The king is dead, long live the king – iMac Pro announced

Apple announced the release in December 2017 of the iMac Pro, a multicore Xeon based iMac all in one machine.

Its hard to see this as anything other than the death-knell for the cylindrical MacPro platform – the same processor, the same connectivity.  Sales of the MacPro slumped when Apple went from the aluminum tower to the cylindrical  MacPro – in my opinion for the very simple reason that video and audio production environments eat hard drives for breakfast, the MacPro tower had a generous four hard drive bays (plus two optical drive bays). The rotating-diskless format 2013 MacPro forced users to invest heavily in external Thunderbolt storage enclosures.

So what differentiates the MacPro from the iMac Pro? The screen. Apple has basically taken a Xeon server architecture, juiced up with a proprietary Apple T2 controller chip, a new SSD RAID format, swapped out the dual Fire GPUs for a single Radeon Pro Vega 56 or 64 GPU with 8 GB GDDR, rolled it flat, and glued it into the iMac 27 inch chassis behind a Retina 5K screen.

Does this mean that Apple no longer wants video and engineering professionals to choose their own monitor screens?  You’ll be able to add another two 5K screens by Thunderbolt 3 / Displayport (or more, if you can live with lower resolution), but you are married to the 27 inch screen purchase whether you like it or not.

By pre-announcing the iMac Pro by 6 months, (which if I recall correctly is unprecedented in Apple marketing history), Apple has chilled sales of the MacPro 2013 machine, and all but announced there will be no further updating of that platform as we now know it.

Transcript: Phil Schiller, Craig Federighi and John Ternus on the state of Apple’s pro Macs

The iMac Pro was announced with 8- 10- and 18-core versions of the Intel Xeon processor (a 14 core config was added later), 1TB, 2TB or 4TB of SSD, and DDR4-2666 ECC memory that is ‘Configurable’ to 64 or 128 GB.  If you have been following, ‘configurable’ is Applespeak for “You cannot upgrade the memory or the SSD yourself”, so you are locked into the configuration that you order from the factory.  There are some indications that the memory does have sockets, so an Apple authorized service centre can add RAM,

This means that you cannot get the base level machine (if you can consider US$4999 to be basic) and then upgrade RAM and SSD as the budget allows. You have to make the spending commitment up front.

The following are in Canadian dollars, comparing the Jan 2018 to the Sept 2019 pricing

Basic 8-Core machine 32 GB RAM 1 GB SSD
2018-01 $6,299  same price in 2019-09
Configure 32 GB to 64 GB: 2018-01 $960 2019-09 $480
Configure 32 GB to 128 GB: 2018-01 $2,880 2019-09 $2,400

(Of course you can get your upgrade memory from CanadaRAM for a considerable savings iMac Pro memory )

Configure 1 TB SSD to 2 TB SSD 2018-01: $960  2019-09 $480
Configure 1 TB SSD to 4 TB SSD 2018-01: $3,360 2019-09 $1,440

Xeon 8 core to 10 core:  $960 same price in 2019
Xeon 8 core to 14 core:  $1,920 same price
Xeon 8 core to 18 core:  $2,880 same price

So the envelope says… the real buy-in is $8,219 to $15,419 for an upgraded machine.

For their part, Apple has said they are ‘completely rethinking’ the MacPro design – “our highest-end, high-throughput desktop system, designed for our demanding pro customers” – and may have an announcement this year.

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