iMac vs iMac Pro for graphic design

Discussion in 'iMac' started by smemma, Aug 5, 2019.

  1. smemma macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2016
    #1
    At the moment I have a 2017 iMac with 4.2 GHz Intel Core i7, Radeon Pro 580 8 GB and 40GB of RAM that I use for my graphic design work (Adobe Illustrator, InDesign & Photoshop, as well as a little Blender 3D) and I want to upgrade to a newer Mac. I foolishly went for a Fusion Drive in this iMac (as SSD prices were ludicrous at the time) and whilst I know I could get a boost from using an external SSD on this iMac, I really want to upgrade to a newer / better model as even a programme as simple as Illustrator is pretty choppy on this machine. It's a good Mac, but I really need something better now.

    The aim here is to buy a machine that will last me for quite a few years (hopefully 5 or more), but sadly I think the new Mac Pro is going to be too pricey for me once upgraded to have a decent sized internal storage + the £1,200 or so I'd want to spend on a monitor for it.

    I realise that a new iMac Pro might be on the way, but just wanted to get people's thoughts on which current iMac would be best for me - an i9 2019 with SSD, or an iMac Pro? For my work I have to run 2 external monitors (only 1080p and 2.5K though), so on my 2 USB-C ported iMac I'm having to use a TB-3 Dual Monitor Adapter at present - and I'm pretty sure this is making this iMac chug a little. So, the iMac Pro having 4 TB-3 ports is appealing to me, but I'm just not sure if I'd need to upgrade the spec at a large expense to make it more future proof for my use?

    So, I'm not sure I'd need to upgrade to more than an 8 core iMac Pro, and whether I'd need to upgrade GPU in either that or a 2019 i9 iMac?

    Apologies, I realise this is a ramble of a question, but would just appreciate some input as 99% of opinions / reviews online are targeted at people working with video!
     
  2. MistrSynistr macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    May 15, 2014
    #2
    SSD makes ALL the difference. I do graphic design and huge photography file work on my 2015 iMac with SSD with 32gb RAM and have had zero issues.
     
  3. CheesePuff macrumors 6502a

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    Sep 3, 2008
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    Southwest Florida, USA
    #3
    I'd go the 2019 iMac route with 3.6 GHz i9 and SSD all the way. It will be a big improvement over what you have now, and come in much cheaper then the Pro
     
  4. Strider64 macrumors 6502a

    Strider64

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    #4
    I have an iMac Pro and really like it, but if I were buying today I would be going the iMac route.
     
  5. unsui_grep macrumors newbie

    unsui_grep

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    Jan 6, 2019
    #5
    I agree SSD is huge. I'd consider upgrading to the SSD drive if you don't mind voiding the warranty and waiting until next year to purchase a likely redesigned iMac or iMac Pro if you feel the need. You can do it yourself and take it to a shop. OWC has some great kits and dyi videos. ​
     
  6. Ledgem macrumors 68000

    Ledgem

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    #6
    Your programs are lagging, but what's the bottleneck? Fusion drive aside, that's still a very impressive computer. Finding out what's slowing you down guide you in your purchase decision, and it can possibly mean a simple upgrade that saves money.

    If you use programs like iStat Menus then you can monitor all sorts of things, but there's also a free way to check. Open Activity Monitor and click through the CPU, Memory, and Disk tabs. You can only view one tab at a time, but once you've clicked on it then it'll keep track and you can refer back to it. (With the CPU tab you can cheat a bit; double-clicking on the "CPU Load" graph pulls up a floating graph that you can monitor at all times, as long as Activity Monitor is running, even when Activity Monitor doesn't have focus.). Do your usual work, and look through the graphs from time to time. Is your CPU routinely hitting 80%+ utilization? Is your memory pressure high? Does it seem like your I/O numbers are low?

    If your CPU is routinely hitting its maximum utilization, then a whole computer upgrade is probably the best bet.

    If your memory pressure is high, you can consider upgrading your RAM even further, or trying to find a way to optimize your software. (For example, some people like to leave programs running, but get into trouble when they're working with programs that leak memory and need to be quit from time to time. Other people multitask like crazy but don't really need to, and can get by just fine with fewer programs running.)

