Apple says it still cares about pro creative Mac users, and to prove it the company has launched a brand-new all-powerful Mac Pro. The new Mac Pro arrived in December 2019, two years after the similarly high-powered iMac Pro and a month after Apple introduced a 16in MacBook Pro.
It would appear that now is a good time for creative users to buy a Mac. If you're a pro looking to upgrade your Mac we've got all the buying advice you need.
Best Pro Mac 2020
16in MacBook Pro
The MacBook Pro has pro in its name, but does that make it a machine for creative pros? We're not convinced in the case of the 13in model which lacks the dedicated graphics you might require, but the 16in MacBook Pro is a great laptop for pro users, and not surprisingly it's a popular choice.
Introduced in November 2019, the 16in MacBook Pro has 6-core or 8-core 9th generation processors, which are technically better than those in the iMac because they are i7 rather than i5 (we'll look at the iMac next). Build-to-order options include a 2.4GHz 8-core Core i9 processor and an 8TB SSD.
The 3,072x1,920 resolution display on the 16in MacBook Pro is great, but the fact that it isn't 4K lets it down slightly because there are 4K displays available on other laptops. Apple believes that the battery limitations negate a 4K display.
The 16in MacBook Pro offers not just a 32GB RAM option but a 64GB RAM option that finally gives you the extra memory needed to run demanding program workflows as if on a desktop machine.
If you need a bigger higher resolution screen we advise you to look at Apple's other pro machines, but if you are looking for a fast and powerful portable Mac you can't really go wrong with the 16in MacBook Pro.
We help you decide between Apple's MacBook laptop ranges and Apple's Mac desktops here.
The standard 27in iMac may not have Pro in its name, but with at least quad-core processors, discreet graphic cards, and a high-power processor, it's very much a pro machine.
It was updated early in 2019 with Intel 8th-gen processor and new Radeon Pro graphics. You can configure up to an 8-core Intel Core i9.
The 27in iMac still offers a 5K Retina display that's capable of showing one billion colours thanks to some clever technology that mimics 10-bit colour. The 5120x2880 resolution display really is one of the best 5K screens out there - and it costs a lot less than buying a separate 5K display, definitely a point in the iMac's favour.
The 27in iMac range starts at £1,749/$1,799. For that you get a 3.0GHz six-core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, a Radeon Pro 570X graphics card with 4GB video memory, two Thunderbolt ports, and a 1TB Fusion Drive.
If that's not enough, you can pay more and get a faster processor and graphics card. You can max out your 27in iMac with up to 64GB RAM, and a 3.6GHz 8-core Intel Core i9 (Turbo Boost up to 5.0GHz) as build-to-order options. An iMac with those specs would cost £3,509/$3,699.
Or you could go the whole hog and update the storage to a 2TB SSD and the graphics to a Radeon Pro Vega 48, bringing the final price to £4,909/$5,249. By that point you're in iMac Pro territory, and that's the next professional Mac we'll take a look at.
Like the iMac, the iMac Pro has a 5K Retina display: in fact it's identical to the one on the 27in model. That means a 5,120x2,880 resolution, 500 nits brightness, P3 wide colour and 10-bit colour support. There are no extra pixels or special technologies here.
But the iMac Pro gets some pro components that the standard iMac lacks, justifying its pro name. There are workstation-class Xeon W processors with up to 18 cores (even the base spec gives you eight cores), rather than the paltry four offered by the iMac. These processors top out at a Turbo Boost of 4.5GHz, and the Pro performed stunningly well in our battery of speed tests.
You'll also find the state-of-the-art AMD Radeon Pro Vega GPU inside the iMac Pro (the 56 by default, with 8GB of memory, but you can upgrade to the 64 with 16GB).
The iMac Pro offers four Thunderbolt ports, twice as many as the iMac, and offers 10GB rather than 1GB Ethernet.
RAM-wise, the iMac Pro offers up to 128GB RAM, while the standard iMac maxes out at 64GB.
As for storage, you can get a 4TB SSD as a build-to-order option with the iMac Pro, with the iMac offering a maximum of just 2TB.
All these components come at a high price, though. The price of the iMac Pro starts at £4,899/$4,999. And if you add the extras on to that price you're getting into mortgage territory.
If you need a workstation-level processor and the best graphics you can get your hands on we recommend sizing up the iMac Pro before making your decision. That said, there is another Mac in the works that should top the iMac Pro. We'll move on to that one next.
The Mac Pro finally arrived in December 2019. This was the first update to the Mac Pro since 2013 and it replaced the model that Apple had admitted was a bit of a disaster. It didn't use those words exactly, but did concede that the current design meant the company couldn't upgrade the machine with new components.
We are hopeful that Apple has learned from its mistakes and that the new Mac Pro will meet the needs of those who require the sort of power that it offers.
There are multiple configurations of the new Mac Pro available, with up to 28-cores, up to 1.5TB RAM, up to 4TB SSD, and a configuration that features two dual graphics cards for four GPUs in total. And since it is a modular machine it should meet the demands of creative pros desperate for an upgradable machine that can stand the test of time. Sounds impressive but there is a high price for all that power: It starts at £4,499/$5,999 and a top spec Mac Pro costs a whopping £47,079/$52,199! Read about the 2019 Mac Pro in our review here.
It's the ultimate Mac - is it the best pro Mac? If money is no object then yes. But if you don't need the ultimate then it might be overkill especially when you consider that you need to buy a display too (and Apple's Pro Display XDR costs from £4,599/$4,999.)
It's starting price is not far off the iMac Pro though, and if you already own a display it may well be worth your consideration.
So in conclusion, which pro Mac should you buy?
Obviously it depends on your needs. If you need a portable, the MacBook Pro is your only option. We'd recommend that you spec it up beyond what you think you need now because that will future-proof it for a few more years.
The standard 27in iMac is a good option, especially thanks to its 5K display. There are plenty of build-to-order options that should allow you to build a really powerful Mac - without having to spend a fortune on the iMac Pro.
If you need your iMac to have workstation power and a graphics card to match, then the iMac Pro will answer your needs. But it's a high price if you really want to spec it to the max.
If you need a Mac that will be upgradable in the future as well as having the ultimate specs now then the Mac Pro should offer just that.