How the iMac Pro could come out of retirement to dominate the desktop
In 2021, the iMac got a major refresh with a sleek new design and a new M1 processor. At the time, it was a much-needed update to Apple’s iconic line of computers, but not that it’s 16 months later, it’s time for a new model. And maybe even better.
After thinking about a new iMac, I’ve concluded that most of the features I’d like to see don’t match the current iMac. Instead, I’d like to see the return of the iMac Pro, which was discontinued last year. When it launched in 2017, it was widely seen as a stopgap between Mac Pro models, but it was an important machine that helped separate the iMac into distinct lines – the 21.5-inch model for consumers conscious of their budget, the 27-inch model with more screen and power, and the Pro model for the most demanding users.
Now, the only iMac sold by Apple is decidedly aimed at regular consumers. Rumors that Apple is working on an iMac Pro come out sporadically, but it’s been a while since we’ve heard anything. When the next iMac update arrives (likely next spring), I’d love to see Apple unveil a new iMac Pro and bring the ultimate all-in-one desktop back to the lineup. Here’s what it should look like.
iMac Pro: a faster M2 Pro processor
Obviously, a computer called “iMac Pro” should have a pro-level processor. The question is, however, which pro processor? Reports last year speculated that Apple could use the M1 Pro and Max chips in an iMac Pro, and that would make sense given that the current iMac has an M1.
However, this speculation came at a time when it was thought the iMac Pro would be released this year. With no new rumours, it now looks like a new model won’t arrive until 2023 or possibly even 2024. And to further complicate the thinking, Apple released the MacBook Air M2 and MacBook Pro 13-inch earlier this year, and the iMac is also expected to be upgraded to the M2. So the push to 2023 and the existence of the M2 may lead to the conclusion that Apple will use an M2 Pro and a Max in an iMac Pro.
But there’s also the headless Mac Studio with M1 Max and M1 Ultra processors that came out earlier this year. The Mac lineup would seem odd if there was a new M2 Pro iMac Pro and the Mac Studio still had the year’s processors, so maybe the company could also update the Mac Studio at the same time. Updating the Mac Studio only after a year wouldn’t be unusual – reports indicate that Apple will update the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro M1 Pro and Max models after just a year. And back when Apple used Intel processors, annual updates were common.
Since we’re speculating here, it’s easy to start thinking more radically. For example, what if Apple kept the iMac M1 for another generation and instead released an iMac Pro M1 Pro and M1 Max? This seems to be a possibility to further differentiate the iMac Pro and the Mac Studio. Either way, an M1 Pro or M2 Pro processor will deliver the performance users need.
The Studio display is the iMac Pro
2021 reports of the iMac Pro included the possibility of it being released in the first quarter of 2022 with a 27-inch screen. Instead, the Studio Display debuted at that time, so it’s possible the rumor mill confused the Studio Display with the iMac Pro.
Either way, the Studio Display sits several levels above the current iMac display, making it ideal for an iMac Pro. In fact, Apple launched the Studio Display alongside the Mac Studio, so using this display in an iMac Pro meets the needs of its target user.
The Studio Display is larger (27 inches), brighter (600 nits), and offers a higher resolution of 5120×2880 than the 24-inch iMac with 4480×2520 resolution and 500 nits brightness. However, the Studio Display doesn’t have HDR (high dynamic range), high refresh rate, or ProMotion (the ability to adapt the refresh rate based on what’s on display). Apple has added these features to its other Pro devices – iPhone, iPad, MacBook – but I don’t expect Apple to add them here. They’re more likely for the late Pro Display XDR refresh, but that’s a separate topic.
All black no chin
Apple likes to make clear design differences between its consumer and professional devices. To make an obvious distinction between the iMac and the iMac Pro (besides the size), Apple might offer the iMac Pro in Space Gray as the original model. but I’d like to see Apple do more than offer pro-only color choices. I’m no engineer, but based on teardowns of the iMac and Studio Display, and the low power and heat requirements of the Apple silicon, it looks like a chinless iMac Pro is possible. Along with that, Apple might want to do something to distinguish the iMac Pro from the Studio Display, like putting a small silver Apple logo on the bottom bezel.
Speaking of bezels, using black bezels on an iMac Pro instead of the white iMacs is something I would love to see. Personally, I don’t like the iMac’s white bezels and I bet the dark bezels are preferred by pro users.
I’ll double that bet by proposing that pro users also prefer the nano-texture glass option available on Apple’s Studio Display and Pro Display XDR, and was also an option on the Intel-based 27-inch iMac, now abandoned. The nano-textured glass has a matte finish and reduces glare better than the iMac’s glossy glass. Make it an option for the iMac Pro, please, Apple.
Power and performance please
Now that we’ve created my perfect iMac Pro on the outside, here are the rest of the specs I’d like to see included with the M1 Pro and M2 Pro chips:
- 32 GB of standard RAM, expandable to 128 GB
- 512GB SSD standard, expandable to 8TB
- 4 Thunderbolt/USB-C ports
- 1 USB-A port
- SDXC card slot
- 12MP center stage camera
- Spatial audio support
An expensive proposition
All of these features for an iMac Pro would definitely make it a Mac that sits at the higher end of the price scale. Which is good – the original iMac Pro was $4,999. But Apple’s silicon changes things up – if you buy a $1,999 base model Mac Studio and a $1,599 base model Studio Display, for example, you’ll pay $1,400 less than the price of the original iMac Pro. Apple will likely charge a premium for all-in-one convenience – probably starting at $3,999 at least – but even so, it’ll be worth it. And makes me very happy.
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