Is there a point in getting an iMac when having a MacBook Pro?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by mariotr87, Sep 18, 2017.

  1. mariotr87 macrumors regular

    Aug 12, 2011

    I've been fantasising with the idea of getting an iMac for the last couple of years or so and, now that I have the money, I've realised it may actually not make much sense and that I might be better off getting a high-end 27'' display for less than half the cost.

    I happen to have a maxed-out 13'' 2017 MBP (except storage-wise: it's got a 512GB SSD), which is quite a powerful machine, at least CPU-wise. It's obviously not quite there in terms of GPU (no dedicated one) and DRAM (16GB is the maximum in the case of the MacBook), but it can definitely handle anything that I will ever through at it with relative ease. It also gives me portability (which is nice, even if I require it for just 5% of the time) and, assuming I invest on a good monitor, it can also match the screen real estate and quality of a 27'' iMac.

    If I have to ask, it means I probably don't need the iMac :) that said, I would be curious to know whether other people have a case for having both a high-end MBP and an iMac and, if so, what are the use-cases. I would argue that, if the MacBook Pro gives you the performance that you want, and you can afford the MBP+Display combination, the iMac is less attractive as an option. I would definitely like to hear other opinions though.
  2. redheeler macrumors 604


    Oct 17, 2014
    For me the main argument was no inexpensive standalone 5K displays on the market at the time (nor can my slightly older MacBook Pro drive one). But I also ended up preferring to manage the iMac and MBP separately, and the desktop-class performance in the iMac was definitely helpful for some tasks.
  3. jerwin, Sep 18, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2017

    jerwin macrumors 68020

    Jun 13, 2015

    let me count the ways--
    physically larger screen, but you could get a 4k tv
    dedicated ports for some things, but I assume you already have the dongles you need.
    larger desktop, but again you can connect a 4k or 5k display
    better speakers, but they are passable, not great (and you can buy better ones)
    four cores instead of two cores, but you already think you have a powerful machine
    64GB maximum memory instead of 16 GB max for all time, but why would you need more than that
    much more powerful GPU, but the imacs have more pixels to sling around
    a gpu made by amd instead of by intel, but you haven't mentioned games.

    does your macbook pro's fan ever get loud?
  4. throAU macrumors 603


    Feb 13, 2012
    Perth, Western Australia
    Depends what you do, but in general i'd say no.

    Without knowing your workload it's hard to say, but unless you specifically do something more than the "Average end user" then no. Buy the display. Your macbook has built in UPS (battery) is fast enough and portable.

    Now.... if you DO use your Mac for more high end stuff you may be better going totally the opposite way and getting an iMac for the heavy work, and an iPad for the "on the go" email, general text editing, note taking, web browsing, document review, etc. This is the way I am currently leaning, for a portable device the ipad does the portable stuff generally better than a mac for me (lighter, smaller, better battery, etc.) and the desktop does the heavier workload much better than the macbook.

    Depends very much what you do.
  5. fathergll macrumors 65816

    Sep 3, 2014
    Performance aside usually the biggest 'issue' when dealing with laptop and external monitors is the annoyance of hooking it up unless you have docking station that can just snap in.

    I guess you could also argue iMacs can be a little more secure in terms of someone swiping it easily. Flipside you can hide it with advance notice for example if you were having a party at your place. This would be more of a topic probably for university students.
  6. throAU macrumors 603


    Feb 13, 2012
    Perth, Western Australia
    In general, a computer would be covered by home contents insurance in case of theft (which admittedly if you aren't a home owner you may not have, but...if you are... check your policy).

    In case of theft of information, both of them run filevault and can be wiped or rendered unusable with find my mac.
  7. mariotr87 thread starter macrumors regular

    Aug 12, 2011
    In terms of workload, I think it's really scattered throughout the whole spectrum. I watch Netflix, browse the web, write/read documents, etc. On the other hand, I very often run virtual machines (sometimes two at the same time), I compile relatively large codebases, I use Xcode from time to time...In any case, nothing too GPU-intensive I think, so this wouldn't be the main reason to get an iMac. I definitely don't need more RAM, nor do I need four cores (I mean yeah, it would be nice to have, I'm sure I'd shave a few seconds off the processing time in certain tasks, but that's pretty much it).

    Well, very infrequently, but I can hear the fan sometimes. I think you've summarised my train of thought pretty well...

    Fair point, but you can find USB-C monitors that carry everything (including power) through a single cable. The offer is quite scarce today (you have the UltraFine and a couple more), but it will get better. Also, I would prefer the inconvenience of having to plug in this one cable than being attached to the desk forever, even if I don't require that much portability.

    I think my conclusions are that:

    -Having just an iMac is not an option, because I may require some portability in a few cases (and the iPad is not yet there to handle my workloads entirely - I do have an iPad mini, but different use-cases here obviously)
    -Having both an iMac and a MacBook Pro is an overkill and makes no sense unless you actually need the extra RAM/GPU/CPU.

