iMac Pro iMac Pro or wait for Coffee Lake iMac?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by kimjohnsson, Feb 14, 2018.

  1. kimjohnsson macrumors member

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    #1
    I've been half-seriously thinking of getting an iMac Pro. I make music and the occasional very light graphic work, so in that sense it might even be a bit overkill for me. Specifically, I don't do any heavy 3D modelling or movies. Historically, I have always needed more processing power than memory, and the minimum of 32 GB is perfectly adequate for me. My current 2013 iMac has 24GB of RAM, and so far that's been enough, but I keep running out of real time processing power. I have no doubt that the entry level iMac Pro would make me a happy camper.

    But I also think waiting for the Coffee Lake generation of a regular iMac might work out pretty well, and that would leave me with a much happier wallet. I have really no idea how the upcoming Coffee Lake processor will compare to the iMac Pro's Xeon processor, for all practical purposes, so any comments about that would be welcome. Also, will the Xeon processors get a similarly noticeable "generation jump" as the Core i-series processors?

    So I guess it all boils down to: when the Coffee Lake iMacs are released, how will processing power compare to the then-current entry level iMac Pro?
     
  2. ThatSandWyrm macrumors regular

    ThatSandWyrm

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    #2
    Any current i7 iMac will beat an iMac Pro on single-threaded CPU tasks, and poorly optimized multi-core tasks, by 25-40% due to it's higher base clock speed. The use cases you describe would not be sped up (and might be slowed down) by an iMac Pro unless you're doing 3-4 things concurrently, or you require an absolutely silent machine for your work. Or if you simply have to have an up-to-date GPU (for work, not gaming).

    The iMac Pro is a very specialized machine that's designed to munch through complex calculations on huge homogenous data sets. You'll only see a benefit with 8K (or complex 4K) video editing, RAW Photo editing (of 100+ images at once), 3D Rendering, 3D Photogrammetry, Game Development Engines (like Unreal), code compilation, machine learning, tasks involving virtual machines, etc.
     
  3. kimjohnsson, Feb 14, 2018
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2018

    kimjohnsson thread starter macrumors member

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    #3
    I'm also running virtual machines as well as programming (both outside and inside the VM's). My main use case is music, though, and I understand Logic is pretty well optimized for multicore.

    So it really does look like thew pro is overkill...
     
  4. SecuritySteve macrumors 6502

    SecuritySteve

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    #4
    I've seen you state that many times in other threads, but I find that in practice it is rare that the processor is ever running at the base frequency. If you look at some of the charts done (especially post #57 from the 10 core vs 18 core thread) the only time it dips to the base frequency is when all cores are in use, and it is under thermal stress from continued use. I think that the Xeon class will overpower the i7 in all real world scenarios, at least on the same generation.
    It's tough to say. I would expect around a 10% performance jump in the next generation, possibly with hex core instead of quad core. If you are worried about single core performance only, then you will likely see improvement over the iMac Pro's single core performance in the next generation consumer iMac. That performance gain will be hard to notice in practice though.

    If you're lucky, they will be announced at WWDC. It is entirely possible we wont see new macs for even longer too. Short of Apple announcing a new press conference sooner, you'll need to ask yourself when you need this machine. If it's in the short term, the conservative bet would be to go iMac Pro - otherwise if you need a computer down the road it is probably a better idea to wait.
     
  5. kimjohnsson thread starter macrumors member

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    #5
    I'm not really in a hurry, but I definitely see myself upgrading within a year.
     
  6. theluggage macrumors 68040

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    #6
    The new iMacs could be good since they're likely to be hex core, and a cool-running 6-core i5 (reputedly faster than the current i7) might be a better fit for music than an i7 that keeps ramping up the fan.

    ...but we've got absolutely no clue if/when they'll appear and what other changes will happen. Apple could just drop the new processors in the existing designs (OK, so its a teeny bit harder than "just drop") or they might do a radical re-design. I'd speculate that they might "dumb down" the range a bit to leave a clear advantage for the iMac Pro: if the new i5 does outperform the old i7 then dropping the higher-wattage fastest-i7/fastest-GPU options might let them slim down the case a bit/remove the chin while not distracting power users from the iMac Pro and promised Mac Pro. Suggest that the user-upgradeable RAM or the USB3-A and Ethernet ports will vanish and I wouldn't bet against you. Nobody knows.

