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M Carter

Thinking... iMac vs. new Mac Pro

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Yes, it's upgrade time and I've been reading dozens of tests and reviews. (And I know this has been discussed, but many older threads).

I'm leaning towards the iMac. Top of the line - with the 4GB graphics upgrade - is $500 less than the base-level pro and has a very good monitor (I'll still grade with an external and color bars, etc). Everything I've read suggests it will be plenty fast for the stuff I do most - basic cutting (either FCPX where it really flies or Premiere, still tossing that around). After Effects and ProTools. I'm still on a Mac pro tower, so I have a significant investment ahead of me in RAID enclosures, thunderbolt stuff, etc., and my ProTools interface is no longer supported, so there's that. Wouldn't mind saving some cash, and I can always move to the Pro when I recover from what will be a "moving to a new state" level of upgrade I imagine.

I plan on keeping the current tower for any FCP7 jobs that come back to life. Either work them or export EDLs to the newer system.

I do want to play with round-tripping with Resolve as much of my color workflow is AE right now. Resolve seems like the place I'd see more benefits from the Mac pro. But basically, the old Mac Pro is choking on 4K, AE render times are long, no real-time in AE even at low resolutions. FCPX struggles on the old machine as well. I'd like to get a couple years from a new system.

Here's the setup, not including external RAID for work and scratch files, etc.

27” 5k 3.3GHz quad core
24 GB RAM to start
256GB internal SSD
AMD Radeon R9 M395X with 4GB video memory

That's $2400 or so. As mentioned, work and scratch and renders will all be external, Tbolt2.

Anyone have real-world experience with the iMac vs the Pro?

And thanks in advance, but I don't want a windows machine and I don't want to build a Hackintosh. Absolutely 100% not interested at this point, I need as little down time and re-learning as possible. (I just put in 3 weeks of 16 to 19 hour days, literally... perfect storm of gigs... need scotch now...)

Appreciate your thoughts and experiences.

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Its a question of how much you are earning vs how much more work/how much better work you can do with the more powerful machine. The Mac Pro will be more powerful, without a doubt. If you are doing 19hr days and an extra $2k can turn that into a 12hr day, or you can fit more work in, I would argue its worth it. I would probably not buy one if thats what my lively hood depended on, and I didn't. 

tldr. time=money. How much is your time worth?

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Any thought of buying something like a Apple cinema display? Or other brand and working off a macbook?

Gives you portability, and when you are home, hook the 40 inch TV to your computer and dual screen it. 

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I have a Macbook Pro for editing on the road (maximum 2013 model), we added a 6-core Mac Pro a few months ago for the office along with a 4k display, and just added a maxed out 27-inch iMac last week. We haven't done a ton of editing on it yet, but the iMac is pretty good. Two things drew me to decide on the iMac for the most recent purchase: the hardware h.264 encoding acceleration built into the i7 processor and the native support for the 5k display.

After dealing with ASUS 4k Pro 4k displays in the office, and reading about others having issues with similar setups using other 4k displays, the 5k iMac was the best choice since it has a custom controller built in. I think we need to wait for one more generation before we can get external 4k displays working as well as they should when running externally on Macs. That's probably why there is no 4k Mac Cinema display yet. We did actually had a spare 4k ASUS display and decided to run it as a secondary display on the iMac (though, that too has been a pain in the ass.)

The lack of Thunderbolt ports on the iMac isn't an issue because we edit over a 10Gb network to a shared RAID. 

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Mac Pro is a better computer IMO, having run both.

You get dual video cards (and pretty great ones), a better processor, more RAM out of the box, with more slots so you can max out higher, you get 6 THunderbolt 2 ports versus two, in addition to the 4 USB 3 that they share. Plus you get HDMI, so you don't necessarily have to use up a Thunderbolt port on a display or display adapter. You get a PCIe SSD, which flies - though its capacity is smaller than an iMac. Dual Gb Ethernet..

Plus, if your internal HDD ever fails, it's heaps easier to get into a Mac Pro than it is an iMac. Even a new one.

