iMac Pro review

Is this the ultimate all-in-one for professionals?

imac pro

Our Verdict

The iMac Pro is a powerful, professional all-in-one that certainly won’t be for everyone. It has oodles of power and a huge price tag to match. However, if the iMac Pro is suited for your needs, then you won’t be disappointed.

For

  • Most powerful Mac ever
  • Excellent design
  • Keeps cool
  • New Space Gray color is ace

Against

  • Very expensive
  • Non user-upgradable
  • Magic Mouse 2 still frustrating

As you might have guessed based on the name, the iMac Pro is a powerful, sleek and beautiful all-in-one PC based on the traditional iMac form factor. Don’t judge this behemoth by its cover – the iMac Pro absolutely demolishes the iMac 2017, and even the new iMac 2019, thanks to the incredible power and features on offer. 

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When Apple first launched the iMac Pro, it made some claims that it’s 'the most powerful Mac ever made,’ and we have to agree. The iMac Pro is a spectacularly powerful machine, built for creatives and professionals. At least until the Mac Pro 2019 hits the shelves in Fall 2019, as Tim Cook himself declared it  'the most powerful mac we’ve ever created' at WWDC 2019.

The iMac Pro isn’t just about sheer horsepower for its own sake, however. This all-in-one workstation is a finely tuned workhorse, packed with powerful hardware that revolutionizes your workflow. And yes, the iMac Pro is very expensive, but as you save some time on every single one of your projects, the iMac Pro will pay for itself in the long run. Time is money, after all.

Spec Sheet

Here is the Apple iMac Pro configuration sent to TechRadar for review:

CPU: 3.0GHz Intel Xeon W (deca-core, 14MB cache, up to 4.5GHz)
Graphics: AMD Vega 64 (16GB HBM2 RAM)
RAM: 128GB DDR4 (2,666MHz)
Screen: 27-inch 5K (5,120 x 2,880) Retina display (P3 wide color)
Storage: 2TB SSD
Ports: 4 x USB-C (Thunderbolt 3), 4 x USB 3.0, SDXC card reader, 10Gb Ethernet, 3.5mm audio jack
Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2
Operating system: macOS 10.13 High Sierra
Camera: FaceTime HD (1080p) webcam
Weight: 21.5 pounds (9.7kg)
Size: 25.6 x 8 x 20.3 inches (65 x 20.3 x 51.6cm; W x D x H)

Price and availability 

The iMac Pro may look like your standard iMac, but its insides are aimed entirely at professionals, with workstation-level hardware that can easily handle way more than most people require for day to day productivity tasks, and with a price tag to match. However, if you’re a professional photographer, game designer or architect, then the iMac Pro is definitely a worthy investment.

So, how much does the iMac Pro go for? Well, as you’d expect from a machine aimed at professionals, the iMac Pro is highly configurable, so there is a range in price when designing the perfect iMac Pro for the needs of you and your business, as well as your budget.

The base model of the iMac Pro costs $4,999 (£4,899, AU$7,299), which gets a 27-inch 5K Retina display, an 8-core Intel Xeon W processor (CPU), AMD Radeon Vega 56 (8GB) graphics (GPU), 32GB of error-correcting code (ECC) memory and a 1TB solid-state drive (SSD).

imac pro

You can buy an iMac with a 10-core Xeon W CPU, 32GB RAM, AMD Vega 64X graphics and a whopping 2TB SSD. That model costs $7,099 (£6,789, A$10,659).

The top-end iMac Pro comes with an 18-core Intel Xeon W processor, 256GB of RAM, 4TB of SSD storage and the same AMD Radeon Vega 64X GPU for $15,699 (£14,529, A$24,419). That’s a colossal investment, but you’re getting a heck of a lot of power as well.

You can also tweak each of these configurations further, choosing any combination of storage amount, processor and graphics card type, and memory size that most ideally fits your needs and budget, which of course will change the final price of your machine.

The specs and high costs alone will let you know whether or not the iMac Pro is for you. If spending almost as much as a new car on a computer seems excessive, then the iMac Pro just isn’t for you. If you rarely use graphic-intensive programs, and you wouldn't know what to do with a GPU with 8GB – let alone 16GB of HBM2 memory, then you shouldn’t be spending that much money.

