iMac vs. Mac Pro

Discussion in 'iMac' started by Trhodezy, Apr 14, 2015.

  1. Trhodezy, Apr 14, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2015

    Trhodezy macrumors regular

    Dec 29, 2010
    Hello all!

    After spending what feels like months trying to figure out my next setup upgrade for my office, that will hopefully last me 5 years minimum, I have narrowed my desktop choice down to two:

    The baseline iMac 5K (Retina, 3.5GHz Quad-Core i5, 8GB RAM, 1TB Fusion Drive and AMD Radeon R9 M290X w/ 2GB memory) or the base line Mac Pro (3.7GHz Quad-Core Xeon, 12GB 1866MHz DDR3 ECC memory, Dual AMD FirePro D300 w/ 2GB GDDR5 VRAM each and 256GB PCIe-based flash storage)

    I have a Thunderbolt Display from Apple, I do plan on buying a 4K monitor/TV at some point too so I'll utilise that, I also have several 4TB USB 3.0 HDs and a thunderbolt HD.

    What I do in a nutshell; I run a company (so do lots of paperwork) and am setting up another grassroots record label so we'll be using it for video/photo editing and music production primarily. I also code software, design on a daily basis (websites mostly) and create iOS apps. I rarely use my current setup for Netflix etc, as I don't have the time. :(

    What would you guys recommend? I'm stuck on making the decision so some impartial, third-party advice would be of tremendous help to me.


    After buying both the Mac's in question and using them, I found that although the iMac was gorgeous, took very little desk space up and was blazingly fast for day-to-day activities (still just as powerful when using Pro apps though!) I can't help but prefer the nMP with it's dual GPU, it really smoothes out the kinks and barely makes a noise even when under total stress (tests) and real world usage.

    I've sent both of them back to Apple as I couldn't justify spending the money when a potential spec bump is just around the corner in June... I also bought myself a new car. So I'm a teeny bit "broke".
  2. shaunp macrumors 68000

    Nov 5, 2010
    I have a nMP (6-core, D700's) and one thing that strikes me about it is how quiet it is even when pushed hard. Overall I think it's more flexible than the iMac as it gives you the option to choose which monitor(s) you want.

    If you do go for the nMP spend a bit more and get the 512GB SSD, or the 1TB if you can afford it. I've got the 512GB and wish I would have gotten the 1TB even though the majority of my stuff is on an external array.

    For something that you want to keep for 5 years the nMP to me feels like it will last that long, I feel there are too many compromises made with an all-in-one.
  3. yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Apr 23, 2011
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    Needless to say, the nMP will last one hell of a lot longer. Also note that everything in the nMP is upgradeable except for the GPU.

    For the CPU, you can upgrade it yourself down the road with any LGA2011 Ivy Bridge-E CPUs. So you could just buy the baseline nMP with the D700 option and then upgrade everything yourself at a lower price further down the road.

    The SSD isn't officially upgradeable since nobody makes the PCIe SSDs used in Macs, but you can find 'pulled' SSDs off eBay.
  4. cltd macrumors member

    May 22, 2014
    i7 would be much better for audio and video production. Hyperthreaded i7 will outperform i5 totally (about 30% more CPU power). i5 is consumer CPU. I have iMac i7 3.5 ghz for audio production, all music software is able to use 8 cores. According to benchmarks, iMac i7 3.5 ghz is stronger than base Mac Pro.
  5. colodane macrumors 6502a


    Nov 11, 2012
    I am in almost your exact situation, and have narrowed my choices to the same two configurations with the exception of wanting 512 GB SSD on either machine.

    I'm really kind of excited about being able to free up my choices in terms of the display, speakers, etc. from the limited Apple selections in the iMac. And I'm annoyed with Apple's decreasing user configurability of RAM, etc. The Dell P2415Q 4K display looks attractive and is only $500. On the other hand, my existing iMac has served me well.

