New Mac Pro vs new iMac (27 i7) for Graphic Design

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by rickpoet, Oct 31, 2009.

  1. rickpoet macrumors member

    Jul 22, 2002
    Los Angeles, California

    I've been reading threads here comparing the Quad Mac Pro vs the yet to be released iMac 27" i7 and most seem to focus on use as a machine for video editing with Final Cut Pro. I'm a pro-graphic designer using the last model Power Mac G5 and wonder how these two might compare with heavy Photoshop usage and design for print in general.

    One of the main issues i think may be drive speed and I'm really not so knowledgeable in terms of the benefits of internal drives in a new Mac Pro vs whatever the best external option would be for the iMac so any insights any has in this area in terms of speed would be highly appreciated. (Is there some super-fast high end external storage option that would suit the iMac will and give me the same performance as a second internal drive on a Mac Pro?)

    And what about the memory...I think the ECC option is not available for the iMac...does that mac a huge difference between the two..or am I wrong?

    I think either machine would be a huge step forward from my PMG5 (which is doing pretty well still) I'm just wondering if it makes sense for me to wait for the next generation Mac Pro to come out (assuming it's early 2010...yes predicting Apple product releases is an exact science as we all know.)

    Thanks in advance for any insights!

  2. gugucom macrumors 68020


    May 21, 2009
    Munich, Germany
    A Mac Pro has the advantage of fitting multiple internal drives which creates plenty of options to increase disk speed. It is possible to use RAID0 which means basically using several drives to write/read simultaneously for speed increase. One can also use solid state drives with higher write/read speed but comparatively small capacity. You augment such a speed drive by a using a big conventional drive for mass data storage. All those things can be done internally on the Mac Pro. With the iMac you are basically stuck with one fast internal drive and slower external drives if you need to expand.

    ECC has nothing to do with basic speed but with the control of errors that occur due to certain circumstances. It is an issue that is mainly connected with server requirements.

    The next Mac Pro update will mainly push the max of 8 cores to 12 cores. This would be way beyond a reasonable update to what you have. In terms of CPU power the i7 iMac will probably satisfy you completely. If you need storage exceeding conventional hard disk speed or 1 GB capacity at that speed you should look at the Mac Pro quad.
  3. diazj3 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 19, 2008
    Well... I'm no expert in Mac Pro, but I'll share my recent experience upgrading to a 2.66 Quad.

    I used to have a late 2007, 2.4Ghz 24" iMac. It was enough for my design work... I was very happy with it, and had a 2nd 24" display with it. The only problem I had was that the iMac screen had some stains on it - like some "ghosts" of previous windows would stay in the screen after closing them. Anyway, I took the iMac to an authorized service place... and a nightmare that lasted for more than 5 months began, with the machine getting replaced twice until the AppleCare guy advised I upgraded to a Mac Pro.

    I paid around $900 for the upgrade to a Mac Pro Quad 2.66 with the ATI4870... and after using it for some weeks, I come to the conclusion it might have been a bad decision. It's true - the Mac Pro offers the chance for multiple hard drives, multiple graphics cards and more than 2 displays... plus the possibility to do it yourself... BUT you'll find that you have to spend a lot of money on it. Starting with RAM, the extra hard drives, the displays - which you'll have to spend much more if you want the quality ISP you'll get on the iMac... then comes the special UPS - since the Mac Pro doesn't work very good with "consumer grade" UPS - and a "smart UPS" costs more than twice than a normal one (APCs BR1500 vs SUA1500). And then, if you don't have speakers and a web cam, you'll have to spend some more... so if you go with a Mac Pro, be ready to spend.

    The one thing I do like about the Mac Pro is its connectivity - multiple audio ins/out, firewire and USB... but one can always get around that in an iMac with different interfaces and hubs. I don't do much video encoding, and i miss the screen quality on the iMac, its simplicity, its silence, its low power consumption, and the fact that it had everything I needed on it.

    The only bad thing about the iMac is that if anything gets broken, the whole thing goes away - screen, HD and everything.

    Performance-wise, I see no real difference what-so-ever when comparing the last 24" 3.06 iMac w/ATI4850 I had and my new 2.66 Quad Mac Pro w/ATI4870, in things like safari browsing, MP3 encoding, Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. In some tasks, I even think the iMac was faster!

