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 started selling the all-new Mac Pro 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.

You can find out more about the 2019 Mac Pro in our latest rumours round-up and our Mac Pro 2019 first-look review.

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.

Here's how the two base models compare:

iMac Pro: 3.2GHz, 8-core Intel Xeon W (TB 4.2GHz), 32GB DDR4 RAM, 1TB SSD, 5K display. From £4,899/$4,999. Buy an iMac Pro here

Mac Pro: 3.5GHz, 8-core Intel Xeon W (TB 4.0GHz), 32GB DDR4 RAM, 256GB SSD. From £5,499/$5,999. Buy a Mac Pro here.

The cheapest Mac Pro starts at £5,499/$5,999. That's if you go for the base model with 3.5GHz 8-core Xeon W, 32GB RAM, Radeon Pro 580X, and 256GB SSD. 

If you were to go for the ultimate Mac Pro with 2.5GHz 28-core Xeon W, 1.5TB RAM, two Radeon Pro Vega II Duo graphics, and 8TB SSD it could cost you £47,079/$52,199.

Those prices make the iMac Pro look cheap by comparison. It starts at £4,899/$4,999, for the 3.2GHz 8-core Intel Xeon W, 32GB RAM, Radeon Pro Vega 56 and 1TB SSD. 

So essentially the base iMac Pro costs £600/$1,000 less, offers slightly less power than the Mac Pro, but you do get more storage and the 5K display...

There are also options to boost the spec of the iMac Pro. You're looking at £13,269/$14,299 for the 2.3GHz 18-core Intel Xeon W, 256GB RAM, Radeon Pro Vega 64 X and 4TB SSD.

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 £2,049/$2,499 for a quad-core, with 12-cores costing £3,099/3,799. Prior to the arrival of the 2019 Mac Pro the base 2013 Mac Pro was sold by Apple for £2,999/$2,999. 

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.

Design and build

Mac Pro vs iMac Pro: Design

The iMac Pro (above) and Mac Pro (below) look very different.

The iMac Pro is popular thanks to its Space Gray colour theme that separates it from the standard iMac (you can't get any other iMac in Space Gray). In all other ways it looks like the iMac - it's an all-in-one machine, which means that it's essentially a monitor with all its tech tucked neatly behind it in one surprisingly svelte chassis. If you like the looks of the iMac you'll love the iMac Pro - if like us you are thinking the iMac needs a bit of a redesign you might think that there is room for improvement such as better ergonomics, a bigger screen, and a 'chin' reduction.

Mac Pro

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, which we think looks similar. The new old-style design is intended to make the Mac Pro easy to upgrade: a stainless steel frame houses its range of components over the top of which slides an aluminium case.

Luckily the new Mac Pro looks nothing like the 2013 Mac Pro. The 2013 model had a cylindrical design made from a shiny black. It looked stylish but it was impossible to update - hence it being untouched by Apple for six long years who said they had designed themselves into a thermal corner. Not great!

If you buy the Mac Pro you'll also 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. Speaking of monitors, there's a display made just for the Mac Pro that costs a staggering £4,599/$4,999 - excluding the stand, that costs another £949/$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.

Display

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 5,120 x 2,880 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 6,016 x 3,384 resolution (20.4 million pixels) at 218ppi.

Processor

At the base level you'd be forgiven for thinking that there wasn't a big difference between the two machines. Both have an 8-core Intel Xeon W (although the Mac Pro processor is a newer generation).

The iMac Pro has a 3.2GHz, 8-core Intel Xeon W - but interestingly that boasts a Turbo Boost of 4.2GHz.

The Mac Pro on the other hand has a 3.5GHz, 8-core Intel Xeon W - but that boasts a Turbo Boost of just 4.0GHz. Go figure!

Regardless, 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 the iMac Pro even at two years old is still an incredibly powerful Mac 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. We're now using Geekbench 5 so it's hard to compare the 16in 2.4GHz MacBook Pro score of 7,383 (but it was very similar to that of the 15in 2.4GHz model).

RAM and Storage

There is a default 32GB of 2666MHz DDR4 ECC RAM in the iMac Pro, which is configurable up to 64GB, 128GB and 256GB, and a 1TB SSD that's configurable to 2TB or 4TB.

The Mac Pro offers up to 1.5TB RAM (in various configurations of 2666MHZ or 2933MHz) and an 8TB SSD.

Graphics

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 are astounding, with a variety of options including the Radeon Pro 580X at the entry-level, and two AMD Radeon Pro Vega II Duos (that's four graphics cards in one!) There are more options coming soon: a Radeon Pro W5700X with 16GB of GDDR6 memory or two Radeon Pro W5700X with 16GB of GDDR6 memory.

Expansion and Ports

Still want more? Apple's offering various Mac Pro Expansion Modules (which should be able to buy from Apple such as the Radeon Pro 580X MPX Module) and the Afterburner card (£1,800/$2,000). These exstra modules 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 is the “most configurable and most expandable Mac ever made.” 

  • It has up to 12 Thunderbolt 3 ports, with two conveniently located on the top for quick and easy access.
  • There are eight PCI Express expansion slots.
  • Two USB-A ports
  • A 3.5mm audio jack.

And much more thanks to its modular nature.

Verdict

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

What is surprising is the fact that the base models aren't all that different:

iMac Pro: 3.2GHz, 8-core Intel Xeon W (TB 4.2GHz), 32GB DDR4 RAM, 1TB SSD, 5K display. From £4,899/$4,999.

Mac Pro: 3.5GHz, 8-core Intel Xeon W (TB 4.0GHz), 32GB DDR4 RAM, 256GB SSD. From £5,499/$5,999.

We'd be inclined to suggest that with the Mac Pro costs £600/$1000 more, despite lacking a screen and featuring less storage space, and apparently offering processors that aren't any better than those in the iMac Pro, the iMac Pro would be a better choice.

Except that the iMac Pro is now two years old, which makes it hard for us to recommend. We'd like to see the iMac Pro gain an update before we can really recommend it, but when that happens it will be even harder to recommend the base model of the Mac Pro.

If you need the ultimate power and expandability offered by the Mac Pro, and don't need a display, then the Mac Pro is a great choice.

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