iMac Pro review: performance overkill with a price to match

For the Mac faithful, the iMac Pro is Apple’s most important product in years. The lack of updates to 2013’s “Trashcan” Mac Pro convinced many in the community that Apple had all but given up on the Mac, and certainly the pro market. This narrative was so powerful, it dominated podcast discussions for the last year and spilled over, unfairly, into reviews of Apple’s more recent laptops.

So disgruntled were Apple’s biggest fans, the company was forced to do something it never does; speak to the press about unreleased products. , Apple organised a briefing with its favourite journalists to explain the Mac Pro wasnt dead and that there would be not one but two workstation class Macs in the near future.

The first of these is the iMac Pro, a computer I’ve been trying my hardest to break for the last week.

The iMac Pro is a remarkable machine. It’s footprint no bigger than the standard 27″ iMac but its insides are crammed with a lightning fast 2TB SSD, 128GB of DDR4 RAM, a 10-core Intel Xeon CPU, and a Radeon Pro Vega 64 GPU.

Specs like these are overkill for almost everyone, myself included, but video editors, software developers, and researchers working with massive datasets will immediately see benefits.

Racing the iMac Pro against a top of the line iMac, the Pro was at least twice as fast in day-to-day tasks — and absolutely destroyed the iMac when it came to moving large files around — or when using software like Final Cut Pro X or DaVinci Resolve, software tuned to take advantage of the GPU inside the case.

All week long I’ve performed stress tests on the iMac Pro, and I’ve been amazed to see it shrug them off. From rendering massive 4K video projects, to building test projects in Xcode, to editing multiple layers of gigantic Photoshop files, I wasn’t able to get the fans inside the iMac Pro to spin up. The machine is eerily silent under enormous stress.

At one point I had three separate virtual machines running, all performing the kind of tasks that would grind a standard iMac to a halt, and only then did I hear the fans spin up. And even then, the fans were barely audible.

With a starting price of $7299, the iMac Pro is ridiculously expensive, but for workstation components wrapped inside that gorgeous 5K Retina screen, it’s actually good value.

The all-in-one design will not suit every power user’s needs, and those wanting a long-term Mac they can upgrade might be better to hold off for the modular Mac Pro, although when we’ll see that is anyone’s guess. I’m not sure this is an issue, as most enterprise customers purchase computers on a three year cycle and this Mac should comfortably last three years as a powerhouse machine.

Of course most organisations will struggle to justify the price, and most users will struggle to even take advantage of a Mac like this. But those who balk at the price might want to consider how much they compensate their software developers, designers or editors per hour, and consider how much faster this computer has the potential to make them.

The iMac Pro will make most sense in edit suites, university labs, and open plan offices stuffed with developers, environments that need the most powerful Mac available in a silent body. But I’m sure the odd C-level executive will feel the need to have one too.

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