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Will the iMac Pro Be Worth The Cost?

In theory the Apple iMac Pro will be out about 3 months from now.

See also Assessing the Dec 2017 Apple iMac Pro.

Right now, the best 2017 iMac 5K with 1TB SSD is $200 off at B&H Photo at about half the price of the most basic iMac Pro (see all the deals on Apple desktop Macs). That “best” presumes an upgrade to 32GB or 64GB of memory. Even better (and also $200 off) is the best 2017 iMac 5K with 2TB SSD.

What do you get for the extra $2200 of an iMac Pro over the 2017 iMac 5K, and does it matter to most users?

  • Choice of 8 or 10 or 18 core CPU. Even for my work, 8 cores is going to do little to speed up my work unless there are other jobs running at the same time. And the lower clock speed might actually make it inferior to the 2017 iMac 5K since the most time wasting part of my work usually does not hit more then 3 cores due to Photoshop limitations. My instinct on this for *my* workflow is that 8 cores will be enough. But there is reduced bandwidth (apparently) for the 8 core CPU, so that pushes me to the 10 core, and that will probably be another $500 or $1000.
  • Up to 128GB of ECC memory. ECC memory is important in some cases, but for most users it offers no benefit. For my uses 64GB is enough and the 2017 iMac 5K already offers that. So the ECC memory is the advantage for me, but not a compelling one.
  • Faster GPU. This is a win for Photoshop presumably, but quite possibly the real world Photoshop performance gains will be fractional for my work, so it’s no clear win until I actually see what actually happens in real world work.
  • Display is apparently no better. What a pity it isn’t at least a 6K display in a 30" form factor.
  • Support for external 4K or 5K displays is a clear win for the iMac Pro, and it might even be able to support an 8K display by using both Thunderbolt 3 busses via Multi Stream Transport. Now that is something that gets exciting, but such displays might be 1-2 years off.
  • Dual Thunderbolt 3 busses. This is a win, but maybe makes no difference in my everyday workflow and imparts hassles like not being able to directly connect a Mini DisplayPort display like my NEC PA302W.

There you have it—no clear win that I can see. To add a small insult to injury, Apple has discontinued the full size keyboard and changed the position of the control keys on the toy wireless keyboard, breaking years of “finger training” for me.

All that said, I might actually consider the iMac Pro rather than wait for the new Mac Pro, which is still vaporware on the distant horizon. Also, dual Thunderbolt 3 busses are something very helpful for testing coming high performance peripherals.

Martin D writes:

I’m pretty sure the iMac Pro is 95% for 3D (games, video effects and VR development), and for (a rather pitiful and short-lived form of) bragging rights.

Of course, you can build a cheaper, more powerful 3D system, today, if you’re willing to use Windows, which, of course, is where most of the 3D software is anyway. The other 5% would be Xcode programmers who think it will be a comparatively helpful architecture to speed compiling.

MPG: I'll stay open to being 'sold' if 8K support is possible and when I test one and see if it outperforms for my actual real-world tasks. I’d also like a design that makes it easy to clean out dust, which the iMac Pro looks to not have, making it a non-pro machine from the outset.

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