iMac Pro High-end iMac or low-end iMac Pro?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by shawnthelumberjack, Apr 11, 2018.

  1. shawnthelumberjack macrumors newbie


    Apr 11, 2018
    Hey everyone looking for advice between buying a high-end iMac (27", highest i7 4.2ghz, 32gb ram, 1tb SSD) or base 27" iMac pro.

    The most demanding thing i'll be doing is editing a bunch of 4K gopro hero 6 footage. I own a tree service company so there will be a lot of cool footage to work with and I've heard 4k is pretty demanding on a computer.

    The price difference (approx $1300 CAD more for the iMac Pro) isnt that big of a deal....liking the dual fans on the pro that dont wind up like i've heard the top of the line i7 iMac.

    I guess the big question is -other than the fans- :is the extra $1300 justified in performance or some other way im missing or should i just basically max out an iMac?

    Also I hear a new gen iMac is getting released later this year? will the improvement be that noticeable and will it potentially be closer to low-end iMacPro?

    extra possibly relevant info:

    -Will also be using computer for taxes/accounting/webpage/photo editing/social media etc.

    -Work a lot so time is minimal (example: if iMac Pro processes a 4K vid in 5 mins opposed to iMac doing it in 20mins thats a big plus!)

    -Money's not that big of a deal but definitly not spending 10K on mid-high end iMac Pro

    -I Have a maxed out 2012 15" MBPR but even if it COULD do 4K editing i wouldn't want to because of the small screen and workflow

    Thank you for any advice in advance.
  2. tomscott1988, Apr 12, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2018

    tomscott1988 macrumors 6502a


    Apr 14, 2009
    TBH the iMac pro is probably overkill but it will give you completely effortless editing. The i7 is a bit of a strange one the iMacs cooling system isnt good enough to cope with it so it throttles pretty quick and the fans can spin up quite loud.

    On the other hand the newer imacs are slated to be announced in 6-8 weeks and fingers crossed they should get SSDs as standard which will make upgrading to the next level of ssd capacity a lot cheaper. They will all move to hex (6 core) processors so you will 50% get more cores for the same price, these new processors are meant to run cooler and perform up to 40% better. The higher end hex will probably give the base iMac Pro a run for its money for roughly £1000 less which I think will probably make it the best bang for buck in the line up.

    Also if your doing certain tasks like video encoding the iMac pro will be slower because of its lack of quick sync.

    I would say your macbook pro will handle 4k in final cut fine, it will take longer to export but depends one your time scales. Im a photographer and when I need to render my images I let it get on with it and go and do another task, depending on the length of the video... Im assuming it will be to help advertise your business so I doubt the videos will be long to keep people engaged... might be worth a try.

    TBH nothing really has happened in the last 6 years in the CPU industry and the 2012 machines are still more than capable. I have a 2010 mac pro thats still chugging along.

    Probably worth waiting if you can or if your not bothered just buy the iMac pro. Worth having a read through the iMac pro issue threads, there seems to be some bugs and many people arent happy and apple havent addressed any of the issues.

    If its a business purchase its easier to justify spending more and claim back the tax so would probably go for the higher end machine.

    I am waiting for the announcement, hoping apple will have solved the cooling issues and release the new processors, if there isnt anything worth purchasing I will buy an iMac pro.
  3. Cool Pup macrumors 6502a

    Cool Pup

    Jun 18, 2010
    Dallas, TX
    Souped up iMac. Don't bother with the Pro unless you know you need that power, an extra thousand bucks is a big deal for most people but if you honestly feel like you can afford it, then go for it? Although I've heard that people say you get higher single core scores on a non pro iMac as there are compatibility issues with the iMac Pro on many applications, but I'm not an expert in this discussion so feel free to neglect this part of the post. I'm just not sure that the extra thousand would be worth it in your case but I might be wrong.

