Apple is known for its advanced engineering and design. The new iMac Pro is spectacular in that department, somehow packing an insane amount of power into its all-in-one enclosure. But it doesn’t come cheap.
If you haven’t looked already, a decked out iMac Pro costs a pretty penny….. lots and lots of pretty pennies. The starting price is a not-exactly-cheap $4,999, but if you’re planning to configure Apple’s all-in-one workstation with all the bells and whistles, things can get pretty crazy. If you include Intel’s massive non-gaming 18-core Xeon W processor when it’s available early next year, you’re looking at more than $13,000. That’s almost the price of a new, compact car.
Maybe you want the kind of power that the iMac Pro offers, but aren’t necessarily attached to the idea of getting a Mac. As you can probably assume, you can get way more bang from your buck on the PC side of things. Just how much more? Read on.
The iMac Pro vs. A Dell Desktop PC
Before we dig into comparisons, we should note that we’re not comparing apples-to-apples. While there are plenty of great Windows all-in-one workstations on the market, none seem to compare to the kind of specs Apple stuffed into the new iMac Pro. What we can do is take our $13,200 iMac Pro budget, and see how much we can stuff into a Windows workstation.
There are numerous avenues to take when configuring a PC, and it all depends on what you want out of your system. To perform a similar set of functions, we chose to start with the Dell Precision 5820 Tower as our base, which starts at $1,250. It’s a basic-looking workstation tower, but it can support a whole lot of power when you start maxing out the configuration. In our case, our final total with Dell’s tool hit an impressive $13,252 to maximize the workstation’s potential in an iMac Pro comparison.
So now, with our budgets set, let’s start with the CPU.
The processors don’t match up
Both the 5820 Tower and the iMac Pro are single-CPU (aka single-socket) workstations that rely on Intel’s Xeon W series CPUs, which are now beginning to make their way into the workstation market. Unfortunately, Dell doesn’t currently include Xeon W processors with more than 10 cores in the 5820 Tower, but that could change when Apple debuts its 14- and 18-core iMac Pro models early next year.
Apple’s new iMac Pro seems like a steal for any price, and the company’s updated return to the workstation market.
If you want more horses under the hood, you could go with something like the Dell Precision 7920 Tower. It sports a dual-CPU (dual-socket) design, enabling you to configure the workstation with up to two, premium 24-core Intel Xeon Platinum 8180 “scalable” processors. Those two chips alone tack on over $21,000 to your final tab, so they’ll never be an option if you have a budget of $13,000.
That said, we could only pit a 10-core Dell Precision 5820 Tower against Apple’s upcoming 18-core iMac Pro. The result is a processor with lower performance and a lower price tag in Dell’s workstation, but plenty of financial breathing room to pack additional features into the Dell.
PC packs a punch in video
For the Precision 5820, Dell offers the older Radeon Pro WX 7100 graphics card based on its “Polaris” architecture. It consists of 2,304 stream processors with a base speed of 1,188MHz, and a maximum speed of 1,243MHz. Other ingredients include 8GB of on-board memory (GDDR5) running on a 256-bit interface at 1,250MHz. The memory data rate is 7Gbps, and the bandwidth id 160GB/s.
What’s interesting is that the next step up is the Radeon Pro WX 9100 powered by AMD’s newer “Vega” architecture , but it’s currently not offered with the Precision 5820. This card includes 4,096 stream processors/cores with a maximum speed of 1,500MHz. It also includes 16GB of on-board memory (HBM2) using a 2,048-bit interface with a data rate of 1.86GB/s, and a bandwidth of 483.94GB/s.
The iMac Pro has the Radeon Pro Vega 64 and Vega 56 cards based on the Vega architecture. We currently don’t have any official numbers for the Radeon Pro Vega cards, but they supposedly have faster base speeds than the WX 9100, and lower maximum speeds. Take a look.
|Radeon Pro WX 9100||Radeon Pro Vega 64||Radeon Pro Vega 56|
|Architecture:||GCN 5||GCN 5||GCN 5|
|Graphics chip:||Vega 10 XT||Vega 10 XT||Vega 10 Pro|
|Memory amount:||16GB HBM2||16GB HBM2||8GB HBM2|
A big chunk of your iMac Pro purchase is in the processor, memory, storage, and graphics. Other factors include the built-in 27-inch display with 5K resolution, an optimized power supply that handles all the hardware, and a motherboard that includes Thunderbolt 3 and 10 gigabits per second wired networking. Having those two technologies together is a rare breed, making the iMac Pro a rather unique product.
The PC, on the other hand, has many hardware options the iMac Pro can’t equip. You can easily push the Dell 5820’s final price up into $20K by packing up to six additional storage devices, and configuring the machine with multiple graphics cards. Two Nvidia Quadro GP100 cards with 16GB of dedicated video memory each adds a meaty $13,264 to your final bill. Ouch.
It’s also worth considering the Dell Precision 5850 is a traditional tower PC that requires an external monitor. Dell doesn’t appear to offer a 5K solution during the Precision 5820 configuration process, but instead lists ultra-high resolution panels that jump from 4K directly to 8K. If you want a 5K panel, you can leave the monitor selection out of the configuration process, and externally purchase one like the UP2715K on Amazon.
Here’s what you get with both the minimum and maximum specifications of Apple’s new iMac Pro:
|Dell Precision 5850 Tower||iMac Pro|
|Processor:||Xeon W-2155||Xeon W-2195|
|CPU base speed:||3.3GHz||2.30GHz|
|CPU max speed:||4.5Ghz||4.30GHz|
|Graphics:||Radeon Pro WX 7100||Radeon Pro Vega 64|
|Memory:||128GB DDR4 @ 2,666MHz||128GB DDR4 @ 2,666MHz|
|Storage:||3x 1TB PCIe NVMe SSDs||4TB SSD|
|Bundled display size:||32 inches||27 inches|
|Bundled display resolution:||7,680 x 4,320||5,120 x 2,880|
As you can see, the iMac Pro might not be quite as overpriced as it’s made out to be, especially when you compare it to what PC manufacturers offer.
Right now, you simply can’t get a similar system in a compact all-in-one PC. The new iMac Pro is limited regarding port numbers, but that’s the beauty of Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.1 connectivity. As a result, Apple’s new iMac Pro seems like a steal for any price, even if it’s nowhere near affordable.