iMac Pro reviewed


First, Apple has never been interested in making Macs for gaming. The fact that they ever made any macs that could be used for gaming was purely an accidental byproduct of making macs that could do professional 3d rendering.

Second, Apple prioritizes experience first. The OS is designed from the ground up, not necessarily for ease of use, but to be more pleasant to use than WIndows or Linux. The hardware is designed to make you happy when you look at it, to be quiet and unobtrusive and be easy to set up.

When faced with a choice between making a more powerful computer or making a computer that delivers a more pleasant experience, they choose experience every time. That’s why ram in their laptops maxes out at 16gb - because Intel doesn’t make a laptop chipset that supports more than 16gb of low-power ram, and Apple has decided that a laptop that can sleep for a full month without the battery dying is an important experience feature. They’ve decided that extra thickness and extra weight kill the experience for laptops, so they fetishize making their laptops as thin ahd light as they can manage.

In their desktops, they’ve decided that a thin profile delivers a better experience. If that hampers the upgradability or repairability of their devices, too bad. They’ve decided that a quiet computer is important - even if that means it’s harder to keep the device properly cool. So you have stories of how the trashcan Mac Pro dies easily from overheating. You have computers like the Imac Pro, where the ram access door had to go in order to make it run cool and quiet.

Third, Apple under Tim Cook has their eye riveted a little too tightly to numbers in spreadsheets. If half of Apple’s religion is experience above everything else, the other half is keeping an eye on the bottom line. If it doesn’t make financial sense to pay for a redesigned form factor for the Imac Pro when you can just reuse the regular Imac industrial design, then it doesn’t get a redesign, even though that means, when you accommodate the necessary cooling to keep it from frying it’s 8-core brain, you lose the RAM upgrade door. If it doesn’t make financial sense to do a product refresh for the Mac Pro or the Mac Mini, then they don’t get a product refresh even when they are badly needed from the POV of the tiny number of customers who buy those computers.

The spreadsheet based bottom line religion is what makes Apple release computers with soldered on RAM (reduced part count reduces costs in all kinds of ways) or with only one kind of port (reducing the variety of parts saves almost as much as reducing the number of parts), They do this even when such cost cutting makes a lot of customers like yourself extremely grumpy.


Apple’s business model isn’t mysterious. Enough customers will shell out for a new phone every one to two years that annual updates are profitable. Most Apple customers would balk at buying a new iMac Pro every 24 months, so they make it neigh impossible to upgrade their laptops and desktops on purpose. That way when the Apple customer looks at their four or five year old Pro they don’t see something they can bump up the specs on, they see something they can sell for a fraction of what they paid (or hand it down to a family member), and buy another expensive Mac. Apple’s profits are doing fine, so clearly they know their market, which isn’t me.


When you take into account that the Imac Pro uses Xeon processors, AKA Intel’s stupidly expensive line of chips, the cost difference between an Imac Pro and a Dell isn’t all that much. The 5k 27": wide gamut IPS monitors cost a fortune if you buy them separately, the Xeons cost a fortune, and 1 tb of PCI-E SSD storage costs a fortune. Scads of parity RAM aren’t cheap either.

A quick Google turned up this article, in which the maxed out Imac Pro is compared to a similarly priced Dell workstation. The Dell has fewer cores and less storage, but a bigger monitor:


I’ve been a freelance motion-graphics/video person for a few years now, and the lack of a refresh in the Mac Pro line has been frustrating… I skipped the ‘trashcan’ and stuck with the ‘cheese-grater’ and was extremely happy with the lifespan of that xeon MacPro (it lasted 9 fucking years!). But, when it became clear that the MacPro refresh wasn’t coming any time soon, I bit the bullet and went all-in on a Ryzen windows machine… It wasn’t cheap either, but it is much cheaper than this iMac Pro. However, that 5k Mac screen almost makes up for the difference in cost. Still, I just couldn’t justify that kind of expense and I already had two monitors, and the lack of customization infuriates me.

Should I have opted for the consumer iMac, which is a fantastic computer with a top-notch display? I’m not sure. I think I would have been fairly happy with it and lived with the performance shortcomings when it comes to 3D work (render times anyway)… I wouldn’t be happy with the lifespan of the machine though. With my PC, I will be able to drop in new components to keep it going for many years, fingers crossed.

