Apple takes the iMac Pro with Xeons and Radeon Vega graphics

Mac power users have been clamoring for a wholly modern Mac of late, and Apple gave them an enormous tease today during its WWDC keynote. The iMac Pro takes Apple's 5K iMac chassis and crams it full of workstation-class hardware.

CPU duties will be handled by what sounds like eight-core, 10-core, and even 18-core versions of Intel's presumably upcoming Skylake Xeons. Graphics power will come courtesy of AMD's Radeon Vega graphics chip with up to 16GB of VRAM on board. The truly insatiable will be able to add 128GB of ECC RAM and 4TB of PCIe SSD storage to their iMac Pros, as well.

All that computing power needs copious interconnect bandwidth to communicate with the outside world, and Apple is delivering with four Thunderbolt 3 ports and a built-in 10Gb Ethernet NIC. The machine will be VESA-mountable, and its space gray finish won't stand out in the subdued lighting of directors' editing bays.

Apple will be introducing the iMac Pro in December with an eight-core Xeon, unspecified Vega graphics hardware, 32GB of ECC RAM, and a 1TB SSD for $4999.

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    • tipoo
    • 4 years ago

    The 21 inch iMac is back to upgradable RAM it seems? But only by Apple. Wonder what’s going on inside, or if they just swap the whole board?

    “Note that the 21.5-inch iMac comes with 8GB of memory built into the computer. If you think you may need more memory in the future, it may be preferable to upgrade at the time of purchase. Memory can only be upgraded by Apple or an Apple Authorised Service Provider if you choose to update at a later date.”

    I also got to thinking, the Xeon won’t have Quick Sync, right? Might make for some odd positioning where for video editing, the consumer hardware is actually faster. I.e the Macbook Pro can out export the Mac Pro for this reason.

      • ImSpartacus
      • 4 years ago

      Didn’t the initial iMac use a MBA board (with specs to match)?

      Since the MBA wasn’t updated, Apple probably couldn’t use it anymore. And then they could use some other iMac-specific board with SODIMMs or whatever.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 4 years ago

        The 1.4 Ghz Haswell iMac, 1.4GHz Haswell Mac Mini, and 1.4GHz MBA all had the same chip, same interface to PCIe storage, and the same soldered RAM, but they did not have the same board. Board shapes and layouts change with the machine of which it is a part.

    • cynan
    • 4 years ago

    So that’s why consumer/gaming Vega is delayed.

    Hey Apple, hows about you save some HBM2 for the rest of us, bub!

      • tipoo
      • 4 years ago

      “I’m not your bub, pal!” – probably apple

    • Unknown-Error
    • 4 years ago

    Whats Apples beef with nVidia?

      • Krogoth
      • 4 years ago

      Nvidia and Apple historically never got well with each other. It is purely politics at this point. Apple has a much stronger history with ATI(which is currently AMD’s graphical division).

        • tipoo
        • 4 years ago

        There’s politics, but also that Apple software is based around OpenCL and runs faster on AMD, Adobe software utilizes CUDA and runs faster on Nvidia.

        If they put in an Nvidia GPU, Premiere would run faster than FCPX on their own hardware.

    • moog
    • 4 years ago

    Pretty underwhelming, Surface Studio this year is going to blow this away.

    Last year’s Surface Studio is a better value.

      • protomech
      • 4 years ago

      Completely different targets. They’re high-end > 4K all-in-ones, but that’s really the only point of comparison.

      Surface Studio is an excellent artist’s tool with a fantastic positionable display.

      iMac Pro is a reasonably priced performance workstation all-in-one. (similar workstations from dell and boxx cost a bit over $5k not including the display)

      From a hardware perspective, last year’s Surface Studio (released 10/16) was overpriced for the specs – the base $3k configuration was pretty close to the base $1800 5K iMac configuration (released 10/15). BUT – it doesn’t matter. Everyone that bought a surface studio did so *in spite of* the “better value” specs, because the screen was the best tool for the job they needed to do.

      • tipoo
      • 4 years ago

      SS would compete with the non Pro iMacs, this is pretty well a different beast. There’s no 8-18 core Xeon Surface Studio with ECC, Pro Vega graphics, etc.

    • Airmantharp
    • 4 years ago

    Hypothetical: could/would Apple make a gaming machine SKU out of this iMac Pro?

