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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Previous comments
Mark Alameel's picture

Those problems are with your IT department.

My computer rarely crashes no matter what app I'm using. I have several computers from both platforms and both rarely crash.

Windows doesn't force you to use Outlook even though it is extremely powerful but not simple.

Yes you can turn off automatic updates but those usually improve stability I'd never turns that off. Your IT department should know how to do that. MS simply does not make it easy to turn off for the consumer. I agree with this decision. More stable computers world wide? Yes please.

Roman Kazmierczak's picture

There is no serious IT dept. that implements updates without testing them. Yes, you can skip specific updates that are causing problems. Unless you are using Mac, then you install all or nothing. Often business can't afford real IT stuff or they think they don't need it and they end up with such problems. When there is a good system admin, it looks like he doesn't do anything because everything works ;)

Daris Fox's picture

Echoing the above, I'm using a Windows 10 rig and it's never, and I mean never has crashed on me doing edits in Photoshop. That includes doing a 100 image stitch panoramic from a 50mp medium format camera and rendering out 3D scenes from Houdini and 4k Movies. For reference I'm using an X99 mobo, an Intel i7 5930k, Quadro 4200, 64Gb RAM and a Intel 750 NVMe SSD (PCIe variant). In like for like software test the above rig beat out a kitted out Mac Pro and to make matters worse the Mac Pro suffered from overheating issues when rendering out a 10min, 24fps 1080p 3D scene causing it to crash.

The key thing about the workstation, it's not used for general web usage. It's use purely in a professional capacity so no unnecessary software or apps.

If you have stability issues you need to look at the platform, most crashes are from incompatible RAM, non-professional graphics cards (should use Quadro/FirePro) and/or faulty drivers. Though surprisingly the most common cause for crashes is actually the PSU in my experience.

Dylan Dog's picture

I have something similar, and what you can try is creating a RAM Drive with some of your ram, and transfer your TEMP folders there too. Run your browser in sandboxed mode, or if you *really* want to go extra step, install portable version of your favourite browser on a RAM Drive partition, and run it sandboxed there. If you have a large enough RAM Drive, you can also make it a scratch disk for PS, but seeing as you already have a fast SSD, maybe that is not necessary.

Daris Fox's picture

I do have the option for a RAM drive but to be honest the speed of the Intel 750 is such that it makes no difference if I use that or a RAM drive, it's that fast as a cache drive. I use a Plextor M6e with a Plexturbo cache drive for the main OS.

I also use EMET as an additional layer for security, and also HyperV virtual clients if I have to though the latter is not really related to photography just web dev and InfoSec I sometimes do.

Roman Kazmierczak's picture

Good timing. It's time to upgrade my computers and I am getting rid off my 27" iMac 2009 and 15"MBP 2011.
Time to get back to more flexible and upgradable platforms.

Dylan Dog's picture

I wouldn't overlook the graphics card. A workstation graphics card will allow you to edit all of your files in 10bit mode should you have a wide gamut monitor like an Eizo, NEC or high end Dell panels. There are other benefits with GPU rendering which also helps in some editing applications, however this is mainly relevant in video editing. I do agree on rest of the points, as my PC is three years old now, and it still crushes large files with ease :)

OK, sure. Now try this with a three year old PC against a three year old Mac and see how it fairs.

Leigh Miller's picture

This comparison is so old...been done several times since 2013 and the conclusions are always as follows:

1) Adobe Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC favours less cores and faster clock speeds
2) The Mac Pro (Late 2013) has workstation level hardware meant for constant, heavy workload without errors
3) Software which takes advantage of the Mac Pro (late 2013) hardware is slowly entering the marketplace
4) Similar PC hardware would be equally or more expensive

So once and for all...if all you do is Lightroom and Photoshop just get a 4 core computer with 32 GB of RAM and a fast SSD. In most cases the GPU doesn't even matter.

If you regularly work with 4K + video, yada yada yada get a CPU with more cores

Personally I use a Mac Pro 8-core with 64GB RAM and it absolutely rocks everything. I think I may have had 2 crashes over the past year and the unit stays on constantly. I have 2 Sharp 4K monitors attached to it and a couple of G-RAID storage units via TB. It's solid, portable and stable.

Phil Stefans's picture

Bought a 5k iMac with all the go fast bits 6 months ago and haven't looked back. Could never go back. No more crashing. No more having to find and update drivers (!!!!!!!). Like they say, it just works. And yes I'm bragging a little when I say that I can have both photoshop and lightroom open and ready to go within 25 seconds of me hitting the on button of my iMac, as opposed to the 5 to 10 minutes of my older but pretty powerful PC.

I'm a fairly new Mac convert (Dec '15) and this part of it still shocks me, its ready to go before you are.

Chris K.'s picture

How about testing this on a 5 year old PC vs a 5 year old Mac. I still have a 10 year old iMac and it still has the same speed that it did brand new-obviously I don't edit with it now-but can the same be said about a PC?

Mark Alameel's picture

Why would your 5 year old computer be any slower today than it was 5 years ago (on any platform)?

Chris K.'s picture

I've noticed that the older a computer gets it appears to run slower-guess over a period of time with spyware and files moving around it effects performance. So the workhouse computer ideally isn't used to surf the net and store files other then programs on the main drive

Mark Alameel's picture

There are ways to keep your computer clean... It should not slow down. I only upgrade because I want to go faster, not because my computer slowed down.

Or, I upgrade because newer software requires more power...