    So, if you don't do any heavy - and I mean VERY heavy audio/video/scientific work to justify an 6, 8 or 12 core Mac Pro, a Quad Mac Pro might be a terrible waste of money, as it has been in my case. You'll be much better off with a Quad iMac with the new 27" display, if the machine works as expected, for MUCH less money. Plus, most design software would not benefit from the extra cores, ECC memory or XEON grade processors... and external hard drives via firewire are affordable and not too slow in comparison with internal drives - and you get a fast 1TB drive with the Quad iMac - instead of a lousy 640GB of the Mac Pro.

    IMHO, for the needs you have, the iMac is a MUCH better deal - either now or next year. The new iMac does make the Quad Mac Pro look like a bad choice for designers. I don't mean to be bitter about it, but I do think that Mac Pros are way overpriced for those who are caught in Apple's desktop gap. It seem's the new iMacs will close that gap, making it easier for designers to make better decisions about their desktop choices.
  4. MacKiddyWiddy macrumors 6502

    Aug 18, 2009
    the way i see it, is the imac is a much better deal [​IMG] you get a screen keyboard and mouse, all in one... spec wise they are similar, but what the mac pro has, which the imac does not, is the possibility to expand e.g. internal hdds, better ram support, removable graphics card... so the way i believe it is for the average person, the imac is the way to go. for the more high end user though, who in a few months may need a bit more power... definately the mac pro
  5. Toronto Mike macrumors regular

    Jan 5, 2008
    Apart from the performance issues that have been talked about here - if others could comment on the iMac's glassy screen for graphic design work for the original poster.

    If I am not mistaken, his 2007 iMac screen could have been the matte variety. It could come as a huge surprise of what the new iMac screens have become.

  6. smacman macrumors 6502

    Feb 7, 2006
    diazj3's post was quite accurate and informative. I think what should be clear, is that in terms of value, unless your building an eight core rendering machine, the i7 iMac is the best bang for the buck.

    Having said that, I have a similar setup as diazj3 in my new quad core 2.93 Mac Pro. I have decided to use an Intel Gen2 SSD as my OSX/Applications drive and two 1TB WD drives in raid 0 config for data. I can't even describe how fast the machine feels during typical use. I personally think the SSD boot drive makes as big of a difference as going from a dual core processor to a quad core (in different areas obviously). Since this type of configuration is not an option on the iMac, for me the Mac Pro is king (yes even a quad).
  7. Toronto Mike macrumors regular

    Jan 5, 2008
  8. Gonk42 macrumors 6502

    Jan 16, 2008
    near Cambridge
    Interesting links, but I am deeply puzzled by his cost analysis - he has the quad Mac Pro as being cheaper than the iMac! Here in the UK it is at least 50% more expensive, and from other posts it would seem that this is the case in the US as well (though the difference is probably less because of Apple freezing the Mac Pro prices at a particularly bad exchange rate in the UK). They both take very similar memory and have the same number of slots so should have similar costs there - perhaps he just has his numbers wrong?

    Edit : I've just realised that he leaves the monitor cost off the Mac Pro which would account for a chunk of the cash (I tend to cost in a 24 inch monitor with the Pro when making comparisons)
  9. justit macrumors 6502a

    Dec 1, 2007
    Not to off topic but did u get the caviars? green, blue or black? 1 TB blacks are in short supply here so I'm considering compromising with green/black
  10. justit macrumors 6502a

    Dec 1, 2007
    If cost is an issue then strongly consider an apple refurbished Mac Pro. Mine came in spotless, even smelled new. Very pleased at the price I got, I would have been disapointed paying full retail.
  11. strangeday macrumors member

    Nov 2, 2009
    How long have you been doing graphic design for (professionally)? I've been Freelancing for the past 5 years, the last 2 working as the lead in-house designer for studio, and now self-employed designer.
    I'm asking because any designer I know would NOT recommend the iMac simply because of color matching issues with the built-in monitor (not sure about the newest models, tho) and because of the glossy finish. Blacks can be misleading (appearing much darker and richer) on glossy screens compared to what turns out printed on paper. As a matter of fact, all colors will appear more vivid, even after calibrating on a glossy screen vs a matte screen. That alone is why I wouldn't use the iMac. I feel that these are targeted more for consumers and not serious professionals.
    However, if you don't plan making a living off of your machine, and just learning design work, I would consider the iMac. But for serious designers, I believe that our monitors are very important tools to us. It is just good to have the option to later upgrade or change your monitor. I'm on the 23" ACD matte display, which has been excellent. Yet, it still feels good to know I can later sell it if I choose to upgrade - without having my Mac attached to it.

