When Apple launched the iMac Pro in December 2017, it was Apple’s most powerful all-in-one desktop and aimed squarely at pro users. However, with the imminent launch of the monstrously powerful, highly customizable Mac Pro, the iMac Pro will soon be knocked off its perch as Apple’s go-to pro configuration.
Apple may therefore be working on a new iMac Pro to give pro users another option. While its components were top of the line in 2017, two years in a long time in the computer industry. Here’s everything we know about the upcoming iMac Pro.
Release date and price
Apple often holds an event in mid-to-late October, and this could see the company announce updates to the iMac Pro to bring it up to date with more recent specs. Indeed, there’s been an Apple event in October almost every year since 2011, with 2015 and 2017 being the only years in which it was absent. We’d therefore say it’s a good bet that Apple will hold an October event this year.
Multiple rumors have suggested a totally redesigned, high-end 16-inch MacBook Pro will be announced at this event. Given that Apple’s Mac Pro web page currently pegs it for a “Fall” launch, Apple may also announce its launch date during the event. With both the all-new MacBook Pro and Mac Pro making an appearance, that would firmly nail down this event as a “pro” showcase — and what better place to tease the iMac Pro than here?
However, we wouldn’t expect the iMac Pro to actually launch until some time in 2020. Apple’s development of the Mac Pro (never mind the new iPhones, Apple Watches and iPads) is likely to have consumed significant resources for the company. That, coupled with the lack of rumors compared to the 16-inch MacBook Pro, suggests to us that an actual launch date is not imminent.
What about the price? The original iMac Pro launched at $4,999, and we’d expect the new version to cost a similar amount. A price that high gives Apple plenty of wiggle room to update the components, much more so than if it was updating a budget device. Apple also updated its MacBook Pro earlier in 2019 to give it more recent internals while keeping the price the same, so Apple is not averse to doing this.
There’s no doubt the iMac design shared by the iMac Pro is a classic of the computer world. However, it also hasn’t changed since 2012. Apple hasn’t gone that long without updating the iMac’s design since, well, ever.
These days, the iMac’s thick bezels look rather outdated. Apple has been trimming down the bezels on all its mobile devices, including the latest iPhones and the iPad Pro, with the 16-inch MacBook rumored to be getting the same treatment. It’s telling that many of Apple’s press images for the iMac Pro utilize a black background, obscuring the embarrassingly large bezels, so we’d at least hope for Apple to fix that in the next iMac Pro.
However, there are a number of reasons to suspect that Apple won’t noticeably update the iMac Pro’s outward design, at least not yet. The first is that there’s only been one iteration of the iMac Pro so far, and that only came out two years ago. That would feel quite soon for Apple to overhaul the design, as it usually gives its devices a few generations before changing their looks.
The second reason is to do with branding, which is something Apple is acutely aware of. The iMac Pro’s design “belongs” to the iMac, not the iMac Pro; in other words, the iMac Pro is lower down the pecking order in terms of marketing than the iMac, which occupies the role of the head of Apple’s desktop family as progenitor of the modern line. The next redesign is likely to debut with the iMac first, before the iMac Pro, because it would give Apple a chance to discuss the iMac’s design heritage — and there’s nothing Apple loves more than its own history.
The fact that Apple hasn’t changed the iMac’s design since 2012 suggests that Apple is quite happy with how it looks. Back when the iMac first launched in 1998, its first design only lasted four years; the “sunflower” design of 2002 only stuck around for two years, before Apple settled on the all-in-one appearance that has gone largely unchanged since (barring a slimming down and change in materials). It could be that Apple is satisfied with this design for the foreseeable future, for better or worse.
The original iMac Pro was designed specifically for high-performance workloads. Its base model came with an 8-core 3.2GHz Intel Xeon W processor, a Vega 56 graphics card, 32GB of memory, and a 1TB PCIe SSD. That could be configured up to an 18-core 2.3GHz Intel Xeon W processor, a Vega 64X GPU, 256GB of RAM and a 4TB PCIe SSD.
In contrast, the Mac Pro can be configured to come with a 28-core processor, 1.5TB of memory and dual graphics cards. Now, we wouldn’t expect components that powerful in the new iMac Pro — it’d probably be impossible to keep a 28-core chip cool inside Apple’s slimline all-in-one. But the Mac Pro’s specs go a long way to highlighting the relative weakness of the iMac Pro.
With that in mind, we’d hope for meaningful performance upgrades in the new iMac Pro, at least to the processor and RAM, and possibly to the graphics card too. We expect the SSD will once again max out at 4TB — that’s the maximum amount you can get in both the Mac Pro and the newly updated MacBook Pro, so we don’t expect fireworks here.
Rumors have suggested Intel’s latest Cascade Lake X chips — including new Xeon W processors – will launch in the third quarter of 2019. That would give Intel until September 30 to bring the new processors to market, so the clock is ticking. But providing there aren’t any major delays, we think it’s possible this generation of Intel chips could make it into the new iMac Pro.
The iMac Pro’s graphics card probably won’t get a huge upgrade, though, for one thing because Apple is now happy to push the idea of people upgrading their graphics performance through the use of external graphics cards (eGPUs). It’s likely to keep doing that, not least because it’s a good opportunity for Apple to push the power of its Thunderbolt 3 ports.