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Apple’s iMac Pro is a love letter to developers (techcrunch.com)
27 points by LearnerHerzog on Dec 14, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 75 comments

The cheese grater style Mac Pros were the best for developers. Still hasn't changed. They were reasonably priced, good looking boxes that you can open and upgrade. We don't care about compactness unless it's a laptop. Key feature is that we can open the box and there's room to add and change stuff inside. Otherwise it's not really 'Pro'. This is even more relevant when you have horsepower hungry stuff like VR.

It's only a matter of time before Win 10 Unix features mature, and it makes me migrate back to Windows.

I think you paint pro's with a pretty wide brush. Pro developers or IT people, sure... Pro animators, designers, architects, engineers? I think many pro's just want their system to be fast, run their software and complete their tasks efficiently. Nice form factor is probably even a benefit to a lot of them, more than the ability to swap parts.

No, I feel that you may have misread my comment. I'm specifically referring to developers and only developers.

> designers, architects. Nice form factor is probably even a benefit to a lot of them, more than the ability to swap parts.

You're right. These are the professions that need a lot of physical space for whom the slim form factors makes sense. I just vaguely remember Phil Schiller saying that the new machines will better cater to developers.

Sorry about that. Upon re-reading I see that you did specify developers. I will add that most of the developers I work with don't like to mess around with their work computer much... I'm sure at home they like to customize and do their own thing but I doubt that's a specific market Apple is trying to cater directly to.

Yeah that makes sense for developers who clock in and out for a large conglomerate. It's not the same for devs who work for a startup.

I'm really interested in what you're doing in a startup that needs all that power locally.

For me, I would probably be happy with a 2 core macbook but I use a 4 core macbook pro. If I'm doing something that needs a lot of compute, it's in the cloud.

I use the usual resource hogs like full blown IDEs, multiple electron apps, a million browser windows, server instances, and more; with occasional heavy processing or regular integration tests.

Yes I can offload stuff to the cloud. I just don't want to, just like you're happier with a laptop as opposed to a desktop. I don't want to deal with issues like latency and configuration or more importantly constantly thinking about whether or not I have enough resources to run something locally. There's enough things in my life that I have to budget.

You need more than 64GB for your IDE and electron apps?

I have a 16GB macbook pro and I run two different IDE's, firefox with about 20-30 tabs, Eagle, and various other programs. I rarely run into swapping problems.

> You need more than 64GB for your IDE and electron apps?

"with occasional heavy processing" Yes.

Besides why would you want a powerful machine frozen in amber when it's not a laptop?

It really depends on what your workload is. I would assume for most people 64 GB is going to be more than enough for the next 5 years.

For me the real concern is with the GPU. As soon as apple comes out with a 32GB macbook pro I'll probably upgrade and just attach an eGPU to it.

> For me the real concern is with the GPU.

This is actually my main concern as well which is atleast addressed with a solution. Upgrading SSDs is the other but I don't like using Thunderbolt.

I really want to stay with Mac OS, but Apple just makes it harder and harder with every year while Windows is getting a little better at the same time under Nadella.

"Love letter to developers"?! If Apple wants to send me a love letter, they can tell their design team to put 32gb of RAM into a MacBook Pro that has an upgradeable drive, expandable memory and a reasonable configuration of ports.

I find it very hard to understand why they have not done this yet. I am even willing to sacrifice on the upgradability, since this is a sacrifice we have been making by default in recent years. But not being able to select a 32GB RAM option is just terrible.

At the price of a Macbook Pro one can hardly argue that it is a office productivity tool since it is clearly aimed at the "Pro" market. If the situation does not change then it is going to force pro users to look at alternatives.

Just give me an extra pound of RAM and Battery. I don't care about the "thinnest lightest MacBook pro ever". Making the pro laptop light and port-free is omphaloskeptic.

That's a hell of a good word

Apple will not sell a laptop with lpddr4 . Everyone is putting laptops out there with ddr 4 instead which takes more power. (Note this was true when the Current refresh came out).

Or a Mac Mini with upgradable memory and a relatively easily replacable hard disk or SSD (like the 2012 Mac Mini). The Mac Mini is what got me hooked to Macs, they were relatively easily upgradable, and you could bring your own keyboard, screen, etc.

