Apple unveils 18-core, Radeon Pro Vega-powered iMac Pro

June 6, 2017 | 10:06

Tags: #hbm2 #imac-pro #ios-11 #ipad #ipad-pro #macos #macos-1013 #macos-high-sierra #mac-pro #radeon-pro-500 #wwdc #xeon

Companies: #apple

Apple officially unveiled its next-generation workstation machine, the iMac Pro, at the Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) last night, promising an 18-core, 36-thread Xeon processor and AMD Radeon Pro 500 graphics in an all-in-one chassis built around a 27", 5K-resolution display.

One of the highlights of the company's reasonably jam-packed WWDC presentations, the iMac Pro is designed to replace the company's cylindrical Mac Pro as the go-to workstation-class machine for those within the Apple ecosystem. 'We’re thrilled to give developers and customers a sneak peek at iMac Pro. This will be our fastest and most powerful Mac ever, which brings workstation-class computing to iMac for the first time,' claimed John Ternus, Apple’s vice president of hardware engineering, at the unveiling. 'We reengineered the whole system and designed an entirely new thermal architecture to pack extraordinary performance into the elegant, quiet iMac enclosure our customers love. iMac Pro is a huge step forward and there’s never been anything like it.'

According to Apple, the new twin-blower thermal redesign offers an 80 percent boost in thermal capacity compared with previous-generation iMac models. The result: Apple has been able to cram in Intel's Xeon processors, offering an 18-core, 36-thread model at the top end. This CPU grunt is paired with AMD's Radeon Pro 56 or 64 Vega-based graphics processors, offering 11 trillion floating-point operations per second (T/FLOPS) of single-precision compute and 16GB of High-Bandwidth Memory 2 (HBM2) on-package. The internals are finished off with up to 4TB of solid-state storage and 128GB of ECC memory, while the exterior includes four Thunderbolt 3 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, an SDXC card reader, and 10Gb/s Ethernet connectivity.

The iMac Pro is scheduled to launch in December, with a US retail price starting at $4,999 - which, given the current exchange rate and VAT, will work out to £4,999 in the UK. For this price, however, buyers will get an eight-core, 16-thread processor, Radeon Pro Vega 56 with 8GB of HBM2, 32GB of ECC DDR4 memory, and a 1TB SSD. Pricing for the upgrades has yet to be confirmed.

The announcement of the iMac Pro doesn't mean Apple has given up on its promise of a modular replacement for the bin-shaped Mac Pro, though. At the unveiling, Apple confirmed it was still working on what it bills as 'a completely redesigned, next-generation Mac Pro architected for pro customers who need the highest-end, high-throughput system in a modular design, as well as a new high-end pro display.' The redesign follows the company's admission that the Mac Pro's innovative three-sided central heatsink design fails to allow for the use of a single high-performance graphics card, requiring two lower-performance cards in order to correctly balance the thermal output.

At the same event, Apple announced a host of other extras: refreshed iMac, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air hardware; macOS 10.13 High Sierra, which is the first to use the company's new Apple File System (APFS), and iOS 11; the HomePod, a voice-activated assistant-cum-speaker designed to compete with the Amazon Echo and Google Home; ARKit, a platform for augmented reality technology, alongside support for virtual reality including the HTC Vive within macOS; refreshed iPad Pro tablets and a new, faster Apple Pencil stylus.

More details on the iMac Pro are available from the official product page, while a full list of the company's WWDC announcements can be found in the Apple newsroom.
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