Why Apple’s iMac Pro Can Hardly Be A Proper Workstation Computer

Apple iMac Pro
Screen capture from Apple

On 14 December, Apple finally made its most powerful desktop computer, the iMac Pro, available for purchase. In terms of hardware specifications, it is packed with high-end components. You obviously will not use the iMac Pro’s 18-core Xeon processors, 128GB of ECC memory, and Radeon Pro Vega 64 GPU with 12GB of HBM2 memory for web browsing or gaming. However, the iMac Pro may not even be a proper workstation computer to do what it’s originally designed for.


For everyone from photographers to video editors to 3D animators to musicians to software developers to scientists, iMac Pro is ready to turn your biggest ideas into your greatest work.

The iMac Pro is aimed to be used for professional works, such as video editing, 3D modelling/rendering and complex physics simulations. But, a few problems/drawbacks of the iMac Pro’s design that might make it a bad workstation computer.

Apple iMac Pro
Screen capture from Apple


Lack of Expandability and Versatility

Technologies is constantly moving forward at an extremely fast pace. New industry standards are introduced regularly. As the iMac Pro is an all-in-one computer, that is not designed with expandability in mind. Everything inside is packed tightly with little room to spare.

This create problems when newer generation equipment come out, such as a graphics card or network adapter. You will have to add PCIe expansion cards to use the new hardware, but you cannot on a iMac Pro. There is no standard PCI Express slot and the required space for users. It may be fine for consumers, but upgrading to better components for professionals can hugely increase the efficiency of their works, which equals to reduce operating costs.

Reusability of Components

Again, because of the all-in-one design, most components inside will need to be custom-designed and custom-made. No standard form factor or connection can be used. The GPU is soldered to the motherboard, like an ultra-thin laptop. This means you would not be able to reuse the computer parts after you decide to upgrade to a new workstation machine a few years later. Not only that, the included 5K Retina display cannot be used as a external display (using Target Display Mode), unless you use some unofficial workarounds. You can either sell the whole computer, or reuse it with the limited expandibility.

If the picture of the iMac Pro’s internal layout in Apple’s website is correct, the 32GB to 128GB of DDR4 ECC memory should be removable and able to repurpose fortunately. (Update: The CPU is replaceable and reusable after removing the heatsink.)

The overall design of iMac Pro is not suitable for workstation use, in my opinion. It may be worth it for small team with a coupe members, that adding an iMac Pro will definitely speed up the workflow by reducing processing (rendering) time. But for a reasonably sized team/company that relies on multiple workstations, the iMac Pro would not be the most cost-effective machine to fit in that environment, with a limited upgrade path. Maybe that is why Apple is working on a brand new modular Mac Pro, that will probably solve all these drawbacks, in 2018.

What do you think? Would you purchase an iMac Pro, if you need a workstation computer right now?

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