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Apple Announces Vega-Equipped iMac Pro, Updates Existing Macs With Better Graphics

Apple's finally embracing dedicated graphics. In addition to announcing external GPU support with macOS High Sierra, the company also revealed that AMD GPUs will make their way into its Mac products, with the most notable example being Vega's inclusion with a new iMac Pro all-in-one.

The iMac Grows Up

The iMac Pro appears to be Apple's response to complaints about a distinct lack of a workstation computer in the Mac product line. The company recently updated the Mac Pro with slightly newer processors, but aside from that minor upgrade, its high-end systems haven't been refreshed since 2013. That's set to change in December when the iMac Pro launches with a 27" 5K display; 8-, 10-, or 18-core Intel Xeon processors; and Vega graphics.

Vega's inclusion is the most surprising aspect of the iMac Pro. Apple previously restricted most of its iMacs to integrated graphics. This made them ill-suited for gaming--concerns about many games not supporting macOS aside--simply because the devices weren't powerful enough. We don't know what kind of performance Vega will offer at 5K resolutions, but it's bound to be better than whatever Intel's integrated graphics could provide. (To be clear: We assume Apple would've picked a processor with onboard graphics if it weren't going the Vega route.)

But we suspect Apple's sudden fondness for dedicated graphics results from its push to join the VR revolution. You're not going to get a worthwhile VR experience on the graphics found in the current iMac, Mac Mini, or even Mac Pro. Combine the graphical horsepower required to power VR with the need to push a bunch of pixels to a 5K display, and you have a pretty good reason to use modern graphics. Given its existing relationship with AMD, then, it's not surprising that Apple picked the soon-to-debut Vega GPU.

The iMac Pro is set to launch in December with a starting price of $4,999.

Other Macs Are Getting Discrete Graphics, Too

The iMac Pro won't be the only Apple device getting discrete graphics. The company also announced that the main iMac lineup has been updated with new-and-improved graphics cards--or, in some cases, dedicated graphics, period. Details weren't provided, but Apple said in a press release that the iMac will soon include Radeon RX 500-series graphics. Again, while this will improve on the integrated graphics and AMD Radeon R9 M380, M385, and M390s found in the current iMacs, it's probably meant more for VR specifically than for gaming generally. Most of these iMacs have to push games at 4K or 5K resolutions, after all.

Apple also updated the iMac, MacBook, and MacBook Pro with Intel's 7th Generation (Kaby Lake) CPUs. The company said in a press release that its 15" MacBook Pro "now comes standard with more powerful discrete graphics with more video memory," but it didn't offer any details. We don't expect the laptop to compete with the gaming laptops we saw at Computex, for example, but this is still bound to be a welcome improvement for anyone who wants to play a few quick games on their MacBook Pro. (And, hey, if it's not, you can apparently just plug in an external GPU.)

The updated iMac, MacBook, and MacBook Pro products are available now from Apple's website; they'll hit the company's retail stores on June 7. We expect to learn more about Apple's updates to these product lines soon; at press time, Apple's site hasn't yet been updated with specs for the new products, and the online Apple Store is unavailable.