    Given that the socket [i<][b<]should[/i<][/b<] accept i7 and i9 HEDT CPUs and the graphics part could be the Vega-equivalent of a 'Radeon', what's the feasibility of Apple producing a 'less pro' version that keeps the performance and thermal envelope characteristics but drops the 'pro' gear branding (and ostensibly the certification that the branding symbolizes)? They could even sell a copy of Windows 10 with it, preset for their dual-boot solution, and could provide the necessary information to AMD/etc. for driver production for Windows. I think that the only major change would be to put in a FreeSync 1440p panel that could run at 144Hz+.

      • tipoo
      • 4 years ago

      Feasibility high, probability low. Don’t see any reason they can’t do what you say, Radeon Pro to Radeon, Xeon to i9, other than maintaining huge margins.

      Not sure on PCI-E lanes on i9 vs Xeon but they could lose a TB port or something.

        • Airmantharp
        • 4 years ago

        Yeah, I’d rate probability low too.

        I brought this up with the outgoing Mac Pro units, especially given that they were rolling two GPUs, but that also made a gaming box less probable as I don’t believe Apply in OS X (or Linux even) has good support for multi-GPU gaming and thus the device would have had to largely rely on a Windows Bootcamp install for best performance.

        Here, though, we’re talking one high-powered GPU instead of two higher mid-range GPUs, with lots of thermal headroom. So I think that it’s more possible this time, and might even be attractive given Apple’s penchant for high-quality hardware.

      • Krogoth
      • 4 years ago

      Apple never cared about PC gaming. The last time that show any remote interest into it was back during late 1980s to mid 1990s.

        • the
        • 4 years ago

        I remember Halo being announced at Macworld by Steve Jobs.

          • Krogoth
          • 4 years ago

          That’s before Bungle got bought out by Microsoft….

    • Airmantharp
    • 4 years ago

    Resolution should be 5120×2880 -> 14745600 total pixels, which I believe is the same 27″ panel used in the previous 5k iMacs.

    [this wasn’t mentioned in the article]

    • tipoo
    • 4 years ago

    2x wider AVX, does this mean AVX-512?
    [url<]https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/imac-specs.jpg[/url<]

      • DancinJack
      • 4 years ago

      Only in the iMac pro, but yes. It’s Skylake-EP Xeon.

        • tipoo
        • 4 years ago

        That’s hawt. What a time not to responsibly have 5K to blow on an AIO.

    • DancinJack
    • 4 years ago

    o.O The iMac Pro page says “Up to 42MB cache.”

    That would make the math for the 18’er as follows: (1.375MB*18)+18MB=42.75MB. So the 1.375*n+n seems to be the cache math for the HCC Skylake-X/EP as well.

    • davidbowser
    • 4 years ago

    People talking about the heat throttling seem to have missed the previous discussions by people that use Mac Pros. Apple has a pretty good record with crazy stuff like this.

    For all the abandonment issues with the Mac Pro, the one thing that is damn near undeniable is that it has a fantastic balance of thermal design and noise control. I can crank the one on my desk while gaming to average 60-70% CPU and the PC case fan on the other side of the room is still louder.

      • slowriot
      • 4 years ago

      How would you define throttling? I think its a bit more complicated these days since so many parts are marketed with “up to” speeds that rely on the thermal headroom to boost up and maintain those speeds. While I’ve got no doubt it’ll be able to maintain the base clock speeds I do wonder how well it does at maintaining a high boost both for the CPU and GPU.

      As for your PC case… idk buy some Noctuas.

        • ImSpartacus
        • 4 years ago

        I think if your expecting a system to run at full clocks under a system-wide power virus, then that’s not realistic anymore.

        So I wouldn’t consider that kind of behavior to be “throttling”. Otherwise, effectively every modern mobile device (phones, tablets, laptops) and many modern desktops would “throttle”.

          • slowriot
          • 4 years ago

          Who stated that was my expectation? Assuming you’re talking about a situation where synthetic benchmarks are being used to push all components to the max at once.

          I’m thinking just more standard loads such a system is designed to encounter. i.e. encoding video. I’d be curious how well this iMac maintains clocks versus a more traditional tower versus even something like the trash can Mac Pro.

          Or in gaming for the GPU.