However, if you require a pro-level workstation for work, and are already invested in the Apple ecosystem, not to mention love the all-in-one design of the iMac, then the iMac Pro is your only sensible option – even a fully kitted out Mac mini won’t reach the same level of power. The cost will be justified, if you’re often doing a lot of waiting as your current machine slowly renders 3D images or compiles code – spending this kind of cash to drastically cut downtime is an easy sell for the right buyer.

And if you’re on a budget and looking for a bargain on the iMac Pro, Apple has started selling refurbished iMac Pros for a solid 15% off the list price. 

imac pro

 Design

With the sheer power behind the iMac Pro, especially compared to the standard iMac, Apple has really outdone itself – especially with preserving the look of the all-in-one machine. All those impressive components are hidden behind the 27-inch display, resulting in an attractive, minimalist machine that looks stunning in any office or studio.

The fact that Apple has kept the body as thin as it has is a testament to the hard work, and careful design considerations, involved in the creation of the iMac Pro. At the edges, the iMac Pro is just 5mm (0.2 inches) thick, meaning it doesn’t take up too much space on your desk. It also comes in at just 0.7kg (21.38 pounds), which means you won’t break your back moving it from desk to desk if necessary.

imac pro

Having such powerful components, which require more power and therefore produce more heat, means that an effective cooling system is essential – especially considering the slimline design of the iMac Pro. Thankfully, Apple’s engineers have created an impressive cooling system for this workstation, utilizing dual fans that help circulate cool air over components as well as expel hot air.

This design effectively cooled the iMac Pro during our tests, which involved editing 4K HDR content in Final Cut Pro X, while also keeping the fan noise down. Yeah, this computer will generate a lot of heat under pressure, but that’s the whole point of the cooling system, and we are impressed by how quiet it is. You don’t want any distracting fan noises while you work, especially in an all-in-one PC that’s right in front of your face, and the iMac Pro does an excellent job of mitigating that.

imac pro

According to Apple, this cooling solution, which includes a high-capacity heat sink and extra venting on the back of the device, allows for almost 75% more airflow and an 80% increase in system thermal capacity. All the while, the iMac Pro is using 67% more power than a 27-inch iMac.

So, if you’re a fan of the iconic look of previous iMacs, but want a device that packs some serious juice for professional use, then you’re going to be very pleased with the iMac Pro. One particularly noticeable difference with the iMac Pro’s design, compared to regular iMacs, is that it comes in a new color scheme: Space Gray.

As expected, the Space Gray iMac is beautiful, and the included Magic Mouse 2, Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad 2 also come in the new color, for users who prefer to keep things uniform.

imac pro

Of course, as important as the form factor and peripherals are, the most vital aspect, especially for professional photographers, video or image editors, is the display. The 27-inch 5K display is described by Apple as its ‘best ever,’ with 500 nits of brightness, an increase of 43% over previous iMacs’ brightness.

The 5,120 x 2,880 resolution is just as impressive here as it is on high end iMacs, which also feature this resolution, and the boost over standard 4K resolution means video editors can work on 4K video at full resolution while still having extra space for their editing tools.

It’s little details like this that turn the iMac Pro into such a compelling tool for professionals, and help speed up, not to mention make more seamless, your workflow by eliminating the need to enter and exit full-screen mode if you’re on a 4K – or lower – monitor.

Because the iMac Pro is designed for professionals, color reproduction has to be as accurate as possible. This is essential for photographers, graphic artists and video editors, amongst others. To offer accurate color reproduction, the display supports the P3 wide-gamut color space, an RGB color space that is widely used in digital movie production. If you work with digital film, then this support will be hugely welcome, though not too surprising. Apple iMacs have supported it since 2015, as does the iMac’s competitor: the Surface Studio all-in-one by Microsoft.

While P3 is wider than sRGB, it’s not quite as wide as Adobe RGB. If you’re relying on Adobe RGB – for example, if you work in printing and publishing – then you may be disappointed with the lack of Adobe RGB support here. For many people, however, the P3 color space will more than suffice, not to mention a big improvement over sRGB.