The downside is the cost of displays, though if you're already running a Mac Pro, one would assume you already have those?

The iMac is a very capable computer, but if the question is what's better, the Mac Pro is a better computer, even if you're comparing top of the line iMac to the base MP. If you're comparing a completely maxed out iMac (i.e. top specs in everything), the gap narrows, but the Mac Pro still has some leverage over that iMac.

Have you looked into upgrading your cMP tower? There's so much you can do, especially if you have $2400+ to throw at it (not to mention all the Thunderbolt extensions I imagine you'll need to invest in), that would get it running as good as a 5k iMac or new Mac Pro. Depends how old your cMP is, but you can put a Radeon R9 4GB in it, you can put PCIe SSDs in there, you can put SATA SSDs (you can even run SATA III with the right adapters). You can max out your RAM to more than 24GB (which is what you're looking at for your iMac) and you can even have your processor(s) upgraded. All of those things would likely come in at <$2400. You could have work/scratch drives internally RAIDed. Or externally if you like, via eSata or USB3.

The only downside of an older Mac Pro is the lack of Thunderbolt, but I don't think it's as much of a downside as it seems, considering USB 3.1 superfast, eSata, etc. and you're saving money overall, whilst getting similar performance (at least to that iMac).

YMMV

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I've been using a Mac Pro for about a year and a half and my company just supplied me with the newest top of the line 5k iMac. The Mac Pro blows it away. To me, it isn't even close. Would I have been happy with the iMac if I hadn't been using the Mac Pro? Perhaps.

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15 hours ago, M Carter said:

...I'm leaning towards the iMac. Top of the line - with the 4GB graphics upgrade - is $500 less than the base-level pro and has a very good monitor.....basically, the old Mac Pro is choking on 4K, AE render times are long, no real-time in AE even at low resolutions. FCPX struggles on the old machine as well....27” 5k 3.3GHz quad core....Anyone have real-world experience with the iMac vs the Pro?

For the iMac I would definitely suggest the 4Ghz model. Many video editing tasks are CPU-limited. Re a top-spec iMac 27 vs a low-end Mac Pro, in general the iMac will be faster. For some tasks such as H264 export the iMac is much faster since the Mac Pro's Xeon CPUs do not support Quick Sync. For other effects-related tasks IF you got a D700 Mac Pro it would have an advantage. The Mac Pro will be acoustically quieter under a sustained heavy CPU load.

Evaluation comparing video editing on 2014 iMac 27 vs six-core Mac Pro D500: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJt3av99e8k

Re AE, this has performance issues. Adobe has demonstrated a version on OS X using Apple's Metal API which was vastly faster. When this will ship is unknown but it promises to be a big improvement. In some cases it was 8x faster, but how pervasive these improvements will be when it ships, nobody knows. It may require that Adobe write to the Metal API on an effect-by-effect basis, similar to when Mercury GPU acceleration was introduced.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zp1aPgLx4RQ

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I've (this week) ordered an iMac with the i7 4Ghz and the M395X GPU. Ram and HDD I left standard, as aftermarket ram is substantially cheaper (and is a user 'allowed' update) and as I'm using a RAID already didn't feel the need to mess with the HDD (as its a fusion SSD combo)

My decision was based on the fact I'm almost 90% in FCPX - and the performance of the iMac is so on par with the a 6 Core MacPro with dual D500 GPUs. Which is crazy for the price difference and the included 5K screen....

 

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Thanks guys - yeah, I've seen a zillion tests and benchmarks, many of them suggest there's a lot of areas you'd need to really spend on the pro to beat the iMac, others where the mac pro blows it away.

Not interested in a laptop though. Either way I'll have the same outlay in enclosures and hubs and so on.

I've found some good pricing on Apple Refurb Pros, which have been great purchases for me in the past and you can do three year applecare on them (I've also had 100% success buying applecare from Ebay for about half the list price). I don't see myself delivering 4K anytime soon, so I don't need to leap into a 4 or 5k monitor if I go with a Pro.