Now the line-up for developers is just 'meh'. 1500-2000 Euro buys you a baseline configuration that is weak (my ~5 year old Dell workstation that I bought second hand for ~400 Euro still has three times as much memory, and is twice as fast for multi core loads as my MacBook Pro). To get a reasonable developer machine, you have to drop 3000-4000 Euro and you get something that is unexpandable and still does not have modern CUDA-supporting GPU except for a still somewhat experimental eGPU setup.

Apple is now a large consumer hardware company. Love letters to developers are a thing of a distant past.

(This year is my 10 year Mac anniversary, but there is not much to be happy about, except for the still excellent software from the Mac ISV ecosystem.)

I also need the option to get rid of that horrific Touch Bar. My IDEs are nigh unusable with that thing, as using the stepping-debugger becomes a tactile-less nightmare.

I remember hearing the lack of a 32GB option was due to the chipset or something.

Lack of a 32GB option in the MacBook Pros is because Intel's memory controller cannot handle LPDDR4 (except in U SKUs, which Apple does not use for MacBook Pro), and Apple decided using regular DDR4 to reach 32GB would consume too much power. [1]

Apparently Intel will fix this in their 2018 mobile SKUs, but until then Apple has chosen not to kneecap battery life or build a different logic board for the people who want 32GB.

This situation has a lot of parallels for me to the situation they faced with IBM and the G5. Everyone at the time wanted the G5 in a laptop to replace the G4, but IBM couldn't get the power consumption down.

Now over a decade later, Apple is taking shit for Intel's delays in supporting LPDDR4. I bet this is going to accelerate their plans to migrate Mac to their own ARM designs.

[1] http://www.idownloadblog.com/2016/10/31/macbook-pros-lack-of...

> This situation has a lot of parallels for me to the situation they faced with IBM and the G5.

That's a great observation, and having witnessed the PowerPC -> Intel migration I'm disappointed I didn't make it myself. Both Motorola and IBM, who were supplying Power CPUs to Apple, sold off their microprocessor divisions after a litany of manufacturing difficulties. IIRC, that was what drove Apple to abandon PowerPC in the first place. It would be ironic if Intel, having benefitted so greatly from the manufacturing shortfalls of past competitors, would find itself in a similar situation.

> It would be ironic if Intel, having benefitted so greatly from the manufacturing shortfalls of past competitors, would find itself in a similar situation.

Intel is already in this position, though not because they sold off their fabs.

All the money these days is going into mobile SoC manufacturing by the likes of TSMC and Samsung. Intel simply lost because Samsung and TSMC are able to outspend Intel on fab R&D and it's showing in Intel's numerous node shrink delays.

People will argue that TSMC/Samsung 7/10nm is not the same as Intel, and probably they're right, but only at present. TSMC/Samsung are eventually going to surpass Intel's fab technology because they're killing it in volume manufacturing chips for Apple, Qualcomm, Nvidia, AMD, and others.

Meanwhile Intel is fabbing for... Intel. Plus some Altera FPGA IP they don't seem to be integrating very well into their product stack. If Intel wants to survive the next 20 years the only option I see is that they start fabbing for other people too.

ARM is moving into servers, and once the perf/watt surpasses Intel, it won't be long for the hyperscale cloud companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook to migrate away from Intel. For those guys, a 10% TCO reduction is a big deal, and while some of the perf/watt is due to the design, a lot of it comes from having the better process. If Intel loses their process lead, which is happening right now, then they're going to be second tier.

People will look back in 15 years at Intel snubbing Apple for the original iPhone SoC and mark that decision as the beginning of the end for Intel.

From Paul Otellini, Intel CEO at the time:

> At the end of the day, there was a chip that they were interested in that they wanted to pay a certain price for and not a nickel more and that price was below our forecasted cost. I couldn't see it. It wasn't one of these things you can make up on volume. And in hindsight, the forecasted cost was wrong and the volume was 100x what anyone thought.