    However there's no guarantees there will be new iMacs announced this year (although it could happen, they might launch later in the year regardless), and I haven't heard anything about SSD standards being rumored and I kind of doubt that it'll be in the base model considering they lowered the prices last year. So if you need a new machine now, don't feel the need to wait out. The specs you mentioned will more than carry you through your line of work and then some with a large real estate in that resolution will seriously change the game of editing for you.
  4. joema2 macrumors 68000


    Sep 3, 2013
    I own both top-spec 2017 iMac and 10-core Vega 64 iMac Pro I use for professional video editing. Most of the material is 4k H264 from a variety of cameras including GoPro Hero5, DJI Inspire 2, Panasonic DVX200 and Sony A7RIII. I also tested my workflow on an 8-core Vega 56 base iMP.

    I used Premiere Pro for years and still have a CC subscription but mostly use FCPX.

    I also have a top-spec 2015 and 2016 MBP so I use those for editing on the road, and my business partners have some 2013 MBPs -- I've used those also.

    Either 2017 i7 iMac or the 8-core iMac Pro would be *vastly* faster than your 2012 MBP at video editing. I only edit on my 2016 MBP when forced to. The desktop iMac or iMP is a much better, far more productive machine.

    4k H264 is difficult to smoothly edit on any computer (using any software), including the iMac Pro. The top 2017 iMac or iMac Pro can edit a single stream of 4k H264, provided you're not too picky about lag. If you edit multicam, then proxies are mandatory -- even on the iMac Pro.

    While the iMac Pro's Xeon CPU doesn't have Quick Sync, Apple is apparently using AMD's UVD/VCE decode/encode acceleration instead. In FCPX it is pretty fast but results are mixed. It is faster on encoding to H264 1080p, but a little slower at encoding to 4k. This might change as Apple optimizes the AMD drivers. The iMP is way faster on an all-ProRes workflow.

    Basically, either computer can do your task. The iMP is a lot quieter which is important for some people. In my case my office is stacked with 200 TB of Thunderbolt drive arrays, so there's constant background noise from those, and the iMac fan spinning up is only one more.

    If you are using Premiere, that is less efficient than FCPX and the additional CPU horsepower from the iMP might help. OTOH to my knowledge Premiere uses neither Quick Sync nor AMD's transcoding logic (on Mac), so whether you run that on an iMac or the iMP it won't be as fast when handling H264 material.

    Like FCPX, Premiere supports proxies so that is always an option to gain greater timeline smoothness and editing speed. It just takes time and disk space to generate them.

    The 2017 i7 iMac is a great machine, especially for editing with FCPX. The base 8-core Vega 56 iMP isn't that much faster for many H264 tasks, but it's quieter. It has ECC RAM so theoretically it might be more reliable. The 10-core (or above) Vega 64 iMP is somewhat faster on certain things but it's far more expensive.

    If you can get the Micro Center $4k deal on the base iMP, that is pretty good. I would personally lean in that direction if available. It's not that much more than the top iMac (if the $4k deal is available). If you have to pay $5k, that's a bit different.

    The top 2017 iMac is a real speed demon on H264 (at least using FCPX). It can edit gigantic projects -- I'm working on a documentary built from 220 hr, 8,500 clips, 20 terabytes of 4k H264. It handles that OK, although this might be close to the upper limit of FCPX's database capability.

    The 10-core and higher iMP is quite expensive and you'd need to know your workflow to understand whether that would work.

    If there is any doubt and you want to test your workflow, this is difficult to do because the Apple store typically cannot get non-stock machines. You can order one with the intention of keeping it and return it if it clearly does not meet your standards. However be advised certain retailers such as B&H will not permit returns on computers, not even Macs.

    You might be able to speak with Apple's business team at the local store -- maybe they get one for testing. However I asked about this and even though I'm a documentary filmmaker they could not get a 10-core or above iMac Pro for professional testing.
  5. dumastudetto macrumors 68030

    Aug 28, 2013
    iMac Pro is the ultimate computer. You can't buy anything better. It is truly performant and completely silent even under heavy load. It is astonishing what Apple has achieved with iMac Pro.

    Go with the iMac Pro.
  6. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    Agree with tomscott in reply 2 above.