I've upgraded my Pro tower with a beefy video card and SSDs and RAID and FCPX runs well on it. But for the hours I put in, it worries me - I get an occasional red light from the RAM riser, and there's plenty that can eventually die - PS, boards, fans, etc. 6 years is a long time for a system. My Pro has been running for over 50,000 hours now. (Impressed as hell though, but I ran a G5 for years and the logic board eventually crapped out. And it's always during a deadline push).

Decisions, decisions… I'm being cautious dollars-wise, as there's always so much to upgrade - I do video, audio, and stills, and I've been sinking some $$ into a fine-arts darkroom project as well. Strobes, tungsten, HMI, lenses, packs, heads, mics, plugins… no freaking end to it. 

At least I don't play golf or collect firearms...

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The iMac is really capable. I find my 2013 rMBP a lot faster than the old Mac Pro towers (just less RAM) and the top of the line iMac is a lot faster than that and pretty close to the trash can. The 5k screen is nice if you shoot 4k; I don't. But I'd get a color correction monitor, too, as it has gamma weirdness that needs to be accounted for if you're going to broadcast. For web use it's fine, just watch your preview LUT settings in Resolve. For my needs (After Effects, Final Cut, Photoshop occasional basic 3D) I don't find the difference in price worth the slight difference in performance. For really heavy 3D... well, I'd just use a PC.

Definitely a big fan of the iMacs from a price/performance standpoint. Even if I cut 20% off my slowest renders, I can do those overnight so it's not a big issue and I've never been slowed down in a really significant way. The iMac is a better user experience and value, I find the returns diminish quickly with the current Mac Pro, which needs an update, but is still faster for some tasks. That said, I'll often work on multiple machines at once.

Both will completely blow away your tower for speed, no comparison, night and day.

My next computer will probably be another rMBP, if they allow 32GB RAM then sure, but it seems Apple is taking a more consumer-oriented direction.

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Love my trash an Mac Pro, got the 6-core base model when B&H discounted them awhile back, then added 64gb ram, it plows through everything. I run one of the Korean Crossover 40" 4k panels, it's a thing of beauty, even if you're only doing 1080p, plenty of room for a massive timeline, preview window, effects controls and more. The detail when editing photos is unreal, I'm never going back to a lower rez monitor. 

I had a retina iMac on order and wound up returning before opening in favor of the Pro, fully loaded it was only a few hundred dollars less than my current setup (before the ram bump), but what swayed me was a few things - the Pro is dead silent and the iMac is really noisy in comparison, and the iMac gets really hot when it's working hard while the Pro stays nice and cool, the dual GPU's, and the fact I can add a larger SSD without voiding the warranty since you have to pull the screen to access the motherboard on the iMac. 

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11 minutes ago, The Chris said:

Love my trash an Mac Pro, got the 6-core base model when B&H discounted them awhile back, then added 64gb ram, it plows through everything. I run one of the Korean Crossover 40" 4k panels, it's a thing of beauty, even if you're only doing 1080p, plenty of room for a massive timeline, preview window, effects controls and more. The detail when editing photos is unreal, I'm never going back to a lower rez monitor. 

I had a retina iMac on order and wound up returning before opening in favor of the Pro, fully loaded it was only a few hundred dollars less than my current setup (before the ram bump), but what swayed me was a few things - the Pro is dead silent and the iMac is really noisy in comparison, and the iMac gets really hot when it's working hard while the Pro stays nice and cool, the dual GPU's, and the fact I can add a larger SSD without voiding the warranty since you have to pull the screen to access the motherboard on the iMac. 

This is why I recommended the 40inch or larger 4K screen + macbook pro (earlier).

Upgrading the iMac is hard, its not as hard as it is on a mac pro, but it eventually you will run out of options. Although, right now 64Gb, and 6 to 12 cores, and SSDs sounds more than adequate for the next 15 years or so.... but eventually.... you will have to upgrade from that.

Its just easier to get rid of a macbook pro over an iMac or a mac pro... but you will always use that 40 incher.

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