When Apple released a pro version of the iPad, it might have been a harbinger of things to come in other products. Rumors about an iPhone Pro have been circulating for a while, and now there are rumors that a pro version of Apple’s iMac might be released in 2016.
Dennis Sellers reports for Apple World Today:
A new rumor says a new iMac will launch in the last quarter of the year with either the latest Intel chipset, Kaby Lake, or AMD’s Zen processor, as well as AMD’s Polaris Graphics set.
My take: we’ll certainly see an updated iMac, probably in October. It won’t pack a Zen processor (powerful, but pricey), but will include a Polaris graphics card. It will pack a Kaby Lake processor — IF they’re available in time in bulk. Right now there’s some question as to whether that will happen. The caveat to this situation is if Apple decides to discontinue the Mac Pro line and offer an “iMac Pro” with a Zen chip, which boasts eight cores and 16 threads
The iMac Pro could delight macOS gamers
I find the idea of an iMac Pro to be intriguing, to say the least. One of the biggest complaints about the iMac is that it doesn’t pack enough graphics power for some users, particularly gamers. That’s understandable given that iMacs have used less powerful mobile GPUs for ages.
But gamers might be very happy indeed with an iMac Pro, if it ships with AMD’s Polaris graphics chip.
Ashleigh Allsopp reports on Polaris for Macworld UK:
It’s believed that Apple’s next generation of iMacs (or its higher-specced models, at least) will feature graphics chips from AMD’s Polaris set, which were announced at the start of 2016.
AMD has consistently talked up its Polaris graphics chips as a way of bringing VR within the reach of a wider market of PC users. At present Macs are basically unusable for VR, as we discuss in our articles Can you use Oculus Rift with Mac? and How to use a Mac for VR, and Oculus founder Palmer Luckey specifically cited underpowered Mac GPUs as the reason why the company was focusing on Windows:
AMD’s Roy Taylor thinks the company’s new GPUs are about to massively expand the available market for VR. “AMD has just completed the shrink to 14nm [with Polaris],” he said. “This means we can produce GPUs that will run the minimum spec of VR at a lower cost, in larger volume, consuming less power and running faster. That means in the second half of this year and going forward more people will be able to run those headsets.”
The Polaris chips offer improved graphics performance compared with previous generations (as much as twice the speed per watt) and potential reductions in both power consumption and waste heat. They are built using a 16nm or 14nm FinFET production process, compared to 28nm on AMD’s earlier chips, which means that the chip maker can fit more transistors in a given space (which makes the chips ideal for ultraportable laptops and ultraslim desktops - the latter fittting recent iMac designs) and, because the transistors are closer together, less power is needed to move a signal across them.
I run World of Warcraft on my 5K iMac, and while it runs well for the most part, it would run quite a bit better at the 5K setting in terms of FPS if it had a Polaris graphics chip and updated Intel processor. My machine is late 2014, so it's not exactly old. But an updated iMac packed with a more powerful GPU and CPU would be very welcome.
I suspect I’m not alone in lusting after an iMac Pro. There are plenty of Mac gamers out there who would no doubt purchase the iMac Pro as soon as it was released. Gamers tend to be willing to spend more money to get significantly better performance from their computers, so an iMac Pro could be a big hit with Mac gamers.
As far as VR goes, it’s not something that I have paid much attention to, but it certainly couldn’t hurt for Apple’s computers to be able to do it adequately. And let's face it, Apple has been dragging its feet for far too long when it comes to releasing more powerful iMacs. If VR lights a fire under Apple's rear end and gets the company to put out a pro version of the iMac, then it will be a good thing for all users.
Will the iMac Pro replace the Mac Pro?
One very interesting part of the rumors about the iMac Pro is that it could replace Apple's aging Mac Pro computer. The Mac Pro hasn't gotten a refresh in years, and it is really showing its age at this point.
If you look at various online discussion forums, you will see plenty of frustrated commentary from folks that want an updated Mac Pro. They've been waiting a long time and some of them have even considered jumping to Windows-based computers because they are tired of waiting for Apple to release a new Mac Pro.
If Apple can come up with an iMac Pro that is powerful enough to replace the Mac Pro then it could go a long way toward simplifying the company's product line while also pleasing power users.
Take the iMac Pro rumors with a grain of salt
As exciting as these rumors about the iMac Pro are right now, be sure to take them with a big grain of salt. There are always rumors flying around the Internet before Apple does a product refresh, and they can quite often be wrong.
Until there are some credible supply chain leaks, or a statement from Apple itself, there really is no way to know for sure if an iMac Pro is on the way or not.
But I sure do have my fingers crossed, I hope Apple surprises us soon with the best iMac ever created.
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