    I'd wait until the new iMacs come out in mid-summer (hopefully).

    Then make my buying decision...
  7. fathergll macrumors 65816

    Sep 3, 2014
    I would simply boil it down to this.

    Q: Will the current iMac Maxed out be sufficient for your needs?
    A: Yes

    Q: Is it worth for you to spend +1300 for a iMac Pro?
    A: Read joema2 post about the performance differences and then you will need to make a decision. I always ask myself the following litmus test with spending extra. What can I do the the extra money? For example 1300 could get you a 2TB external SSD drive as well. Or 1300 could buy a 4K OLED TV, or you can go on vacation or put it in savings...etc.

    Q: Do I need this iMac now or do I want to wait until the summer to see if there is an update?
    A: Only you can answer
  8. campyguy macrumors 68040

    Mar 21, 2014
    Portland / Seattle
    OP a few weeks ago I would have offered buying a BTO iMac with the specs you offered, with my wanting to replace 4 older iMacs in my office and one in my home (all "Core i7" 3.5 27" (Late 2013)) units, the last ones with Nvidia GPUs; they were nice for Autodesk apps at the time as those were the last mobile GPUs certified by Autodesk for several of the apps we used, but I've ported those workflows over to Win PCs with Quadro cards in them. With some of the work we do Macs are still a key tool in some of our workflow and, like others here in these forums, I'd been waiting for a revision of the iMac line, with at least an update to the 8th-Gen processors that are now coming out in PCs.

    What changed it for me was a sale by Best Buy on Easter day, and it was matched by Apple's Store with Amazon, cutting the price by US$1000. Using my Prime Store credit option to get another 5% discount (another US$200), that US$1300 difference was knocked down to US$100, with free shipping to my door and a 30-day return window. I bought 5, replacing the older iMacs that will likely be relegated to office production work. I've been using mine for geotechnical modeling and light photo editing, while the office units are already at work with pollutant modeling and some video work. One bit about the work units, it was pretty cool and windy at times last week and someone actually turned on the heat for the first time in 3 years - the new iMac Pros don't heat up the workspace they're in like the iMacs did, and they're a LOT quieter under load.

    Wait for either a sale on an base iMP or a redesign of the iMac, too bad that you're not on this side of the border. I don't know what all of the political yammering about tariffs is going to do with the pricing, which was a second factor in my choosing to jump on the sale when I did. Good luck!
  9. mj_ macrumors 6502


    May 18, 2017
    Austin, TX
    Personally, I wouldn't get a single-fan iMac with a 91W CPU. I've heard pretty bad things about fan noise on these higher specced models. The i5-7500 and i5-7600 are only 65W and stay comparatively cool. Accordingly, the fan is also dead silent most of the time and only revs up when pushed real hard.

    Again, some of that is hearsay. I don't have an iMac with 91W i7 CPU but the 27" base model instead. However, if I wanted to get a powerful CPU I would probably opt for the dual-fan iMac Pro.
  10. Daniel Reed, Apr 13, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2018

    Daniel Reed macrumors 6502

    Daniel Reed

    Sep 9, 2016
    San Francisco
    Incorrect. Please stop posting alternative facts.



    Also, a plain Vega 56 (i)Mac Pro outperforms quicksync for HEVC; however,
    I highly recommend getting at least the Vega 64 upgrade when buying a low end (i)Mac Pro.

    Additionally, transcoding source material to ProRes or DNxHD/R for editing is considered best practice - except for RED R3D files when one has a RedRocket-X decoder card; ProRes RAW may change that.
  11. shawnthelumberjack thread starter macrumors newbie


    Apr 11, 2018
    Thanks for the reply's everyone! Looks like I'll wait till mid summer for possibility of any updates. Ill try to get by with my MBPR until then.

