4-Core Shoot Out: 2013 Mac Pro vs. 2013 iMac

“Thanks to the Other World Computing’s test lab, we have some preliminary benchmarks on the entry level ‘late 2013’ Mac Pro 3.7GHz Quad-Core,” rob-ART morgan reports for Bare Feats.

“When it comes to CPU crunching, the ‘late 2013’ iMac Core i7 4-core matches or beats the ‘late 2013’ Mac Pro 4-core — at leasts in the tests we used here,” morgan reports. “Since the newest iMac and Mac Pro both have PCIe flash STORAGE, they are close in speed with the exception of large sequential reads (playback) where the Mac Pro excels.”

“LuxMark is one of the few OpenCL benchmarks that uses multiple GPUs. So we used it in our last graph to highlight the advantage of the ‘late 2013’ Mac Pro’s slowest pair of GPUs (FirePro D300s),” morgan reports. “It obliterates the iMac’s single GPU, but a 2010 Mac Pro tower with a really strong AMD GPU like the 7970 (running only on internal factory PCIe power feeds) comes close. I predict that the dual D700s in the top 2013 Mac Pro models will reach or exceed 4000KSamples/sec.”

See all of the benchmark results in the full article here.

[Attribution: FairerPlatform]


  1. With the iMac you are buying the peak consumer desktop. With the 4 core MacPro you are buying the entry level MacPro. Stands to reason that there would be overlap in performance.

    With the MacPro however, you have the potential to upgrade RAM, Graphics, and *PROCESSOR* as needed making it have the potential to far exceed the capabilities of the iMac. Still a better purchase for “Pro” users.

    1. Fair assessment. Altho’ a purchase of either one is still a few months in the future, I’ve been thinking about the same issues. Usually I come down on the side of the iMac, because you are getting the 27″ IPS screen pretty cheap. But the point you make below about Thunderbolt 2 is worth considering.

    2. Exactly. If you are a serious pro user who MAKES A LIVING from Photoshop, Final Cut, ProTools, Logic, massive virtual instruments, etc., the MacPro is your choice.
      And yes, it will probably involve some pain, moving from Firewire and internal drives to Thunderbolt and external drives and hubs.

      1. The rest of your list is good except Photoshop, Meh… not so much, adobe entered into a “agreement” with nvidia to just support nvidia’s proprietary CUDA acceleration. Which means they crippled photoshop (or at least hobbled it) on the MacPro. It’s a shame, Adobe is making a lot of really dumb decisions in recent years.

        I would add to your list: Smoke, Nuke, Maya, Modo, Mari, Divinci Resolve (the list could go on)

    3. I agree and it’s kind of stupid, they aren’t the same.
      And I have made this point here before if you are using applications that push the processor and GPU to near 100% duty cycles (which it is fairly easy to do with todays software) the iMac will be on the edge (thermally) with the fans (audibly) spinning at 3K and the Mac pro will be comfortably (and quietly) ambling along, barely breaking a sweat.

      Lets face it the iMac is not a workstation, (nor is any consumer WindowsPC) Workstations cost more (typically, a lot more) than their ordinary PC cousins, but they also handle crushing loads with aplomb.

          1. We have a multiple Pegasus TB RAID storage here at our company for our Mac Pros. The abundance of TB slot is a boon for us video pros with certain demanding workflows.

  2. And when upgrading the processor of the MacPro, you have options that Apple doesn’t offer. An 8 Core that is 30% faster than the 8 Core Apple offers has been confirmed for the same $2000 Apple charges.

    Indeed, contrary to all the whining, the new MacPro is the most upgradable MacPro ever.

    1. By “most upgradeable”, you mean, “most cables attached”? Sorry, parroting Apple’s latest sales pitch doesn’t cover all cases. There are a lot of Internal PCI expansion and Fibre Cards that allowed for mind-blowing expansion on the last Mac Pro too.

      The prior model relied on internal SATA, PCI 2.0, Firewire, plus USB. The new Mac Pro’s expansion relies on USB and external PCI 3.0 (Thunderbolt). That’s NOT as comprehensive in adaptability.

      We shall see how well it turns out. After several years on laptops, I don’t see a plethora of Thunderbolt devices everywhere. Why? Because the overhead of Thunderbolt is a bag full of hurt. … and moreover, that darn market share thing is rearing its ugly head again. The average user who just wants to attach another hard drive isn’t going to want to pay the TB premium.

      1. Mike – you were making a perfectly sensible argument up until the last sentence: “the average user…”

        The person who is the “average user” isn’t buying a $3000+ computer. At that price point and above we are to the Top 1% of all computer purchases. Nothing average about that. The buyer is a professional, or VERY serious pro-sumer for whom the Thunderbolt “tax” is just a cost of doing business. And if you are average and crazy enough to buy this machine, just attach a USB3 drive – they are cheap and ubiquitous. Problem solved.

  3. While this is a good comparison, I’d still like to see someone compare the performances of the various Mac Pro models. Especially the single-core performance. Not everyone is buying a Mac Pro to crunch video. For many applications single-core performance (ignoring the GPUs, even) is very important. It would be nice to know, for example, if the extra cache on the higher-end units makes up for the slower clock speed on those units (and how much turbo boost helps when you’re not using all CPUs).

    Yes, for some applications having 12 cores just isn’t that important. I’m interested in a machine that will last as long as the quad G5 Power Mac I’ve nursed along all these years.

    Before anyone rudely suggests it, no, the iMac won’t work for me. I do want to get the highest performing Mac Pro that fits my workflow patterns (which generally involves single-threaded processes).

  4. So why does Intel slow down the cores so much on its 8+core machines? Is Apple’s air-cooling inadequate to dissipate the heat? If Apple’s “unified core” and latest Intel processors are the greatest thing ever, why have chip speeds not improved in several years?

    1. It’s a thermal density issue on Intel’s part, not Apple’s. With so many cores running so closely together if they were running at the same speed as fewer cores they’d generate more heat in too small a volume. Slowing the clocks down reduces that thermal density.

      It is likely an internal timing issue as well. Keeping 12 cores in lockstep over a larger area is more timing critical than keeping just four or six cores synched over a smaller area.

      We all like to think of digital clocking as pure highs and lows with nearly infinitely fast transitions. In reality this is no where near the case. As high frequency digital signals travel through the chips they start to look more and more like sine waves.. This and delays due to dielectric issues and the like cause items at distances to become out of sync. Add to these the issue of skew in parallel buses (some bits in the parallel bus showing up at slightly different times than other bits) and it becomes something that is not trivial to control. This all happens to a greater extent at higher frequencies. So backing off the frequencies reduces the issue somewhat.

      1. OMG – an informed and thoughtful post on MDN! What is the world coming to?

        Good bet we will see botvinnik come along and claim that he just knows that this isn’t true and that whatever he decides to believe is.

    2. Intel has always done this with xeons. There thermally controlled. With older xeons they reduce the voltage when the xeon gets too hot. You really can’t burn one up, because they will shut themselves down. The only thing that is affected on the new ivy bridge design is while in turbo mode depending on how fast you need the xeon will shut cores down the higher the clock. The 8 core is the sweet spot. It can run at 3.8Ghz with two cores active. The 4 and 6 can’t. they shut off all but one at 3.7Ghz. The 8 core has the same turbo frequency as the 4 and 6 core models too.

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