And I honestly don’t mind windows 10… There are many OSX features I miss, but it is surprisingly unobtrusive so far, which is the best I can hope for. I am afraid of the effects time will have on on its performance, something I never feared from the mac os… And I do admit that the threadripper was probably not worth it and I should have just gone with the cheap 8-core Ryzen and used the leftover cash to buy time on renderfarms when needed.

If they do release a true, modular Mac Pro, I might be tempted to switch back, but like @quori mentioned, I suspect the appropriate configuration will be in the $8-10k region, which is insane. If you work for a company with deep pockets, by all means, but as a freelancer, I can’t justify that price for a workstation just to get my precious Mac OS back.

Side note: biggest problem with switching to windows as a video professional: Mac doesn’t license ProRes encoding for windows!!! Fucking absurd. And for many clients, it’s the preferred delivery format, a relic of the days when everyone used FCP… So basically you can’t escape the legacy that Macs were once the tools of professionals… It’s very similar to when Apple bought the industry-standard compositing tool Shake and proceeded to let it wither and die. C’est la vie


Doing that would kill their ecosystem. You need a Mac to develop IOS software. That’s not going to change even if they open up IOS to allow coding on it, because developers like huge screens and hardware keyboards and all the other things that you cannot have on IOS. Even though the amount of money made by phones and ipads dwarfs the amount of money made from selling Macs, the Mac line is essential to the health of the entire company. And they know this. They’ve had some trouble remembering it from time to time, but they know this.


it’s funny that I do work for a company with deep pockets…seriously deep deep pockets. And you know what they give me at work to do design/development? A Lenovo thinkpad. It’s cheap as hell. If anything in it dies…they swap it out entirely for a different one for me. They buy them seemingly in the millions for a 50k plus workforce. Everyone here gets either a thinkpad or in some cases for those associates who travel extensively they get a Macbook air or iPad.

to @Glaurung I never said that I expect a mac to be a high end gaming system. What I do expect is that it is capable of playing the core of games out there. If the cpu/gpu choices they make in an imac can handle video editing and design…it should allow me to play some Heroes of the Storm or Starcraft 2. My issue is about upgradeability. And yes, you’re point is valid on their design choices around aesthetics and experience…but please read my post where I admit 10 years ago you could not get small form factor anywhere buy from Apple. Now it is a different world, and maybe Apple doesn’t care…but it is losing me as a customer, and I don’t think I am alone. I’d rather just purchase one of these which don’t cost any more or less than the standard iMac, but when I need an upgrade I can do it. and they are just as pretty on my desk and take up just as little space.


If you follow the link I made about prioritizing experience, the author specifically says that Apple isn’t really interested in servicing customers like you anymore. They’re making the deliberate choice to dispense with the tinkerer market - people who give a fuck about upgradability, about repairability. Apple wants to hold on to the creative professional market, but if creatives want a Mac going forward, they need to be OK with spending a little more to get the machine they need, and then when it no longer meets their needs, upgrading to a newer machine (or in very limited cases, taking it in to an authorized service centre to have it upgraded).

There’s basically two kinds of creative professionals - those who are also hardware nerds, who want to be able to open up their computers and change things inside, and those who just want to buy a tool that works, use it to get their work done so they can put food on the table, and don’t care about what’s inside. Apple has decided that they aren’t interested in selling to the first group anymore. Naturally this makes people like you very upset, and because everyone assumes their own wishes and needs are normative, causes people like you to declare that Apple’s decisions are deeply personally insulting to all of Apple’s customers.

The new Mac Pro next year may be a change of direction, or it may not – Apple bloggers have pointed out that it’s not really clear when Apple says they’re making a new “modular” Mac Pro if by modular they mean upgradable or if they just mean it has a separate monitor. Nor is it clear if Apple is spending skull sweat and development time to make the new Mac Pro user upgradable, or if they’re just focusing on making it easy and inexpensive for Apple to refresh the hardware. We’ll all find out next year (although it’s slightly possible Apple will deliver a sneak preview this summer).


Not entirely true - they’ve been sporadically and inconsistently interested in that over the years. They’ve just done a terrible job (and, I guess, finally gave up).


That’s a good review, but you cannot get a comparably specc’d Windows machine for cheaper. Just try! The argument rather has to be that the iMac Pro is overspecced–that you don’t get a real gain from a pro-class GPU or EEC RAM. That’s wrong for a lot of users of course.


I really feel like my words are not being read here and taken at face value…there are some assumptions and interjections being made which are not what I am stating.

