In a Lightroom Speed Test iMac Loses By As Much As 114% To A Similarly Priced PC

In a Lightroom Speed Test iMac Loses By As Much As 114% To A Similarly Priced PC

When SLR Lounge Founding Partner Pye Jirsa, noticed his studio's IT needs had grown to 'beast' levels, he decided they should perform a series of tests to find out which machine was best suited for their needs. Taking two similarly priced boxes, a $4,431 iMac, and a $4,370 custom built PC, they set to the task of testing each machines' speeds in Adobe's Lightroom. The SLR Lounge crew uses Lightroom to process millions of images a year, so naturally they wanted to test the speeds of the features they used most. Armed with 1,121 identical RAW images from a Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 5DS they tested each machines': importing speeds, smart preview processing time, RAW image scroll times and panorama merging times. To my chagrin (but maybe not my surprise) the iMac got trounced, having been beaten by the custom PC in every single test.  

For single/small photographer studios who are not processing large volumes of images Apple is still the best solution. It’s simple, reliable and fast enough. However, for a large studio where performance and efficiency are paramount, Apple’s product line can’t quite handle the job, at least not for a similar price to performance ratio. -Pye Jirsa

I'd love to share all the details and the results with you but as much as Pye loves us (and we him) it wouldn't be cool if we didn't send you over to SLR Lounge for the full and detailed results. As you can imagine, the results of this experiment has been met with a whole mess of whining and excuses from Apple fanboys (myself included). So, even if you don't give a damn about the results you should still head over to read the often hilarious comments.

[via SLR Lounge]

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Sean Berry's picture

and here I am with absolutely no plans of switching.

Mark Alameel's picture

I don't get his rationale. If Apple can't handle a big job, then why try to act like a small studio should then buy Apple?

If the PC is so much faster, efficient, and reliable, then it is better than Apple at the same price point.

I use both (and they're both simple BTW) but only because some programs are exclusive to the that platform. However, I came to the same conclusion as the tester so I use a PC as my main rig because Adobe products are the same on both platforms.

Mark Alameel's picture

While I understand that some people are afraid to build a computer, I would think that most computer users knows somebody that would build it for them for super cheap. If you can afford a $4,000 plus computer, you can afford a friend to build it for $200 over the weekend.

As far as maintenance, I don't have to do much. Everything from Windows to the Creative Cloud automatically updates or requires a couple of clicks. Modern software even tells you updates are available.

Some people just want to act like Windows requires all sorts of maintenance or crashes daily but in my experience, it rarely does.

Only larger companies need an IT department and they tend to push their computers with faulty software... then they blame Windows for the crashes.

jared jantzer's picture

A prime target for malware? DUH 80% of computers in the world use windows in some form, of course it is... Every bank, warehouse, POS, retail store.... The list goes on. It's pointless to make a virus for Macs... What would they steal? A bunch of photographers photos? Some DJs tunes? The sad fact is, if a hacker wants your data, the only thing stopping them in 95% of the cases in an unecrypted wifi network with a default password. Regardless of the PC or Mac on the other end. Say what you will. This is the truth about security, the network is always to blame not the hardware attached to network.

Daris Fox's picture


You can just buy a business class PC and get next day service or even same day in some cases from Dell or HP and the underlying hardware is still solid.

Plus PCs are just as reliable as Apple's own rigs, if not more so. Self builds tend to last longer as well I've got a self built system here that's now approaching 6-7 years old and all it's had upgraded is the HDD to SSD, some extra RAM and a FirePro card.

Last time I ran servers, it has been a while, I bought Dell and that famous one day service. My business critical server went down and the Dell guy showed up and said "yep, it's broke, part will be in in about a week". That was "one day service" the guy shows up to tell you it his broken within a day. So I got rid of the Dell and had an HP running in t's place before the day was out. When I did have a problem with a different HP machine (also a server) the maintenance guy showed up early the next day with every part for my server in his van. I was up in less than 20 minutes. Unless that has changed drastically I would never recommend a Dell.