Yeah, the current Intel chipsets support DDR4 which can go beyond 16GB or LPDDR3 which is capped at 16GB (LP = low power). So Apple had the choice between a higher RAM ceiling or longer battery life, and they choses longer battery life.

The forthcoming Cannon Lake chips will support LPDDR4, enabling MacBook Pros with a higher RAM ceiling without sacrificing power utilization.

It was: 32GB required LPDDR4 memory but Skylake didn't support that. It sounds like that's dependent on shipping Cannon Lake which was originally slated for 2017 but has been pushed back to 2018.

Even then, who chose the chipset?

Intel. Currently, if you want to use low power RAM with an Intel mobile chip, you have to use LP-DDR3 in a config that maxes out at 16GB. You can also use non-LP DDR4 up to 32GB (Dell makes a laptop that does, for instance), but at that point you have a somewhat increased power draw when the system is running, and a _dramatically_ increased power draw on standby (IIRC about five times the power). Apple laptops have traditionally had excellent standby battery life; they're presumably not willing to sacrifice this.

Upcoming Intel mobile chips will resolve this, allowing use of LP-DDR4.

I'm looking at this Intel CPU: https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/products/processors/...

That claims to support up to 32GB memory, and it claims to support, among other things, LPDDR3-1866. Are you saying that if you want to use LPDDR3-1866 with that CPU, you're limited to only 16GB? I can't find anything about that through some quick googling, but if it's true, I retract my snarky comment.

Note "(dependent on memory type)". It can do LPDDR3, and it can do 32GB, but not both at once. You'll note that any laptops which do 32GB will list DDR4 RAM.

How about this beefier mobile CPU, which supports up to 64GB RAM? Maybe they'd have needed to make some of their pro laptops a bit less thin, but they are _Pro_ laptops after all. https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/products/processors/...

Also, I wish Intel would just list the maximum supported memory configuration for each memory type, instead of just having a worthless "(depending on memory type)".

With the old chipset generation you had the choice between a low power chipset that could sport 16GB tops, or a desktop chipset that could do more - but also draw lots more power. Windows laptops often chose the latter, but Apple on the path to a 1mm thin MBP chose to sacrifice RAM for thinness and battery life.

Hallelujah. And a good keyboard.

With the upper limit of 128 gigabytes, it's definitely a love letter to people who want to use slack.

Haha, that made me literally laugh out loud!

My mid-2010 Mac Pro tower is still my favorite machine, probably favorite I've ever owned. The form and function are basically perfect. It's built like a workman's tool and that's what it is.

Update that with current year components and shut up and take my money.

I would love this with M.2 (or U.2) SSDs and modern CPUs/Chipsets. Don't even need Xeons. Really would rather not have Xeons and their associated cost, if I'm being frank.

I don't think so

This machine is for designers and creative people.

A beefy Mac mini or powerful MacBook is what I need without a ridiculously high price tag.

Price wouldn't be such an issue if the thing was at all upgradable.

> This machine is for designers and creative people.

Except the lack of Nvidia GPU options means it's not for many creatives either - none of the three dominant GPU renderers will run on the Vega GPUs that Apple is offering.

Not to mention Apple is trying to move away from OpenCL so GPU renderers will all need to be re-written in Metal to truly take advantage of OS X.

This machine only serves rich youtubers who use Final Cut Pro.

The GPU might be overkill for developers (unless they're doing game dev or machine learning), but don't scoff at big core counts and fast disk I/O - they help a lot. And while it might not be strictly necessary, that 5K screen sure is nice and obviates a lot of the need for a second monitor. I think a convincing case could be made for developers to splurge on this.

I'd didn't think I'd notice it much (having used SSDs for years), but I recently put a PCIe-based SSD in my laptop. It makes a huge difference - most installs are done more or less instantly, and the machine cold-boots in under ten seconds. Definitely not _necessary_, but certainly nice to have.

Since making the jump to a 4K display, I've really felt my urge to have a second monitor drop off hard. UHD solves the problem and removes the display gap.

Since moving to a single 34 inch ultrawide monitor, my biggest complaint is the window management. Two displays make this easy: fullscreen each one (Windows has shortcuts for this builtin). But with one monitor I have to manage the windows myself (I've tried 3rd party apps, they never seem to work nicely).

