I work in a graphic design studio, and we have a budget to upgrade our Macs. I have the enviable problem of deciding which of two Macs to pick – a tricked-out 27in iMac or an eight-core Mac Pro. Each would be packed with RAM and would have the best graphics card available. Do you have any opinions one way or the other?
Via the internet

At one time, the conventional wisdom was that you’d buy the latest tower Mac if you were a media professional or serious number cruncher, and leave the iMac for ordinary users who simply wanted a capable and reasonably affordable computer. Those days have mostly passed. 

Today’s iMacs are serious hunks of hardware – they’re incredibly fast and have solid graphics performance. If you’re concerned about storage, you can always attach an external drive or two, or, in the case of a design studio like yours, move data on and off a server. The iMac also currently enjoys the advantage of having a Thunderbolt port, which the Mac Pro still lacks.

The Mac Pro is certainly no slouch, though. Ideally you’d want to wait and see if Apple releases a new version with Thunderbolt and a faster processor, but there’s no telling if and when that will happen. And, of course, if you want maximum flexibility in regard to your computer’s graphics performance, the Mac Pro is the better way to go, as you can easily swap in a new graphics card. The ability to create a RAID from a collection of internal drives is another advantage. Also, if a single component on the Mac Pro breaks down, there’s a better chance you can replace that component rather than having to replace the entire computer.

That said, if we were in your studio, our primary concern would be the display. You’re in the image business, and if your images don’t look right to you on an iMac’s screen, that isn’t the computer you should be using. Yes, you can attach an external monitor to an iMac and use that monitor as your primary display (leaving the iMac’s display for palettes), but it seems a waste to purchase a Mac with a display you don’t care for. 

We’d lay hands on an iMac model you’re considering, calibrate it, and see how it fares. If you don’t like how it looks, there’s your answer.