    I think the question is: is your current system getting the job done? If so, you can afford to wait, and even if you don't like what happens to the iMacs, there may be official iMac Pro refurbs around.

    I still feel that you need a bottom-line, time-is-money case for splurging in the iMac Pro, though - unless you manage to pick up one of those special deals and are already looking at a top-end iMac.
     
  7. SecuritySteve macrumors 6502

    SecuritySteve

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    #7
    Then I would wait. It's hard to be patient, I waited for my current iMac Pro (or a Mac Pro with similar specs) for years, but it is worth it.
     
  8. tomscott1988 macrumors 6502

    tomscott1988

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    #8
    The thing that will be interesting is to see if apple adopts the better cooling system of the iMac Pro with the upgrade. If they did it would make the i7 or possibly i9s run faster and keep their peek turbo boost for longer.

    When rendering the i7 is super loud because it hits 99deg so quickly and apple dont ramp the fans up until it almost hits that point and then it downclocks. So stupid, pay the extra for the performance but the design of the computer reduces its performance below that of the standard i5.

    There is nothing wrong with the current iMacs but they do throttle as the cooling system is not adequate while extended render times etc. Even setting the fan on full via SMC control just prologues the time it takes to get to that point.

    So if you are somebody who does large projects of rendering, that could be anything from exporting imagery, video, 3d graphics etc for extended periods then the standard iMac will be slower.

    I rendered 300 30mp 5DMKIV raw files on my cMP last night and it pinned the CPU at 100% for all cores and it didnt get close to 99deg so doesn't down clock which is what you expect from a well cooled machine. I was actually impressed that a ten year old machine managed 23 mins to do so. The new 7.2 update has helped this tho almost doubled its performance.

    If the 5K imac could run at its full potential then the machines would be much faster in extended use. Lets be fair its doubtful we will see a design revision and if we do then they will most likely try to make it thiner and give no ram upgrade options down the road.

    The other issue is there is the iMac Pro and the upcoming Mac Pro both niche products, if they made the 5K iMac run like a traditional desktop with good temps it would make choosing one of the above over the 5K more difficult.
     
  9. ThatSandWyrm macrumors regular

    ThatSandWyrm

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    #9
    You might have a use case for the pro then. But stick to 8 or 10 core.
    --- Post Merged, Feb 14, 2018 ---
    I've stated it because I ran timed tests using the software that I specifically bought the iMP to run. I can also detect the small but noticeable performance dips (compared to my old i7 iMac) in apps like Photoshop and InDesign during certain kinds of tasks. For the uses I mentioned, the machine really flies at 2-5x the speed of an i7. But if you're not using demanding multi-core optimized software, then you won't notice any meaningful performance increase for all the extra money you'll spend.

    Benchmarks != Real World Use. I've never seen the CPU top 80% utilization. Even under a full CPU/GPU load that ramped up the normally silent internal fan to "Loud Hair Dryer" (processing a 94GB dataset for 8 hours) on my 10-core iMP.
     
  10. joema2, Feb 14, 2018
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2018

    joema2 macrumors 65816

    joema2

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    #10
    Max Yuryev did stress testing of 2015 and 2017 i7 iMacs side-by-side, and didn't observe much throttling on the 2017 model. The 2015 and 2014 models were more subject to this:

    It's true every i7 iMac since 2012 will spin up the fans under sustained high load. Even though it's a smooth white noise sound, it can definitely be irritating, especially if you don't have other spinning drives or RAID arrays making background noise.

    The iMac Pro is really super quiet. In all the video transcoding I've done (so far) it's been as quiet as a 2013 Mac Pro.

    My advice:

    - For people who need a machine now, the 2017 i7 iMac is really fast, especially on H264 video using FCPX.
    - For people who immediately need a fast machine that is quieter under sustained high load, the 2017 3.8Ghz i5 iMac is a good choice.
    - For people who understand their workloads and how the iMac Pro interacts with this, and immediately need a machine with more multicore CPU or GPU performance than the i7 iMac, the iMP could be a good option.
    - For people who can afford it, need i7 or better performance and want a machine that stays quiet under high load, the iMP is a possibility.

    In all other cases it may be better to wait on the presumed Coffee Lake iMac. If it has the six-core i7-8700K, that would be a great machine assuming (1) They improve the cooling, or (2) You don't care about the noise

    For people doing video editing with software that exploits Quick Sync, the i7-8700K and i5-8600K will have that, plus two more cores. Maybe the i5-8600K would be quieter but both it and the 8700K have a 95 watt TDP. Unfortunately we don't know whether Apple will use either of these in the next iMac or whether they will improve the cooling.

