Mac Pro vs iMac Pro
Apple's Pro line-up has been extended. Now, in addition to the Mac Pro, MacBook Pro and iPad Pro, Apple has introduced a new iMac Pro, which is now on sale. But what's the difference between the iMac Pro and the Mac Pro, and which Apple Pro desktop computer is best for you? We compare the two to help you decide.
This comparison is based on the current Mac Pro, which was first released in 2013, and the iMac Pro. However, Apple has confirmed that there will be a new Mac Pro in the near(ish) future. Aside from the fact that it is in the works, we don't know any more detail about the new Mac Pro yet, but we expect it will be a beast. You can find out more in our Mac Pro 2018 latest rumours round-up and our Mac Pro 2018 preview.
Let's first take a look at the price of the two Macs we're considering here, because that could well rule one of them out. A Mac of this calibre is no small investment.
The cheapest Mac Pro is priced at £2,999/$2,999 and the higher-spec model costs £3,899/$3,999. You can click here to visit Apple's Store where you can buy the Mac Pro. It's also available from the likes of Currys and KRCS, as well as the retailers listed in our article: Where to buy a Mac.
However, the iMac Pro is even more expensive. It starts at £4,899/$4,999, and if you boost every spec to the max and add in all the extras (including bundled copies of Final Cut Pro X and Logic Pro X) you're looking at an eye-watering £13,006.98/$13,926.98. Take a look at the iMac Pro on the Apple Store.
Design and build
The iMac Pro (above) and Mac Pro (below) look very different. The Mac Pro has been mocked for looking like a bin or "trashcan", while the iMac Pro has been described as stunning and sleek.
The new iMac Pro is an all-in-one machine, which means that it's essentially a monitor with all of the tech tucked neatly behind it in one surprisingly svelte chassis. It's the first iMac to come in Space Grey, and even the keyboard and mouse have been given the Space Grey treatment. We think it's gorgeous.
The Mac Pro, on the other hand, is a bit of an acquired taste. It has a cylindrical design made from a shiny black that's very reflective, but it is incredibly small considering the amount of power within it.
You'll need to buy your own mouse, keyboard and monitor, which adds to the cost but obviously means you've got more choice over design, features etc.
Features and specs
While the design is important, it's what inside that counts most with these professional Mac options.
The iMac Pro sports one obvious thing that that the Mac Pro doesn't: a display. It is 27in and described by Apple as Retina 5K. What that means is that the display boasts 5120 x 2880 pixels, and supports a billion colours with a wide gamut. It offers 500 nits of brightness, too. We found it rich, vivid and sharp.
The Mac Pro doesn't have a display at all, but it does support the connection of up to three 5K displays or six Thunderbolt displays.
But beyond that, both machines feature huge amounts of power. When it comes to processors, you can choose between 8-, 10-, 14- and 18-core models for the iMac Pro, or 6-core and 8-core with the Mac Pro. (For more information, here's how to choose the best Mac processor.)
This makes the iMac Pro the most powerful Mac Apple has ever made, and it's particularly impressive when you consider that it is an all-in-one machine. It smashed every benchmarking speed and graphics test we put it through, with a multicore score of almost 37,000 in Geekbench 4 a particular highlight. (For comparison, the powerful and up-to-date 2017 iMac with an i7 processor scored 'only' 17,567 in the same test.)
There is a default 32GB of RAM in the iMac Pro, which is configurable up to 64GB or even 128GB, and a 1TB SSD that's configurable to 2TB or 4TB.
The Mac Pro is some distance behind on each of these specs. You get 16GB of RAM by default, with the option to pay for up to 64GB; And the maximum storage option is a 1TB SSD - the default is just 256GB unless you upgrade.
As for graphics, the iMac Pro has a Radeon Pro Vega 56 graphics processor with 8GB of memory, and even that is configurable to the Vega 64 with 16GB of memory. The Mac Pro's graphics is AMD, either FirePro D500 (3GB) or D700 (6GB) depending on the model you choose.
A quick rundown of the ports now, as they are key to the usefulness of your current peripherals or the peripherals you're considering buying.
iMac Pro ports
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- SDXC card slot
- 4 x USB 3
- 4 x Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C)
Mac Pro ports
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- 4x USB 3
- 6x Thunderbolt 2
- Dual Gigabit Ethernet
It's pretty clear that the iMac Pro is the more powerful of the two compared here, but this isn't altogether surprising when you consider that the Mac Pro was released more than four years ago.
It needs the upcoming update to really compete, so unless you're absolutely set on getting to pick your own monitor, keyboard and mouse, it's tricky to recommend the Mac Pro right now if you're basing your decision largely on power.
It's clear that the iMac Pro, with its high price (even for the standard configuration) is only for the most advanced power users around who will make use of the extreme specifications on offer. Even then, we're not sure many will be able to afford it.
That said, the Mac Pro is already four years old and isn't getting any younger so we recommend waiting for the 2018 model if you can hold on. It could offer similar specs in a more affordable package with much better upgradability, albeit without a screen.