    If it's your disk - which seems most likely - you can get an external Thunderbolt SSD. One of the most highly-regarded (for performance, but it's not the cheapest) is the Samsung X5. If I remember right, the X5 easily beats out the performance of SSDs that Apple was providing even in their 2017 machines, and yes, even over Thunderbolt 3; I'm not sure if Apple's latest SSDs have caught up in performance. You could consider using it as your scratch disk, but others have also easily installed their home operating system and programs to it, and run their system off of it.

    One final consideration is your graphics card. I don't have an easy, free way to monitor GPU utilization - again, programs like iStat Menus can check it, but Activity Monitor cannot. There, too, you could use an eGPU (either build one yourself, or go with a solution like the BlackMagic, to give a major performance boost without needing to completely change your system. I mention this here as a possibility, but given what you're describing, I don't think that the problem is your graphics card.

    There's an added benefit of the external Thunderbolt SSD and eGPU: you can take them with you across computers, and upgrades. So even if it initially feels like a bandaid of sorts, it's not a "waste" because you'll still be able to use them even whenever you do the full system upgrade.
     
  7. Wolf1701 macrumors newbie

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    Sep 16, 2006
    #7
    On activity monitor... gpu history
     
  8. Ledgem macrumors 68000

    Ledgem

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    #8
    Thanks for that - it's not a tab (at least, not on my Mac), but if you open Activity Monitor and go to Windows > GPU History (or use keyboard shortcut Command 4) you'll bring up a floating window, similar to double-clicking the CPU window. Had not seen that it was possible there. So you can monitor everything without needing to buy anything!
     
  9. alisalem, Aug 5, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2019

    alisalem macrumors member

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    Location:
    Mississauga, ON
    #9
    Product Designer here.. I've used Photoshop and Illustrator a lot in the past (still do occasionally) and I can almost guarantee that you will see no performance gain within the apps themselves, unless you rely heavily on filters and big file exports. If your complaint is about Photoshop and Illustrator being choppy in general, then don't bother upgrading because Adobe apps have always been poorly optimized on macOS compared to Windows (unlike what most people think). This has always been a thing since Windows 7. I used to use Photoshop a lot in the past and it ran much worse on macOS.

    My new 2019 iMac with i5, 580X, 40GB RAM and 512GB SSD runs Photoshop and Illustrator almost identical to my 2015 MacBook Pro that I got from work.

    The SSD would help a lot in launching apps, but I don't see it being a huge bottleneck while apps are already running, especially when you have 40GB of RAM.

    Someone made a comparison here https://tricky-photoshop.com/photoshop-mac-windows-better/

    Notice when they compare zooming in and moving an image/file around. This is exactly where macOS is poorly optimized, and I've no idea why Adobe don't bother.
     

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  10. BlueTide macrumors regular

    BlueTide

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    Feb 6, 2007
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    Seattle
    #10
    I just want to second alisalem; for the programs you listed, you don't really benefit much from faster machines. iMac with an SSD is enough (saving can take a while without one), if not better than iMac Pro, with enough RAM. And lastly the GPU. I run most of photo editing on late-2013 MacBook Pro still due to having moved around, sold stuff and the new machines haven't been all that much better. Better, yes, but not that much - I do have a 2019 MacBook Pro from work, but haven't bothered to switch to that for photo editing yet.
     
  11. smemma thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2016
    #11
    Cheers for all the input! Will keep an eye on activity monitor when working later.

    Photoshop isn’t a problem - that runs really nicely - it’s mostly illustrator and indesign which I do think is largely down to the gpu & fusion drive.

    Have been weighing up an external ssd as my main drive, but the lowly two tb3 ports on the iMac is really limiting!
     
  12. tomscott1988 macrumors 6502a

    tomscott1988

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    Apr 14, 2009
    Location:
    UK
    #12
    Just buy an Samsung X5 for your 2017 and boot from it... have one on mine and get 2k reads and writes. Night and day.

    Solves the issue 10% the cost. The spec of your machine is more than capable.

    Illustrator and Indesign run poorly anyway. I have the full max spec 2019 and it runs no better than on my base 2017 with the X5. Its optimisation rather than CPU/GPU.

    Im a GD, Photographer and videographer full time, the iMac pro is more and for my work the iMac is more than enough. Plus you can add 64gb 128gb of ram. SSD and ram is more beneficial.
     
  13. smemma thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Sep 19, 2016
    #13
    I'm guessing that for the X5 to be fully beneficial I'd need it for booting from & storing everything? I'd need a 2TB for that, which is getting into silly money territory (for just storage).