I am not a tinkerer. I do not want to play around with my computer and tweak things to no end.
I want a plug and play desktop that works out of the gate how I need it to without having to play god with the thing. I am a creative type doing mostly design and development and other normative home computer use on my desktop who also happens to want to play a handful of games beyond Solitaire. When a game maker says “We don’t support MacOS” my reply is “Ok, I won’t be playing that game.” It’s not a big deal when it happens. Blizzard chose not to develop Overwatch for Mac…I considered installing Win on bootcamp but decided just to play it on my Xbox one. no biggie.

BUT…when Blizzard now says my GPU (non metal) is no longer being supported I am at an impasse. They are not wrong for choosing to no longer support an 8 year old GPU. I have no issues with that decision. But everything else about my iMac is perfectly fine…but because Apple has CHOSEN to not allow me as the consumer to update what is a commonly modular component in the computing world, I have to go buy a whole new machine as a result.

I am facing building my own PC now and it is giving me panic attacks because I hate the idea of having to do all that set up and work and micro manage stuff I do not want to.

I have said this multiple times…Apple’s decisions on how it views desktop users is akin to a car company telling you “buy this car at a premium price…but you cannot change the tires, get an oil change, If anything breaks on it, just throw it out and buy a new car.” And that is supreme bullshit. I am not asking for Mac to even put out another fully configurable cheese grater desktop with extra space and bays and slots and all that.

I just want a god damn all in one desktop with the common items that need replacing or upgrades open to me the user. hard drive space, ram, graphics card. The very notion that somehow making the body of the iMac an inch thicker and allowing some small form factor graphics card, and 4 dimm slots and a couple spots for 2.5" ssds to fit will make the imac some disgusting and unsightly monstrosity is UTTER GARBAGE.


I wish I had learned this in the first month of owning my newer Mini. I was in a rush when I bought it, and I am disappoint.


I don’t particularly buy the reasoning that Apple will abandon Mac because iOS is bigger. If you could cut away the iOS part of Apple, you would still be left with a bigger and more profitable PC manufacturer than pre-2007 Apple ever was. As to the idea that their current PC lineup is worse or more static or overpriced than back in the day… that’s some, like, infrared- tinted spectacles at work there.

And more to the point, even if Apple had only ever made phones, it would be totally in character for them to create the Mac in order to control the development platform for iOS. Controlling the whole stack is, like, their defining feature as a company.

Like any Mac user, I have a massive list of bitter resentments about the current state of the Mac, because if I wasn’t hyper-critical about small details I wouldn’t be using a Mac in the first place. But it still towers over Windows. On a Mac, I’ll criticise the Open File dialog for, like, how they stopped supporting custom icons in the shortcuts pane. But on Windows, the criticisms are, like, “scrolling doesn’t work right” and “I have to navigate to the same folder every time”. As Alan Kay said, the Macintosh was the first computer good enough to criticise, and that’s pretty much still the situation.


Let me try again. From the POV of Apple, computers that need servicing like a car needs oil changes are a relic of the stone age. Long ago, every car owner had to know how to change the oil. Nowadays, nobody changes their own oil unless tinkering with cars is their hobby. For decades, every computer owner was expected to open up their computer to upgrade shit over time. But for regular people (not hardware nerds, not hobbyists, not IT pros), it was a serious PITA to do that and most people never upgraded anything. Apple has always been first and foremost a computer company for regular people.

And computers are different now than they used to be. RAM is cheap enough that buying as much RAM as you will ever need at the time of purchase is not longer a huge financial hit. SSDs ensure that computers don’t slow down as they age. CPUs don’t get appreciably faster every year any more. Except for gamers, who need to refresh their GPUs on a regular basis to be able to play the latest games, there’s very little reason why most regular people can’t buy the computer with the specs they want and then happily use that same computer without any hardware changes for five years or even longer.

Apple has looked at how few of their customers are interested in opening up their computers, and decided that it’s time to do away with all that stone age stuff. The future, as far as Apple is concerned, is computers that never need to be opened except to repair them when they break (and then only by qualified technicians).

If that offends you, or if that is utterly incompatible with your needs and wishes, then you aren’t their target market any more. I’m not their target market any more either. Fortunately my needs are modest and I’m quite happy with my upgraded 2009 Mac Mini.

And again, all this is with regard to ordinary computer owners – the tiny niche market of professionals who can never have enough gigahertz or enough cores or enough GPU is another story altogether, and we will have to wait and see what Apple comes up with for them next year.