          While I think you’re right that it shouldn’t be called “throttling”, I do think the delta in performance can be quite significant depending on just how much “boost headroom” you have and is worth noting/measuring.

            • ImSpartacus
            • 4 years ago

            I intended to use the impersonal “you”, and yes, by “power virus”, I was talking about a group of synthetic benchmarks that causes maximum power usage across all major processors.

            After their experience with the Mac Pro, I’m thinking Apple is a little more jaded and less idealistic about workloads. The fact that they are using one single GPU is indicative of that if you ask me. Therefore, I would speculate that the cooling would be sufficient.

            We’ll find out eventually, I suppose.

        • davidbowser
        • 4 years ago

        I would define throttling in this case as any automatic reduction of operating frequency (or sometimes shutting down cores) of the CPU or GPU. I only see two types of this in modern OS and HW:
        [list=1<] [*<]Prevention of overheating [/*<][*<]Low utilization energy savings [/*<] [/list<] MacOS happens to be pretty aggressive with power saving, but I have never seen a situation where it was starving CPU cycles. By using the Intel Power Gadget, I can see that when I am browsing TR and writing comments, then my CPU hovers around 2GHz. When I launch SC2, it pegs at 3.7GHz for the entire gaming session.

      • tipoo
      • 4 years ago

      Yeah, whatever the next Mac Pro is, I hope it keeps the Cylinders ability to stay at load 24/7 and never rise above a murmur.

      • tipoo
      • 4 years ago

      Page is up now btw – 500 watts, 75% more airflow, 80% more thermal capacity.

      [url<]https://www.apple.com/ca/imac-pro/[/url<]

        • gc9
        • 4 years ago

        The pictures show big-horn sheep shaped twin blowers drawing air from the bottom of the screen, and exhausting out the back under the support leg/heat-sink/heat-shield, which deflects it down (not at a person on the opposite side of a counter or table), and either out to the sides near the air intakes, or back toward the keyboard. Couldn’t they find a way to exhaust 500W of hot air upward? Maybe upward pointing vents allow dust to collect. “Technical specifications are subject to change.”

          • tipoo
          • 4 years ago

          The iMacs before ditching DVD drives did used to exhaust it upwards. Not sure why the change, but hidden behind the hinge seems to work well. Could be the dust thing, could just be user experience.

    • ronch
    • 4 years ago

    Any hope of seeing Macs with Ryzen Insideā„¢?

      • bjm
      • 4 years ago

      No.

      • chuckula
      • 4 years ago

      I’m moderately surprised there wasn’t a mobile announcement using the APU version of RyZen.

      It wouldn’t light the world on fire in CPU performance but the integrated graphics look to be stronger than anything Intel has publicly announced.

        • Concupiscence
        • 4 years ago

        Apple’s too pragmatic to weld itself to Intel forever. As far as I remember they were pretty keenly interested in AMD’s FM1 kit years ago, but they weren’t capable of supplying the quality and volume Apple wanted and the plans were scuttled.

          • chuckula
          • 4 years ago

          Apple does need hard supply guarantees (that Intel generally meets) and in some instances its ecosystem will trump a raw performance benchmark since that’s not Apple’s biggest selling point.

            • blastdoor
            • 4 years ago

            Not only supply but also quality (as in, reliability), features (for example, thunderbolt), performance, and performance/watt.

            With Ryzen, AMD leads in price/performance, but nothing else. Note that price/performance isn’t even on my list.

            For Apple to seriously consider AMD, I think we’d have to return to the state of affairs that existed when the Athlon 64 was competing against the Pentium 4.

            • Concupiscence
            • 4 years ago

            Oh, sure. Llano was the subject of that huge securities lawsuit; nice as it may have looked on paper, AMD couldn’t deliver. But if AMD can manage to build Ryzen in the next year *and* execute on Ryzen 2: Ryze Harder, maybe Apple will give them another shot.

            • ImSpartacus
            • 4 years ago

            “Ryzen 2: Ryze Harder”

            This is what I’m calling Zen 2 from now on.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 4 years ago

            Until AMD has its own Thunderbolt 3 controller, I think it finds itself out in the cold on the Mac front. The MacBook is the only Mac without some form of Thunderbolt, and AMD can’t come close to matching Intel for performance. Benchmarks aren’t Apple’s biggest selling point, but a Jaguar-based part is not going to cut it.

