iMac Pro vs Mac Pro (2019) full review

The iMac Pro, has been on sale since the end of 2017, and while the Mac Pro has languished, having not been updated since 2013, the iMac Pro has held the crown as the best Mac for creative pros. But now that Apple's revealed what we can expect from the all-new Mac Pro, arriving in the autumn of 2019, will the iMac Pro be surplus to requirement?

Find out which Apple pro desktop computer is best for you in our guide to the differences between the iMac Pro and Mac Pro.

This comparison is based on what we know about the 2019 Mac Pro, which will arrive in the autumn of 2019, and the 2017 iMac Pro. You can find out more about the 2019 Mac Pro in our latest rumours round-up and our Mac Pro 2019 preview.

Want to read more about the iMac Pro? We have an iMac Pro review and our comparison of the iMac vs the iMac Pro. You can also read our comparison of all the 'pro' Macs here.

Pricing

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 will start at $5,999, likely to translate to £5,899, and the higher-spec model could cost in the region of $39,999.

Those prices make the iMac Pro look cheap by comparison. 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 £13,006.98/$13,926.98. Take a look at the iMac Pro on the Apple Store.

These seem exceedingly high prices, especially when compared to the price Apple used to sell the Mac Pro for prior to the 2013 update. Back in 2012 Mac Pro prices started at $2,499/£2,049 for a quad-core, with 12-cores costing $3,799/£3,099.

But the market for these machines has changed and is now very specific to a particular industry. These machines aren't designed for the Mac fan who just wants a powerful machine for playing games on. Or even for a designer looking for a new machine for their studio. The iMac is more than enough power for these people - or at least that's what Apple seems to think.

Incidently, the 2013 Mac Pro is still on sale currently. You can click here to visit Apple's Store where you can purchase the 2013 Mac Pro for £2,999. 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.

Design and build

Mac Pro vs iMac Pro: Design

The iMac Pro (above) and Mac Pro (below) look very different. The 2019 Mac Pro has been given the nickname the Cheese Grater Mac, although that's also how many described the generation before the 2013 'trash can' Mac Pro.

The iMac Pro is popular thanks to its Space Gray colour theme.

The 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 is still the only iMac to come in Space Grey, and even the keyboard and mouse have been given the Space Grey treatment. We think it's gorgeous.

Mac Pro

The new Mac Pro, on the other hand, has a new design that looks a little like the 2012 design. It's an aluminium tower with holes on the front. It's a long way from the 2013 model's cylindrical design made from a shiny black that's very reflective, but small - to small it turned out to be updated.

You'll need to buy your own mouse, keyboard and monitor for the Mac Pro, which adds to the cost but obviously means you've got more choice over design, features etc. Speaking of monitors, there's a display made just for the Mac Pro that costs a staggering $4,999 - excluding the stand, that costs another $1,000. Read about the Pro Display XDR here.

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.

Mac Pro vs iMac Pro: Display

The Mac Pro doesn't have a display at all, but that Pro Display XDR is a 32in, 6K monitor with up to 1,600 nits of brightness. That's 6016 x 3384 resolution (20.4 million pixels) at 218ppi.

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 8-, 12-, 16-, 24, and 28-core options for the Mac Pro.

This makes the Mac Pro the most powerful Mac Apple has ever made. But since it's still not on sale, the iMac Pro is the most powerful Mac right now, having 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. (Although other Macs are now starting to catch it up, the 2.4GHz 8-core MacBook Pro scored 31,066 in our June 2019 tests).

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, when it launches, will offer up to 1.5TB RAM (!), and a 4TB SSD.

As for graphics, the iMac Pro has a Radeon Pro Vega 56 graphics processor with 8GB of memory, and that is configurable to the Vega 64 with 16GB of memory. The Mac Pro's graphics capabilities will be astounding, we are sure, with a variety of options including the Radeon Pro 580X at the entry-level and the AMD Radeon Pro Vega II.

That Radeon Pro Vega II features up to 14 teraflops of compute performance and 32GB of memory with 1TB/s of memory bandwidth, which is the highest of any GPU, according to Apple.

And you can have twice as much graphics power in the form of the AMD Radeon Pro Vega II Duo - that's two of those already fastest GPUs you can buy.

Still want more? Apple's offering the Mac Pro Expansion Module and the Afterburner. Two additional modules that will offer additional graphics card and PCIe lanes. The MPX can ship with TWO Radeon Pro Vega II Duo GPUs. Those four GPUs combine to add up to 56 teraflops and 128GB of high-bandwidth memory. Read more about the spec of the Mac Pro in our first look review.

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)
  • Ethernet

Mac Pro vs iMac Pro: Ports

Mac Pro ports

According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, the new Mac Pro will be the “most configurable and most expandable Mac ever made.” 

  • The new Mac Pro will have up to 12 Thunderbolt 3 ports, with two conveniently located on the top for quick and easy access.
  • There will also be eight PCI Express expansion slots.
  • And two USB-A ports, and a 3.5mm audio jack.

And much more thanks to its modular nature.

Verdict

It's pretty clear that the Mac Pro will be the more powerful of the two compared here, but this isn't altogether surprising when you consider that Apple intends the Mac Pro to be its most powerful Mac.

The iMac Pro may well be updated soon though, at which point the interesting comparison will be between that and the entry-level Mac Pro. For all the Mac Pro's power, the iMac Pro's similarly high price makes the Mac Pro look like a bargain by comparison.

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