Hmm. You don’t know my boss.


Inflation-adjusted, I have paid less and kept longer every desktop Mac I have owned, including my current 2017 5K iMac. That and I sold my old 2013 iMac (with a dead Nvidia chip in it no less) for nearly $800CDN.

I do all my work on this iMac and even upgraded to the best available video card because yes, you better believe I’ll be playing MMOs and 4X games in 5K. And I expect it to serve me wonderfully at least as long as my 2013 did.

As far as desktops go, I don’t think I’ve ever been happier as a Mac desktop user.


I get your points and prefer this reply. I will say that what you are missing here is there is a difference between me as a car owner saying “I could change the oil myself…but for $29.95 I can go to the dealership, wait an hour have a free cup of coffee and a couple cookies, plus they top off the window washer fluid and vacuum the car and give it a wash. It’s worth the extra cost to have them do it instead of doing it myself.” as opposed to what apple has done which is “You cannot under any circumstances change the oil. we have made it entirely impossible for you to do it.”

There are essentially a bunch of components that could be upgraded swapped out over time. But there are 3 things that primarily age rapidly or even die: hard drive, memory, gpu. I relate those to tires, oil changes, and brakes. No car company would make a car that cannot have those things done by the owner of the car if they so choose…Apple on the other hand makes it not even possible.

And you are right…Apple has basically moved away from me as a consumer group and yes that IS personal and it DOES piss me off to no end especially as a consumer who has shown them so much loyalty and dedication in the past. They quit on me…not the other way around.

EDIT: I get that @orenwolf but eventually no matter how much of the out of the box upgrade you made the hardware will be outdated. And when you face the issue of having to buy a whole new computer because one peripheral component (that gpu for instance) is the only thing that is outdated and you cannot upgrade it…it’s a slap in the face from Apple for their design choices.


I think many of us are remembering the 2008-2012 xeon MacPros that were much more expandable and reasonably priced (if you bought your fancy graphics card and RAM separately). They have nothing similar on offer right now.


wanting those to be swappable is understandable.

For me personally. I’ve rarely wanted to update the GPU where I didn’t also want to update the CPU, and back in the Wintel days, that ususally meant a new motherboard for a new CPU package anyway, so then it’s basically a new computer for me. If I was playing AAAA First person shooters or VR I’d probably care more, but the reality is I’m running my games now at 5K and will probably be happy with that for some time. If I was using my GPU for more, I’d likely care more, and understand that others do.

Memory I can upgrade no problem.

Hard drive is a non-issue for me thanks to my purchasing a 4 bay thunderbolt 2 array for my last iMac. I store a lot of critical data here (one set of these bays is an encrypted RAID1 that represents offsite backups for Boing Boing, amongst other things), and the array is able to move a GB/sec of data or more. I could happily boot off of it if I wanted if somehow the Fusion Drive in my iMac is making me a sad panda in a few years, and I highly recommend anyone with any advanced storage requirements budgeting $300-400 for a good thunderbolt array that will be more than fast enough for years and years, especially if you go thunderbolt 3 (they’ll step down to 2 or 1 with the right cable from monoprice).

Again YMMV, but it sounds like the system you’re waiting for is the upcoming Mac Pro, and if so, yes, it sucks it is so very delayed. But at least they’ve formed a working group and it won’t be another un-upgradeable system. That’s essentially what the iMac Pro became.


exactly where the optimist in me is sitting right now.

To be perfectly honest…I play Heroes of the storm and SC2 on the lowest settings because it worked fine and I didn’t care much if the shadow in the little pond next to the base I was destroying had full liquid detail rendering or not…it just wasn’t ever that important to me.

But I am at that point where I HAVE to purchase a new desktop because that one component is now obsolete. And there is no real alternative right now that won’t see me right back in the same position again in a few years.


I hear you. Last year I went from my Power Mac in which I could change anything I needed, including having four internal hard drive bays that I filled up, to a new iMac without an internal CD/DVD drive and with four external hard drives and an external CD/DVD drive taking up space around it. It’s annoying.

But if I wanted to stick with a Power Mac, I would have ended up with a higher priced (but more powerful, sure) cylinder computer with the same problems. And I would still have needed to buy a new monitor because the old ones I had were outdated.

That said, I made the best choice I could at the time within my budget, and am just waiting to see what Apple pulls in the future when it comes time to replace or abandon my iMac.