      • Kretschmer
      • 4 years ago

      Never.

      • NTMBK
      • 4 years ago

      Wouldn’t be surprised to see Ryzen APUs at some point.

    • the
    • 4 years ago

    A very impressive combination of hardware for a decent price given the competition. Though the one thing the competition does offer is a bit more choice due to workstations being built around expandibility. This wouldn’t be an issue if Apple had such a thing, maybe call it the Mac Pro? Oh wait…

    I’m also wondering what CPU this is using. It has traits of Sky Lake-X with the larger L2 cache. However, the Sky Lake Xeons are supposed to ship with six channel memory, something that’d imply a 192 GB memory capacity. I haven’t seen how many memory channels this device would have so there is a slim chance this is actually SkyLake-D, not EP.

      • chuckula
      • 4 years ago

      It’s most certainly the Xeon version of Skylake X [as in the exact same silicon announced at Computex in “Xeon” mode FWIW.]

      There’s some confusion that just because the highest-end Skylake Xeons are running in LGA-3647 that there can’t be Skylake Xeons that run in LGA-2066. I haven’t seen any reliable information indicating that this is true though.

        • the
        • 4 years ago

        No technical reason why Intel couldn’t release such a chip, IE quad channel package of SkyLake-EP. However, there has been no indication to date of such a chip in the wings as they’ve all been pointing toward hexachannel setups.

        • ImSpartacus
        • 4 years ago

        Isn’t that called Skylake-EP’s HCC die?

        • the
        • 4 years ago

        Well Apple’s site for the iMac Pro has gone live and they do have some shots of the motherboard. Four full sized memory slots which look to be in a quad channel configuration.

        Oddly it looks like registered ECC memory is in use, which actually permits far more memory capacity than Apple is admitting to. While expensive, I’d wager that these supports support 64 GB registered ECC DDR4 DIMMs which would bring capacity up to 256 GB. The real question is if these would support LR-DIMMs which can go up to 256 GB by themselves.

          • tipoo
          • 4 years ago

          Yeah for the current iMac it supports twice what they state, many Apple systems have actually done that. I guess it’s just that they don’t test those capacities, while the chipset supports them.

    • USAFTW
    • 4 years ago

    That’s a heckuva lot of horsepower in an AIO. An 18 core Xeon and a high-end Vega can’t be easy to cool in a ATX case, never mind that.

      • the
      • 4 years ago

      If it is just these two components producing heat, it shouldn’t be too difficult at all.

      I strongly suspect that Apple is using parts with slightly lower clock speeds and/or binned specially for lower power. They’ve done this before in the past to pull off these types of thermal dynamic show offs.

        • USAFTW
        • 4 years ago

        Agreed. Unlike AMD, they’ll probably run both chips at the sweet spot of the Voltage/Clock/Power/Temperature curve.
        It is not far-fetched either for Apple to ask AMD for fully-enabled, lower clocked Vega leaving AMD with the option of selling partially disabled Vega chips with voltage and clocks turned up, like they did with Tonga initially.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 4 years ago

    was this the only announcement today?

    Typically underwhelming. I think the major issue that apple has had is simply how lax they’ve been in supporting this sector. The hardware cost is nothing next to the cost of working in a development environment that only gets hardware support every 3-5 years.

    Meanwhile for less money and nearly quarterly updates you can work in a Microsoft development environment!

    If they announced better support going forward, that would be news.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 4 years ago

      there’s a ton of other stuff announced today, including Kaby Lake MacBooks and a bunch of software stuff. The keynote is still ongoing.

    • DrDominodog51
    • 4 years ago

    What’s the point of including high end CPUs and GPUs if they are just going to be thermal throttling the whole time?

      • Concupiscence
      • 4 years ago

      That’s not even the issue that gets me. Brand new hardware is wasted on a display subsystem with a version of OpenGL that hasn’t been updated since halfway through Barack Obama’s first term, no support for Vulkan, and Metal 2, which looks like a fine API but is only supported on Apple hardware. All the hardware power in the world can’t fix Apple’s decision to whistle to itself in a corner, sitting on a big pile of money. And sure, it can dual-boot Windows, but then you have to ask if the expense is really worth it compared to what PC OEMs will offer six months to a year later.

      At least they’re using a reasonable filesystem without performing behind-the-scenes byte swapping on all metadata any more!

