Apple 14in MacBook Pro, M1 Pro (2021) vs 24in iMac vs 13in and 27in iMac vs 14in and 16in MacBook Pro full review

We're comparing all sizes of Apple's iMac and the MacBook Pro here, but there's more to it than a straightforward comparison of desktop versus laptop. For each Apple product there are variants that suit different customers. Some of you reading this may be hoping for advice about whether to choose a new 24in iMac or a 13in MacBook Pro, while others may be looking for a little bit more power and may be wondering how the 14in or 16in MacBook Pro compares to the 27in iMac. (Click those links to jump to the relevant section)

The fact that Apple uses the same name for some very different Macs does rather complicate a question like 'Should I get a iMac or MacBook Pro'. It's at times like this that we wish the 13in MacBook Pro was known as the MacBook and the 27in iMac as the iMac Pro, because then it would be more obvious that this is a question of comparing the consumer focused with the consumer focused, and the pro focused with the pro focused. But that's not the case, so we can't.

But we will attempt to answer all the possible questions below anyway.

Historically it's been the case that a Mac laptop, even if it had comparable specs to a desktop, cost a little more because you are paying extra for the compact form factor of a laptop. However, that's not necessarily true right now. In the case of the 13in MacBook Pro versus the 24in iMac, the iMac appears to have a higher price for similar specs. While in the case of the 14in and 16in MacBook Pro versus the 27in iMac, the prices look higher over-all, but you get a lot more for your money if you choose the laptop. Read on to find out what you are really getting for your money.

For the latest money off deals on any of these Macs read: Best iMac deals and Best MacBook Pro deals.

Read our reviews of the products mentioned here:

13in MacBook Pro vs 24in iMac

We'll start with the consumer-oriented MacBook Pro and iMac. If you are looking for a powerful Mac that doesn't cost a fortune then the 13in MacBook Pro and the 24in iMac are a good place to start. (If that's not what you are after then jump to the next section).

All the Macs we are discussing in this section feature the same Apple processor - the M1.

The 24in iMac was introduced in April 2021. It features a completely new design in seven colours and Apple's M1 Chip. There are three 24in iMacs to choose from with various specs as standard (and many more build to order options). Read our 24in iMac review.

iMac colours

There are two 13in MacBook Pro to choose from and they were introduced in November 2020. Read our M1 MacBook Pro (review).

Both the 24in iMac and 13in MacBook Pro have decent specs, for the most part, and both have reasonably priced entry-level models that may mean you don't have to exceed your budget. We'll run through price and specs in more detail below.

MacBook Pro M!

What do you get for your money?

If you want to spend less than £1,299/$1,299 you have the following choices:

  • 24in iMac, M1, 8-core CPU/7-core GPU, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, Retina 4.5K display, for £1,249/$1,299
  • 13in MacBook Pro, M1, 8-core CPU/8-core GPU, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD for £1,299/$1,299 

Here in the UK buyers can save £50 by buying the iMac (in the US and elsewhere the price for both machines is the same). If you pick the iMac you'll have one fewer graphics core. 

If you have £1,499/$1,499 to spend you you have the following choices:

  • 24in iMac, M1, 8-core CPU/8-core GPU, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, Retina 4.5K display, for £1,449/$1,499
  • 13in MacBook Pro, M1, 8-core CPU/8-core GPU, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD for £1,499/$1,499 

Here's the processor is the same, but you get twice as much storage with the MacBook Pro - which costs £50 more than the iMac in the UK, or the same in the US.

If you have a bit more to spend there is a final option on the iMac to buy a model for £1,649. In contrast you could get a build to order M1 MacBook Pro with 1TB storage for roughly the same price.

If you want as much storage as you can get for your money then the MacBook Pro offers the best option.

