Author’s Note: I revised this article to incorporate a different monitor, after AppleInsider staffer Mike Wuerthele reminded me the LG UltraFine wouldn’t accelerate the graphics on a Windows build.

It hasn’t taken long for the haters to hate on the iMac Pro, but is their criticism valid? When the iMac Pro was announced at WWDC, many lashed out about the pricing of the all-in-one computer, especially the projected cost of a fully maxed iMac Pro. ZDNet was probably the first out of the gate, projecting that such a configuration would cost more than US$17,000. Is this due to an abnormal Apple tax, or is it just business as usual? Let’s find out, but I’ll give you a hint: I’m not a fanboy, but I don’t believe there’s any such thing as an iMac Pro Apple tax, or any other such nonsense.

There is no iMac Pro Apple tax

If a fully-upgraded iMac Pro would cost $17K, is that proof of the Apple tax? I don’t think so.

Examining the Argument for the iMac Pro Apple Tax

ZDNet’s David Gewirtz assumed what he called an “Apple tax of more than 80 percent on upgrades,” making comments like “And we wonder why Apple’s the world’s most profitable company.” Gewirtz cited things like a RAM upgrade costing $2,691, a CPU with 18 cores coming in at a $3,987 up-charge, and other upgrade charges.

I immediately wondered whether Gewirtz had ever purchased a custom-configured PC before, or if he just bought off-the-shelf. Without any solid evidence to prove my theory (which is that all of the PC manufacturers charge such a tax), I had to gather some proof. I priced both Dell and HP workstations, but chose to only include the results from my HP investigation. The pricing was remarkably similar, beginning to confirm my thoughts that there is no iMac Pro Apple tax.

An Important Note About These Configurations

One thing that’s important to remember when we’re making comparisons right now. Few, if any, computer manufacturers produce an all-in-one solution that’s as customizable and potentially powerful as the new iMac Pro. This is new territory. With that in mind, I’m configuring workstation-class computers that aren’t standalone, and then I’ll factor in the 27-inch 5K display as a final component to arrive at price estimates

The HP Z840 Workstation

The closest configuration to the iMac Pro from HP’s mid-range workstation category is set up as follows:

  • Intel Xeon E5-2620 eight-core processor
  • 8GB DDR4-2133 CPU-Registered RAM
  • 1TB HP Z Turbo Drive Quad Pro PCIe SSD
  • AMD FirePro W7100 8GB 4xDP Graphics Card
  • HP X520 10GbE Dual Port Adapter
  • HP Z27q 27-inch 5K Ultra HD Display ($1,684.99)

That configuration, including the display, comes to a grand total of $5,969.39, not far off from the iMac Pro’s starting price of $4,999. Now let’s see what happens with the HP when we try to match the maxed out specs of the iMac Pro’s potential.

  • Intel Xeon E5-2697 18-core processor ($3,660)
  • 128GB DDR4-2400 CPU-Registered RAM ($2,900)
  • Three more 1TB HP Z Turbo Drive Quad Pro PCIe SSD Drives ($499 each, for a total of $1,497)
  • Nvidia Quadro P5000 16GB Graphics Card with four DisplayPorts ($1,259)
  • HP X520 10GbE Dual Port Adapter ($499)
  • HP Z27q 27-inch 5K Ultra HD Display ($1,684.99)

In this configuration, the price is $15,473.89, less than two grand lower than ZDNet’s estimate of a maxed out iMac Pro. This might not even be a truly accurate comparison, though, since we don’t know the precise capabilities and specifications of the upcoming AMD Radeon Pro Vega 64 graphics processor.

The price increase for the 18-core processor is quite close to Gewirtz’s estimates for Apple, and HP’s price for upgrading the system memory (RAM) is actually a bit higher.

The Verdict Is In

Yes, some of the projected upgrade costs for the iMac Pro are higher than HP’s pricing. That’s to be expected, because Apple will likely be using components that haven’t been released yet. HP’s have been around a while, so the prices have gone down … a bit.

David Gewirtz, if you’re reading this, there’s no such thing as an iMac Pro Apple tax. For that matter, there’s not any other Apple tax. What you’re seeing is simply business as usual when it comes to purchasing computers, of any class, that don’t fall within the standard configurations. Call it an upgrade fee, or a “let’s pull this off the line and custom-install the components” fee. But it’s not an Apple tax. Just about every computer manufacturer in the world uses the same approximate pricing formulas for their upgrades.

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