    Is there a specific conference/announcement and/or date where the new iMacs >MIGHT< be release?
    Or does Apple usually just release info mid summer-ish?
  12. mj_ macrumors 6502


    May 18, 2017
    Austin, TX
    It could be tomorrow. Or next week. Or maybe in a month or two. Maybe in June, July, September, or December. Quite possibly it could also be 2019 until we see new iMacs given that every single hardware engineer seems to be working on the new Mac Pro that has been announced in 2017 and is scheduled to arrive in 2019.

    Nobody really knows and it's all speculation at this point. As always, the bottom line is if you need one get it now. If you can wait, wait.
  13. sublunar macrumors 6502a

    Jun 23, 2007
    WWDC is a good bet for the next hardware releases. Early June. The soonest date would be early May after the results call but I think 6 core iMacs and MacBook pros warrant more than a press release launch. Suitable cpus have been announced for all but the MacBook Pro non touch bar and retina MacBook.

    The latest date would be the ‘traditional’ October refresh for Apple hardware which went unused last year because most things got updated at wwdc 2017.

    Most interestingly for iMac fans the B series intel cpus were just launched. Soldered cpus optimised for limited heat dissipation scenarios would be great for an iMac refresh.

    It’s a pity that AMD are just rebadging last years cpus for this year. Adding X to the end.
  14. campyguy macrumors 68040

    Mar 21, 2014
    Portland / Seattle
    +1 with sublunar's rationale. My only additional insights are from my vendors, they're really bad poker players in that they telegraph pretty much everything. I'm all in with TB3/USB-C now but I heard enough today to lot out my entire legacy (all Nvidia) Mac products, they went out the door today with my last laptop following next Wednesday (I've got to get it audited). I'll need several iMacs by about September when a 8th-Gen processor refresh should be available or I'll monitor sales for more iMac Pros. We'll know more at WWDC, but I'll also be buying several ePGUs then too, hopefully with Nvidia support - I let my Apple rep know yesterday I'll be buying 20-odd Xeon Win boxes with Quadros if Apple doesn't get their ducks in a row, she indicated that WWDC will be "very constructive" (whatever that means?). July 2018 starts my next FY, so I'm sharpening my pencil...
  15. joema2 macrumors 68000


    Sep 3, 2013
    I have both 10-core Vega 64 iMac Pro and the top 2017 iMac I use for video editing on FCPX and Premiere CC. In general the iMac Pro is faster but as tomscott1988 said, the iMP is slower on some conversion paths because it doesn't have Quick Sync. Note this is a non-issue on Premiere since Adobe doesn't use Quick Sync on the Mac platform.

    FCPX on the iMP will use AMD's similar UVD/VCE decode/encode hardware, which is why the iMP is so much faster than the 2013 Mac Pro at H264 or 8-bit HEVC. Adobe also doesn't use that, which might be why the 9to5Mac link shows Premiere is so much slower than FCPX -- even when rendering *shorter* timelines. In their graphs FCPX on the iMP took 1:24 to render a 2:45 timeline, whereas Premiere took 3:47 to render a 2:18 timeline.

    If the NLE software does not use hardware transcode acceleration, then it's all up to the CPUs. Of course the CPU performance of an 8-core iMP will be much faster than a base iMac. This is why the iMP is so much faster at H264 or ProRes on Premiere than an iMac -- because (on H264) Premiere is so inefficient it can only use the CPUs. On ProRes there is no hardware encode acceleration needed so it's again a CPU vs CPU test. The CPU on a *base* IMP is much faster than the CPU on a *base* iMac.

    On FCPX the 9to5Mac graphs *superficially* look like the iMP is a lot faster on exporting 4k video. However we don't know what timeline or export codec was used. If it's ProRes, neither Quick Sync nor AMD's UVD/VCE hardware are used. Thus the difference could be simply the faster 8-core CPU vs the *base* iMac.

    The iMP running FCPX exports to 8-bit HEVC faster than even the top 2017 iMac. So in that specific conversion path, AMD's UVD/VCE is faster than Quick Sync. On 10-bit HEVC/H265 FCPX doesn't currently use hardware acceleration on either iMP or iMac, and this is about 30x slower. Note for this one case Premiere (while slower in general) is actually faster.