  • 24in iMac, M1, 8-core CPU/8-core GPU, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD, Retina 4.5K display, for £1,649/$1,699
  • 13in MacBook Pro, M1, 8-core CPU/8-core GPU, 8GB RAM, 1TB SSD for £1,699/$1,699 

24in iMac

14in & 16in MacBook Pro vs 27in iMac

If you require a more powerful Mac, and have the budget, then the more expensive, 27in iMac and the 14in MacBook Pro or 16in MacBook Pro may appeal (you might be thinking that the 16in MacBook Pro is better than the 14in model, but actually both can be configured with the same processor options so actually the only real difference between the two is battery life and the screen size).

The 27in iMac was updated in August 2020 but it still has an Intel processor inside. The 14in and 16in MacBook Pro were introduced in October 2021 and have the option of Apple's M1 Pro or M1 Max processors. Apple's processors are proving themselves to be much better than the Intel options in the iMac - in fact they are beating the Intel Xeon and AMD graphics in the Mac Pro.

One thing you should know before you read on is that the iMac models are likely to be updated before the end of 2022 and when they are they will be equipped with either the M1 Pro or M1 Max, or maybe an even more powerful variant of that chip. Read about the M1 Pro and M1 Max.

27in iMac

What you get for your money

Here we have options starting at £1,799/$1,799 for the iMac, £1,899/$1,999 for the 14in MacBook Pro and £2,399/$2,499 for the 16in MacBook Pro.

The first thing that you will probably notice is that the entry-level 14in MacBook Pro at £1,899,$1,999 has a similar price to the entry-level 27in iMac, which starts at £1,799/$1,799. The price gap used to be even more before Apple introduced the 14in MacBook Pro, so at least it means you can now get a powerful laptop for a similar price to the iMac, rather than paying £2,399/$2,499 for the 16in MacBook Pro.

Now that Apple has made the 14in MacBook Pro configurable to be just as powerful an option as the 16in model it has closed the gap between the pro iMac and pro MacBook Pro.

But how comparable are these different Macs? Do you need to buy a more expensive 14in or 16in MacBook Pro to get the power offered by the iMac? Right now the answer is a definite no: the 27in iMac still uses an Intel processor and AMD graphics that have been proven to not be as good as the M1 Pro and M1 Max. But that may well change when Apple updates the larger iMac with its own processor and graphics option. For more information read What Mac processor do I need?

Here we will outline how the specs and price of the 14in and 16in MacBook Pro and the 27in iMac compare to clarify how much you get for your money.

If you want to spend less than £2,000/$2,000 these are your options:

  • 14in MacBook Pro, M1 Pro, 8-core CPU/14-core GPU, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD for £1,899/$1,999 
  • 3.1GHz six-core 10th-gen Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, Retina 5K display, Radeon Pro 5300 for £1,799/$1,799
  • 3.3GHz six-core 10th-gen Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD, Retina 5K display, Radeon Pro 5300 for £1,999/$1,999 

Apple doesn't quote GHz or anything that would make it easy to compare on paper its processor with the Intel option, but suffice to say our benchmarks have proven that the M1 Pro is a better option to the 3.1GHz and 3.3GHz Intel options and the Apple GPU options also beat the Radeon Pro 5300. So we would conclude that £2,000/$2,000 spend on the MacBook Pro will give you more for your money - aside from larger display on the iMac (although if you read our section on the screen below you will see that size isn't everything).

If you can spend more than £2,000/$2,000 these are your options:

  • 14in MacBook Pro, M1 Pro, 10-core CPU/16-core GPU, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD for £2,399/$2,499
  • 16in MacBook Pro, M1 Pro, 10-core CPU/16-core GPU, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD for £2,399/$2,499 
  • 16in MacBook Pro, M1 Pro, 10-core CPU/16-core GPU, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD for £2,599/$2,699
  • 2.6GHz six-core 9th-gen Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, Radeon Pro 5300M for £2,399/$2,399

The prices here are very comparable. There are a lot of options that cost  around £2,399/$2,499. In each case you get 16GB RAM and either 512GB SSD or, with the 14in MacBook Pro, a 1TB SSD. Even if the 27in iMac wasn't held back by its Intel processor it still wouldn't beat the 14in MacBook Pro with its 1TB SSD.

