Long term costs of iMac vs. Mac Pro

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Undo, Feb 22, 2010.

  1. Undo macrumors member

    Feb 22, 2010
    I’ve decided to make the switch from a PC to a Mac. But I’m struggling between an iMac and a Mac Pro. I know my work doesn’t really warrant a Mac Pro. But I’m willing to go extra for the best system (for now).

    I’m an Adobe CS2 user (will be upgrading to CS5). Video, music, and photo editing, motion graphics, and DVD authoring are hobbies, and I do a little web design as an indie contractor.

    My question is, on average, how often do Mac Pro users actually upgrade their existing system (with RAM, HD, or CPU) before they upgrade to an entirely new system (tower, MB and all)? In the long run, does upgrading to the latest components for a Mac Pro cost as much, more, or less as upgrading to the latest iMac? I realize these are relative issues, but I’m hoping to glean a little objectivity from your advice.

    I’m pretty new to the Mac world. So I’m sure my ignorance is showing. And I apologize if these questions have already been answered elsewhere. (I found a similar question in regard to MacBook, but not the Mac Pro.) Thanks.
  2. akm3 macrumors 68020

    Nov 15, 2007
    One of the absolute, hardest things for me to get over while switching to Mac was "but...but...but...I'll have to throw the monitor away when I upgrade!"

    As a self builder of my own windows systems, I was constantly upgrading, swapping out parts, etc, etc.

    Mac Pro's are amazing machines, but truly, the iMac is the better choice for most people. It will last you for years, and can be repurposed in ways that 'junky old PC's' can't be.

    Save yourself the money, buy the iMac, and you'll be very happy. I don't think you'll regret not getting the Mac Pro.

    This is all 'in my humble opinion'.
  3. Icaras macrumors 603


    Mar 18, 2008
    California, United States
    Ah, I am in the same boat as you my friend. Been on the fence between the two for quite some time now. There are very many knowledgeable folk in the Mac Pro forum, and I think this is the best place to ask actually. I'm sure someone will give you a low down between the two soon enough.

    I'm fully aware of the shortcomings and limited longevity that go with an iMac, but unfortunately, I'm totally constrained by a tight budget at the moment. It has been just about universally agreed here that the value of the Mac Pro has diminished with the '09s and it has been surmised that Apple is determined to repeat the trend with the new 10's. So it may also depend on how much you are willing to spend.

    That said, as a person on a budget, it's very difficult for me to justify the extra money (about $1000) you will spend on a Mac Pro (while adding a monitor) vs. that with an iMac, which is why I have been leaning towards the latter as of late. Though I know if I end up going with an iMac however, that I will most definitely miss the ability to expand, which in my opinion, is the one greatest strength of the MP, but then again, pesonally, I have no problems selling my machine for a newer one, so in reality, I don't think I will miss it as much as I used to.

    As always though, I look forward to hearing what others will say, as I'm also very curious to find out how long term upgradeability with the MP compares to the iMac.

    Hmmm...this is what I believe too..:rolleyes:
  4. akadmon Suspended

    Aug 30, 2006
    New England
    Yeah, an iMac will last you for years. So will a Ma Pro! The difference is: an iMac will last you about three years, while a Mac Pro will get you at least double that.

    I'm at 3.5 years right now on my MP and still going strong. My machine runs significantly faster than when I first got it because of the OS, hard disk, RAM and video upgrades I have done. I bet that the majority of folks who bought an iMac at the same time as I bought my MP have either replaced their computers or are seriously thinking of replacing them. As overpriced as MPs are, they are still a bargain compared to high end iMacs, even at $3K+
  5. Icaras macrumors 603


    Mar 18, 2008
    California, United States
    Agreed on 3 years for an iMac.
  6. tekboi macrumors 6502a


    Aug 9, 2006
    I've in the same predicament. I suggest you wait until they update the macpro and then make the decision. As of now, the imac seems to be a better bargain. But I really just can't see myself with a computer that l cannot upgrade. I'm a professional and not only do I want it to come across in my work, but also in my choice of computer ;)
  7. Billydelp4 macrumors regular

    Feb 29, 2008
    If you look at the cost of ownership to get two comparable machines it would be roughly $2599 for the imac and $3249 for the mac pro. now granted the graphics are better and the expansion is available on the mac pro butttt you do get a monitor (like it or not) with the imac.

    we have come to the agreement (at least of a few)that 3 years is, roughly, the lifetime of an imac while I would say the mac pro would probably go 4-4.5 for a professional use. over time the mac pro would be a better deal since in the course of 12 years you would only upgrade approx. 3 times while the imac would need to be replaced 4 times. that increases your total ownership with the imac line at roughly 10,500 and your mac pro coming in at 9,800.

    so you could save a bit of money using the mac pro line over the imac but once again only you can decide whether you want to have personalization options or simple ownership with a great aesthetic.
  8. Nostromo macrumors 65816


    Dec 26, 2009
    Deep Space
    It really depends on how the OP is using his machine.

    How large are the video files he is processing? How much RAM will he need 3 years from now?

    16Gb RAM may seem to be great now, but three years from now?