Like with other iMacs, the FaceTime camera resides on the bezel above the top of the screen, and boasts a few major improvements. For a start, it can record in 1080p resolution, whereas previous FaceTime cameras on iMacs were 720p.

This boost in resolution is immediately apparent when using the iMac Pro for video calls. So, for client meetings or chatting with work colleagues, this increase in video quality is greatly beneficial.

The webcam also features four microphones, compared to a single one on the 5K iMac. This array of microphones also really helps reduce background noise. And, as they are placed at the top of the screen (rather than at the bottom with previous iMacs), they do an excellent job of noise cancelling. Of course, if you work in very noisy environments, you’ll still want to use a headset for the best possible sound quality, but these enhancements are definitely appreciated.

While Apple has caught flack for limiting the ports in its professional-oriented MacBook Pro, the iMac Pro suffers no such problems, with an array of ports more than enough to allow you to hook up many peripherals to the device.

imac pro

At the base of the back of the iMac Pro, you get a 3.5mm headphone jack, SDXC card slot, four full-size USB 3.0 ports, four Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports and a 10Gb Ethernet, which offers incredible network speeds. The four USB 3.0 ports are perfect for older, legacy peripherals and devices, while the Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports support Thunderbolt USB 3.1 devices as well as devices with up to 40Gbps data transfers.

The Thunderbolt 3 ports can also be used to connect extra displays, such as two 5K external displays at 60Hz, or four 4K UHD displays at 60Hz. Basically, you’re pretty much set for ports, and we’re glad to see that Apple hasn’t skimped here.

However, while the slimline all-in-one design certainly looks stunning, it does mean that this is a workstation you won’t be able to pop open easily so that you can tinker with and upgrade components yourself. This may not be an issue for many people; however, if you want an easily-upgradable device for further future-proofing, then you might want to look into a different device.

Overall, the design of the iMac Pro is everything you’d expect from Apple: gorgeously made, with some genuinely innovative features and excellent details geared towards professionals, all of which combined will greatly justify the steep price tag.

imac pro

Magic peripherals

The iMac Pro comes with the Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad, Magic Mouse 2, and optionally, the Magic Trackpad 2 – all of which come in the new (to the iMac range) Space Gray color. Apart from this new shade, these peripherals should be pretty familiar.

We were happy to see the Magic Keyboard with a numeric keypad, as that’s a convenient addition for writing up sums. While we wouldn’t describe the typing experience on the keyboard as ‘magic’, despite its thin keys and shallow travel, it is comfortable enough to use. However, if you do a lot of typing for work, then you might find a more tactile keyboard more suitable.

In our opinion, the Magic Mouse 2 is much more successful at its job. While the design hasn’t changed (again, apart from the color) since its debut in 2015, many would argue that if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

The mouse feels smooth and responsive in use, and handles remarkably well on different surfaces. If you’re used to using Macs, then you’ll feel right at home. But again, for some tasks you might find it better utilizing a specialized pointing device.

There is an issue that still needs fixing with the Magic Mouse 2: to charge the mouse, you need to hook the Lightning cable up at the bottom of the mouse.

imac pro

Not only is this a rather inelegant way to charge, but it also means you can’t use the Magic Mouse 2 while recharging its battery, a baffling design decision that we’re frustrated with Apple for failing to rectify.

Finally, there’s the Magic Trackpad 2, which is a great peripheral with an edge-to-edge surface that lets you control the iMac Pro in a similar fashion to a MacBook. Used alongside the mouse and keyboard, it’s quite a nice alternative method for scrolling through files and websites, and zooming in and out of photos (among other things).

The lack of updates on these peripherals will please anyone who’s already a fan of them, but annoy anyone else who isn’t, and was hoping for something a bit more special for the iMac Pro. 

It has to be said however, that the new color does make them look great, and the Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse 2 pair smoothly with the iMac Pro as soon as they were switched on. Strangely, the Magic Trackpad 2 didn’t pair automatically – we had to connect it to the iMac Pro via the included Lightning cable (which comes in black) before we could use it with the iMac Pro wirelessly.

First reviewed February 2018

Image Credit: TechRadar