    I guess I can't justify it :). Literally the only reason I would get an iMac would be the 5K display, but if I can match it with an external monitor, the argument goes away. I'll check out the UltraFine...worst case scenario I can wait for Apple's rumoured displays for next year.
  8. fathergll macrumors 65816

    Sep 3, 2014

    Then it's overkill. The iMac in your case is just for convenience and maybe space(Might make your main desk a bit cleaner with just an iMac). I used to use my MacMini docked in as my desktop but got the iMac since it was much cleaner. Space is a premium in my apartment.
  9. CaptRB macrumors 6502a


    Oct 11, 2016
    LA, California
    I had the 13" and 15" touchbar units. After keyboard failures I made Apple refund me and I'm now working with a maxed out iMac 5k i7 and the i7 MacBook Air.

    I really liked the 15" touchbar as a 1 stop solution and it was fine for my work in tandem with a 4K dell 27" monitor.

    But there's no getting away from the power and speed of this iMac. It's blazing through my photo jobs. Yeah, the MBP did that to, but not like this. Now I have the Dell connected to the iMac and I'm enjoying having two big displays, plus my Air can also output 4K to the Dell and is no slouch with the i7/512 SSD.

    I can't work with the new notebooks until Apple resolves the keyboard failures. Most people I know have now been effected and the word is out. So..I spent more on two new machines, but the iMac is a better experience due to the shear horsepower advantage and the Air handles portable duty with aplomb.

  10. CE3, Sep 18, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2017

    CE3 macrumors 65816

    Nov 26, 2014
    I just purchased a 2017 iMac to replace my Mid-2015 MacBook Pro (which I will sell in a few weeks). I’ve no complaints about the MacBook, it’s been a great performer.

    There have been times where the portability of the MacBook has come in handy, but over the past 22 months I would guess that 95% of the time it stayed plugged in at my desk just like any other desktop I’ve owned.

    If you don’t need portability, iMacs offer a lot more value for their price. They’re more powerful—not just with GPU but with CPU as well— they offer more RAM, more ports, and a lot more display. My configuration probably cost a few hundred dollars more than your 13” setup. You always pay a premium for portability (and sometimes it's worth it).

    I’m sure there are many professional use-cases where there is a need for both machines, and other cases where people just appreciate the convenience and luxury of having both. I personally wouldn’t mind hanging onto the MacBook myself.. but now that I have the iMac it's probably going to start collecting more dust than use. My iPad Pro will serve most of my mobile computing needs going forward.
  11. gian8989 macrumors 6502

    Oct 23, 2015
    It is all about you daily life.
    I have an iMac 5k because i don't need a notebook right now. At university i like to take notes on paper and I use an android tablet to view .doc, .pdf and .ppt.
    Moreover i don't play games on my computer since I prefer to game on the couch in front of the TV (well the last time I played was 1 year ago).

    You can sum it like this:
    A) no gaming/casual gaming + no need to use notebook outside -> iMac
    B) no gaming + need notebook at school/work -> no need for iMac
    C) gaming + need notebook at school (only to take notes) -> you can go with Macbook+eGPU or iMac+cheap Macbook
    D) need notebook for professional use -> Macbook
    E) gaming + need notebook for professional use -> PC/iMac + notebook (i wouldn't use a work machine for home use)
  12. throAU macrumors 603


    Feb 13, 2012
    Perth, Western Australia
    If you can confine your VM workload stuff to the desk, then an ipad will do the rest of it whilst not at a desk.

    Running VMs benefits from more RAM and more cores in your CPU, the Macbook is short on both compared to a desktop.

    Unless you really need to run VMs away from your desk, i'd really consider the ipad + desktop mac combo when you refresh your hardware. I tried for years to do a single machine with a high end notebook and it just doesn't work as well (in my opinion).
  13. jerwin macrumors 68020

    Jun 13, 2015
    A serious question-- I have a 3.5 ghz four core i5 (haswell). My experiences with virtualbox have not been encouraging. Did the i7 of that generation contain specialized hardware to improve virtualization?
  14. throAU, Sep 18, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2017

    throAU macrumors 603


    Feb 13, 2012
    Perth, Western Australia
    Not really anything significant vs. the similar class i5, however the i7 desktop class (and 15" class laptop machines) do have 4 cores and hyper-threading (for 8 virtual cores) which can help.

    I'd suggest looking up both CPUs in to confirm whether or not your i5 has the vt-io and vt-d features, but in my experience most Mac CPUs do include the VM specific features. The K series overclockable CPUs from memory in the consumer range might not. But again. Compare spec on

    I'm not sure what issues you've been having with virtualbox, however I would suggest that using VMware Fusion or Parallels may help improve performance for some things vs virtualbox more than the jump from an i5 to an i7. Some things it won't make any difference, but without knowing what your performance issues are its hard to comment further. But yes, not all hypervisors are created equal, and you do get some benefit from the commercial offerings.