Justin Davis's picture

Well of course a PC is going to win on raw speed and power, but we have to remember that isn't everything. There are a whole slew of other factors - primarily operating system. Windows is still a hot mess, as it has been for some time (I deal with both daily for work, so yes, speaking from experience).

Indeed its a hot mess. Windows 10 is failure number 2 IMO. While Mac hardware is not up to top specs its hard to beat the simplicity and stability of Mac OSX

Out of interest what do you two not like about Windows 10? I find it pretty good.

I beg to differ. I also work on both and I find Windows 10 to be miles away in stability and responsiveness.

To me Apple is just a shadow of the past and "creative" people still use it because it impresses their clients. Who doesn't like shiny silver and an overly reflective display for "professional" work? It makes you look professional just like glasses make you look smarter.

So you are going to play the "marketing" card about malware and such? You can get malware on a Linux computer.

What support my claim? Let me see...we have a +5.000$ "Trash bin" Mac, a 5k iMac, 2x 2014 iMacs and some 3 MBP. The "bin" Mac is the worst. All the time crashes, compatibility problems with Blackmagic, Avid Mbox, Adobe... And the rest of them always slow down, crash and so on.

There are times when I want to open the window and throw the 5k iMac.

With Windows 10, I have to say there were some really small hiccups but no crash in Adobe and no compatibility problems.

Sure, malware infection rates has been shown to strongly correlate with OS usage, and OS X with half the user base of Windows has about half the malware (growing each year with increased market share). What's important to remember though is malware infection in almost all instances is down to bad user practices. There's almost no reason any Windows or OS X machine should be getting infected with anything.

1) My stats included non OS X Apple devices, sorry - OS X has 7% of the Windows userbase.

2) I got my stats from Kaspersky. What's your rival source?

3) Browser based attacks that don't require negligence on the part of the user (normally by installing things) are pretty rare aside from through internet explorer which is notorious for being susceptible to them; but also deprecated now that edge is out.

Olafs Osh's picture

not really, no.

I haven't read the test yet. However, when I look at the prices of the tested systems I'm curious why an iMac was chosen and not a Mac Pro. You can get a 6 core Mac Pro with 32GB of RAM, dual graphics cards and 512GB of SSD storage for just over $4000. Add in a reasonable monitor and it should be outperforming the iMac. Again, just curious. Now excuse me while I go read the tests...

Daris Fox's picture

The Mac Pro is using a 3 year processor and even older GPU design. It just can't hold a candle to the modern Xeon or even the i7 K series systems both in core count or even processor speed.

There's plenty of examples on YouTube that show badly the Mac Pro has aged.

The test was to see what you got for a set budget, the PC was cheaper but also included a monitor. The Mac Pro would still require a monitor and the PC spec would be beefed up even further to even approach the same cost of the Pro result in even more of a performance lead.

Every time I see the Mac Pro argument, it makes me wonder if Apple people don't follow tech. People really don't realize that it's outdated?

Percy Ortiz's picture

I was huge Apple fan. When Steve Jobs passed away i realised I was actually a big fan of Steve Jobs... These days I get the equipment that is going to get the job done better, not necessarily quicker because quicker is not always better ;)

Scott Mosley's picture

It's important to remember that the screen on the iMac is 4x the resolution of the PC screen. If you add a 5k screen to the PC watch the price rise and the performance drop. LR has always been slower on the 5k retina screen but saves much more time in other ways. I switched to new iMac and have been blown away by productivity and clarity while editing.

jared jantzer's picture

This discussion about resolution is completely bonkers.... you're not running high tier games on maxed out resolution so you will NEVER noticed a performance difference between 5k monitor and 1440p monitor.... yeah there's a huge visual difference, but performance wise, same same.
The programs still use the same DLLs and programs like LR and PS still use the same preview render sizes despite the increase in overall pixel count.