Did you not have this problem?

> I've tried 3rd party apps, they never seem to work nicely

Switch off that Spaces crap Apple does, use Hyperswitch as a replacement for alt-tab, use SizeUp for the window management (ctrl+alt+cmd as base combo, +m fullscreen, +arrow key=left/right/top/bottom half), Karabiner to switch Ctrl/Cmd C/V and use Accessibility to map cmd+q (which, on German keyboards is the @ symbol) to "invert display colors" so a mistype doesn't quit your app.

Voila, a Mac you can use for work ;)

Edit: Tips on how to disable the Spotlight indexer due to excessive CPU and RAM load without disabling the Outlook search are highly welcome...

I have had this issue with OSX/MacOS from the start. Maybe it is because I am accustomed to the way windows handles maximize, restore, and minimize, but I have always had trouble with those three on my Macs.

Can't you just snap one window to the left and the other to the right of the screen? That's built in to Windows too and should give the same effect as two fullscreen monitors unless I'm missing something.

I use Spectacle on Mac and it works like a breeze. It’s free, but you can donate if you like it.


Using a single monitor, I tend to use WinKey+Left/Right to snap the program to one side of the screen. If you have one snapped to each side, you can adjust the size of both at the same time so you aren't forced to use a 50:50 split.

I have to recommend i3 on a 39" 4k TV. I can fit an awful lot of code on my screen.

I don't like the Ultrawides, for that exact reason. I have a 16:9 4K that works wonderfully. For Window management, I just put windows where I want them...not really an issue for me.

on mac/windows you can buy divvy. that app is just awesome for window management.

Divvy is good but these days I'd recommend Magnet (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/magnet/id441258766?mt=12). They've had an 80% discount forever, so it's basically just the price ($0.99). It's pretty polished, and lets you assign keyboard shortcuts.

well I use both divy and magnet. divy is better for more fine grained window management especially on 4k, whereas magnet is great for general placement a la windows

> A beefy Mac mini or powerful MacBook is what I need without a ridiculously high price tag.

You can't get that with a high core count, though. It's unfortunate that they didn't make a version of this with a cheap GPU and less storage (or alternatively a Xeon or i9 option on the normal iMac).

I would say the ThinkPad 25 is much more of a love letter to developers.

Didn't they take one of their standard, woefully underpowered 14" business class laptops, change almost nothing aside from the keyboard, and then call it a special edition?

A slightly botched up, pennypinching one but still, you are right. (I bought one too.)

> Apple’s iMac Pro is a love letter to developers

What BS. Isn't it literally an apology letter?

Apple: "Sorry we neglected and ignored you, but to make it up we didn't really listen to you, but got you a nice dinner of our favorite stuff (thinspo industrial design). Please don't leave us."

If this was so, they'd provide a config option with a cheap GPU and less storage (or alternatively provide a Xeon option for the ordinary iMac). Many/most developers don't need a $600 GPU or 1TB of super-fast storage, but do want the extra core count.

IIRC they used to do this with the tower Mac Pros; the base option had a cheapish graphics card. Base model price went up dramatically with the trashcan, which made high-end GPUs mandatory.

* wealthy developers.

At home I have a 32GB 1800x system with a 2GB/s NVME drive and a 1080ti. I chose Nvidia after years of AMD use due to performance. Of course I use it for gaming as well. At work I have a Dell XPS 15 and we've been buying those or P-series Lenovo's for the devs there.

The new iMac is $6300CAD. There's no way I'm buying it for myself or my devs.

The iOS devs at work get Macbook Pros and prefer the portable nature of them. The UX team get those as well - for the same reason. Plus we'd never fork out that much money for a single machine.

Maybe people who work with 4k video or VFX and need OSX would go for these.

At 5k dollars (plus taxes!) this must be the most expensive love letter ever written.

Actually, the starting price is $4599, not the $4999 Apple originally said.

Even then, compared to buying an equivalent workstation hardware (including a 5K display) from a manufacturer such as HP, this is no more expensive.

At least you'd be able to adjust the height of that display.

Dunno if engagement rings by letter are or were ever a thing maybe not...