    The bottom line is the iMP is pretty fast and also quiet. However its performance advantage is uneven and varies based on NLE software and codec. It is much faster at encoding to 8-bit HEVC. On an all-ProRes or RED RAW workflow using FCPX, it is super fast. On an all-H264 workflow it is a little slower than the top 2017 iMac on 4k, and a little faster on 1080p. See some of my benchmarks below.

    My FCPX tests on 10-core Vega 64 iMac Pro vs. 2017 i7 iMac 27 (min:sec)

    iMac Pro export 60 sec 4k/29.97 H264 to 4k H264 Fast Encode: 00:45
    2017 iMac export 60 sec 4k/29.97 H264 to 4k H264 Fast Encode: 00:38

    iMac Pro export 60 sec 4k/29.97 H264 to 4k H264 Best Quality: 01:25
    2017 iMac export 60 sec 4k/29.97 H264 to 4k H264 Best Quality: 01:11

    iMac Pro export 60 sec 4k/29.97 H264 to 4k ProRes 422: 00:23
    2017 iMac export 60 sec 4k/29.97 H264 to 4k ProRes 422: 00:36

    iMac Pro export 60 sec 4k/29.97 ProRes 422 to 4k ProRes 422: 00:10
    2017 iMac export 60 sec 4k/29.97 ProRes 422 to 4k ProRes 422: 00:13

    Imac Pro create optimized media from 06:09 4k/29.97 H264: 02:05
    2017 iMac create optimized media from 06:09 4k/29.97 H264: 03:40

    (I don't have the numbers for creating proxies from 4k H264 but the iMac Pro is a little slower than the iMac)

    iMac Pro export 60 sec 4k/29.97 ProRes 422 to 4k HEVC 8-bit: 00:43
    2017 iMac export 60 sec 4k/29.97 ProRes 422 to 4k HEVC 8-bit: 02:16

    iMac Pro export 60 sec 4k/29.97 ProRes to 4k HEVC 10-bit: 22:02
    2017 iMac export 60 sec 4k/29.97 ProRes 422 to 4k HEVC 10-bit: 32:47

    Neat Video 4.7, optimal config for iMac and iMac Pro, 4k/29.97 H264:
    iMac Pro: 5.29 frames/sec
    2017 iMac: 2.76 frames/sec

    Digital Anarchy Flicker Free on 10 sec of 4k/29.97 H264:
    iMac Pro: 05:09
    2017 iMac: 06:31

    Imagenomic Portraiture skin processing on 10 sec 4k/29.97 H264:
    iMac Pro: 01:07
    2017 iMac: 01:10


    - FCPX is obviously not using hardware acceleration for HEVC/H265 10-bit export on either iMac Pro or iMac
    - The 2017 top-spec iMac is a little faster at 4k H264 export than the 10-core Vega64 iMac Pro
    - On effects, the iMac Pro performance advantage varies widely depending on the specific effect
    - The iMac Pro is faster than the iMac at export from 4k H264 to 4k ProRes
    - The iMac Pro is faster than the iMac on an all-ProRes workflow

    iMac Pro: 10-core Vega64 iMac Pro, 64GB RAM, 2TB SSD, macOS 10.13.3, FCPX 10.4
    2017 iMac: 4.2Ghz i7-7700K, 32GB RAM, Radeon Pro 580, 2TB SSD, macOS 10.12.6, FCPX 10.3.4
    Camera and codec: Sony A7R2, XAVC-S, 4k/29.97 H264 100 mbps 8-bit 4:2:0
  16. bigtomato macrumors regular

    Feb 28, 2015
    Do yourself a favour and buy a Windows thread ripper machine, you'll save tons and able to handle more than 4k. Go on youtube to find out. I've had enough of apples high prices and have switched and really you won't regret it since every app is available on windows except for final cut pro.
  17. ThatSandWyrm macrumors regular