    If you're serious about it, I'd think more about the long-run.
  12. smacman macrumors 6502

    Feb 7, 2006
    Actually I ended up going with the RE3 Enterprise drives (WD1002FBYS). Here in HK they are pretty much the same price (100USD) as blacks and carry a longer warranty.
  13. justit macrumors 6502a

    Dec 1, 2007
    If you're doing serious print work, you should rely more on color printer comps than the monitor. Do you plan on sending your file only electronically? If so be prepared for a client to look at it on a sub-standard monitor that totally throws off your colors and be prepared for the "that's not our corporate colors!" client feed back. RGB never matches CMYK, nor Pantone® for that matter.
  14. mfka macrumors regular


    Oct 20, 2009
    I guess it is great to have a monitor that show colors as possible correct but
    i think the most important thing is experience and a lot of printing with different profiles.
    I never trust displays (not even to LaCie), everything i do
    i must see on the paper. You must check your typography printed anyway
    so why not colors.
    iMac i7 is a first imac ever i’m considering to use as my work tool, i always
    used powermacs and macpros, as the matter of fact i’m right now on one.

    So make your stuff, print/check, do some more, print/check, etc.
  15. justit macrumors 6502a

    Dec 1, 2007
    Gotta love work ;)

    I'm in the same boat, using a mac pro b/c at that time it was the only mac that had expandable memory.

    People keep complaining that it's not color correct. Then add your own 'color corrected' extended display to the iMac and get the best of both.
  16. strangeday macrumors member

    Nov 2, 2009
    Hmm...I've been doing this for several years, and understand the issues with clients monitors. Not sure what you mean by telling me to "be prepared". I am not new to this.

    Of course, there is always that chance of that happening. That is why you educate your clients and inform them not to rely on what they see at home. I inform my clients that they should print the proofs that I send to them. Even their cheap printers are likely more accurate than their super bright monitors.
  17. strangeday macrumors member

    Nov 2, 2009
    Yes, I agree, but also think it's very important to match things as close as possible before hand. Makes me feel like at least I know how things will appear :p

    Oh, also for the Mac Pro, I like being able to expand/upgrade the hardware.
  18. aibo macrumors 6502

    Jan 17, 2008
    Southern California
    As a graphic designer I picked the Mac Pro because:
    -more ram
    -more cores
    -more storage
    -larger screen

    The only pro to an iMac I can think of is

    Ultimately it depends on your budget.
  19. a350 macrumors regular

    Jul 8, 2009
    another one of these threads

    if you have to ask which is better for whatever it is you do then you are not serious enough of a user to need the mac pro so get the imac
  20. strangeday macrumors member

    Nov 2, 2009
    :D lol
  21. justit macrumors 6502a

    Dec 1, 2007
    If you have to troll threads to post generic statements you're probably not busy enough to be doing real work on a mac pro. :rolleyes:
  22. a350 macrumors regular

    Jul 8, 2009

    it's called multi tasking and those who have iq's in the triple digits can do it all day long. have someone look it up for you.
  23. strangeday macrumors member

    Nov 2, 2009
    I thought a350 made a valid statement. Maybe it is something the thread starter should consider.
  24. justit macrumors 6502a

    Dec 1, 2007
    Your opinion is valid, so are replies from about a dozen others.

    The new iMac shifts the paradigm that to get configuration the only option use to be the MP. Now that memory is configurable on the iMac that changes buying decisions, with a very affordable price, the iMac deserves a new look.
  25. VirtualRain macrumors 603


    Aug 1, 2008
    Vancouver, BC
    Drive speed does make a difference in your computing experience (ECC will not) but only you can answer the question if it's worth this difference...


    # 2.8GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7
    # 8GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM - 4x2GB
    # 1TB Serial ATA Drive
    # ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB
    # 8x double-layer SuperDrive
    # Apple Magic Mouse


    Mac Pro Quad...

    # One 2.66GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon
    # 8GB (4x2GB)
    # 1TB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s
    # ATI Radeon HD 4870 512MB
    # One 18x SuperDrive
    # Apple LED Cinema Display (24" flat panel)
    # Apple Mouse


    That's a $1550 difference!!!

    You could probably upgrade the drive in the iMac to a nice SSD for about $500 if you get a qualified technician to do it and then put your 1TB drive in a FW enclosure ($100), so even after dramatically upgrading your storage, you are still about $1K ahead with the iMac. :eek: :(

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