I mean. I guess not all love letters need to be reciprocated so I'll save my nits on the headline.

The device seems impressive, but the price is even more so.

I'd probably chose one only if I can get someone else (e.g. an employer) to pay for it; otherwise the same money can buy a combination of a much cheaper computer + a nice overseas vacation trip, and that'd be better.

It might pay to revisit these negative comments in a few months time.

The iMac Pro is beautiful, and ridiculously powerful. I am back to the days of wanting to be able to justify the absurd price (that's what power costs) simply to have that icon on my desk.

I would not be surprised to see a lot of these turn up on senior executive desks, or as a status symbol from companies to their developers - showing that nothing but the best will do.

Retina iMacs are amazing - I'm currently using a maxed out iMac from 2 years ago, with a 4K screen plugged in too. It was impossible to justify the cost at the time, but now I cannot imagine anything less.

I used to do a lot of 300dpi print design work and paid apple and adobe a lot of money for hardware and DVD's of software in the early part of this century.

I currently use an old mac with the last disc based iteration of Adobe Creative Suite - something I suspect a lot of designers are still using - on the rare occasions I need to sit down and create.

I'm wondering about the Apple pro lines and who might use a non upgradable, closed piece of expensive hardware going forward. It feels to me as though that market is shrinking unless they get serious about 'pro' meaning industrial strength and configurable

I imagine the iMac Pro will be a great machine for a lot of video/animation professionals, and at least some developers, even though I'm not sure I'd call this a "love letter" to them. It's a very powerful machine with an amazing display that takes up very little space.

And, yeah, I do think Apple has in recent years been seriously underestimating the value of internal expandability, but I also think critics may overestimate that value to some degree. A lot of people really do buy whole new computers every four to six years; I'm not convinced "but this one is a really expensive computer!" is a definitive rebuttal in the iMac Pro's case. It seems like it'd be pretty easy to put together an iMac Pro that's going to last you past that six-year limit--and, let's face it, if you're in the market for a computer that could easily top $7K in a midrange configuration, you're probably at an income level where doing that again in six or seven years isn't going to kill you.

And, of course: we have yet to see what the 2018 Mac Pro is going to be like; the signs are that it's going to be closer to what people who don't like the closed box of the iMac would want.

(My biggest kvetch about the iMac Pro is that it seems kind of petty not to have user upgradeable RAM. Maybe there's a design reason for that, but it just feels like awfully low-hanging fruit, given that the "non-pro" 27" iMacs allow this.)

I'm just excited to see the full-width bluetooth keyboard with numpad. Unfortunately it doesn't look like you can order it on its own in spacegray color (call me vain but it looks fantastic!)

If you mainly work in one place, the current Mac Pro is great for developers. I still travel with it but it is to another house where I have a monitor and keyboard setup.

Here my answer: I'm cheating on you and still have no regrets.

ps: my last year hackintosh build with 64GB RAM for < 5K is not impressed by those 128GB RAM

Love letter? Hmm, that annoying glossy display?

I hope they will fix the new macbook pro, that would be a love letter!

I love Macs and I love desktop computers (I'm old). I have a maxed-out 2013-era iMac. I'll piss away money on the stupidest things, but this is just insane. I can't possibly wrap my head around spending that much money for an all-in-one computer in 2017. It's like Apple wants to pretend it's still 2012.

I've recently spotted new Dell/HP with 4k displays and small bezels and those look great and have 32Gb of RAM. My top-of-the-line MacBook Pro '17 screen is noticeably worse and it has only 16Gb of RAM. I know that there's no LPDDR4 support yet -but- that's developer machine. With Docker, Terminal, cmake and all those things it barely lives for 2 hours on battery anyways, so I might as well just have a more powerful portable machine.

But the best thing is definitely the 4K screen on those HP/Dells: With the default scaled resolution that Apple introduced last year things look pixelated, while on 4K they don't. For a person who spends 12+ hours a day in front of laptop screen that's huge.

Maybe colors are not that saturated but I don't care if my VSCode theme displays 1 billion colors more. Neither iMac Pro nor MacBooks are developer machines anymore. Creative professionals -- yes, but not developers.

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