iMac vs MacBook Pro

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by grimwanderer, Sep 1, 2019.


If you had to pick, would you recommend:

Poll closed Sep 8, 2019.
  1. iMac (with options noted in my post)

    3 vote(s)
  2. MacBook Pro (with options noted in my post)

    3 vote(s)
  1. grimwanderer macrumors member

    Sep 14, 2008
    Ok... I know this probably seems stupid but here goes. It's time to start shopping the a replacement but i find myself vacillating between sticking with iMac and moving to a MacBook Pro. Wondering if anyone can share their wisdom and experience.

    I currently have a Late 2013 iMac 27 inch (the last model before retina came out... bad timing on my part)
    • 3.5 GHz i7
    • 8 GB RAM
    • NVidia GeForce GTX 780M 4GB
    • 3 TB Fusion Drive
    My usage / needs: I do some video editing (my YouTube channel has been dormant for quite some time but thinking about firing it back up... will probably buy Final Cut Pro if that happens) and play a LOT of World of Warcraft (I'm still a kid at heart despite being older than dirt). Other than that is simple and routine stuff.. the occasional Pages / Numbers / Keynote document, Music & Photos, etc. etc.

    If I go iMac, I'm thinking:
    • 27 Inch
    • 3.7 Ghz i5
    • 8GB RAM (buy and install additional RAM myself... add in 32GB additional RAM)
    • Radeon Pro Vega 48
    • 1TB SSD (think I can get by with less storage as I had Windows on Bootcamp on the current iMac but haven't used it in at least 1 1/2 to 2 years so not doing it this time)
    • Total cost: £2,924.00 (plus RAM upgrade approx $150, plus FCP)
    If I go MacBook Pro, I'm thinking:
    • 15 Inch
    • 2.3GHz i9 Processor
    • 32GB RAM (my understanding is that with MacBook Pro you can't upgrade RAM on your own so you have to buy what you think you need from the start)
    • Radeon Pro Vega 16 (would like the Vega 20 but need to keep the cost down somewhere...)
    • 1TB SDD
    • Total Cost: £3,564.00 (plus a separate 4K display, £???, plus FCP)
    Pros & Cons / Considerations:
    • iMac offers a more powerful computer (processor & graphics), built in display, and costs significantly less.
    • MacBook Pro offers portability. I don't travel nearly as much as I used to (used to travel a lot with work) but still do travel occasionally. It would be nice to just have the freedom to pick up and move to a different room (without hauling a 27 inch iMac up or down stairs)
    • Neither option really offers much potential for upgrading over time so whatever I get now needs to last for 4 or 5 years.
    • I know it is impossible to really "know" but hoping to avoid a repeat of last time where Apple announced a major upgrade just a couple months after I bought this one. At the same time, I do need to buy sooner rather than later.
    • I think most would agree, the iMac line is overdue for a refresh (external design is very stale) but I also believe there are rumours of a MacBook Pro Refresh including possibly a slightly larger form factor (16 inch).
    So, yeah. I'm going around in circles on this one. I'm not looking for someone to make a decision for me :D but hoping to get feedback on anyone's experiences with models similar to the above and / or with usage needs similar to mine.

    Thanks in advance and sorry for the long & winding post.

    - GRIM
  2. Clix Pix macrumors demi-goddess

    Clix Pix

    Oct 9, 2005
    8 miles from the Apple Store at Tysons (VA)
    A few years ago I made this very decision and went with a 15" MacBook Pro, and have never regretted it. In fact, this past December I bought a 2018 MBP, too. I really appreciate the flexibility and portability of the MBP -- MUCH easier for me to transport somewhere if it is necessary or if I just want to do so. One has choices in the size of external monitor, too, and/or even can skip buying an external monitor, depending upon the use case situation. My current MBP is 15" with i9, Vega 20, 1 TB SSD and 32 GB RAM. I'm more than pleased......
  3. grimwanderer thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 14, 2008
    Thank you! Your MBP sounds similar in specs to what I’m looking at. The feedback was very helpful.
  4. rfle500 macrumors newbie

    Sep 12, 2012
    I’m in the iMac+ultraportable MacBook camp. If I’m travelling or attending meetings I like something really light yet capable of doing work at a push. But for me nothing beats the large screen of the iMac for doing work, be it writing, coding or video editing. If you are in the uk you can still find the 12” MacBook - I have an original 2015 and it’s such a beautiful little machine - I really hope they bring it back! Also if you always have to travel economy it fits on a tray table with the seat in front reclined, whereas the 13” or 15” wont actually open that far.
  5. benjai macrumors member

    Oct 1, 2009
    I have almost the exact same imac (2013 i5 32gb 3TB fusion) and am in the middle of switching to macbook air.

    I only really use the mac at home for basic things, surfing, shopping email.

    I have found that I quite miss the screen space. Having to connect external drives occasionally is also a bit of a pain.

    The pros are great though. Can wonder around the house with macbook. Big plus is that I'll be able to get rid of desk and chair and free up space. Also upgrade cycles. I got macbook in Hong Kong which is roughly 20% cheaper than the UK. So I can easily replace every couple of years to stay up to date with hardware/warranty and sell old one for minimal loss. In fact, I will probably replace the air with the budget 13 pro probably within a year.

    So for me, macbook is probably the winner. But that is because I'm comparing with the cheapest macbooks. If you are working a lot, then it is quite different. The screen space makes a big big difference. Also, on an imac you can probably get a 256 SSD instead and just hook up external drives which cost peanuts.

