Mac Pro 5.1 vs iMac 5K 2015

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by bogg, Dec 24, 2015.

  1. bogg macrumors 6502


    Apr 12, 2005

    I'm currently using an iMac mid 2011 w. i7 (3.4GHz, 20GB RAM, 1TB+128GB HD/SSD in Fusion Drive).
    This fills most my needs perfectly, except the occasional problem with internal storage, which I've solved by having a 8TB NAS attached to the network which is fast enough to allow me to work from it (saturates the 1Gbps Ethernet connection).
    Anyway, before this I had an iMac from 2007 (24" Core2Duo yadayada). Which I replaced after 4 years.
    My current iMac is soon 4.5 years old and I've got a craving to replace it with something new, and definitely something with a 4k or 5k screen.

    So I've looked over my options, I still want to run Mac so I'm bound to Apple hardware, and boiled it down to these two options:

    1. Mac Pro 5.1 (2010-2012) w. 2x Xeon X5690 3.46GHz (12 cores in total), 64GB RAM (which I for some reason already have lying around since an earlier project), 2x3TB Harddrive + 250GB SSD, combined with a 4K monitor from Dell (P2715Q) and a Nvidia GTX 780 GPU/Graphics card. Total price for this will be somewhere around ~$3200

    2. iMac 27" w. i7 CPU, 2TB Fusion drive and otherwise stock. This will also run me around ~$3200 (incl. swedish sales tax, apples static conversion rate and so on). This will only give me 8GB of RAM but I can always buy more at a later date)

    Pro:s for #1 as I see it must be the raw performance and the option to add PCI-Express cards in the future to upgrade stuff such as SATA, USB and so forth, cons are that it is an aging platform, 3-5 years old.
    The exact opposite on both are true for the iMac.

    Any thoughts? Surely the Mac Pro would beat the iMac hands down? The i7 in the iMac surely is a hell of a lot faster in single threads than the Mac Pro, but my usage pattern is multitasking galore and I seldom have just 1 process drawing power from the CPU.
    Also for gaming DX12 games (if I decide to install Windows) should be able to utilize the cores better in the Mac Pro and make up for the gap in raw core performance (4 fast cores in the iMac against 12 somewhat slower cores in the Mac Pro).

    Any ideas or thoughts? One major point in upgrading is future proofing, it has to last me at least 5 years of good usage.

    Please note that the bare minimum configuration of the current Mac Pro is ~$4000 in Sweden, so a bit too far of the mark at ~$3000 (and then I'd need to purchase a new monitor as well)
  2. RedCroissant Suspended

    Aug 13, 2011
    I would go with the Mac Pro for sure.

    Yes, it is an "aging platform" but the performance of the earliest 5,1 is better than the 5k retina iMac. And the possibility of upgrading the CPUs, the GPU, and also adding expansion cards (as you already mentioned), that's the much better option.

    And an aging platform doesn't entirely apply to the 12-core Mac Pro 5,1 in my opinion just due to its performance. If you want to find some aging platforms, head on over to my favorite sub-forum (The PowerPC forum) and that should convince you. But when you have the power and versatility of the original design for the Mac Pro, there's no reason to go with an iMac. As a point of reference, my PowerMac G5 is 10 years old and still doing very well!

    Plus, you have 4 x PCIe2.0 slots! Just having a SSD in 2 of those RAIDed together would destroy the imac on R/W performance and boot times AND the CPUs would still outperform the iMac.
  3. rodedwards macrumors member

    Jul 7, 2010
    Contact my friend Thomas Pindelski ... He'll pimp up your Pro in no time ... The 5.1 is an amazing creation - the performance will be incredible. :)
  4. bogg thread starter macrumors 6502


    Apr 12, 2005
    Thanks for the input,
    I'll be buying it basically barebones as I have the RAM and hard drives already and the SSDs (which I've decided will be 2 250s and not a single one) will be placed on a apricorn velocity duo x2 to get Sata3 speeds and raid-support

    The Xeons will be the x5690, the fastest (and most expensive) cpu supported on the machine.

    I'm hoping the machine will last me as long as the iMac has, but the added expandability will probably make me upgrade it along the way.
    I've looked at it and a similarly speced Mac Pro in 2012 would have cost a fortune so I have a hard time thinking it wouldn't last me at least 5 years performance wise.

    The thing I'm most worried about is the future OS X support, probably will work with any OS X version released until at least 2017-18, but what happens after that? Sure I'll most likely be able to hack it in just as people are doing with the Mac Pro 2.1 and El Capitan
  5. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    You're savvy with hardware and software and I think you kinda answered your own question.

    Yeah, the MP will be a pain at times to find and add USB C or something but on the other hand you don't have to buy yet another new Mac to do it ;)

    And your build could be optimized for the software you use. I generally think the MPs kinda lag behind the iMacs and MBPs for general use, but if you go full-on with a 12 core and are prepared to get the good video card, expansion hardware, etc it can be the bomb. For future proofing, I wonder about 5k. The 24" 4k monitors are quite high in the PPI wars (like 185 to 220 for 5k) so two of those would be pretty cool. I'm kinda surprised I don't see many 4k 21.5" monitors out there since the panels exist, but maybe soon. Depending on your ergonomics, that could essentially give you retina viewing.
  6. bogg thread starter macrumors 6502


    Apr 12, 2005

    Yeah, I mostly use my computer for ordinary end-user stuff, browsing the web, watching movies/tv-shows and so on, but I do at times have a few virtual machines running, GNS3 with emulated Cisco IOS-images and so on (I'm a Cisco instructor so I do a lot of Cisco-labs from time to time, and GNS3 can be quite hard on the CPU when you've got a lot going on). Most things I do benefit from multithreading, only a few things really benefit from single core performance.
    It will also work as my home server so I can clean out my HP Microservers, which I only use for the occasional Virtualization lab. So a tricked out cMP might be overdoing it, but my budget is somewhere around $3000 and why not use it up if it gives me a computer that will live on for 4-5 years (my last iMac cost ~$2700 so that is really around my usual budget for the refresh every 4 years).

    To be completely honest I'm tired of the AiO of the iMac (but I love the way it cleans up my desk), don't like the integrated aspect of the new MP and don't want to go PC. So the cMP seems like the right and only choice, and as it is a few years old, why not go full out from the get go, so I don't regret the decision in 2 years because of lack of power.

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