        • the
        • 4 years ago

        I wasn’t surprised by the lack of Vulkan in Seirra (it takes time to build software APIs) but now its absence is very noticeable.

        • tipoo
        • 4 years ago

        I’d love them to update the 6 year old OpenGL and add Vulkan, but at this point it looks like the game plan is to deprecate OpenGL and go entirely Metal. If they did that, software would have its hand forced to stay on the platform.

        • ET3D
        • 4 years ago

        I’m hoping that Molten (https://moltengl.com/) will be able to deliver on its promise and produce a good working Vulkan implementation.

        • blastdoor
        • 4 years ago

        How many devices are sold every year with native Vulkan support?

        There are about 300 million sold every year with Metal support. And Apple is now getting into the business of designing its own GPUs.

        My guess is that Apple decided that it’s more important to them to have consistency throughout their ecosystem than to have consistency between Mac and Windows.

      • Redundant
      • 4 years ago

      Sour Apple

      • Kretschmer
      • 4 years ago

      Even if the cooling works, Apple’s OpenGL implementation is from what…2010?

        • Concupiscence
        • 4 years ago

        Yep. And even running GL 3.x code it’s markedly, embarrassingly slower than Windows running on the same hardware.

        • lycium
        • 4 years ago

        They own the trademark on OpenCL and seem to have abandoned it for their Metal API. Nvidia lead the OpenCL group and put all their emphasis on CUDA.

        Do you guys like GPU computing? This stuff is what’s holding it back from mass adoption.

    • slowriot
    • 4 years ago

    Is this supposed to be a replacement to the Mac Pro or a new edition to the Pro lineup and a updated stand alone system still coming?

      • tipoo
      • 4 years ago

      It’s a stand in for the end of the year, with a Mac Pro still coming “not this year”.

    • Kretschmer
    • 4 years ago

    Cool, but massively overpriced. It’s also a shame that all that hardware is locked to the display, instead of being in some sort of upgradable base. $5K for a disposable machine is a lot to swallow.

      • slowriot
      • 4 years ago

      In some ways I could see it the other way around i.e. not tying that 5K display to the hardware. Either way I would think anyone needing/buying this level of performance would prefer it be decoupled and able to be upgraded independently and therefore would want a real Mac Pro.

      • tipoo
      • 4 years ago

      Overpriced based on what? Their comparison to a standalone PC with the same configuration showed it was 7K where this starts at 5, 5k screen + Xeon + 4TB SSD + probably Radeon Pro Vega is expensive.

        • blastdoor
        • 4 years ago

        Indeed… there are cheaper ways to get 8 cores (hi, Ryzen!) but if you want Xeon, ECC, 5k monitor, etc etc then it gets pricey for everyone.

    • chuckula
    • 4 years ago

    Not surprising: Skylake X going into future Macs. [Edit: OK, technically the Xeon equivalents of Skylake X if you want to nitpick, but it’s the same silicon]

    Surprising: That an 18 core Skylake Xeon is going into an AIO system like the iMac where you don’t generally have the same flexibility with power & heat that you do in a larger tower system. Fitting in a pretty beefy Vega GPU is impressive too.

      • the
      • 4 years ago

      Apple’s thermal engineereing has been nothing but impressive. The problem is that once they figure it out, they’ll let it sit on store shelves for three years without an update which will make it look horribly dated.

        • DancinJack
        • 4 years ago

        This is super on point.

        • smilingcrow
        • 4 years ago

        Apple admitted that they got it wrong with the trash can design as they were thermally limited and that was why they weren’t able to offer it with a single high end GPU.
        A rare admission of guilt from them.

          • ImSpartacus
          • 4 years ago

          I don’t think that means Apple is any less brilliant at thermal engineering.

          They set out a list of assumptions with the trashcan Mac Pro and built a brilliant product within those assumptions.

          It just so happens that those assumptions were poor (Apple bet too hard on GPGPU’s adoption) and they couldn’t adapt the trashcan to work.

          So I think it’s simultaneously possible for Apple to lead the industry in thermal engineering while still having the potential to make bad decisions that lead them into a corner with respect to engineering.

            • smilingcrow
            • 4 years ago

            I concur. Their engineers are first class but seemingly they have to report to the design teams who seem to think Twiggy is still the epitome of cool.

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