    For people doing H264 or H265 4k video editing, the iMac Pro has some issues with certain software under certain conditions. FCPX does not currently support 4k HEVC 10-bit encoding, and H264 encoding performance is not clearly superior to the 2017 i7 iMac in all cases (at least with FCPX). This is because the iMP uses AMD's UVD/VCE decode/encode hardware, which has a different API and performance characteristics.
     
  11. ThatSandWyrm macrumors regular

    ThatSandWyrm

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    #11
    Yeah, if he's not in a rush, then I think it will pay to wait. See what the iMac refreshes look like. See what finally gets announced regarding the new Mac Pro, etc.
     
  12. kimjohnsson thread starter macrumors member

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    #12
    Yeah, it's probably a good idea to wait. I might want to upgrade my MBP as well at the same time.

    I don't think they'll do anything that in any way changes the face of the iMac (if you by "chin" mean the area below the screen, with the Apple logo). I have an iMac 2009 sitting next to my iMac 2013, and there's something very satisfying in them looking the same when viewed from the front. Once I upgrade, my current 2013 will move one step to the left, and the 2009 will move upstairs (or the other way around). It would be weird if they didn't look the same. Even if one of them were space grey.
     
  13. mpe macrumors regular

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    #13
    It shouldn’t be taken for granted that Apple are actually going to refresh iMac line this year.

    They usually don’t do that every year and often skip CPU generations. Especially now they released iMac Pro and iMac 2017 is relatively fresh and on Kaby Lake they have to reason to skip.
     
  14. khollister macrumors 6502a

    khollister

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    #14
    Between the multi-threaded nature of a lot of software today and the crazy turbo multipliers on the new Xeon CPU's, I doubt a stock 8700K and the 8 or 10 core iMP are that far apart. I observe 4.0 - 4.2 GHZ most of the time on lightly loaded use and most/all of the cores are in partial use. Looking at what appears to be non-overclocked 8700K hackintosh Geekbench scores, the 10 core iMP isn't vary far behind. Of course it slaughters the 8700 in multicore. Even Lightroom, which is often perceived as a "single core app", often lights up at least 10 of the 20 cores on many operations.

    One can argue whether the iMP is cost effective for something like LR, but don't assume it isn't just as fast (or faster on certain batch operations) as an i7.

    I bought one for orchestral composition (100+ tracks with complex sampled instruments) where cores as well as speed matter - LR is just a bonus use case.
     
  15. ThatSandWyrm macrumors regular

    ThatSandWyrm

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    #15
    There is no reason to assume that it's just as fast either. It depends on the software you're using.

    When you spend a lot of money on something, it's hard to avoid confirmation bias, because you want to justify the purchase to yourself. I can objectively say that I'm disappointed in my iMP's performance in single and poorly optimized multi-threaded apps –which is most of them. But for the bulk of what I do (3D scanning, rendering, ZBrush, & game development) the iMP is a better machine overall. Most of my important apps use the extra cores to their fullest, and even a poorly optimized app like Photoscan that needs 94+GB of RAM for a processing run will finish much quicker on my 128GB iMP than a 32GB i7 machine that's forced to swap out to disk. But if the run only needs 16GB of RAM, the i7 will finish quicker.

    So folks need to be aware of the iMP's strengths and limitations before they blindly throw money at one. "Pro" in this case does not mean "automatically faster than non-Pro". Like it does with most other Macs and iPads.
     
  16. fathergll macrumors 6502a

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    #16

    The $64,000 question is if they will skip a general upgrade and redesign the iMac and if that redesign will impact performance? The aluminum iMac in general is over 10 years old with the slim body being 5 years old. If I was a betting man I would put money on the regular iMac never getting the iMac Pro cooling and the eventual redesign version will be made more 'modern' with non-accessible ram while the iMac Pro will stay as is for a long time. If Apple releases a 6 core i7 or even i9s into a regular iMac with better cooling it will cannibalize the iMac Pro to some extent. Historically speaking Apple likes to keep their product lines very distinct. Right now a maxed out 4 core i7 iMac starts blurring the line as it out performs the base iMac Pro in some areas. Throw in higher performing i7/i9 chips into the mix and things get closer.
     
