Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: Holding off on the iMac Pro

New iMac

When Apple announced the iMac Pro back at WWDC, I thought it’d be my next desktop. I love my Late 2015 iMac with 5K display, and the iMac Pro promised to take everything about it and make it better.

Like Jason, much of my work would benefit from being able to max out more cores. I do a ton of audio processing and editing, in addition to a fair amount of 4K video editing in Final Cut Pro X.

Before I saw the iMac Pro’s pricing, I had thought I’d opt for the 10-core machine, which seems to be the sweet spot between clock speed and core count. When I saw that the final pricing, I knew the only machine I could afford (and justify) would be the base model that Jason ordered.

I settled into that but had a problem. Instead of tapping the purchase button as quickly as I could, I found myself unsure about my decision. Even the 8-core machine would be a huge update to the 4-core i5 in my iMac, not to mention the superior RAM, SSD and GPU, but the $5,000 was still a huge chunk of change.

I set out to compare the regular iMac to its new Space Gray cousin. I think it’s easy to overlook the 27-inch iMac in the shadow of the iMac Pro, but it’s still noticeably faster than what I am sitting in front of now. Apple gave this iMac a much better GPU that what mine shipped with, and I could order one with i7, which I skipped last time when buying refurbished. Geekbench scores showed I could expect a nice speed bump, and by going to the i7 model, I’d have a hyper-threading CPU, giving me 4 additional virtual cores.

Then there was the budget. A 27-inch iMac with a 4.2 GHz Core i7, 1 TB SSD and 8 GB of RAM is just $3,099.00. A 32 GB RAM kit from MacSales runs $334, and bumps the machine to 40 GB of memory. Even at $648, their 64 GB RAM kit is less than half the price of Apple’s upgrade.

In short, a 2017 iMac wouldn’t be as big of an update for me as an iMac Pro would be, but I could do it spending considerably less money.

So that’s what I did.

My new non-Pro iMac got here right after Christmas, and I couldn’t be more excited to have a faster and more capable workstation. It should greatly decrease the frustration I feel when editing video.

Some Mac users warn against buying the first generation of any Apple product. I’m usually not in that camp (but do suggest AppleCare!) but with the iMac Pro, I couldn’t shake that thought. There’s a lot of new stuff in that chassis, with an all-new cooling system. I am extremely curious to read reviews by people I know and trust, but I’m even more interested in seeing how these machines hold up over the next couple of years.

It also lets me buy time. If this machine doesn’t meet my needs, I can still move to the iMac Pro once the dust settles, while it still retains most of its value on the second-hand market. It gives me enough breathing room to even see what the next-generation Mac Pro will be like, or even upcoming iMac models that could feature the 6-core/12-thread Coffee Lake chips from Intel.

If the 2017 iMac ends up being a bridge to the future, that’s fine. It’ll be better than my 2015, and in the worst case scenario, lets me save some cash for an upgrade down the road.

I am bummed I won’t be getting any cool Space Gray input devices, though.

[Stephen Hackett is the author of 512 Pixels and co-founder of Relay FM.]

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