A Practical Look at a Fully Loaded iMac Pro Versus a Fully Loaded iMac

The fully loaded iMac Pro is an absolute powerhouse machine that also happens to cost the price of a car. This video takes a look at what that stratospheric cost of entry gets you in practice and if it's worth it.

Coming to you from Parker Walbeck, this video follows him as he pits a $14,000 fully loaded iMac Pro against a fully loaded iMac. While we can compare the two on paper all day, we all know that rarely do differences in specs proportionately correlate with differences in performance in practice, particularly since software tends to lag evolution of hardware. Of course, as you might expect, there's a bit of a law of diminishing returns at play, meaning it's up to you to decide if the performance improvements are worth it. I think it's important to remember that most anything you can do on these top-shelf computers can be done on most any decently equipped late-model computer, just at the cost of time and perhaps with a bit rougher user experience. It's therefore very much a question of if the time saved in your work is worth it (and perhaps if the smoother experience will make you happier). 

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23 Comments

It is a fantastic machine (and completely out of reach for me) but I have some thoughts about it.

Upgrading is rather hard. Completely cutting loose a very expensive screen and completely disassembling a machine is rather risky and when done wrong, will be very costly. Also in case something breaks down, it will be a costly affair.
Screen and and other components can't be used seperately. If you want to replace the hardware in a couple of years, you can't save the screen. You have to completely replace everything.
And I just wonder how much of a workload would justify this kind of machine.

Upgrading is hard, indeed, especially on Mac (and that's notoriously limited upgrades).

This upgrade should be factored with how often do you need to upgrade. If you do need (not want) to upgrade every 5 or 8 years, then changing computer might be as efficient as upgrading parts (if you can find them !).

I mean, if you don't do 8K or heavy 4K, even a top of the line computer from 5 years ago do the trick flawlessly.

If you don't do any heavy lifting, you won't need this one.

Leigh Miller's picture

This was among the most honest bit of feedback I've seen and heard.

I'll add a couple of final things to it. The benchmarks people run are highly subjective but in the real world the benefits of all this high end hardware rarely get's fully deployed. I was editing some footage last night from three different cameras...a GoPro knock-off, RED and Fujifilm 4K. The GoPro knock-off has a very inefficient codec which maxed out all 8 cores and 16 threads while rendering. The RED used about 50% of the CPU resources and the Fujifilm 4K footage barely registered a blip.

While the timeline was rendering for color adjustments, stabilisation and sharpening I was browsing, watching Youtube and editing in Lightroom CC. There was no slowdowns or crashes.

The laws of diminishing returns was hit a long time ago for what we do. It's the software that hasn't caught up. The real question is: would you pay double the cost of whatever MAC you have now for a marginal improvement in performance?

I am an Apple user. I like the fact that my MAC Pro has been running constantly except for a brief period of time when I sold my last condo and moved into a new one. It's never needed servicing and the OS has been rock solid through all revisions. In another year and a half I will have fully amortized it and when/if I sell it the price will be much higher than a PC of the same age.

Having said that...I think I won't trust Apple to intro a new Mac Pro until 2019. I think this iMAC Pro "IS" the upgrade to my late 2013 Mac Pro and as such will likely be the last MAC I buy.

There is no such thing as a pc, in the sense that there are millions of types and configurations possible. It all depends on the components.

Leigh, what do you mean that the iMac Pro is the upgrade to your MP ?
So you are not interested in the 2018/2019 MacPro ? Or why do you think that this is your last Mac altogether ?
I am trying to follow your thoughts here. ;) Thanks.

Leigh Miller's picture

I hate saying that I don't trust...but I don't trust Apple. I don't have confidence that the Mac Pro will see store shelves until 2019. The new iMac Pro is the single most powerful and expensive computer Apple has ever made and it's only a little more advanced than the L2013 Mac pro. It seems to be enough to satisfy the Youtuber's with 8K RED cameras though and I think that was the idea...take attention off the age of the MP trashcan. I don't think they are serious about modular systems anymore...and certainly if they are it won't be at a price I'm willing to pay.

Modular means people can upgrade and you may wonder if Apple finds this desirable. I think they prefer that you buy an entirely new one. There is a reason Apple is so rich. They make good products and make a more than sound margin. Plus the fact that Apple fans seems a lot less inclined to criticise Apple than the average Windows/PC user.

Leigh Miller's picture

Inclined to agree...and if they keep everyone to a four year cycle the itch will be great enough to overcome logic. Users will want the next big thing...even though it lags behind something better which costs less.

Why the last Mac? You sound like a happy customer.

Leigh Miller's picture

The Law of Diminishing Returns.

If the iMac Pro represents the next leap over my Mac Pro, then the incremental benefits are less relevant and not worth the premium Apple will likely charge.

What a fool I would have been if I had sprung for the 12 core model that I originally ordered...applications barely use the 8 Cores I have now...and I definitely didn't need to pay them for 64GB of RAM either.

Still not following you though when you said "the last Mac I buy." Did you mean the last Mac Pro?

