iMac Pro : Maximizing Cooling Performance

The new iMac Pro is an absolute beast of a workstation. However, considering the higher cost and its intended high-demand application, users might want to take extra care that their workstation setup supports maximum cooling performance. The following analysis is based on cooling fundamentals and my work maximizing cooling performance for Retina MacBook Pros with the SVALT Cooling Dock.

Cooling System Analysis

Exhaust Vents:
The iMac Pro includes 18 hot air exhaust vents grouped together in 2 columns and 9 rows. The exhaust vents are located towards the center of the back, just below the vertical support mount. That is the same number of vents as the standard iMac, however, the iMac Pro has a larger exhaust vent area that extends further down the backside. As with the standard iMac, the exhaust system has louvers over the radiator that direct the hot exhaust air towards the sides instead of directly down.

Intake Vents:
The iMac Pro includes the same 13 cool air intake vents running along the bottom edge as the standard iMac, however, the iMac Pro appears to include 2 additional long horizontal slots cut into the lower portion of the back panel. Since the enclosure thickness increases rapidly from the edge, the new slots could allow for cool air to enter and circulate with greater ease. If these slots function as air intake vents, then that would significantly increase the system’s cooling capacity.

Overall System:
Compared to the standard iMac, the iMac Pro appears to have increased total vent area and improved vent placement. Coupled with the significantly larger dual cooling fans, heat radiator, heat pipes and processor heat sinks, the iMac Pro should achieve high cooling system efficiency.

Stand Options

Fixed Stand:
The standard fixed stand connects to the iMac Pro just above the cooling system’s hot air exhaust vent. The fixed stand’s close proximity to the exhaust vent could restrict the removal of hot air while the fixed stand’s downward angle could direct the hot air back towards the cooling system’s cool air intake vents. However, the iMac Pro’s lower placement of the exhaust vent should reduce issues compared to the standard iMac. Tilting the iMac Pro slightly upwards should help to further reduce potential issues.

VESA Mount Adapter:
The adapter blocks the top 3 rows (6 slots) of the hot air exhaust vents and leaves the lower 6 rows (12 slots) wide open for unrestricted airflow. The adapter is closed on the sides while open on the bottom and top. This configuration should allow the hot air from the blocked top 3 rows to exhaust out the top, although, the closed sides could conflict with the exhaust vent’s internal louvers that direct the exhaust to the sides. This might be less of an issues as it appears that the majority of the hot air will flow through the central and lower exhaust vents. Using the adapter on the standard iMac blocks the top 6 rows (12 slots) out of the total 9 rows (18 slots), so the iMac Pro with adapter should have better exhaust efficiency.

Adjustable Height Stand:
Using an adjustable height stand allows the user to position the center of the screen at eye level when sitting or standing upright for improved workstation ergonomics. Centering the screen to eye level for most users will require the iMac Pro to be raised higher above a work surface as compared to using the fixed stand. This higher position could help the iMac Pro access fresh and cool air, and potentially improve intake efficiency. When selecting an aftermarket stand for the iMac Pro pay attention that the mount plate does not block the exhaust vent and confirm that it will support the iMac Pro’s weight. For example, consider Herman Miller Wishbone and Wishbone Plus.

Best Option:
Without controlled testing I am unable to determine if the fixed stand will out perform the VESA adapter + adjustable stand, however, it is safe to conclude that the cooling performance penalty of using a VESA mount adapter has been lessened compared to the standard iMac, while the ergonomic benefits of a fully adjustable stand remain.

Optimal Workstation Setup

Ambient Air Temperature:
As a general rule, an increase in ambient air temperature will lead to higher computer temperatures and reduced cooling efficiency. The iMac Pro is likely to be used in offices with air conditioning so air temperature shouldn’t be an issue for most users. However, if used in a space without air conditioning, or if used outside of normal business hours when a building’s mechanical system is set to allow for higher temperatures or disabled to conserve energy, then higher air temperature could impact the cooling system performance.

Desk Placement:
For reduced eye strain and reduced screen reflection, it’s generally a good idea to have windows and artificial lighting located behind instead of in front of the screen. However, if the backside of the iMac Pro’s enclosure is facing a window that lacks ultra Low-E glass and receives direct sunlight, then the aluminum enclosure with darker Space Gray finish could absorb considerable heat that the cooling system was not designed to handle.

Desk Arrangement:
Arrange the desk so that there is as much open space around the iMac Pro. Placing objects directly under or behind could block the intake vents. Placing hard drives and other items that generate heat under the iMac Pro could be especially problematic as the exhausted heat from those items could be pulled into the iMac Pro’s air intake vents.

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