The last few World Wide Developers Conferences have been a bit 'meh'. Not so for today's 2017 conference from San Jose. A new macOS, Kaby Lake updates to the MacBook lineup, talk of an FCPX update and of course the announcement of the awesome new iMac Pro.
Apple has had it's fair amount of criticism over the last few years. 'They have abandoned the creative pro user' 'I'm moving to a gaming laptop to get more power' - the comments have been flowing.
The announcements at WWDC 2017 will get people to think again. In a nearly two and a half hour presentation, the news came thick and fast and more importantly there was lots of news for us editors.
Star of the keynote speech was the announcement of the iMac Pro.
The existing 27" Retina iMac is an amazing machine and FCPX performs extremely well on it, but this machine is in a different league.
Apple has learnt from the past and has realised that creative pros need a machine stuffed with processors, GPU power, RAM and connectivity. The iMac Pro boasts an impressive list of specifications.
5K Retina display
- 27-inch (diagonal) Retina 5K display
- 5120‑by‑2880 resolution with support for billions of colors
- 500 nits brightness
- Wide color (P3)
- 18-Core (Yes we know that's insane)
- 32GB of 2666MHz DDR4 ECC memory
- Configurable to 64GB or 128GB (Yes we also know that's insane!)
- Radeon Pro Vega 56 graphics processor with 8GB of HBM2 memory (more on this later)
- Configurable to Radeon Pro Vega 64 graphics processor with 16GB of HBM2 memory
- 1TB SSD
- Configurable to 2TB or 4TB SSD
Connections and Expansion
- 10Gb Ethernet
- Nbase-T Ethernet supports 1Gb, 2.5Gb, 5Gb, and 10Gb Ethernet using RJ‑45 connector
- Four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports
- Four USB 3 ports
- SDXC card slot with support for UHS‑II
It comes in space grey and has a keyboard and selectable trackpad or mouse in the same colour to match. No mention of an option for a Touch Bar keyboard.
It will be a very powerful machine, but as a pro user, the one thing that stuck out was the inclusion of 10GigE. This will make the integration of the iMac Pro into shared storage environments easier and cheaper. No more expensive Thunderbolt to 10GigE boxes. Another nail in the Fibre Channel coffin.
You will now be able to get 10GigE speeds between iMac Pros by just adding a cheap Netgear 10GigE switch. Add a QNAP, Synology or Jellyfish and you will have fast shared storage at prices that a few years ago would have had to have another nought on the end.
Will the attendees of the just announced FCPX Creative Summit in October see an iMac Pro in action? We hope so.
If you think this forward, it is also a good benchmark of what the new Mac Pro will have to beat. If you really have to wait for the new Mac Pro, then it would seem logical that it will feature all the connectivity of the iMac Pro with beefier processors and GPUs.
Apple has not abandoned the creative pro. The price of the iMac Pro (the most powerful Mac ever) starts at $4,999. If thats's a bit too steep, then Apple also announced that the 21.5 and 27 inch iMacs have been updated with Kaby Lake processors and Thunderbolt 3 connectivity. All new refreshed models are available now.
“With major updates to iMac, and a refresh of our MacBook and MacBook Pro lines, the Mac is stronger than ever,” said John Ternus, Apple’s vice president of Hardware Engineering. “Today iMac gets a huge graphics performance increase, faster CPU performance, Thunderbolt 3 and a brighter Retina display with support for 1 billion colors. We’re also increasing CPU and SSD speed on MacBook, adding faster processors and making faster graphics standard on our 15-inch MacBook Pro and introducing a new $1,299 (US) 13-inch MacBook Pro.”
If like us you were waiting for the Kaby Lake processors in a MacBook Pro, then the wait is over as all the new processor models are available now. The top spec machine can be configured with a 3.1GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor and 2TB of SSD which Apple say is 50% faster.
I think we can discount the criticism about the only ports being USB-C as they are rapidly becoming the industry standard. RAM is another issue though and the updated machines still have a maximum limit of 16 GB. Yes we know some people have to cache their timelines whilst using other NLEs, but FCPX users won't see this as a problem.
With the hardware headlines out of the way, Apple also announced that the next macOS will be called High Sierra.
It will feature a new default file system, APFS and also include software and hardware acceleration for H.265 video encoding. Apple said that this will give 40% better compression.
We all know that Tim Dashwood recently joined Apple. VR was mentioned many times and the processing power needed will be helped by High Sierra allowing external GPUs to help with the load.
Also later this year, Final Cut Pro X will add support for professional 360-degree workflows with the ability to import, edit and export 360-degree video.
It was mentionedd that a future version of FCPX later this year will support VR although it was interesting to see not only the FCPX GUI onscreen, but a screenshot of DaVinci Resolve.
Members of the Apple Developer Program can download the High Sierra beta today, a public beta will be available in late June and a full release will happen in Autumn. Possibly just before the FCPX Creative Summit perhaps?
A very interesting WWDC and we haven't even mentioned Watch updates, iPads or the new Homepod. A lot of news for creative professionals and we are certainly very excited about the new products and updates that have been announced. It felt like a WWDC from the Jobs days.
We will publish the Keynote video when it becomes available on YouTube.