As you can see with the MacBook Pro you essentially save £200/$200 by choosing the smaller screen. On paper you'll be getting the same Mac, but the 16in MacBook Pro offers more than a larger screen, it also offers better battery life: 21 hours over 17 hours. Read more about the differences between the 14in and 16in MacBook Pro.

MacBook Pro 2021

And if you want the best processor - the M1 Max - here's what you would have to spend:

  • Build to order: 14in MacBook Pro, M1 Max, 10-core CPU/24-core GPU, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD £2,999/$3,099
  • Build to order: 14in MacBook Pro, M1 Max, 10-core CPU/24-core GPU, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD £3,199/$3,299
  • Build to order: 16in MacBook Pro, M1 Max, 10-core CPU/32-core GPU, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD for £3,299/$3,499
  • 16in MacBook Pro, M1 Max, 10-core CPU/32-core GPU, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD for £3,299/$3,499

There really is no escaping the fact that the iMac and MacBook Pro with M1 Pro or M1 Mac do not compare very favourably right now. However, that may change when Apple updates the 27in iMac. Read about what we expect Apple to do with the pro version of the iMac.

Verdict

Right now we would recommend the M1 MacBook Pro over the 24in iMac just because of the comparatively high prices for the 24in iMac. 

Coming in at a similar price, the 14in MacBook Pro is a much better option than the 27in iMac, with its M1 Pro.

If you have more to spend then the decision is really between the 14in and 16in MacBook Pro. The 14in offers you more for your money in terms of SSD size, but with the 16in you get the bigger screen and longer battery life. You can always plug in to a big screen when you are at your desk though, we so don't think that the screen size is a big reason in favour of the 16in, unless you are rarely at your desk.

For those readers who need a new Mac right now the choice is clear: the MAcBook Pro is a better option than the iMac. However, when the new larger iMac launches - probably in the summer of 2022 - this may well change. If you can wait until then, and a desktop is right for you, then we'd recommend waiting because the new iMac may well prove to be more powerful than the 2021 MacBook Pro models.

over the 27in iMac and 16in MacBook Pro. However, this is more because there is likely to be a new larger iMac and a new 16in MacBook Pro in the pipeline at Apple and based on just how good the M1 Macs are the successor to these high-power Macs is likely to be groundbreaking. If you need that kind of power we recommend you wait for the new models to launch.

If it's a laptop you want then a MacBook Air might do the job just as well for even less money, in which case, read our comparison of the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.

Best prices right now:

24in iMac 8-core CPU, 7-core GPU, 256GB SSD - RRP from £1,249 / $1,299/ AU$1,899

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24in iMac 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, 256GB SSD - RRP from £1,449 / $1,499/ AU$2,199

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24in iMac 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, 512GB SSD - RRP from £1,649 / $1,699/ AU$2,499

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27in iMac 3.1GHz 6-core, 10th-gen, 2020 - RRP from £1,799 / $1,799/ AU$2,799

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27in iMac 3.3GHz 6-core, 10th-gen, 2020 - RRP from £1,999 / $1,999/ AU$3,099

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27in iMac 3.8GHz 8-core 10th-gen, 2020 - RRP from £2,299 / $2,299/ AU$3,549

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2021 14in MacBook Pro M1 Pro 8-Core CPU/14-Core GPU (RRP: £1,899/$1,999)

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2021 14in MacBook Pro M1 Pro 10-Core CPU/16-Core GPU (RRP: £2,399/$2,499)

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2021 16in MacBook Pro M1 Pro 10-Core CPU/16-Core GPU (RRP: £2,399/$2,499)

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2021 16in MacBook Pro M1 Pro 10-Core CPU/16-Core GPU, 1TB SSD (RRP: £2,599/$2,699)

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2021 16in MacBook Pro M1 Pro 10-Core CPU/32-Core GPU, 1TB SSD (RRP: £3,299/$3,499)

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