What do you want in a powerful Mac? And by powerful, I mean a Mac with some real power; CPUs, GPUs, SSD storage, loaded with RAM. And I use the term powerful to replace what Apple uses; MacBook Pro and Mac Pro.
During past five years or so Apple has moved away from Macs that are easy to upgrade components, and more in favor of Macs that are closed appliances. 80-percent of all Macs sold these days are MacBooks or MacBook Pro models, and there’s just no power and no upgradability in them. That leaves a few other Macs to look at. Well, really, just one Mac. The iMac.
Powerful vs. Professional
To be fair to Apple’s entire Mac lineup, the iMac– specifically the Retina 5k model, with quad-core i7 CPU inside, packed with 32GB of RAM, faster GPU, and 1TB SSD storage– is almost a powerful machine. It should be. The retail price is a dollar shy of $4,000. A few hundred dollars more and you can get RAM boosted to 64GB (thank you, MacSales), user installable, of course. Is that powerful enough? Yes. And no. Why not?
A new Mac Pro with a more powerful six-core Xeon CPU and dual AMD GPUs tops out at nearly $1,000 more than a fully tricked out iMac. $4,999. Without a keyboard, mouse, or a screen to view anything. Those are extra and could add another $1,000 to the total.
What Apple could do, and has hinted that it might do later this year, is introduce a more powerful iMac– what I call the Power iMac Pro (Apple won’t use that name) with an Intel Xeon inside, more RAM options, more GPU options, and larger SSD storage options. The current iMac line has limits and other than user upgradeable RAM is as much a toaster appliance as the MacBook Pro.
Here’s the problem as I see it. The iMac with a quad-core entry-level Xeon CPU inside doesn’t offer much more power than a fully tricked out iMac does now. Yes, that depends upon your software needs. At work I use an older Retina 5k iMac with 32GB of RAM and it’s a challenge to get all those CPUs working at the same, even with memory hogs like Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro, Photoshop or anything else from Adobe. Applications need to be written to handle such power, and that list isn’t very long.
It appears as if Apple has had an internal struggle for a few years; management and executive arguments regarding what constitutes a powerful or professional level Mac. Apple missed the boat with the 2013 Mac Pro and admitted as much, hence plans for a new modular professional level Mac sometime in the next year or two. In the interim, Apple plans a more powerful iMac.
The quad-core i7 iMac could be enhanced with more RAM options, newer Intel CPUs, faster and larger SSD storage, and more GPU options, but Think Different™ could bring in AMD’s faster and lower priced Ryzen CPUs, or even a quad or six-core Xeon– all without major changes. What I expect to see Apple do in the future is what we expect in iPhone 8. Micro-bezels, smaller chin and forehead, and a more svelte package. Smaller, lighter, faster, with more storage, better graphics, and with more upgradable options (non-user upgrades; the iMac will remain an appliance, so order carefully).
To me, all those options would constitute a Power iMac Pro; a mostly work-station class device with options that would end some of the public noise about Apple abandoning the Mac. Now, if we could only get more powerful Mac mini’s.