iMac vs. iMac Pro

The new iMacs push on iMac Pro territory, but how much power do you really need?

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The iMac and iMac Pro are impressive computers that pack everything you need for video editing, web-browsing, and more into a clean package. The iMac Pro is clearly the more powerful of the two, but with Apple recently refreshing the higher end iMacs with newer processors and graphics cards, both machines are once again in the spotlight.

In this guide, we consider design, performance, and features to help make sense of the differences between the two.

Design

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Both the iMac and iMac Pro are made of aluminum and are designed as an all-in-one computing solution. It’s an iconic design that hasn’t changed much over the years, but it makes for one clean desk setup. The differences end there, though.

Looking at the just iMac, there’s a 21.5-inch and a 27-inch version available. The 21.5-inch version comes with a 4,096 x 2,304 resolution (4K) display, and all 27-inch versions come with a higher-end 5,120 x 2,880 (5K) resolution display. Which version you choose depends on how you’ll use your iMac, but both are visually impressive. Higher resolutions mean crisper images and resolution, ideal for content creators and photographers.

Moving to the iMac Pro, it exclusively comes in a 27-inch variant with a 5K resolution display. It also sports a unique space gray color which sets it apart from the silver color found on the rest of the lineup.

Performance

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Alongside size differences, there’s also a lot under the hood that sets iMac and iMac Pro apart. Both the 4K and 5K iMacs come with the option for Intel’s 8th-generation processors. At $1,299, you can start with a quad-core Intel Core i3 processor on the base 4K iMac model. For an extra $300 more, there’s a jump all the way up to a six-core Intel Core i7 processor.

On the top-end $2,299 5K iMac, you can get a six-core Intel Core i5 processor, or for an extra $400 you get an eight-core i5, pushing it close to the iMac Pro. That system comes with options for an Intel Xeon W processor with either eight, 10, 14, or 18 cores. Unlike what you can get on the 4K or 5K iMacs, this is a powerful workstation-class processor. Priced at $4,999, it is something designed for more serious professionals like designers and animators.

All entry models of 4K and 5K iMacs start with 8GB RAM, whereas the iMac Pro starts with a whopping 32GB of RAM. The types of storage are also different, with the iMac Pro starting with a faster solid-state-drive storage. In contrast, the 4K and 5K iMac’s  start with a Fusion Drive, which combines a traditional spinning hard drive with flash storage.

Coming down to the specifics, the base model of the Retina 4K iMac is still equipped with options for a slower 1TB hard drive. The highest-end models come with Fusion Drive. 5K iMac models also pack the Fusion Drive, but you can upgrade to a smaller sized 256 GB solid-state-drive on all models.

Features

Apple iMac with Retina 5K Display review ports
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All but the most basic 4K iMac come with dedicated graphics cards, which add extra power for video editing and content creation. The 4K iMacs come with Radeon Pro 555X and the 560X, which can be upgraded to the Radeon Pro Vega 20. On the 5K iMacs, graphics include the Radeon Pro 570X, 575X, or 580X. These still aren’t the most powerful options, and only the high-end model of the iMac packs the option for the newer Radeon Pro Vega 48 graphics.

With the iMac Pro, you get options for the Radeon Pro Vega 56, Vega 64, or Vega 64X. These graphics cards are far more capable and are for serious of designers and professionals. The price is expensive too, with Vega 64 coming in at $550 extra, and Vega 64X coming in at an additional $700.

The iMac Pro also features Apple’s T2 co-processor. This is Apple’s custom silicon for Macs, and it enables new levels of security by integrating the controllers found across the image signal processor, audio controller, and SSD controller.

Coming down to connectivity, 5K and 4K iMacs feature four USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, an SDXC card slot, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The iMac Pro, however, keeps the same variation but edges ahead with four Thunderbolt 3 ports instead of two.

The iMac is far more practical

Apple iMac with Retina 5K Display review lifestyle front
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If you’re choosing between these two desktop computers, chances are you in need of some serious power. Video editors, music producers, game developers, or graphic designers alike will all need to decide for themselves just how much power they need.

If rendering 8K video is part of the task, the 10 cores and extra graphical power of the iMac Pro might be tempting. For most everyone else, one of the mid-range iMacs should give you all the processing power you’ll need to accomplish your goals. It might not come in space gray, but it’s a far more practical option.

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