Leigh Miller's picture

Yes of course. I wouldn't buy this latest iMac Pro either...premium money for what amounts to seconds of rendering performance. I would rather spend half that and go for PC next time around.

Well, it would make much more sense to wait and see what Apple does with the next Mac Pro. I have a feeling they may have learned their lesson.

I gladly pay a little extra not to have to deal with Windows. The macOS is such a pleasure to use.

Leigh Miller's picture

LOL really...you think so?

Look at the trend...the are making their products HARDER to upgrade and in some cases (MAC MINI) pretty impossible, yet continue to charge a premium or "Apple Tax" as they say.

Chad D's picture

I built a PC recently I used to use PCs before OS X came out and did use macs before that to when they were nothing like anytihng we have today :) when I came to OS X I was like finally Apple answered the huge shortcomings of file management and color !!
I was to hope almost 15 years alter and MS copying every apple move they could that win 10 would have addressed some of these things but sadly NOPE ?

the things I hate about windows machine is faster I feel my workflow is still slower ? but I do not have faith in Apple as much as I used to and anyone new to Macs does not realize what apple once was so its kinda stuck in the middle these days sub par hardware and better than win OS but not what it was OR go with better hardware and some features that seem to be getting better with MS design ?

windows needs to build a column view like OS X
they need to bring tagging with one click into the explorer for all files !!! AND multiple ways like OS X has now and be able to customize it the file explorer is the same as when I left it with NT basically ?

wacom and the pen support colliding and making a huge mess

color management OS wide not app wide once again its a mess
saving form a app being able to see all your files when you save not just the current type you are saving !!!! again huge mistake on MS part

I am getting better but its got some huge holes that need to bring in to the next century and are hold overs form win 98 or something ?

IMHO and once you are using both a lot OS X is superior

my machine is a 7820x I mostly use C1 and PS and it flies for the most part :) I am having some issues with adobe and we all agree adobe flat out sucks these days and if you just use adobe get a iMac cause real world it wont make a difference for LR and PS use

poor memory handling is a issue I am having even with 32 gigs of mem I get out of memory errors on larger files and yes its setup correct some have it some do not ? it wants to run out of memory before using the scratch disc 1TB NVMe ?
but apple has its quirks at times to ? but the quirks on PC are much more and more frequent sadly the OS is stable its the apps that are not

I am glad I got the PC cause I know first hand experience with both I will keep working with it and want to build a hackintosh on it but holding off to force myself to use win since again I am torn what is happening with apple at this point ?

would I recommend the PC to others ? I doubt it cause anyone that wants one will now it otherwise I say to photographers stick with a iMac at this point and pray apple starts to really push OS X again cause if MS fixes the file explorer and color management and proper wacom support watch out its all over its that close now

Objectively speaking, I know so. It is not logical to conclude anything based on past experience.

"they are making their products HARDER to upgrade and in some cases (MAC MINI) pretty impossible, yet continue to charge a premium or "Apple Tax" as they say."

The Mac mini situation is shameful, but more so out of neglect. Previously the mini was upgradeable for RAM and storage. Now it's just storage. So pretty impossible" to upgrade is not accurate. More limited, and neglected, than ever, for sure.

While it's a shame that the upgradeable RAM slots were removed in the case of the mini, the upgrade argument is often, if not mostly, flawed. As someone that used to build his own computers soon realized, usually when it comes time to upgrade in a meaningful way, pretty much the entire computer had to be replaced. About all that was left was the case and the power supply.

Consider also that times are different. In the past you needed to get inside your computer to maximize the speed of a drive. That is no longer the case for most types of storage today. I have an 8TB external drive connected to my iMac through USB 3 and I get over 180 MBps read and write.

My case is 5 and power supply are five years old. 1,5 years ago, I replaced my GPU and a year ago, I replaced my motherboard, cpu, and memory. Next month I will replace the SSD which has the OS with another one. Most this stuff, can be done by me. Only the motherboard was done by my pc shop (for warranty reasons). It is bad economy to void your warranty on a 1300 Euros upgrade by trying to save 65 Euros

That's pretty much like I said, the only things you kept are the case and the power supply. And also like I said, when it comes to storage in most cases you dont need to be able to get inside the computer to do that.

Stephen Kampff's picture

It'll be interesting to see if Adobe can push PP even further on the iMac Pro. Seeing these tests makes it seem as though they haven't fully optimized it.

David Hynes's picture

You could buy 3 beast PC's with the price of one imac "Pro".

PC will always be the master race.

Christoph .'s picture

Don't understand this. I have a Ryzen 1700 system with a 290 and an M.2 SSD, it seems to handle everything just as well as these iMac Pro's do. For < 10% of the cost

People don't buy mac for the hardware specs or their speed. People buy it for the OS and other apps. Some people can't stand windows and prefer the workflow of osx. Imo, considering the build quality of macs, their prices are only a few percent higher than other companies like dell or hp. Self assembled PCs will be of course cheaper in terms of money. But you pay in time for those.