Apple announced their most powerful Mac at the 2017 WWDC yesterday. It's an iMac. It's the iMac Pro.
Let's look at the specs first before we talk about who this Mac is for.
- 5120 x 2880 resolution 27-inch screen
- 500 nits brightness, Wide colour (P3)
- 8, 10 to 18-cores Xeon processor
- 32GB to 128GB RAM
- 1TB to 4TB SSD
- 4x USB 3 ports (USB Type A)
- 4x Thunderbolt 3 ports (USB Type C)
- Ethernet port
- 3.5mm audio jack
- SD card slot for UHS‑II
The specs are incredible, befitting that of the Mac Pro except it's housed in an iMac.
Make no mistake, this Mac is for a very niche target group of creative professionals. It's not for digital artists, graphic designers or photographers. It's for professionals who are always starved for time. More specifically, I think it's for people who are into serious 4K video editing or 3D rendering or animation.
What's the difference between serious vs the occasional 4K editing? Take my workflow for example, I produce around twenty 4K videos for my Youtube channel. Videos are around 10 minutes long. Each 4K video takes around 1 hour or more to export with the 2013 trashcan Mac Pro quad 3.7Ghz. While the video is exporting, I can do other tasks, like writing. So it's not a big deal if it takes 1 hour to render a video. I consider myself a casual video editor who puts out video content everyday, but I'm not the target market for the iMac Pro
For creators who need to put out 4K content ASAP on a daily basis, I think the iMac Pro can save them a lot of time. If I make eighty 4K videos a month, I would have no hesitation getting that iMac. If you're someone who can leave your video to render overnight, then this is perhaps not the Mac for you. Because if you sleep 6 hours, you can export 60 minutes of video (depending on the settings of course).
For those in 3D animation or modeling, it can really save a lot of time if your workflow involves repetitive rendering and checking.
One concern I have is how are the processors utilized. I can't confirm but when I export videos with Final Cut Pro, my internet connection would often slow down to a crawl for some reason. When the export is done, or when I cancel the export, the internet connect goes back to normal.
Other concern is the heat. Be prepared for the iMac Pro to get really hot. How hot? Hot-until-it's-a-bit-unbearable-to-put-your-hands-on-it kind of hot. My Mac Pro is already unbearably hot when exporting videos, I'm pretty sure the iMac Pro will be as hot. I'm just not sure how the heat is going to affect the components in the iMac. Regardless of how Apple is marketing their ventilation system, when you're exporting videos, it's gonna get very hot. When I'm concerned about is how it would affect the lifespan of the screen.
Talking about the screen, I've never been a big fan of built-in all-in-one systems. I've seen a lot of designers use iMac. They are powerful and save a lot of space, but you have to take into account of what's going to happen when your system breaks down.
I have the 2010 Mac Pro and the 2013 Mac Pro. I've them breaking down before. When my 2010 Mac Pro broke down, I had days of downtime. When my 2013 Mac Pro broke down I had zero downtime because I had a backup Mac (a 2.6Ghz quad-core Mac Mini 2012).
If you're a creative professional who needs to put out work daily, would you place your bet on a Mac that when it's not working, will cost you days of downtime? I guess if you can spend USD $5,000 on the entry level iMac Pro, you may have extra money to spend on backup systems as well. I'm not a serious video editor and I have a backup system to ensure zero downtime. If you're a serious video editor, you need to have a workflow that can guarantee zero downtime too.
You see, the beauty having the screen and computer separate is, when the screen is down, you can go down straight to the electronics store and pick up a monitor straightaway. When the computer is down, you can connect your backup to the monitor and get back to work straightaway. If this iMac is down, there's no way to get back to work straightaway unless you have another spare iMac, or a computer with screen. Can you imagine how many days it will take to repair the iMac Pro? Can you afford the downtime?
By the way, I've sent in my 2013 Mac Pro for servicing for quite a few times. It's a Mac OS problem that keeps crashing the system. During all those times when the Mac Pro was at the service centre, I was still able to work because I had a backup system.
So yeah, the iMac Pro may be powerful, but it's really a niche product targeted at the most demanding creative professionals. The most significant downside is what would happen when the iMac Pro breaks down --- because we all know bad things can happen anytime.
The iMac is also a good indication of where the Mac Pro is going. I'm confident that the Mac Pro entry level will feature almost similar specs, and will probably be sold at the same price, except without the screen.
I've seen some reviews saying that this is a stop gap for creators who are waiting for the Mac Pro. If you have waited so long, why not wait a bit longer for 2018 when the new Mac Pros are out?
If you happen to get the iMac Pro, I would love to hear about your workflow and what you think.