Its like iOS, when you upgrade an older iPhone, it "seems" slower but really you're pushing it harder than it was mean to handle. That is us wanting our products to do more without paying for upgrading. Yes, that includes me, who doesn't want free performance?

Roman Kazmierczak's picture

Older computer can actually slow down. The thermal paste between CPU and radiator looses its properties and doesn't transfer heat away from CPU efficiently. Hotter CPU causes the throttling to kick in and reduce working frequency to prevent overheating.
Solution is obvious. Replace thermal paste (and clean radiator, and fans once you there ;) )

Mark Alameel's picture

Good note! However, for the purposes of the discussion, that problem is the same on both platforms. :)

Its easy fix for those of us that love to know what's going on inside a computer but I often forget that could be an issue. I've never really experienced a slow down like that because I upgrade often..By having cheaper PCs that are more powerful allows me to always be fastest.

Its also fair to point out that custom is always better than any name brand, not just Apple.

michael andrew's picture

The single biggest flaw in this comparison is that a working professional "photographer" can walk into an Apple Store and be back home un boxing a work station within the hour ready to take on the next photography project. I can't tell you how much time it would take me to property fit my Newly acquired "computer builder" hat so I could get started on my soon to be amazing 20 separate boxes of parts. When you compare custom cost vs pre built (and well designed at that) product you are looking at a more in line comparison. Unfortunately the basis for their comparison was flat cost of parts not including the time and cost to build that PC.

Mark Alameel's picture

If I could get a better computer for the same price with minimal effort... the kind that can be done while watching TV... Yeah, I'll do that. I can get a newly custom built machine to post in about the time it takes to watch a movie.

Mark Alameel's picture

"the time in researching the compatibility of parts you're planning to use"...


Pick a mobo, and everything needed to know is written on the back of the box... research done. This research should not take 30 minutes. Most people stick to a few manufacturers like Asus, MSI, Gigabyte...

If you've built a computer before, this is not rocket science. If you have not built a computer before, ask for help. If you're new to building, then have a bit of confidence and learn something new that only benefits you.

The people at the computer store can help you finish in no time if your nice to them (as long as you're not at a store like Best Buy).

Daris Fox's picture

That's a bit of a fallacy, most photographers know someone that's geeky. Tell them a budget and let them take care of the legwork of building and setting it up. Job done, and you probably won't even have to leave the office as I'm sure they might even come by and install it for you leaving the most difficult task of switching it on.

Daris Fox's picture

Funny enough, it is. Just switched on my workstation this morning selected 400 images to be rendered out and it's working as it has since I first built it last year in February.

I've had zero issues with this rig other than a mainboard failure from stress testing. This is a rig that's used for 3D design, photography and panoramic stitching. All of which are fairly heavy duty workloads.

Mark Alameel's picture

Daris, your situation is not unique and I don't understand why others want to bash Windows "of today".

My PCs almost never crash (maybe once in the last year or so). I even worked on a public render farms and they also rarely crashed due to "Windows" (but due to artists trying to push the software too hard). :)

If you like Apple as your personal preference, I can understand that and even support it. But when the argument is because Windows crash or need maintenance... I just laugh. I simple can do more with Windows and that is my personal choice. However, I'd never bash Macs for being tuned to a niche workflow.

iOS is very limited but I have an iPhone because it makes sense to me. I don't bash Android, blackberry, or Windows Phone, etc. Its just another tool I use.

michael andrew's picture

I don't know how to or care to learn how to build computers, and even if I cared to find someone who did it's an added element to my workstation that choosing Apple allows me to bypass. That comes with a premium that I have no trouble paying for up front. As far as stability goes it's pretty much a non comparison if you ask me, PC's rely on an operating system that the manufacturing has nothing to do with. Apple fine tunes their products to perfect spec with their own OS. Design and looks aside I have always felt they are more stable.

Roman Kazmierczak's picture

And that is why Apple is perfect choice for you. You are their intended target and nothing wrong about that. Those who know more about computers will be better with PCs.

Hans Rosemond's picture

As a user of both (Macbook Pro and desktop PC) I think the pricing comparison is valid, as are the counterpoints about ease of use for the macs. They're shiny and purty, that's for sure. I see a lot of comments also about testing a 5 year old mac vs a 5 year old PC, implying the PC wouldn't do so well.

That may be true, depending on the configuration, but I haven't heard anyone here mention upgradeability.

If all peripherals are working soundly, you can turn a 5 year old PC into a beast for less than $500. Not likely with a Mac.

I really like both platforms for different reasons, but an equally specced PC will always cost less than a Mac. Period. End of Story.

yes man they all forgot the upgradeability

Daniel Lee's picture

All the other Mac users will disown you whey see your rational and unbiased comment :P
A lot of PC users will upgrade their CPU, mobo and ram one year then the following year (or two) the gpu which makes it much cheaper. Also the hobby of building computers is as much fun as photography imo.

Daris Fox's picture

You can get a 5K display + a faster PC cheaper than a Apple rig, and that display will be better as it'll have a matte screen and more faithful reproduction.

Daris Fox's picture

If you look at semi-pro and pro displays they're almost all matte displays, it's only consumer displays that have glossy screens, pushed colours and brightness as that's what sells. They also usually have a higher bit depth (8 or 10), something that Apple hardware doesn't (which is usually 6bit or 8Bit, and 8bit tends to be quasi-8bit).

Personally I'd prefer to work in a full 10bit workflow for colour editing and to avoiding banding which I can't do with Apple rigs.

Fair enough if you prefer glossy displays that's personal choice but many professionals I work with prefer natural tones and hate reflections from a glossy display even in a dimly lit room.

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