Here’s the story. Apple’s old cheese grater aluminum clad Mac Pro from yesteryear became somewhat long in the tooth and Apple decided to bring it to the future with the trash canister Mac Pro, circa 2013. A funny thing happened on the way to reality. Customers didn’t like the new Mac Pro.
In one moment Apple dispensed the internal modular approach to a powerful Mac, and instituted a somewhat an external modular architecture. Those who used the new Mac Pro liked it well enough, but didn’t buy too many. Apple recognized the error of their ways, promised a Mac Pro next year, and a more powerful iMac this year. That strategy left me with a few questions.
How Much Power?
Apple’s Mac professionals are a varied bunch. Some get by fine with a high end iMac with quad-core i7 CPU, 32GB of RAM, and SSD storage. Others prefer the screaming horsepower found in the trash canister Mac Pro circa 2013, while even more Mac users prefer the MacBook Pro line, specifically the 15-inch screen because that’s where the faster quad-core CPUs live, and faster graphics await.
Otherwise, the high end professional segment is a minor rounding point on Apple’s bottom line, hence it’s acceptable for Apple to introduce both a future Mac Pro and an iMac Pro many, many months in advance. First up is what comes first.
Yes, I would plunk down money for one of these space gray beasts if it were available today. What’s not to like? Space gray has a powerful, almost menacing look. The entry-level model starts at $4,999 and gives customers a 5k Retina display, eight USB ports (4 USB 3 and 4 USB-C with Thunderbolt), 32GB of RAM, 1TB SSD storage, an 8-core Intel Xeon CPU inside, 10GB Ethernet, all the standard Wi-Fi and Bluetooth goodies, four microphones, stereo speakers, 1080p FaceTime camera, and what promises to be a screamer of a graphics card, the Radeon Pro Vega 56.
There you go Mac user and critics who worried that Apple had completely forgotten the professional market. iMac Pro is a beast that drools with Buy Me! This thing is so powerful it will drive two additional 5k Retina displays, or four 4k Retina displays.
Even better, build-to-order configurations push the RAM to 128GB, the CPU to 18-cores, and the SSD storage to 4TB. Powerful? Duh.
It’s not that Mac Pro circa 2013 isn’t or wasn’t powerful. It just wasn’t easy to upgrade to anything better. Even for Apple, which let it languish essentially unchanged for almost four years. The newest upgrade is worthy, but the device is end-of-life.
Come back next year for a more powerful Mac Pro. But if the iMac Pro is about as powerful as a Mac can get, what can a modular Mac Pro bring to a professional user that the beastly iMac Pro cannot? Time will tell, but the modularity alone may be worth the wait, but at what price?
I priced out an HP and a Dell to as close as I could get to the iMac Pro’s $4,999 price tag. Apple’s price tag is aggressive. It’s difficult to get Apple to apples on specifications, but even a DIY project with comparable components comes in around $5,000 for the same hardware.
Thank you, Apple. But what of Mac Pro circa 2018? That brings one to the biggest difference between a modular Mac and an iMac. iMacs are not easy to upgrade anything except RAM. A Mac Pro may actually start at a price point lower than an iMac Pro but obviously allow for user upgrades to different components, including CPU, RAM, more SSD storage, not to mention a handful of very Mac-specific graphic card options.
How much? Time will tell, but if Las Vegas is up to it, I’d wager that a modular Mac Pro next years starts at a price lower than iMac Pro.