iMac Pro first impressions

10-core w/ Vega64.  Upgrading from a 2014 Retina iMac.

Relatively briefly, and in no particular order:

  • I don’t see why the very slightly different colour scheme, vs the regular iMacs, is such a big deal to some people.  Yes, it’s fairly obviously a different colour.  No, it doesn’t really look any better (nor worse) than the regular iMac’s colour.
  • It’s disappointing that it comes with such crappy input devices (the mouse & keyboard at least).  They’re the usual ergonomic & general usability disasters that Apple’s infamous for as of recent years.
     
    Digression:  I also recently got a new MacBook Pro 13″ with Touch Bar for my work machine, which has an even worse keyboard than the iMac Pro, if such a thing is possible.  It’s literally painful to type on.
  • According to Intel’s Power Gadget tool, it basically sits at 3.6 GHz permanently.
     
    On the upside, it doesn’t seem to ever drop below that, despite nominally having a 3.0 GHz base frequency, even under the heaviest loads I can throw at it (including heavy, concurrent GPU use).
     
    On the downside, it’s supposed to turbo up to 4.5 GHz, but I’ve never seen the tool report that.  It does get up above 4.0 GHz if you only have one or two threads actually active, but only barely.  Intel’s tool only has 20ms sampling resolution, so it’s quite possible it is bursting to 4.5 GHz in very short stints.  In fairness, the regular iMacs exhibit basically the same behaviour – my 2014 Retina iMac nominally boosted up to 4.4 GHz, but in reality rarely if ever hit that.  Under load, that iMac struggled to reach 4.0 GHz.  Unless the ambient temperature was uncomfortably cold, it’d easily fall down to not much more than 3.0 GHz under any kind of sustained load, and sometimes even further, into the 2.x GHz range.
  • The fan is quite audible under any real load, even though I have some loud Thunderbolt disk bays and other things even closer to me than the iMac Pro.  I have no idea what some reviewers have been talking about w.r.t. the fan being “whisper quiet” or outright “inaudible”, because it definitely is not quiet.  It’s not loud, to be sure, but you can’t miss it.
     
    Under basically no load, there is indeed very little fan noise, but that’s both an unrealistic use case and certainly no better than the regular iMacs.
  • It does feel dramatically faster than a non-Pro iMac.  I did not expect this.  Certainly I expected significant objective improvements in parallel workloads – mainly batch photo & video editing in my case – but in fact the speed improvement is very noticeable even in single-threaded workloads.  I’m not sure why yet… the internal SSD is faster than the SATA SSD in my prior iMac, but the difference I’m seeing doesn’t seem plausibly explained by that [alone].
     
    I’m also seemingly seeing it perform significantly better under load, w.r.t. user interaction.  Even with all CPU cores completely busy, and the GPU likewise, interactive use remains basically as fast as when it’s idle.  This is a pretty big difference – and very pleasant improvement – over the non-Pro iMacs.  It’s really nice to not have to just walk away while CPU-intensive tasks are running.
  • The screen doesn’t immediately appear much different – in terms of colours, contrast, brightness, etc – to my old 2014 Retina iMac.  But it’s very clear which is which, because the iMac Pro has no image retention issues, whereas the 2014 iMac has pretty severe ones.
     
    Though when specifically looking at sRGB vs Display-P3 examples, the difference is quite a bit moreso than I expected, which is of course a pleasant discovery.
  • It’s so much better to have a proper, native VESA mount vs the hacks you had to do with prior iMacs.
  • iStat Menus can’t read any sensors (except CPU frequency, once Intel’s Power Gadget is installed), though I expect this is going to be fixed fairly soon, in a future version.
  • The ports on the back aren’t properly aligned with the case where they protrude, unlike non-Pro iMacs.  Meaning when you plug a cable in, it doesn’t align relatively flatly against the curved case, but rather tilts upwards a bit.  This is a really odd change – though obviously minor and practically insignificant.
  • I don’t yet understand why, but Lightroom Classic CC is noticeably snappier.    Particularly in the Develop module as you make edits and then wait for the results to appear on screen.  In some cases it’s an order of magnitude faster – e.g. less than a second instead of 5-10 seconds.  It’s still not consistently fast by any means, but it’s no longer always infuriatingly slow.
     
    I’m unconvinced, regardless, that the laws of physics will allow creation of a computer upon which Adobe’s software won’t run agonisingly slowly.
  • Officially it’s quite a bit heavier than the non-Pro iMacs, but I was surprised to find that it’s actually lighter for me… though that’s because with the stand removed – replaced by the VESA mount – it of course under-weighs the regular iMacs with their fixed stands still stuck in them plus a VESA mount adapter.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom doesn’t support Adobe Photoshop files

I need a ‘facepalm’ category apparently.  There’s been a lot of that lately.

You cannot import, let-alone work on, Photoshop files (“PSB” file extension) in Lightroom.  It flat-out doesn’t support them.  That’s such a weird limitation & oversight, for a program that Adobe now officially names ‘Adobe Photoshop Lightroom’.

See also this six year old thread on Adobe’s website, asking for this feature.

Your system has run out of application memory HUR HUR HUR

I hate this dialog with the fire of a thousand suns.

When this appears, it basically means one (or both) of two things:

  1. Some application went nuts and chewed through all your memory and/or disk space.
  2. macOS got itself into a darkly comical & embarrassing deadlock.

Quitting any of the listed applications is rarely the correct move.  It’s often enough the case that none of them are the root cause, and you can kill all of them if you want, but it won’t fix the problem.

One important thing to clarify first, though, is that this dialog does not necessarily use the term ‘memory’ in the conventional sense – i.e. RAM.  It can also refer to disk space.  Unfortunately it doesn’t bother to distinguish between the two, which is particularly stupid of it since any possible resolution of the issue is highly dependent on which of the two cases it in fact is.

Thank goodness for iStatMenus, though, which in the most recent incident showed that I had ~20 GiB of RAM completely free (not even inactive, actually outright free).  So immediately that rules out what the daft bloody dialog’s actually saying.

The worst thing about all this is when it’s #2 the occurs.  For example, I had Lightroom do a 63-image panorama merge.  As Lightroom is a gross memory pig when doing panorama merging, it consumed something like 40 GiB of memory.  Which caused a bunch of stuff to page to disk.  Which consumed all the disk space.  Which led to that obnoxious dialog.  Which further led to macOS in its infinite fucking wisdom ‘pausing’ (SIGSTOPing) almost all running programs, including evidently whatever daemon actually handles paging.  Thus when Lightroom actually completed the panorama merge and released all that memory, I now had 20 GiB of free memory and the system refused to use any of it to page back in all that memory it’d paged out.  Because it was out of disk space.

The only solution – short of hard rebooting and hoping it resolves itself – was to delete a bunch of files I actually do still want, but which will now have to be recovered from a backup.  Great job macOS, thanks for all your help.

Of course, even once you do that and recover the system from the derpeche mode it put itself into, it won’t actually unpause any of the shit it broke.  You have to do that manually.  It pretends you can do that via that dialog that started the whole thing – assuming you left it open the entire time, blocking your view as you actually help the situation – but that only shows user-visible applications, not all the other system & background processes that it also rudely halted.

So, simple tip for resuming everything:

sudo killall -CONT -m '.'

Elegant, after a fashion.  Though every time, it reminds me that whomever named it ‘killall’ was either not very friendly or not very wise.

Note that the system will probably still be a bit broken in places, as despite what macOS thinks, you can’t just blindly pause random system tasks and not have things get really, really confused.  A reboot is always wise after seeing this dialog, to properly undo its fuckery.