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.
Both the iMac and iMac Pro are made of aluminum and are designed as all-in-one computers. That look is a design classic that hasn’t changed much over the years, but it makes for one clean desk setup. The differences end there, though.
Looking at just the iMac, there are 21.5-inch and 27-inch versions available. Most 21.5-inch versions come with a 4,096 x 2,304 resolution (4K) display (although the entry-level model is stuck with a 1080p screen), 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 that sets it apart from the silver color found on the rest of the lineup.
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, although the high-end model has a 9th-generation chip. At $1,299, you can start with an 8th-generation 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 an 8th-generation six-core Intel Core i7 processor.
On the top-end $2,299 5K iMac, you can get a 9th-generation six-core Intel Core i5 processor, or for an extra $400, you get a 9th-generation eight-core i9, 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 video editors, 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 (SSD) storage. In contrast, the 4K and 5K iMacs start with either a regular hard drive or a Fusion Drive, which combines a traditional spinning hard drive with a small amount of flash storage. 5K iMac models also pack the Fusion Drive, but you can upgrade to an SSD on all models.
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 or 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 designers and professionals. The price is expensive, too, with Vega 64 coming in at $550 extra and Vega 64X costing 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.
When it comes to connectivity, 5K and 4K iMacs are well-equipped. Both 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, edges ahead. It keeps the same variation but offers four Thunderbolt 3 ports instead of two. In the scheme of things, one additional port may not matter much. But for someone who needs to connect a ton of peripherals, the extra Thunderbolt 3 could sway the decision.
The iMac is far more practical
If you’re choosing between these two desktop computers, you likely have an excellent reason to pit the two against each other. Chances are you require some serious power, whether for your profession or recreational pursuits. Video editors, music producers, game developers, and 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. After all, it’s called the Pro for a reason. But for everyone else, the choice might not be so high-stakes. One of the mid-range iMacs should give you all the processing power you’ll need to accomplish your less graphically-oriented goals. The iMac might not come in space gray, but it’s a far more practical option if you’re not a media professional.
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