    It'd be cheaper to get 2 x 1TB X5s, but I don't have enough TB3 ports for that. As daft as it is, that's largely why I'm considering a new Mac, so I can have good SSD storage without using up precious ports! I REALLY don't fancy opening my current iMac up to upgrade it myself, and I've contacted countless companies here in the UK, none of which are willing to do the job for me?! Seems crazy.
     
  14. alisalem macrumors member

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    Apr 12, 2013
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    Mississauga, ON
    #14
    You don't need to store everything on the X5. Again, for your type of use (graphic design), you don't need fast access to storage unless you do heavy video editing. You can get a 256-512GB to boot from and install apps and your files can live on the Fusion drive.
     
  15. smemma thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Sep 19, 2016
    #15
    Think I’ll take a punt on a smaller X5 then - thanks for all the help!
     
  16. tomscott1988 macrumors 6502a

    tomscott1988

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    UK
    #16
    512 is enough. Format your internal and use it for storage if needed.

    No need for any graphic media to be on the X5 they run 2000mb/s which is more suitable for 8k workflows. 1TB SSDs are like £100 now and run 550mb/s so buy one and a USB 3.1 gen 2 hard drive caddy and use that for media files.

    What GD jobs are your doing that require 2TB of used space all the time? Sure 90% of that must be old archived projects that you could put on a spinning HDD.

    I run my X5 which only has current projects. I then have an OWC thunderbay 6 that has 24TB of spinning drives and a 1TB SSD for my lightroom/prem/after effects libraries.

    I then have a few 8TB externals for onsite and offsite backup.

    Once full they are archived.
     
  17. smemma thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Sep 19, 2016
    #17
    I don't actually need 2TB for all active projects - would just prefer to keep it simple and have it all in one place if possible, but I'm going to go for the 500GB X5 for apps, OS and live projects (as you say), and then will probably just use the fusion drive for archived projects.

    Would love something like the Thunderbay but will see how I get on with just an X5 for the time being. Might look into a 3.1 enclosure for another SSD to hold other files on - I'm not very good with all the technicalities of different USB ports - would a standard USB 3.1 (not USB C) enclosure still give good speeds with an SSD in it? Only for file storage, not OS etc.
     
  18. Ledgem macrumors 68000

    Ledgem

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    Hawaii, USA
    #18
    USB has gotten really confusing in recent years. USB 3.1 gives you a transfer speed of 10 Gbps, which is the same as the old Thunderbolt 1 protocol. It's still really fast, and you'll be fine with it. (If you're curious, USB C refers to the physical connector, which also should in theory add some other features... but there have been odd cases of companies using the USB C connector with USB 2.0 devices, so even though we assume USB C also means USB 3 or higher, it's not always the case.)

    As to devices like the Thunderbay, I don't like the look of it much, from what I've read. It seems like for Macs it only allows you to use RAID 0 (data is spread across all drives for faster speed, but a single drive failure means all data is lost) or RAID 1 (data is mirrored across all drives - or for four drives, you can have two RAID 0's mirroring across each other, but you can only use half the space of your total drive capacity). I use a Drobo 5C, although they do have more performance-oriented versions like the 5D (which offers Thunderbolt connectivity and an optional SSD slot for "acceleration" - probably caching of files). Fast enough for me. It's proprietary but seems to work similarly to RAID 5 or RAID 6, in which data is spread across all drives, but recovery information is spread as well. You lose some usable space for it, but not much... way less than the 50% from pure mirroring like RAID 1. It means you can have a single (RAID 5) or even two disks (RAID 6) fail and still have all of your data accessible; you just swap out the failed drive and the device rebuilds your data.

    If you prefer non-proprietary solutions, Synology also has nice Drobo-like devices, and offers them in more configurations. The Drobo felt somewhat Mac-like in its setup and even boxing to me; Synology's devices are a bit more complicated, but you can also do more with them. (I use Synology's router, which represents my exposure to their software.)

    I wouldn't use RAID devices as a backup solution, though. It guards against a single disk failure, and in theory even if the RAID unit goes down you could take the disks out and put them into another, but it becomes a lot of data to have in one place where there are still singular points of failure. I do also use an online backup service (Backblaze is my preferred) to back up my Drobo and other data. That way, even if something were to happen to the unit and drives, the data is still safe.