    Unless something critical breaks in the next few months I have the luxury of waiting until the hopefully expected upgrades to the iMac and nMP before the end of the year. So I'll see what the offerings look like then and make a choice.
  6. fathergll macrumors 65816

    Sep 3, 2014

    Out of those 2 choices I would take the nMP to run a video/music editing business
  7. Piggie macrumors G3


    Feb 23, 2010
    That's quite a killer blow there though :(

    They'd sell a LOT more of them. Hell, even I might buy one, if they stopped playing with silly graphics cards, and you could put something decent (for what more people would want) and a more useful CPU

    It could easily be THE machine of choice for so many, if Apple stopped being so dam stupid and controlling about it.
  8. Slow Programmer macrumors regular

    Jun 25, 2011
    OWC has drives for the nMP. One and two TB in size.
  9. canman4PM macrumors 6502


    Mar 8, 2012
    Kelowna BC
    I disagree with your assessment that the nMP will outlive the iMac. It may. But then again it may not. I have a late 2007 iMac that runs Yosemite. The 2007 Pro will not. Based on Apple history, either platform should be fine for 5 years. My only concern for the retina iMac: will it run that display 5 years from now. Will it have enough oomph to run the programs of the future on that display. And how far into the future. I for one would love one, but I'm holding out for at least one more generation. Maybe two.
  10. yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Apr 23, 2011
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    My bad, I forgot about that one.
  11. fuchsdh macrumors 65816


    Jun 19, 2014
    Downside is you're trading speed for extra space if you get an OWC drive. And they're damn expensive.

    I'd say the smart money for your use case is on the Mac Pro. Like people here say, it's more upgradeable, if that matters to you. There's still a slim chance the GPUs *will* be upgradeable as opposed to user-serviceable; it's not particularly high at this point, but it is more than "zero", which will be the case for an iMac. I think the greater flexibility in I/O and quiet operation are also plusses in its favor; while the iMac has the capability to be faster, even dramatically faster, in the real world I've found it's not as large a gap as pure numbers suggest.
  12. yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Apr 23, 2011
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    They may be upgradeable, but where can one get the custom D-series FirePro GPUs outside of Apple? I'm pretty sure you can't buy two W9000s and then stick it in.
  13. fuchsdh macrumors 65816


    Jun 19, 2014
    Hence why I say it's an open question. Worst case scenario at this point is that the only path for upgrades with be external GPU options, or buying cards from future nMP tear-downs off eBay. Best case scenario is Apple or a third party officially offers upgrade kits. At least until the next revision of Mac Pro comes out, or possibly beyond that, we won't know what or if there's a plan regarding that at all. Hence why I think the advice to buy the best GPUs you can afford and worry about the other components later makes sense, and that the possibility of a better GPU still exists whereas for iMacs it never will.
  14. yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Apr 23, 2011
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    That was basically my first post in this thread as well. Upgrade the GPU to the max and leave the rest at stock.
  15. fuchsdh macrumors 65816


    Jun 19, 2014
    Then we agree :)
  16. Trhodezy thread starter macrumors regular

    Dec 29, 2010
    Thank you all for your comments!

    The quieter the better for me, given that I work around mic's all day and when I don't I like to listen to music, don't want fans drowning out my beats. ;) Re: flexibility, I agree there also. I also have my apprehensions about whether the 5K screen would last 5 years; dead pixels, the CPU/GPU being able to efficiently run the screen and run the ever-increasing CPU demand on future softwares. Replacing the screen must be a total pain too.

    That's what I'm thinking (see above reply to previous quote), I have read somewhere that the likelihood of the GPU being upgradable is actually higher than other Mac's, Edit: I know you can replace them, iFixit does a great teardown. PCIe SSDs are now readily available (I think) so that's not an issue, as with the RAM.

    I've since spoken to three friends of mine, one who does graphic design for a major brewery in the UK and one that creates visuals for a MMORPG in the UK; both say that 5K screen rocks for design; sucks about the i5 & i7. They're hoping Apple will add workstation CPUs to it (Xeon E5's I presume?) simply because the i7 is great for gaming, not so much for constant graphical use. Apparently.

    Thanks for the info re: music production, it's great to hear firsthand experience!

    Glad someone else is in the same boat as me, haha! I did consider the 512GB SSD but it makes more sense to use the additional money on external thunderbolt hard dives/SSDs; yes the speed is slightly reduced but you do get a lot more storage per £1.

    I, like you, have the luxury of waiting. My current 2009 Mac Pro is humming along and my MBA (which I use on my TBD) is still working fairly well.

    I know how long I'm going to wait though, June WWDC. I have this gut feeling that Apple will release a much more high-powered and redesigned Mac Mini, based on the Mac Pro as well as an updated Mac Pro (and of course the Apple TV, iOS/OSX etc). IF they don't, I'll be buying whatever setup I decide on then.

    Thanks for your comment, any reason as to why you would? Or just a sneaking suspicion?