    Also - if you have not installed the guest add ons or VM tools (VMware) into your VM definitely make sure to do so. They modify the memory management, display driver, etc. for native VM aware drivers and this speeds up performance for both your guests and your host a lot. That goes for virtualbox, fusion and also presumably parallels. Basically these drivers enable the host to know a lot better what the VM is trying to do, what resources it is using, etc. and more intelligently allocate memory and other resources to it as required rather than at all times (which frees resources for both the host and other VMs).

    Oh, and if you're on a hard drive, running multiple VMs most definitely benefits massively from an SSD.

    A spinning disk these days is slow for a single user desktop, trying to run multiple operating systems on one, with all of them doing crap like virus scans, update checks, etc. is really quite slow now. At the very least try to run them on a different hard drive to your system drive, even that will help.
  15. colodane macrumors 6502a


    Nov 11, 2012
    --- Post Merged, Sep 19, 2017 ---
    If I were in your situation l would get a 4K external monitor. Much better availability and cost and just as good as 5K for most applications.
  16. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    After decades of being a "Mac desktop only" guy, I got a MacBook Pro, too.

    Boy, did that change things -- to the point where:
    ...I could not (in this day and time) enjoy "computing life" with -only- a desktop.
    ...I could not (in this day and time) enjoy "computing life" with -only- a laptop.

    There's NOTHING like having BOTH a nice Mac desktop, AND a good Mac laptop.

    You will not understand this, until "you're there"...
  17. jerwin macrumors 68020

    Jun 13, 2015
    similarly, why do people get 1440p monitors? They should just stick with good old 1080p.
  18. mariotr87 thread starter macrumors regular

    Aug 12, 2011
    I can definitely see why you couldn't live only with a desktop (I mean, I'm definitely there as well!). But would be curious to know why you couldn't live with a MacBook + a nice display :)
  19. jerwin macrumors 68020

    Jun 13, 2015
    with an imac, everything is in one place. Everything is ready to go, without plugging in additional stuff. This can a blessing, this can be a curse. It depends on what sort of lifestyle you have.

    The gpu advantage of an iMac can be alleviated somewhat by using an eGPU. Four cores, though? Depending on what sort of databases you use, springing for extra RAM might be useful

    And since imacs come with fusion drives by default, you may very much wish a BTO with an SSD option.

    (I don't use a portable because I'm clumsy. I have a (rapidly aging) ipad for when I can't use my imac).
  20. throAU macrumors 603


    Feb 13, 2012
    Perth, Western Australia
    Fan noise, RAM capacity (even back in the day, notebooks have 2 slots, imacs had 4), ports, CPU speed (desktop CPUs are faster), GPU speed (desktop GPUs are faster), etc.

    If you don’t push the machine that hard a mobile processor is fine for most. But if you do...
  21. Spudlicious macrumors 6502


    Nov 21, 2015
    Bedfordshire, England
    I would say this to the OP. If you've an itch for an iMac and can afford one than get it. Life is far, far too short to be sensible.
  22. ApfelKuchen macrumors 68030

    Aug 28, 2012
    Between the coasts
    Do you use a laptop as if it was a desktop? Wouldn't the ergonomics of a desktop make more sense if you're mostly working at a desktop?

    I remember, long ago and far away, when I used a laptop as one of my primary machines. I'd have a sore neck from looking down at the display. The keyboard, being somewhat elevated above the desk, was less comfortable to use (the laptop I used did not have the same palm rest space today's laptops do). The display was small, as was the effective desktop space.

    Now, much of this can solved by using a large external display with the laptop, but in the end, it was an underpowered machine as well, with less internal storage than the typical desktop.

    Overall, my feeling is that if most of your work is being done at the same desk, why put up with the limitations of a portable? The cloud makes yesterday's file syncing/versioning problems go away, so it's not essential to work off of a single computer's internal drive. While you may not need to buy an iMac immediately, once your MacBook gets a bit older you might keep it for your occasional portable needs and go iMac for your primary desktop workload.
  23. shaunp macrumors 68000

    Nov 5, 2010
    The route I would take is to by the monitor and see how it goes. If you are just wanting the extra screen space and the MBP performs how you would like it's a good option and you don't have the overhead of two machines. If that doesn't work then get the iMac and have the second display for it. Then just keep the MBP for when you travel and organise your data to sync via icloud or some other cloud storage.
  24. mariotr87 thread starter macrumors regular

    Aug 12, 2011
    Thanks everyone for the great advice!

    Can't argue with that...this thinking is what may eventually push me to go to an Apple Store and get one of these beautiful machines :)

    I use it 90% of the time as a desktop, however I do enjoy using it sometimes on the coach. The real reason I can't get rid of it, however, is that I travel quite a bit, and for certain things even an iPad Pro wouldn't be enough. That said getting an iMac in the future and keeping the MacBook for occasional use would definitely be an option!

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23 September 18, 2017