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Is the new Retina iMac the “iMac Pro” the market seems to be screaming for?

Apple’s new Retina iMac is a killer machine aimed squarely at a segment of the Pro market who badly need the 5k monitors that will transform their creativity and productivity in their work. This is a considerable segment of their users, but the internals of this machine happen to match up with what is being touted as the “fastest single-threaded workstation” in the world aimed at a whole lot of Apple’s other customers, just not on the right side of the OS divide.


Apple just introduced a new iMac model in the new late 2014 Retina iMac. And here’s the thing—it is so very close to the concept of an iMac Pro. Earlier here at Architosh we discussed the idea of an iMac model that was oriented at the ‘Pro’ segment of Apple’s market, or what Apple often refers to as their ‘creatives’ market. Who are those creatives?


Apple’s traditional creatives have been photographers, graphics professionals, web designers, musicians, film makers, interior designers and architects. And many of their tangents. Not all of these Pro users need or desire 4k or 5k displays or work with apps that benefit from them. Certainly some of them do—Film, graphics and photography, for instance. (see image 01)

An increasingly growing number of new creatives for Apple are product designers (aka: industrial designers). In the more technical markets, tangent to architects in particular, are pro users such as 3D visualization pros, engineers, and construction professionals. More and more of these user are looking at Apple now because they own iPhones and iPads.

01 - The new Retina iMac packs an impressive array of hardware internals, most especially the world's fastest 'single-threaded' CPU, ideal for many of the world's leading Pro apps used by creative and technical professionals.

01 – The new Retina iMac packs an impressive array of hardware internals, most especially the world’s fastest ‘single-threaded’ CPU, ideal for many of the world’s leading Pro apps used by creative and technical professionals. But do all these pros need 5K monitors? And what matters most to them, the internals or the display? The new Retina iMac starts at 2,749.USD. when it comes a 4GHz i7 CPU. (image courtesy of Apple, All rights reserved).

The problem with Apple’s products differentiation strategy is that is comes from the legacy of Steve Jobs’ Four-Quadrant Matrix. In that vision Jobs strongly felt their were hard boundaries between what consumers wanted and needed versus pro user. But in today’s world that just isn’t so.

A Continuum

Apple needs to fully shed that Jobsian perspective and realize that customer groups lie along a series of continuums. And it is interesting to analyze the new Retina iMac with respect to that. Over at, Marco Arment has done an interesting comparison between the new Retina iMac and the new Mac Pro (nMP).

Arment’s comparison hits on some of the points we are discovering in our own Architosh Mac Workstation Professional Survey data, which is ongoing and designed to study the desktop needs of professional users in the Mac market. (If you are interested in the subject of this article, you should probably take that survey. You can see results at the end.)

MORE: Architosh launches Mac Workstation professional survey study for Pro Users

One of the key points it is hitting on is that there is an important overlap for Pro users that spans the gap between the upper end of the iMac range and the lower level of the new Mac Pro range. And it isn’t just about price, though that is a focus of Arment’s article.

Performance and Pros

The new Retina iMac sports a 4GHz Intel Core i7-4790k processor, which is noted as being the fastest ‘single-threaded’ processor in the world. Some of the most important applications in the Pro markets are still highly single-threaded and have no designs on change anytime soon. In fact, over at Boxx Technologies, a dedicated and extremely well regarded ‘workstation’ maker for the Windows market, they have recently touted their latest APEXX 2 workstation, claiming it to be the world’s fastest workstation for ‘single–threaded’ applications such as Revit, AutoCAD, Maya, and modo, among others. The base price of that machine is 2,961.USD. And it doesn’t include a monitor, much less a 5K one.

02 - In our ongoing survey research the demand for 4K monitors amongst two Pro groups, Architecture and 3D-Viz. Pros shows lower need for 4K/5K monitors than what Apple may believe.

02 – In our ongoing survey research the demand for 4K monitors amongst two Pro groups, Architecture and 3D-Viz. Pros shows lower need for 4K/5K monitors than what Apple may believe. Only 25 percent of 3D-Viz pros see 4K as Major Importance (orange) and less than 10 percent see it as Mission critical importance.

Of course Boxx Technologies is famous for their reliable liquid cooling technology and over-clocking. And so the new APEXX 2 workstation is over-clocked to 4.5GHz. But guess what CPU is the chosen over-clocked kit of choice?

Well, it’s the same one that is inside the new Retina iMac, the Intel i7-4790k.

Just like the Boxx APEXX 2 Apple also says their i7-4790k can Turbo Boost to 4.4GHz. In essence—and discounting the GPU capacity in the Boxx APEXX 2—Apple just introduced a new iMac that can go toe-to-toe with the world’s fastest ‘single-threaded’ workstation.

The Retina Display

When it comes to CPU performance Apple’s new Retina iMac is a very fast computer, ideal for the vast majority of Pro users utilizing predominantly ‘single-threaded’ pro apps and not in need of multiple GPUs but in need of a very fast single GPU. However, we are finding in our research survey that even 3D and visualization professionals, many of which do quite a bit in workflows that involve film editing and compositing, don’t require the need of 4K or 5k monitors.

In fact, in side by side comparison of data between Architects and 3D/Viz professionals, in our Mac Workstation Survey Study, both groups, especially the former, have a low need for 4K monitors. This is a sizable group of Pro users for Apple. (see image 02)

What Apple has done with the new Retina iMac is almost give them the killer Mac machine that would compete with what is being offered to them in the Windows world in products like the Boxx APEXX 2. Now all they need to do is make that model without the Retina display!