    The reason why I won't buy another iMac (even though I like them) is that I have no options regarding the screen. Too glossy for my needs. Also, while it's a good screen for home use, iMac screens suffer from uneven lighting. No comparison to a high end NEC or Eizo.

    I also need more RAM.

    The current iMacs closed the gap to the MacPro, but once the new MacPro will be out, that gap will open up again.

    I currently work on a 2 1/2 year old iMac (24"), and it gets already painfully slow for what I do.

    I'd say the life cycle of an iMac is 2 years for more demanding users.
  9. teeck2000 macrumors regular

    Jun 20, 2009
    Actually the imac 24"+ is using the same H-IPS panel as the NEC....so I would say it's comparable but with a few differences. The iMac actually has a great screen.
  10. Max(IT) Suspended


    Dec 8, 2009
    What kind of computer are you using now ? How old is that computer ?
  11. grue macrumors 65816

    Nov 14, 2003

    Shame about the dumbass 16:9 aspect ratio and glossy panel.
  12. Icaras macrumors 603


    Mar 18, 2008
    California, United States
    Both of which I have no problem with. I actually prefer the 16:9.
  13. Undo thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 22, 2010
    Reply 1 of 3

    That's my general line of reasoning, too, based on research. I wanted to see if others agree: That it's relatively cheaper in the long run to own a MacPro than an iMac.

    I'm curious though, when you guys speak about the lifetime of a MacPro at 4+ years, as a better value than an iMac at 3 years, are you factoring in individual component upgrades to the MacPro to keep it current (for example, more RAM one year, another HD the next year, the latest OS the year after that, etc.)? Or are you assuming no component upgrades before the replacement? (I'm assuming nothing is done to either system to void their 3-year warranty.)

    And since I'm not really a "professional" Mac user, would you say that a MacPro could treat me well for about 6 years with regular upgrades before I replace the whole system? (I'm not really sure what I mean by "regular" upgrades––other than an average of one new component per year––which was the purpose of my first question in the original post.)
  14. Undo thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 22, 2010
    Reply 2 of 3

    This is another twist in my dilemma. While I do enjoy saving money, I'm not sure if I qualify as "most people". Some might say that if I don't know, then I am. But I like to maintain a professional standard (not that most people don't) and I, too, 'want it to come across in my work and in my choice of computer', which is why I'm willing to pay more for the best. And if it costs less in the long run, then how can I go wrong?.....Right?

    I agree. I saw on the Buyer's Guide that a MacPro update is imminent. I'm waiting with bated breath.

    Well said! Very quotable!
  15. Undo thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 22, 2010
    Reply 3 of 3

    I'm almost embarrassed to say. My PC is a custom build:

    Pentium4 - 2.6GHz
    1GB RAM
    Radeon 9600 128MB AGC

    I built it 5-1/2 years ago. Today, I honestly believe I don't know what I'm missing!

    I use Premiere Pro and Encore to edit DVD movies to make them more family friendly. These are the largest video files I deal with. They range from 8 to 10GB. I also use After Effects and Audition to create motion graphic compilations of family/friends photos, edit the music, and burn to DVD. These tasks are the most stress I put on my system, but I only do it once every 6 months or so. Does this qualify me as "most people"?

    My most frequently used applications are Photoshop and Dreamweaver. I want to do more Flash development. I also watch DVD's and online TV episodes, listen to iTunes, browse the Web, etc. I don't put the processor through much multi-tasking.
  16. MrLatte23 macrumors regular

    Jul 18, 2007
    Custom Build...

    Reading that you custom built your current computer and the statement that you're planning upgrades and improvements over time, I think you'd be best suited with a Mac Pro. Not knowing what the next model will offer but reading that you're a casual user of processor intensive programs, I think you might be better suited with a current model refurbished Mac Pro. You'd still have plenty of things to tinker with over time and still have a computer that will last you for years to come.

    If you were compositing and rendering Hi-Res 3D imagery, then I'd say wait for the next full priced model, but as long as you're over the EFI32 vs. EFI64 hump, and find something with a decent bus speed you might still be satisfied.

    There's mention of 08's being lemons or was it 09's, so pick through that stuff, but you can change graphics cards if your needs change, add graphics cards for more than two monitors, add a capture card or H.264 encoder/accelerator, or eSATA external hard drives. There's so much you can do that if you built your current 'box" you'd probably dislike the locked down feeling of an iMac.

    I have a Mac Pro with RAM and HD's both internal and external, every PCI slot is full, three monitors with the 4th DVI outputting to my HDTV and I'm finally after 3 - 4 years feeling like I've run out of things to do, but then last night I read about processor upgrades for my specific model. It's served me well and contimues to hold up to HD video editing and compositing and everythgin else I throw at it.
  17. SDub90 macrumors 6502a

    Nov 9, 2009
    Long Island
    If I were choosing between an iMac and Mac Pro, I'd get the top of the line iMac then replace it with the top of the line iMac available in 3-4 years. If you were to buy a Mac Pro that was similarly benchmarked with the top of the line iMac, it would cost you almost twice as much, and that's without a display.

