Apple has released updated versions of its popular iMac workstation, featuring newer Intel CPUs and improved AMD graphics capabilities. This is welcome news for users who have outgrown the 7th-generation Intel processor. For power users, Apple has also introduced additional upgrade options for the iMac Pro line, expanding the capabilities of these top-end workstations even further.
New iMacs for 2019
The baseline pre-built 21.5-inch Retina iMac features either an 8th-generation quad-core Intel i3 processor or a 6-core i5, and comes with a Radeon Pro 555X or 560X graphics card. Default options ship with either a 1TB standard hard drive or a 1TB Fusion drive. Users are able to customize their iMac options, and those who need more power and have the budget available can upgrade up to a 6-core i7 CPU, 32GB of memory, a Radeon Pro Vega 20 graphics card, and SSD storage. Connectivity remains the same as current models with 2x Thunderbolt 3 ports, and the 21.5-inch iMac still features Apple’s 4K display. Pricing ranges from $1299 at the low end to $3349 for all the performance upgrades on the 21.5-inch Retina model.
For the high-end 27-inch iMac, baseline pre-built options include either an 8th- or 9th-generation 6-core i5 CPU, and Radeon Pro 570X, 575X, and 580X graphics cards. Top-end upgrade options include the latest 9th-generation 8-core i9 processor, up to 64GB of RAM, and AMD’s Radeon Pro Vega 48 graphics card. Storage baseline is a 1- or 2TB Fusion drive, but is customizable with up to a 2TB SSD for additional performance. The standard 2x Thunderbolt 3 ports and 5K Retina display remain consistent from previous models. Pricing ranges from $1799 to $5249 for all performance upgrades. It’s worth noting that these upgrades may place the 27-inch iMac within striking distance of the iMac Pro for users who need computing and graphics muscle but lack the budget to invest in the Pro platform.
For budget users looking for an affordable iMac desktop, the low-end non-Retina 21.5-inch solution is still available for $1099. However, this option still relies on the older 7th-generation dual-core i5 CPU, so it’s generally advisable to invest a bit more into the $1299 updated Retina iMac for system longevity and overall performance if possible.
Apple’s upgrades bring much-needed performance boosts to the popular iMac series, keeping the systems more in line with competing workstations. The choice to retain Intel’s 8th-generation CPUs (apart from some 9th-generation options on the 27-inch model) is disappointing, though Apple claims the new processors will still deliver up to a 60% performance boost on the 21.5-inch iMac, and up to a 2.4x improvement on the 27-inch iMac.
The updated iMacs are now available for sale on the Apple website.
Additional iMac Pro Upgrade Options
For users eyeing the power of the iMac Pro, Apple has introduced additional upgrade options. Changes are less extensive than those on the iMac, and the default iMac Pro remains the same as when it was released in December 2017 (available at $4999).
Users can now customize their iMac Pro with a top-end AMD Radeon Pro Vega 64X GPU with 16GB of memory. While the Vega 64X will offer a performance bump over existing systems, this may be the best news for users interested in the older Vega 64; the cost of that upgrade has been dropped from $600 to $550. The Vega 64X upgrade prices out at $700.
SSD upgrades have also dropped in price. Going from the baseline 1TB drive to a 2TB SSD will cost $600 instead of $800 as before, and upgrading all the way to a 4TB SSD will cost $2400 (down from $2800).
Saving the best for last, the iMac Pro can now be configured with an eye-watering 256GB of 2666MHz DDR4 RAM. No, that’s not a typo. While most modern software doesn’t come close to requiring that much memory (64GB remains plenty for most 3D and video editing tasks), extreme power users interested in machine learning, distributed computing, and other resource extensive tasks now have that option in the iMac Pro. Upgrading from the baseline 32GB all the way to 256GB will cost a staggering $5200.
The silver lining to the massive amount of RAM availability is that more conventional upgrades have become less expensive. Upgrading from 32GB to 64GB of RAM costs a much more reasonable $400, down from $800. As RAM is difficult to replace on an iMac Pro, this upgrade may be attractive to users in the market for a new pro-level system.
The iMac Pro is available for sale on the Apple website. The top-end model with all performance upgrades (including that 256GB of RAM) prices out at $15,699.
Mac Pro Rumors
While details are not yet available, Apple is actively in development of a new high-end modular Mac Pro, scheduled to launch later this year. Rumors suggest the new Mac Pro’s release will be accompanied by a new 31.6 inch Apple display that will deliver “outstanding picture quality” at a 6K resolution.
Apple admits that the previous Mac Pro model was difficult to modify, including widespread problems with heat from upgraded hardware. A redesigned system should allow the system to better accommodate future upgrades and high-end components.
For Apple’s official announcement on the upgraded iMac, check out their press release. For more information, The Verge, Venture Beat, and PC Mag have all covered the new release. Additional information on the iMac Pro upgrade options can be found on TechCrunch and Motherboard. MacRumors has the breakdown of the current Mac Pro and what we know so far about the upcoming 2019 version.
If you have questions about the new updates and whether to deploy them at your facility, feel free to reach out to Nodal!