    Good luck!
  6. Clix Pix macrumors demi-goddess

    Clix Pix

    Oct 9, 2005
    8 miles from the Apple Store at Tysons (VA)
    I pretty much have my 2018 15" MBP set up as a desktop replacement, with the machine on a stand and with Apple's BT Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse II; this system has worked well for me and as I mentioned, much more versatile, flexible and physically manageable for me than an iMac. When I first went with this idea back in 2015 with a 2015 MBP rather than buying an iMac, I was quite surprised at hoe much I liked this setup. At that time I intended to buy an external monitor but here it is three and a half years later and I'm now using a 15" 2018 MBP on that same stand and with the same BT peripherals but still no external monitor, as I haven't felt a pressing need for one. That said, though, I am getting back into photography more, doing more editing again and so am thinking that it's probably time for that purchase.....

    For travel, my 15" MBP desktop replacement "workhorse" stays at home while I take my 12" 2017 MacBook with me, as well as an iPad Mini 5 -- they make a great combination for anything I might need to do while on the road, as well as serve various purposes well around home, too. There are still some things that I can't do with an iPad that I can with a full-fledged computer, and the 12" MacBook is ideal. It really is sad that Apple has now discontinued that 12" MacBook line with its small, lightweight footprint, although I wouldn't be surprised to see a reappearance in a year or two, this time equipped with an ARM processor.

    While on the road I take along a Samsung T5 external SSD, which makes it simple to stash any new files that I generate on the trip, and when I return home, I can plug the T5 into my 15" MBP and carry on.... When I shoot photos on a trip, the T5 is invaluable for providing safe backup storage for the image files on the memory cards so that I have the data on the computer, on the T5 and also on the cards. At home I also use T5s and X5 for backups as well as for current supplemental storage so that my internal drive doesn't get too cluttered up.
  7. grimwanderer thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 14, 2008
    In the short term at least, I need to stick with one or the other. I may be able to add the other in a couple years and then try to keep them on a 4 year cycle each. That might end up being the best of both worlds... but still leaves me with only 1 until I pay this one off.
  8. grimwanderer thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 14, 2008
    The big draw back of not having the big screen for me would be gaming. But even outside that, my eyes aren’t what they used to be so smaller screens would be a challenge. Likewise, I do take my iPad with me on travels but Warcraft requires MacOS (or Windows....ugh).

    It just occurred to me, however, that what I could do is (get an adapter and) use my current iMac as a display for the MBP when I’m at home for a few months until I find an external display I like. (allowing me to save up for it for a month or two). my old iMac isn’t a 4 or 5K or anything but is still a good display and would more than adequately get me by for the time being. (Would only have to deal with the small screen when I travel.)

    Thanks for the feedback!
  9. mjfutures macrumors member


    Jun 17, 2014
    I was in the MacBook + LG Ultra Fine 5K group for last few years.... great setup, but I find I use it as a desktop 99% of the time. I recently sold the MacBook Pro + LG 5K ... and am debating on similar questions to you...

    I think I am going with the 27" 5K iMac .. the screen is worth $1400 (with tax), I will get the i9-9900k which beats my MacBook Pro, and I can install 64GB of RAM easily .... for my use 99% at home it seems to make more sense for me, and the savings I would have spent with the MBP + LG5K, that would buy a MacBook Air 2019 or iPad Pro etc .. right now I travel with a Dell Latitude which is nice itself.

    So for me the 5K display with great desktop power wins it ...
  10. sat24 macrumors newbie

    Sep 2, 2019
    I am thinking of a spec'd out 2019 MBP (32GB, 1TB SSD, i9) with an external 27" 4K monitor that I already possess (so "0" cost); get a dock + magic keyboard and 3rd party mouse and now what I have is:

    1) Powerful portable soln
    2) Powerful home workstation

    Price-wise a similarly spec'd iMac seems to come to a similar price compared to the MBP. Of course, u get a much larger and hi-res screen, and a powerful processor.

    I do see the merits in the argument that the iMac i9 is more powerful (desktop class) than the MBP i9 (mobile class) processor. But how much "less" powerful is the laptop version of the i9? Any benchmarks?
    >> From, I see about 15-20% perf diff. Is that worth sacrificing portability?
  11. grimwanderer thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 14, 2008
    Well, I've pretty much decided to go the MBP route and (once that is paid off) get a new iMac in a couple years... so I will have both options eventually. :)

    Now just waiting for Apple to refresh the line (October maybe?) and then pick my model. Thanks everyone for your feedback and assistance!
  12. carl varley macrumors newbie

    May 22, 2007
    As you are probably aware, although the screens are not 4/5k on you current iMac they still have a beautiful display.
    Using your iMac as an external monitor for your new Macbook Pro is a really good option and is similar to a set up I currently use. You just need a thunderbolt 3 convertor and a thunderbolt cable to use your current iMac as a display and super fast networking.

    It is really convenient to keep your old setup and have something shiny and new to hook it up to.

    Here is a link to the apple support page:
  13. macjiro macrumors member

    Apr 14, 2008
    Hi Grim: Read your posts. I'm in a similar situation in that i have an older IMac which has been really great. I have been looking at both solutions with a newer MBP or IMac. Based on your description of WoW as a major part of your use plus you didn't say you go on the road much as something important, i would lean towards a new IMac. Wait till they come out. I do alot of creative work. Have come to realize more and more the importance of the beautiful screen. I like the real estate. Plus, whenever i do serious production, its always in a destop environment. If i'm out, its more a 'scratch-pad'. So, i did pick up a new Macbook Air for lighter duties. Just enough to run what i need but i am comfortable in a desktop environment. If you are playing Wow at home mostly, i would go with the IMac. Plenty of firepower for everything you describe but i would wait till the new ones come out. Their due for an update.
  14. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    One other option: Buy a 13" MacBook and get a 27-inch or larger monitor. I would hate to have to use FCPX in a 13" screen.

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13 September 1, 2019