    If you're planning on waiting until the new Mac Pros are announced, then it may be a different story. Those may be worth it.
  18. Kallel00 macrumors member

    Jun 21, 2009
    Well, if you do happen to like the IMac's screen alot, you can always go with the reasonning that it'll still be a good monitor in 2-3 years when you really need a Mac Pro ;)
  19. Billydelp4 macrumors regular

    Feb 29, 2008
    up until the i7 imacs came out, a 3 year old mac pro would tear a part a new imac at least in benchmarking. I am curious if that will be difficult to maintain now that imacs carry just as many cores as their step up brethren.

    i may need to rethink my position :rolleyes:
  20. Alvi macrumors 65816


    Oct 31, 2008
    The problem with the iMac is that you pay a high amount of money to have a screen, speakers, isight and more and when the computer breaksdown you throw all of those away, Mac Minis and Mac Pros, are way more efficient since you can reuse the screen you buy with them and so on the Mac Pro is a better long term solution, not to say that if the graphics of the iMac need a logic board replacement and the Mac Pro just needs a new graphics card
  21. grue macrumors 65816

    Nov 14, 2003
    On the other hand, I've been giving serious consideration to the idea of buying a base 27" iMac, plugging it into my Pro to use as a display, and then using the computer itself as a file server.
  22. diazj3 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 19, 2008
    I recently switched from a late 2007/2.4Ghz/24" iMac to a 2009/2.66Ghz/Quad MacPro. While these two machines are barely comparable spec-wise, there are more things to consider to evaluate their costs and values.

    But solely money-wise speaking, there's little doubt the iMac is a better value for your money if you're not a real top-power user. To make the Mac Pro comparable to the quad iMac, there are other costs that add up:

    • For starters, the airport wi-fi card, a comparable quality display, external web-cam and speakers, and a graphics card upgrade to the ATI4870 (since there's a shorter gap from the ATI4850 vs the stock Nvidia GT120). Also consider that the Mac Pro requires a smart UPS with a true sine wave, which usually cost twice as much as the regular ones, and the difference in power consumption in both machines.
    • On top of that, to take advantage of the Mac Pro's true power and expandability, you must also be willing to spend some more in internal hard drives, BR/DVD burners, extra RAM, PCI cards (either audio or video), RAID card, etc.
    • Finally, consider the +$80 price difference in Apple Care for Mac Pro.

    So, you do the math: as you consider all these "extras", a Mac Pro turns into a much heavier financial burden, even if you manage to keep it for a longer time. If you are in real need of such power and expandability - by making a living from your machine or having some fancy hobbies - you'll love Mac Pro's flexibility and multiple inputs/outputs (although there are ways to get a similar results in the iMac using external devices). Otherwise, you're just wasting your money, since such potential will go to waste. In the long term, both machines are subject to the same obsolescence effect as new technology and models come out. The MacPro gives you a small advantage in terms of being able to salvage/reuse/upgrade some of your rig components, but you still can't upgrade most key components as CPU, and you're still limited to the graphics cards supported by apple - which aren't exactly "top of the line".

    I'd advice you evaluate your true needs: computers can never be considered a wise investment. I agree with those who think it's better to purchase a computer that meets your needs and modestly surpasses them - and upgrade the machine more often - instead of buying the "top of the line" and planning to keep it for a long time. The quad iMac is an incredibly powerful machine that'll handle almost anything you throw at it from the processing power perspective. Even when new MacPros are released with more cores, the difference will still be marginal for most users - those that don't render professional audio and video, do complex scientific analysis or heavy 3D work will see little difference, as most apps cant even make the best use of multiple cores. For now, the quad iMac is a great deal for most users... so the decision relies more on the fact that you need the built-in expandability and are willing to spend on it, or if you can manage with external solutions.

  23. HyperX13 macrumors 6502

    Sep 3, 2009
    I have a Mac Pro at home. My wife has Mac Pro 1,1 (3.0 gig two xeons dual cores each) with 12 gigs of ram and a raid. I recently got her an Imac for her downstairs office. This is the 21.4 inch 3.06 dual core processor. She is now using that more than the mac pro. The new imacs are very snappy.

    The only macs that ever gave me trouble are the mac pros. Let me explain. Where I live, we have a lot of dust. The cooling fans in the video card would get jammed with dust and overheat and give me trouble. It seems the imac is built with a better filter, etc, where even my oldest imac that my kids use has never grey screened on me.

    So my recommendation is get the iMac.
  24. kudukudu macrumors regular

    Oct 24, 2007
    How do you determine this. I have a 1500 watt APC UPS that I got from Costco that appears to work fine with my Mac Pro in the sense that everything continues to work if I pull the plug, but I probably paid $100 to $150 for this sucker so it is definitely not a high end UPS. Can I damage my machine if the UPS doesn't have a true sine wave?
  25. gotzero macrumors 68040

    Jan 6, 2007
    Mid-Atlantic, US
    I use Smart UPSs on mine, but I do not see why you would "need" one.

    I still do not think that Mac Pros and Imacs are crossing into each other's marketspace. If you do not easily understand why you "need" a Mac Pro, I imagine an Imac will be perfectly fine.

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