Anonymous's picture

If you read the article it is a pretty bogus comparison. No attempt is made to try to get similarly specced machines. For starters a big deal is made about the price but the PC isn't using a 5k screen which is a large part of the iMac's price. It isn't surprising the PC is faster (Apple Tax is real) but the click bait nature of the article which really should be "the PC I happen to have on hand is faster than the Mac I happen to have on hand, isn't that CRAZY?!" Great but it doesn't mean a thing for anyone else.

Glen Grant's picture

Not surprised at all. Thou every time I say this to my hard core Mac people I get the hand in the face.
I have a Mac Pro ($5K studio setup - I'm about to unload) a rMBP15 (2013) my mobile platform and yet all my post shoot work as soon as I can I process on my Dell desktop XPS 8500 (2013).
My desktop out performs them all and has a more fluid setup.
Mac Pro is already up for sale, I wasted my $$ on it. I could have saved myself $3K at the time and went to a Dell.

Ryan Cooper's picture

I feel like they stated the obvious a bit with this one, if a custom built $4000+ PC couldn't beat an iMac I'd be pretty surprised. 114% feels low to me? iMac users aren't buying them because they are the fastest computers for the price. ;) My productivity is still vastly superior on the iMac because the apple workflow better fits with me.

Dan Lubbers's picture

I use Mac's at home for my personal Photography/Retouching and I work at a very large Commercial Photo Studio where we use PC's with Eizo monitors. I would say that in an average 7.5 hour work day of retouching at the studio PS crashes on the PC between 4-8 times every day. Not to mention the fact that there are constant updates where I must stop what I'm doing, Save my file and Restart the computer. I then wait a solid 5-10min on average while these updates process and then can get back to work. At home in 6 years, I've had PS crash on me once on my mid-2010 MBP. I recently purchased a new 5K iMac and have had no problems with it what-so-ever. Before purchasing I was contemplating and looking into building a PC and getting an Eizo, but all the hassle I've dealt with on a day to day basis at the studio quickly made my decision to stay with Mac. Also, I rarely use LR, and mainly use PS and sometimes CaptureOne. I maxed out everything on the new iMac except RAM, cause OWC sells great RAM for half the cost of Apple's. I can even put 64gb of RAM in this machine for the same price as what Apple would sell me 32GB. The easy of use and far less headaches dealing with fixing issues and crashes is reason enough to stick with MAC even though the PC outperformed it in tests and as many of you have stated. The test on the PC was not performed with a 5K resolution monitor, so there's that.

Roman Kazmierczak's picture

You should get better admin or desktop support at work ;)
BTW last time I run updates on macs my PS stop working and it took some time before Adobe worked out solution. In last company I worked for, graphic designers had constant problems with MacOS crashing and freezing.
BTW if you want cheaper and better ram go directly to OWC is overpriced not as much as apple but it is overpriced.

Roman Kazmierczak's picture

Good admin will setup updates for after hours. He will also test updates before implementing them into the system etc. When you come to work, unless you are in IT dept, the computer is your tool. Backup is not a solution to updates running during business hours. I think you just didn't read the original comment and you took my answer out of context.

Roman Kazmierczak's picture

Agree, I was there to revamp their website with better images, but I ended up helping them with IT part so we could work. They were those who tried to save money in wrong places... And yes, thair Mac based infrastructure was falling appart. Adobe programs were crashing, MacOs wouldn't shutdown, server had permission problems and many more issues... Bottom line, company needs IT staff, for Macs and for MS systems. Macs being unknown for crashing is just an agenda. I often get Macs for repair.

Mark Alameel's picture

If your PC is crashing once every day (much less 4-8 times a day), then you need a better IT staff. I not only do photography but I work on RAW 4k videos with RAID, etc. My PC crashed once in the last year or so. While I was not a fan of Win 8, it never crashed either. Win 7 maybe crashed once a quarter at most.

Dan Lubbers's picture


To clarify: PS crashes on the PC 4-8 times a day. Not the PC fully crashing. The updates are to the PC and as far as I know there is no way around security updates and such. Also we have to use Microsoft Outlook and that is just aweful.

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