    Oct 30, 2017
    FYI: Since the 10.13.4 update, the fans on my iMac Pro have been much more audible. Not quite as loud as my old late-2015 iMac, but much more noticeable than they were before.
  18. bigtomato macrumors regular

    Feb 28, 2015
    They should have included a set of beats headphones for the price you paid :)
  19. Guy Clark Suspended

    Guy Clark

    Nov 28, 2013
    London United Kingdom.
    Definitely go for the High End iMac. The Low End iMac Pro would be unnecessary expense unless you intend to carry out the most demanding of tasks. CAD work is well within the capabilities of the standard iMac. To save even more money it is worth considering a refurbished High End Late 2015 5k Retina 27" iMac as it is a very capable machine.
  20. joema2 macrumors 68000


    Sep 3, 2013
    The OP mentioned editing "a bunch" of 4K gopro hero 6 footage. The the 2017 i7 iMac is about 2x faster editing this in FCPX than the 2015 i7 iMac. I own both of those and have tested this many times. This is apparently due to the improved Kaby Lake Quick Sync in the 2017 model. It is actually faster than my 10-core Vega 64 iMac Pro on certain cases such as exporting to 4k H264, although the iMP is overall faster. For the OP's application I would only get the 2017 i7 iMac 27 -- assuming he's using FCPX or iMovie. If he's using Premiere or some other NLE, those differences may not apply since Premiere on Mac doesn't use Quick Sync.
  21. ThatSandWyrm macrumors regular


    Oct 30, 2017
    That depends on the complexity of the CAD models he’s making, and whether the real-time display of his models in his CAD app is CPU or GPU bound. If he needs the best GPU available, the iMP with the Vega Pro 64 will be his only real choice.

    For example, I use MODO for General 3D modeling, and the difference between running it on the Vega 64 vs. an RX580 is amazing. I would never want to go back. But when I kick a model over to ZBrush for sculpting, there’s no real difference, because that app is far more dependent on the CPU and main system RAM bandwidth. ZBrush is also very well optimized for large numbers of CPU cores across almost all of its functions.
    --- Post Merged, Apr 18, 2018 ---
    No, they should have offered better better software updates for the system. Things were improving until 10.13.4, when lots of things that had been fixed suddenly broke again, and new bugs were introduced.

    The price of the iMP was fine. I’ve spent much more on camera gear in the last year than I did on my all but maxed out 10-core iMP. But they’re falling down on the software support, and it’s starting to impact my work. I can’t, for instance, trust that my external drives will stay mounted during/after sleep in 10.13.4. Which, if you’re processing 1000+ RAW images in Adobe Camera RAW, can mean that you’ll lose the ability to save out your changes after taking a lunch break.
  22. campyguy macrumors 68040

    Mar 21, 2014
    Portland / Seattle
    One more reason to consider an iMP if you have special workflow needs, I've only had a week or so to experiment a bit with my base iMP and virtualization. I set up Parallels Desktop (v.12) and have VMs for Sierra/El Capitan/Win 10 Pro 64-bit. During a work session working on a CAD design via SSH to one of my offices, I used the Win 10 VM (with 4 CPUs dedicated to the VM) to render a massive DXF file container that included two trimmed SHAPE files (with about 7M surfaces) and when that was done a few hours later I switched to the Sierra VM and used Compressor (also with 4 CPUs) to process a couple of video files that my GF brought with her (she set up Compressor, that's her deal). I never had any issues with my SSH session, the iMP hardly broke a sweat and I never heard the fans rev up. I billed for the DXF - I bill lump sum, by the project - so it was a good weekend for me. My 2012 i7 Mini Server broke a sweat, tho', it might be out of a job soon...
  23. Glockworkorange macrumors 65816


    Feb 10, 2015
    Chicago, Illinois
    If you need it now, the current high end iMac should be fine for those needs. If you can hold off for about 8 weeks or so, until after WWDC, there might be a newer and more powerful iMac at the same price point OR you can pick up a maxed out 2017 on the (relative) cheap. Either way, I think now is a bit of a holding period if you're in the market unless, again, you need the machine right now.

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