    Things to think about down the road, I suppose.
     
  19. CheesePuff macrumors 6502a

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    Southwest Florida, USA
    #19
    USB 3.1 Gen 1 (now synonymous with USB 3.0) is 5 Gbps, USB 3.1 Gen 2 is 10 Gbps.
     
  20. alisalem macrumors member

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    Apr 12, 2013
    Location:
    Mississauga, ON
    #20
    I've a 2TB Crucial MX500 SSD in this enclosure https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B072YLWP4Z/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1. I'm getting 450+MB/sec write and 500+MB/sec read via the Thunderbolt port. A bit slower if I use the USB-A port. The enclosure comes with 2 cables, so you can use either. This is more than enough speed for storage. I reckon you won't need faster unless you do heavy video editing.

    The other drive is a 3TB WD My Passport Ultra which I use for backup. You can barely hear it spinning, except when it wakes from sleep.

    As you can see in the picture, both are hidden behind the iMac, so I don't see or hear them.
     

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  21. tomscott1988 macrumors 6502a

    tomscott1988

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    UK
    #21
    I think you need to do some more reading...

    “This being a RAID capable solution, OWC has deployed their SoftRAID platform allowing support for 0,1,4 and 5 with the additions of 1+0. Performance is slated at 1500 MB/s sustained.”

    No chance I would buy a drobo with proprietary raid formats... if your device breaks you drives are unreadable by any other device so what’s the point. Basically means you can’t access your data until you buy another. Plus they aren’t particularly reliable.

    I have my thunderbay 5 set up in raid 5... it’s a professional grade raid array that comes with softraid software to set up your raids how ever you want. It’s one of the best on the market that isn’t a NAS.

    In addition you get an M.2 slot 2 TB3 ports and a display port... and it has enough bandwidth to support 2 Thunderbay 6 and an additional 4K display through a single port.

    At the end of the day to back up you buy 2 once you go past 12TB of data you need to use a raid to backup more data. The whole point is giving people options.

    With having 6 drives you can set it up how ever you want. Depends on your storage needs.

    Do some more reading before giving people advice.
     
  22. ondert macrumors 6502

    ondert

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    Aug 11, 2017
    Location:
    Italy
    #22
    I had bought a 2017 with fusion drive because there was a huge sale at a reseller so only the stock configurations were available. Anyway, then I bought a 1TB Samsung 860 Evo 2.5” ssd and brought my iMac to a reseller. They changed the internal hdd with that ssd. After that, video export times reduced dramatically. If this might be the case, better trying it. I’d liked to upgrade to newer model or iMac Pro time to time, however I won’t upgrade until I see 10nm intel cpu and navi gpu together.
     
  23. Ledgem, Aug 8, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2019

    Ledgem macrumors 68000

    Ledgem

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    #23
    I appreciate the clarification, although I wish you wouldn't take such a defensive tone just because I didn't recommend the same product that you did.

    The information that I gave was based off of the first hit on Google for OWC's Thunderbay, which led to their Thunderbay 4 product. Why the first hit should go to their Thunderbolt 2 version I can't really say, but they made remarks about it still working with Thunderbolt 3 with an adapter (which is correct), which led me to believe that they're still treating it as a current product. The Thunderbolt 2 version doesn't mention RAID 5 at all. The Thunderbolt 3 version does make mention of RAID 5 support, but on Amazon they distinguish a "RAID 5" edition that allows you to download software to enable it. Not that it matters to you since you're using a Thunderbay 6, but I doubt someone new to RAID is going to immediately go for the more expensive option, and it seems like RAID 5 may not be the default setting for the latest Thunderbay 4 (and possibly not an option at all for the earlier one).

    So I apologize for writing something that was incorrect, but it certainly would have been nicer if you had pointed out the error. I appreciate that you're trying to provide advice, as well; we should all strive to learn from each other and kindly correct one another, instead of trying to shut others down for honest mistakes.

    Drobos in the earlier versions had some quality control issues, but a new CEO came into play a few years ago and things have reportedly turned around. (At least, a lot of reviewers started amending their old reviews around that time.) I certainly respect that people might not want a proprietary solution, nor am I paid or employed by Drobo to sell their stuff, which is also why I recommended Synology as an alternative. If you're using something that you're happy with, that's wonderful, and keep using it.
     

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22 August 5, 2019