Should I buy the MacBook Pro 16" or iMac for music production (maxed out)?

Cardbored

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Nov 18, 2019
2
1
Hello all - this is my first post. I'm looking for some advice here - I've been recording/producing music for about 10 years now. For the last few years I have been using a 2013 MacBook Pro with ok results, however when it comes to mixing music and handling multiple plugins at a time or a few software instruments it really can't handle it - crashes, freezes, fans blazing - so although it has been able to do the job, my workflow has definitely not been smooth and I have had to incorporate numerous workarounds.

So I'm hoping to change all that as best I can by doing a serious upgrade to my setup. If I had the money I would likely just max out an iMac Pro, or wait for the new Mac Pro, but those would exceed my already stretched budget.

At the moment I am on the fence between the new MacBook Pro and the iMac and I would just like to get your opinion on which you think might be the best for me.

Portability is not really a concern of mine, it just happens that the MacBook Pro's specs are so good that it has me considering it over the iMac.


So my 2 choices in detail:

iMac
Machine: 27‑inch iMac w/Retina 5K display (2019)
Processor: 3.6GHz 8-core ninth-generation Intel Core i9 processor w/Turbo Boost up to 5.0GHz
Memory: Either - 64GB of 2666MHz DDR4 memory OR 3rd party upgrade - OWC 128GB (4 x 32GB) 2666MHz DDR4
Graphics: Radeon Pro Vega 48 w/8GB of HBM2 memory
Storage: 2TB of SSD storage

OR

NEW Macbook Pro 16"

Machine: NEW 16‑inch MacBook Pro
Processor: 2.4GHz 8-core ninth‑generation Intel Core i9 processor with Turbo Boost up to 5.0GHz
Memory: 64GB of 2666MHz DDR4 memory
Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 8GB of GDDR6 memory
Storage: 8TB of SSD storage



What matters most to me is performance - I want to be able to mix music and run a bunch of plugins and instruments with ease. It would also be nice if the fans in the laptop didn't go crazy all the time - but that's not the biggest deal.

The biggest seller for me on the MacBook Pro is the 8TB of SSD storage as a bunch of software I use I have had to run (slowly) off external harddrives - having this all on the one machine on a SSD drive would be great.


Is there any reason why I should choose this iMac over the MacBook Pro 16" - performance wise?


Thank you so much for any help you can provide! :)
 
Last edited:

hobowankenobi

macrumors 65816
Aug 27, 2015
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on the land line mr. smith.
I would take the desktop over the portable, all things being equal, if for no other reason: better thermal management. Modern iMacs do fairly well under heavy load, compared to the limited thermal ability of MBPs. Can't speak to the new 16"....but setting that model aside, desktops will outperform same spec'd portables, at least regarding handling high load/heat issues. Bigger fans, bigger heat sinks, enough room to vent. And the case it self it a bit of a heatsink being aluminum. It all adds up to less issues with heat and max speeds fans, much less CPU throttling.

As for externals, go USB C and SSDs, and performance should be very good.
 
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jterp7

macrumors 6502a
Oct 26, 2011
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I'd do a 16" purely since you wouldn't be tethered to your desk.

Also I'd do the $3899 model that is available in stores (2.4, 32gb, 8gb 5500m, 2tb), and save that $2200 for some external ssds
 
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Cardbored

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Nov 18, 2019
2
1
Wow! Thank you all for your help so far, I'm surprised to hear that the iMac would likely still offer a considerable upgrade in performance even with similar specs. I'm still deciding, but this is excellent food for thought!! :)
 
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hobowankenobi

macrumors 65816
Aug 27, 2015
1,007
282
on the land line mr. smith.
Yep. There is a reason, even in a fairly sleek (compared to a tower) iMac that heat can be managed during high loads: more space, bigger heat sinks, bigger fans. And a better-dissipating design, like the iMac Pro or a tower, will do better still.

CPUs/GPUs are always essentially limited by heat; that's why high-end rigs are water-cooled, and have huge heat sinks and fans. The more heat you can dissipate, the faster you can go....basically. portables give up space—and heat removing abilities—to achieve their compact size.

Most users won't notice too much under normal loads. But anybody that keeps a CPU and/or GPU pegged...will feel the limits. Video editing, 3D anything, and other intensive work always push portables too their limits.
 

TheGenerous

macrumors 6502a
Nov 14, 2010
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I'm an Austronaut
Mac Mini because you could always change the display to suit your needs. The Mac Minis are really powerful and can be upgraded to 32 GB RAM. Also, it is portable so you could have for example two desktop setups. One at your home office and another at the recording studio, each with the display size that works best for you.