  17. ThatSandWyrm macrumors regular

    ThatSandWyrm

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    #17
    Gimping the iMac line to try and preserve the market for a niche product like the iMac Pro would be incredibly stupid. Like Apple 1996 stupid.

    Which doesn't mean it couldn't happen, but Jobs didn't worry about the iPad cannibalizing his company's laptop line. Or the iPhone stealing sales from the iPod. He knew that if Apple didn't make these products ASAP, someone else would. And then they would end up like Sony. Selling underpowered gear for more than their competition. Which, so far, they've only done with the new MacBook Pro line. Beyond those like me who couldn't wait any longer for a laptop upgrade, I wonder how many they've actually sold after the initial rush.
     
  18. fathergll macrumors 6502a

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    #18
    I don't think they are going to gimp the consumer iMac in a pure sense meaning the next update will host the same design and less specs/accessibility. What I mean there is a very strong possibility it's a slimmer resdesign to boost sales which ends up gimping it in some aspects(can't access RAM slots, chipset isn't as cutting edge as it could be, cooling doesn't improve). The best thing they could do as you pointed out is adopt the iMac Pro's design and incorporate much higher end consumer chips to benefit from the cooling. I don't there is much of a chance of that happening as they already have a pro line iMac out there to serve that userbase.

    If you want to look at their strategy then look no farther then the Mac Mini. Apple's only desktop computer is about as gimped as you can get having it on par with a Macbook Air. They rarely update it and the last update sodered the ram and removed the quad core i7. You're only options using MacOS to do any type of intensive work outside of a laptop is an all-in-one(iMac) or workstation(Mac Pro). I'd say thats done on purpose so that a desktop Mac will not eat into sales of higher profit items. Lets be honest, if Apple had a desktop computer with decent hardware a lot of the users in this iMac subforum would be using that over an iMac.
     
  19. FredT2 macrumors 6502a

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    #19
    Can you give some examples of programs that don't run as well on the iMac Pro? I haven't found any that don't run at least as well on iMac Pro as on my 2014 i7 iMac. And all those where speed matters run faster.
     
  20. richinaus macrumors 6502a

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    #20
    In everyday use I have noticed no real difference on an 8 core iMac Pro to the 2017 maxed iMac. In challenging apps that utilise the GPU significantly or rendering I have noticed a huge difference - that is the iMac Pro kills the iMac in speed and noise of the fans.
    I certainly have no regret at all in investing in an iMac Pro as it works for my business, but as has been said it all depends on the use. Single core stick with an iMac. Multi core and GPU intensive work the iMac pro is much better.
     
  21. sublunar macrumors 6502a

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    #21
    With AMD Ryzen multicore CPUs and Intel catching up with 6 Core Coffee Lake CPUs which are already available for sale (no mystery there) Apple have to upgrade to keep up. Most Macs were refreshed with Kaby Lake last June 2017 so I'd guess a Q2 refresh is in order for the iMac assuming suitable GPUs are available.

    To avoid more obvious cannibalisation Apple would simply use the iMac Pro cooling solution (but only in silver) and add a less powerful AMD RX Vega Mobile GPU which would eliminate the RAM access door in a similar way to the iMac Pro.

    Perhaps they intend to leave user upgradable RAM to the modular Mac Pro but with Apple branded 4k and 5k monitors coming surely they need to have a worthy headless computer to pair off with it. The 2014 Mac Mini does not have USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 so would look fairly useless next to modern Apple monitor it couldn't connect to.
     
  22. Appleaker macrumors 68000

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  23. Florida Gator macrumors regular

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    #23
    Which could not come until June or July. If you can make it 6 months, do it, but that's a ways out.
     
  24. smirking macrumors 65816

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    #24
    Is music production that processor intensive? If you're budget conscious, I don't see why you would even want to consider something as hard hitting as an iMac Pro if music production is what you're buying a machine for. You definitely wouldn't need it for very occasional light graphics work and if your definition of very occasional and light is similar to mine, you'd be more than ok with anything that came out in the past four years with an SSD.
     
  25. fastlanephil macrumors 65816

    fastlanephil

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    #25
    It can be very processor intensive or moderately processor intensive depending on a lot of things. Some people can get the job done with an older Mac and maybe one external HD. At the other end, some people need a fast, multi-core Mac with lots of memory, multiple HDs and sometimes one or more sample slave computers using Vienna Ensemble Pro and an ethernet connection. Most audio users have needs somewhere between these two examples.
     

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