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More about 2019 Mac Pro vs iMac 5K vs iMac Pro...

2017 iMac Pro: Power Usage (Watts)

2017 iMac Pro

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Power usage is of little concern to most users, but a few years ago here in California I was hitting $0.498 per kWh, which became quite painful, with electric bills soaring to $450/month. Rates are down temporarily, but due to rise sharply again in a few years. I cannot install solar because it would require a new $40K roof, making solar about a 100-year ROI—and solar panels are over and done by 30 years.

Mobile usage

My main concern is this: I swap my 2017 iMac 5K from my home office into my Mercedes Sprinter photography adventure van. In the van all computing equipment is powered by a a 5 kW lithium iron phosphate battery (doubling that to 10 kW in Feb 2018).

Power consumption is always a consideration in the van, particularly at computer idle (which is nearly all the time using the computer, e.g., when composing articles, reading email or web sites, comparing images, etc). Ditto for sleep mode. For mobile use as I use it, ramping up baseline power usage by 50% or so (see below) is an unattractive feature of the iMac Pro. On the other hand, with 10 kW onboard I can probably just ignore the issue since 10 kW is good for 40 hours or so of usage, even with a NEC PA302W professional wide gamut 30" display also attached.

Still, the computer is not the only power draw and it all adds up. In cold conditions, the power consumed turns into heat and that is a benefit. In summer at 90°F, that’s not so hot.

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Power usage

The iMac Pro is power hungry as compared to the fastest 2017 iMac 5K.

Full CPU usage power draw is hardly relevant—one wants everything humming along as fast as it will go for intensive processing (even then, computing power per watt is mediocre with the iMac Pro, as shown by the various tests).

As for myself, the time spent at full load is a tiny fraction of my usage, and thus power usage under full load is irrelevant for me.

The key figures for me (even at home*) are power usage while idle and for sleep mode:

  • In sleep mode, the iMac Pro goggles up more than 4X the power—a “vampire” device best shut down overnight (6.3W X 12 hours = .075 kWh X 30 days = 2.25 kW per month). The 2017 iMac 5K cuts that down to about 0.5 kW per month.
  • At idle, the iMac Pro gobbles up 45% more power with the screen at 75% brightness, which is my preferred brightness in most cases, and a whopping 75% more power at minimum brightness.

* Context is always best: here as I write this at home in the winter, I am running a 1.5 kW electric space heater since the family cannot agree on the house temperature, and my office tends to be colder than the rest of the house. So in winter the iMac Pro power consumption is not necessarily a waste, in proper context. But summer is another story (no air conditioning).

The iMac Pro is not an eco-friendly machine as compared to even the fastest 2017 iMac 5K.

Of course the iMac Pro is in theory designed for heavy usage and thus idling it is ostensibly silly. But in practice Photoshop users are idle most of the time, running commands sporadically relative to the time spent studying an image or similar. Video users and 3D/VR are much more likely to push the iMac Pro hard, but even they have human-interaction idle time. And what about sleeping a dozen iMac Pros overnight in a workgroup? Very eco-unfriendly versus shutting them down.

The iMac Pro is far less desirable for my mobile use, draining the battery in my Mercedes Sprinter photography adventure van at a much higher clip than the 2017 iMac 5K. The 18 CPU core model sucks up dramatically more power than the iMac 5K, and significantly more power than the 10-core iMac Pro.

Power usage measured with the YOUTHINK Electricity Usage Monitor Power Meter Plug Home Energy Watt Volt Amps KWH Consumption Analyzer.

Power draw in watts for 2017 iMac Pro vs 2017 iMac 5K
Power draw in watts for 2017 iMac Pro vs 2017 iMac 5K
2017 iMac Pro

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