    Upgradeability has never been a major issue for me, as I tend to buy a new setup before I out-grow the technology/speed of my current setup. However I think that as my power-use for the next 5 years will be a lot more than the previous 5 years, I think I may have to upgrade once or twice. Heck, it might even last me longer than 5 years if I continually upgrade it. :cool:

    The amount of I/O is a major plus for me, I love knowing that I can plug in as much as I want and it'll be golden. Plus not needing to unplug and plug in HD's just to access files (I have well over 8TB of files stored across several HDs; all backed up to the cloud) I CAN KEEP THEM ALL PLUGGED IN! :D

    I believe the GPUs are definitely user-upgradeable but only to AMD FirePro D500, D700. The D300 appears to be a beast of a card in itself, but the D700 is incredible.


    Note: I am now swaying to the Mac Pro, the iMac in comparison seems too limited for future use. However I am still undecided, going to be doing more research I think...
  17. cltd macrumors member

    May 22, 2014
    You'll speak to many people, but you dont't have to trust them;) i7 is not best choice for games - it's always said that i5 is better, because we don't have games which could make use of hyperthreading.
  18. fathergll macrumors 65816

    Sep 3, 2014
    They might announce a new Mac Pro but im pretty positive the Mac Mini will not be updated and even on the slight chance it is they will not released a high powered version with dedicated GPU as it will cannibalize iMac and the low end Mac Pro sales. They've never done this in the past and I don't see them changing this.

    A few reasons

    • If my running an editing business I’d probably opt for server grade parts over an all in one solution(assuming I didn’t have a viable backup setup)
    • Since you specifically stated a baseline i5 iMac vs baseline Xeon Mac Pro the performance will probably be pretty similar at least in the processor space. If you were willing to go the i7 iMac with 295x GPU and SSD then this would change the conversation a bit as that would offer a performance boost of the Mac pro. I’m not sure if id go with it still as I’d personally rather opt for separate monitors in an editing situation. That’s just me though
  19. Piggie macrumors G3


    Feb 23, 2010
    This is an important aspect.

    The new Mac Pro may indeed be upgradable.
    However if no one other than Apple actually make plug-in upgrades, as there simply is no market of any size for them to bother with.

    Then it may as well be all soldered together in a single lump

    Part of the problem. Nvidea is not, for example, going to put a Titan X on a card, so you could plug in one or two, and make a awesome gaming machine, as how many would they sell, and at what cost?

    Such a Pity Apple would not make a Mac Pro as the new Apple desktop, price it down, and then get enough of them out there, tens of thousands, so that others would start producing hardware.

    Never going to happen of course.
    Such a shame.
  20. 2010lexus macrumors regular

    Oct 18, 2013
  21. Southern Dad macrumors 68000

    Southern Dad

    May 23, 2010
    Shady Dale, Georgia
    Portability is important to me. I often take work with me. My work set up includes MacBook Pro 2.5GHz quad core i7 with a Thunderbolt monitor. At work or in my home office, I've got all the features of a desktop; Magic Mouse, Bluetooth Apple keyboard, etc. but if I want to work out on the back deck, I have that option.
  22. yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Apr 23, 2011
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    Actually Sonnet does.

    You can buy a Sonnet IIID, a PSU and a GPU, stick it into the Sonnet, start up the nMP, install NVIDIA drivers in Boot Camp and it'll run off the NVIDIA GPU straight away.

    In the OS X side, some kext modifications may be needed depending on GPU.
  23. Melodeath macrumors 6502a

    Dec 9, 2009
    Sort of unrelated, but couldn't you put a nicer GPU in an enclosure, and thunderbolt it to the machine? I guess that would cost more than upgrading the internals, but maybe it's a workaround
  24. MacVidCards Suspended

    Nov 17, 2008
    Hollywood, CA
    I'm still having trouble using eGPU on nMP in Windows. Got Kepler series GPUs working fine in OSX but still battling Windows.

    Do you have a link to info about a nMP "run off the NVIDIA GPU straight away"? I would like to know how they did it.
  25. Trhodezy thread starter macrumors regular

    Dec 29, 2010
    I guess I might be dreaming, but I can't be the only one. ;) I guess, and this is really pushing it: They could upgrade the Mac Mini majorly, drop the quad-core Mac Pro (so it bridges the gap). Idk.

    Thanks for the input too man! :D

    Worlds greatest idea. Faaaack ayyeeeee.

    Nice one, thanks!

    That's what I have the rMB for. ;)

    Thanks for the info, might check it out.

    I don't know.. could work out cheaper depending on where you get the stuff from. To upgrade from the D300 to the D500 (selling the D300's once installed) the cost is only like £250 max per card, which isn't bad for the spec bump.

    Windows eh? Thank for the eGPU info. Might look into it...

Share This Page