The iMac Pro is a sleek and desirable machine. With 256GB of memory and an optional upgrade to not just 10, but 18 cores, it’s a powerful beast. Even that exclusive Space Gray hue screams class. But do you really need it?
We’ll take you through the spectrum of specs, then put them in a head-to-head matchup with the iMac and Macbook Pro to find out which is the right device for you.
The Baseline iMac Pro and Maxed-Out Model
The absolute cheapest iMac Pro you can get costs $4,999. But if you’re opting for the iMac Pro, you’re probably not going to go with the base model.
On the other end of the spectrum, the fully maxed-out iMac Pro costs a whopping $15,848. For 10 grand extra, you get one of the most powerful machines on the market in a compact, all-in-one package that looks as good as it runs.
The baseline iMac Pro comes with an Intel Xeon W 8-core processor. What do multiple CPU cores do? They allow you to multi-task. You can render video with one core while working with After Effects on another. The more cores, the more tasks your computer can do at once without slowing down.
Most entry-level Macs have two CPU cores. The mid-level Macbook Pros have four. Eight is already a lot, but the iMac Pro can be upgraded to a processor with a whopping 18 cores! No other Mac, not even the Mac Pro, offers that much power.
Memory determines how many programs you can have open and running at once. If you keep a million browser tabs open at once, memory is your friend.
The iMac Pro baselines at 32GB, which is a lot of memory even in the professional world. In comparison, most Macs come standard with 8 or 16GB, and the Macbook Pro 15-inch maxes out at 32.
However, the iMac Pro maxes out at a whopping 256GB. That’s a lot of open browser tabs.
A dedicated graphics card is essential for any professional graphics work.
The Radeon Pro Vega 56 is the latest generation, and 8GB of video memory is nothing to sneeze at. The iMac Pro can be upgraded to a Radeon Pro Vega 64X with 16GB of video memory, which is definitely a boosy, but probably not essential for most use cases.
All iMac Pro storage options are SSDs. This differentiates them from standard iMacs, which still have hard disk drive (HDD) or Fusion drive options. 1TB is the baseline standard, which is upgradeable to 4TB of storage.
At almost $2,500 extra for a 4TB SSD, that upgrade is probably not worth it. A 2TB drive is more reasonable at $600 extra.
Matchup 1: Cheapest iMac Pro or Priciest iMac?
You can customize an iMac so that it approaches the specs of the baseline iMac Pro and only costs $4,249.
They both have the same beautiful 5K Retina display. So what does that extra $750 buy you in the iMac Pro?
- A 10Gb Ethernet port vs 1Gb. Essential if you’re working with assets stored in the cloud or on a server.
- Two additional Thunderbolt 3 ports, bringing the total to four.
- A next-gen graphics card (Radeon Pro Vega 56 vs. Radeon Pro Vega 48).
- A next-gen processor (3.2GHz 8-core Intel Xeon W vs. 3.6GHz 8-core Intel Core i9).
- That exclusive dark gray finish.
If any of those options appeal to you, then go with the iMac Pro. However, if you’re a pro freelancer who works at home or is on a budget, you might want the standard iMac.
Just keep in mind that two Thunderbolt 3 ports means you might have to choose between a third display and some extra storage or speed in the future.
Matchup 2: iMac Pro or Macbook Pro and Display?
Here’s where the comparison gets trickier. Despite the similar names, the iMac Pro and the Macbook Pro are quite different animals. Does the portability of the Macbook Pro make up for its reduced power compared to the iMac Pro? Are the benefits of the iMac Pro worth the price? Let’s take a look.
A maxed out 15-inch Macbook Pro (except for the storage space, which after 2TB isn’t really financially worth upgrading) is $4,849. Pick up a 4K monitor and you’ll add another $1,000 to that, give or take. For $5,849, you get a powerful laptop.
But even at its most specced-out, the Macbook Pro is not as powerful as the iMac Pro in any category. Is it still worth getting?
The Macbook Pro is the perfect balance of power and portability. This makes it ideal if you are a freelancer or photographer someone who has to do quick graphics work onsite, but still needs a powerful machine at home. It’s also ideal as a second computer for its portability.
However, even the baseline model of the iMac Pro has better specs in every category than the fully specced MacBook Pro. It is still the machine to beat if you work heavily with 3D graphics or film editing.
Matchup 3: Maxed-Out iMac Pro or Mac Pro?
Our final comparison is between a fully specced iMac Pro and a top-of-the-line Mac Pro. Both machines are meant for power users, can be heavily upgraded, and come at a high cost. What are their differences?
- The Mac Pro, at this time, has six Thunderbolt ports compared to the iMac Pro’s four. However, they are all Thunderbolt 2 ports. Thunderbolt 2 is marketed as being as fast as PCI, which means peripherals using it will operate at a speed comparable to an internal component. However, it is still an outdated standard.
- Also, the Mac Pro has two Gigabit Ethernet ports, versus the iMac Pro’s one 10 Gigabit port.
- Notably, the Mac Pro doesn’t ship with a display, which can be a pro or a con. It gives you the flexibility of adding your own and means you don’t have to pay for one up front. However, nothing can really beat the Retina 5K in an iMac Pro, especially for graphics work.
- The best Mac Pro processor is not as good as the best iMac Pro’s. However, the Intel Xeon E5 processors in the Mac Pro are a little better for servers, since that’s what they were designed for.
The Mac Pro is for a very specific type of professional. If you need your machine turned on all the time, as a web server or a render farm, and you don’t need a top-of-the-line display, you may find more value in the compact Mac Pro. The multiple Thunderbolt ports means that you can upgrade it with added peripherals as much as you like.
But overall, the iMac Pro is a better, more powerful machine. It comes with everything you need right out of the box.
Find the Right Mac Notebook for You
Whether you’re looking for a second machine to complement your iMac Pro on the go, or you just don’t need the power, there are a lot of different options when it comes to MacBooks. No matter your budget or profession, there’s a MacBook out there that’s right for you.