufacturer's warranty.

    For the rest, it's niet. It is therefore impossible to change the processor or graphics card. A lack of scalability already criticized (and criticized) on all recent Apple machines, and is even more on a product for professionals. Once again, the firm has sacrificed scalability on the altar of design, and that's a shame. As long as Apple has not renewed its Mac Pro, it will always miss something in the range.

    Waiting for the Mac Pro

    So this is ultimately what emerges from this iMac Pro. Yes the machine is beautiful, yes it is powerful - at least on its processor part - and yes it's a real pleasure to use it on a daily basis. But ultimately, it appears primarily as a surviving iMac rather than a truly versatile machine that can accommodate a wide range of professional uses and is truly thought for.

    To summarize, if you are editor or photographer using the solutions of Apple or Adobe you will find your happiness. If you ask a lot for your GPU, go your way. The iMac Pro will have neither the basic graphics power nor the ability to adjust to your needs over time. For this, it will be necessary to wait for a renewal of the Mac Pro... not before 2019 according to Apple.

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