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.

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.

  • tunaphish6
    Give me a light, portable laptop. Now give me a moderately equipped laptop with the latest CPU, and a modestly equipped GPU. Give me a laptop I can give to my CEO. Now give me a cheap, all-in-one computer that I can give to my grandma. Now give me a desktop a school can afford, now give me an expensive desktop that caters to gamers and professional artists alike.

    There, you've hit all your markets--anything beyond that is superfluous. An external GPU is a novel thought, but they're fooling themselves if they think that more than one or two of their markets are going to buy into that.
  • captaincharisma
    knowing apple they will just put IOS on it lol
  • Lucky_SLS
    if they can include VEGA, y not go for the thread ripper? threadripper + frontier edition = ultimate content creation workstation.
  • billgatez
    Apple should have dropped intel and went with Ryzen.
  • velocityg4
    The iMac Pro will start at $5,000 USD. That is just for the 8 Core Xeon, base Vega 56 8GB and 1TB SSD. I hate to think what the 18 core Xeon, Vega 64 16GB and 4TB SSD option will cost.

    Knowing Apple the SSD will be a proprietary form factor so you can't upgrade it yourself. Most likely they will opt to integrate it into the motherboard so you can't even have Apple upgrade it later.

    Unless Apple releases a matching 5K monitor. Those wanting more than one screen will have to buy from someone else. The problem being brightness, contrast and color will never match.
  • jn77
    Classic Apple, We want credit card thin with 800 hours of battery life. Oh crap, it doesn't have the power to play games at a decent frame rate.

    I guess if you are checking emails and doing google searches a $4000 tablet is all you need right?

    If you want to get "work" done then pull up your pants and get a Clevo, Sager, MSI, Origin PC, Eurocom 15 pound laptop with 2 hours of battery life that is actually more powerful than your desktop Imac or Mac Pro. :-D
  • pecul1ar
    The most likely scenario about them using intel cpus is Thunderbolt. This.. is a well played move by intel.

    Personally I dont own any Thunderbolt device, but it seems it has garnered quite a user base. Lol and I don't even regularly use USB3..
  • waynes
    Its about time they caught up with the HP z1. But seriously, they should have gone for upgradable AMD Nvidia graphics and AMD CPU, and sold the top configuration for $1000 less than the proposed 8 core price. Will they ever learn.

    Now, big mistakes. People here are talking games, and VR, rather than the real workstation performance aimed at. The game part is irrelevant to workstation performance but the workstation performance is more relevant to game, as a crap load of performance is required. Intel has also been caught out emphasising server rather than workstation performance. Now, apart from Napels, AMD is working on a supercomputer apu equivalent, and I presume there would be a non APU version. I suspect Inteks plans for a regular version of the Xeon phi might have something to to with it, though when Nvidia introduces a Linux based arm/volta super computer array sub block as a desktop system, it will all be irrelevant. Dragging ones feet in high tech is not necessarily a good idea.

    I am in an industry dealing with very high end performance demands to process 8k images, with 16k+ holographics sensor images coming, which 72k plus eventually. At the moment dealing realtime processing in 4k at full resolutiin is rough on a Mac Pro (some software accelerates nicely though). For desktop publishing, graphic works, medium format photography, ads, cad, these sorts of resolution or processing power are usable already.

    There has been questions over Vegas performance already. Apart from that, GPU's with their own directly addressable large memory and storage systems have shown great increases in performance in certain data intensive work flows. AMD has such a product, but based on an older GPU. But the ability to have multiple upgradable internal cards option is important (preferably 2-4+). So, maybe this might be viewed as an upgrade to the Mac Pro rather than a significant replacement.

    30/32 or 40 inch version is needed, 27 inch is too small. In graphical workstation use these sizes are preferred for detail. But they also allow more space for processing options, cards, or slimmer sizes. So additional discrete gpu's can be included. Ultimately 55 inch, or higher for surface computing, but there is less need for that across different disciplines.

    Lay down workslate mode.

    Rec2020 8k-10k HDR screen. Rec2020, is a wider more naturally accurate colorsoace than old DCI P3 cinema standard, and currently the new consumer standard. It produces a lot of the colors used, and therefore gives you better accuracy for quality work. The consumer grade emphasis on the P3 standard neglects greater professional works. Basically, P3 is a professional standard for the delivery of consumer content, not an actual professional work standard. The situation is such, that there is a full spectrum color spaces called aces above them all (which support helps in doing professional work). Although all these are ultimately consumer motion picture delivery delivery formats, rec2020 and aces, actually cover good real world color spaces. There are a lot of advanced ways to do wide color gamut Apple could invest in (such as microled, and quantum dot on blue oled).

    It needs an upgradeable internal optical drive for 4k bluray authoring/backup, or newer, and multiple patch bays, for cable sockets. Again, a larger screened unit leaves more space for these.

    These are actual real workstation requirements.