Apple’s Mac Pro vs. iMac Pro: Which Mac desktop is for you?

Brian Westover for Tom’s Guide:

When we reviewed the iMac Pro in 2018, we had no problem calling it “the most powerful Mac ever offered by Apple.” But that was then. Now that there’s a new Mac Pro, which high-end desktop is better for the money?

One of the big [differences] is that the iMac Pro, with its all-in-one design, has a built-in high-end display. The 27-inch Retina 5K display on the iMac Pro may not be quite as impressive as the Pro Display XDR that Apple is offering alongside the Mac Pro, but you won’t pay an extra $4,999 for the iMac Pro’s display.

Aside from the display, the Mac Pro is more upgradeable, regardless of the configuration you buy. The iMac Pro doesn’t even let you upgrade the RAM. (This can be done, but the practice is not officially endorsed by Apple.) The Mac Pro’s expandability offers huge long-term value to professionals, because they can update the hardware in the future, keeping pace with changes in technology and heavier workflows without jettisoning the entire system…

If you’re in the market for a crazy-powerful Mac and have the budget to spend more than $15,000, then go with the Mac Pro when it arrives this fall. It will offer power and expandability that the iMac Pro just can’t touch. But if you want to spend less than $15,000, weigh your options carefully. The Mac Pro offers room to grow, but the iMac Pro might just give your more bang for your buck.

MacDailyNews Take: Pretty much every Mac Pro buyer, except those considering the lowest Mac Pro model, knows they are a Mac Pro buyer. It’s a very high end machine for professional users. Similarly, most of those in the market for the iMac Pro, itself a very powerful machine, likely know the iMac Pro is for them. There is, however, a decision to be made between the machines for those choosing between the iMac Pro and the base Mac Pro.

17 Comments

  1. Would be nice if Apple had a more upgradeable 32 inch iMac Pro. Wonder if there will be updates later this year? It will be 2 years since the last upgrade.

  2. As others have pointed out the Mini is actually a possible lower end pro alternate especially with EGPU, only quibble is the SSDS are expensive as it doesn’t have Fusion HD options like iMac.

    I like headless Macs , i have 3 upgraded old Cheese Graters, as I use Cintiq pen monitors.

    The wonder today is that just a few years ago there were NO power GPU options for Mac at all, the Cylinder had TB2 thus useless for EGPUS and non upgradeable GPUS ( my old cheesers with upgraded Nvidia cards were faster faster in graphics) , now we have several possible options.

    The big missing Mac is a Mid Tower between the Mini and the Mac Pro. should be about 2K with one or two PCI slots and a GPU option.

    1. If Apple were to simply give the iMac and the Mac mini user serviceable RAM and HDs, it would go a long way toward filling the gap between the monster/overkill upgrade options on the MacPro, and the rest of the Mac lineup.

      Why not an iMac with 2 HD bays behind the screen? I don’t really need razor sharp Adamantium edges in my desktop computer as I’m not going to take it with me anywhere. Why not offer two HDs in the Mac mini (like Apple used to!) even if it means making it slightly bigger? User serviceable RAM and HD bays would be much more appreciated than thin and small in a desktop.

      1. Why not an iMac with 2 HD bays behind the screen?

        Many PC folks are quite happy with a couple of user-accessible M.2 blade slots.

        Granted, for ‘pro-esque’ data intensive workflows, being able to add only a couple of TB added in this fashion isn’t adequate, but it would be at least an “80% solution” that’s good enough for local high data transfer scratch and/or working files.

        User serviceable RAM and HD bays would be much more appreciated than thin and small in a desktop.

        Indeed. The obviously deliberate lack of maintainability and serviceability that Apple’s baked into their Macs over the past decade is the antithesis of “delight the customer”. Jony Ive should be punched in the face for every damn time he has put his design ego above the needs of the user…and Cook too for allowing it, because it has done real damage to the prestige and reputation of the company, which is harm to us stockholders too.

      2. “toward filling the gap between the monster/overkill upgrade”
        There’s not a price, power/performance gap. The more money you spend, the more you get. Like, iMacs and iMac Pros and minis can have configurations that saturate the $2000 to $4000 range, right up to the $6000 range of the Pro.

        1. Correct, I should have qualified the phrase with “monster/overkill” upgrade for 95% of the population.

          It’s not so much a price gap as it is a flexibility gap. The main question I’m asking is why can’t the “cheaper” desktop Macs have as much flexibility in RAM and HD upgrades (two components which frequently fail) as the $6K Mac. Why can’t I open a Mac mini or an iMac with an elegant turn of the wrist like the MacPro? I’m not even asking for user replaceable GPUs fer cryin’ out loud.

          That is the kind of thing which “delights” the consumer.

    2. True, the mini is a viable option to consider, particularly since for data-intensive applications and ‘pro-esque’ performance, you’re going to ignore ‘Fusion’ drives as a cost-cutting gimmick, which means that none of the iMacs (regular or Pro) offer any better options than the mini for onboard storage: its going to be the ugly & PITA pile of externals, and/or a 10GbE connected server, rather than the classical (and dirt cheap) approach of filling an empty internal bay.

    1. I would love the upgradability and power of a Mac Pro. Can’t say I could use 8 PCI slots, and if I could use them, I prolly wouldn’t have the money to fill them.

    2. the longer you can use the computer (via upgrades) the better the value in the long run!

      Which was invariably taken into consideration when Apple priced it at $5999 (ditto the $999 monitor stand).

      1. Yeah, you’re basically paying for the option to upgrade the processor and other internals, which is a big deal for those that need it. I called out “Apple Frame” on these pages awhile back and found it interesting that they referred to it as a frame 🙂

  3. The Mac Pro would be nice but my company can’t afford it. The iMac Pro is being considered but not this version. They are going to wait for the next upgrade with the hopes of a better screen. I hope that happens soon.

  4. Affordable Metal compatible coding machine that pushes a large array of displays and has cheap internal expansion?

    2012 Mac Pro

    If internal expansion isn’t of interest to you, buy a discount multipack of Trashcans and lots of cables.

    Otherwise, save up your money for the 2019 Mac Pro. It’s a no brainer. iMacs are nowhere near as versatile, repairable, or durable. Not even close.

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