2017 5K iMac vs iMac Pro for Video Editing with Final Cut Pro X

Just ahead of Christmas, Apple released their professional-grade all-in-one desktop computer – the iMac Pro. Even though the new machine does offer some specs that are up-to-par with current editing workstations, people are still skeptical as to how much a performance difference there is between the latest iMac Pro and the older, more well-known 5K iMac.

For a little over half the $5,000 price tag of the baseline-model iMac Pro, one could get a top-of-the-line 5K iMac with the same screen, similar I/O, and potentially similar performance. To confirm or shutdown this theory, Max Yuryev compares the two machines in multiple editing scenarios to see which iMac is the better and more efficient performer when it comes to video editing with the latest Final Cut Pro X.

In the comparison, Max uses a base model iMac Pro which is currently selling for $4,999. The unit rocks an 8-Core 3.2GHz Intel Xeon processor, Radeon Vega 56 8GB GPU, 32GB ECC DDR4 memory, and a 1TB NVMe SSD. Meanwhile, the iMac shown in the video costs $2,699 and has a 4-Core 4.2GHz Intel i7 processor, Radeon Pro 580 8GB GPU, 8GB DDR4 Memory (self-upgraded to 40 GB), and a 512 GB NVMe SSD.

Taking a look at the benchmarks, specifically in regards to single-core performance, it’s no surprise that the 5K iMac does a better job. That’s probably due to the fact that each of the 5K iMac’s cores has a clock speed of 4.2GHz, whereas the iMac Pro’s cores have a clock speed of only 3.2GHz. Basically, the better single-core performance of the 5K iMac means that everyday tasks such as web browsing and word processing are slightly faster on that machine versus the iMac Pro.

When evaluating the multi-core performance numbers, however, the story is reversed as the iMac Pro comes out on top by a significant margin. This is attributed to the fact that the iMac Pro has double the core count of the 5K iMac. In this case, processes such as video editing and graphics processing can be completed much faster on the iMac Pro since those types of computer processes are more reliant on the number of cores the system has.

To compare the machines in real-world cases, Yuryev ran a suite of editing tasks with each computer to see which can perform the best. The first series of tests started with the rendering and editing of several video clips with various effects (such as color grading) in both 1080p and 4K. Surprisingly, the video states that the less-expensive 5K iMac outperformed the greater-costing iMac Pro with faster rendering times.

If you’re wondering how is that even possible, there are several reasons that attribute to the 5K iMac’s dominance. Firstly, Final Cut Pro X was originally optimised to take advantage of Intel’s QuickSync technology, which is found on the consumer-grade chips such as those in the 5K iMac.

QuickSync is proprietary Intel tech that improves the rendering performance of HEVC videos, which is why the 5K iMac was able to render clips faster than its counterpart since the iMac Pro does not have the same technology. Another explanation could be that Apple has not yet fully optimised Final Cut Pro X for the new machine, as it has just been released for sale.

Before you hit the cancel button on your iMac Pro pre-order, note that the 5K iMac’s victory is short-lived when it comes to more challenging editing tasks, including editing raw footage from the RED Raven and the Canon C200 (using the Canon Cinema Raw Lite format). During these instances, the 5K iMac’s performance can be described as abysmal with constant dropped frames, forcing the user to degrade their preview quality.

Meanwhile, depending on the number of effects and processing that is done in editing, the iMac Pro handles the tasks of editing and playing back the raw files with ease, with only a few occasions where Max needed to decrease the resolution for the sake of timeline performance.

In addition to rendering Raw footage, it’s worth noting that the iMac Pro also beats out the 5K iMac when it comes to the time it takes to edit footage using Apple’s ProRes codec. For these cases, the iMac Pro seems to be much faster, thanks to the better multi-core performance.

So after all of this testing, which machine should you buy? If you’re planning to edit 1080p videos and maybe do some light 4K work occasionally, then the 5K iMac may be more than enough to fulfill your needs. If you’re someone who is dealing with 4K and above resolutions on a frequent basis, and need to work with Raw footage regularly, the iMac Pro is a sure-fire winner and should definitely be considered as a viable purchase.

[source: Max Yuryev]

B&H Order Links:

Apple 27″ iMac with Retina 5K Display (Mid 2017)

Apple 27″ iMac Pro with Retina 5K Display (Late 2017)

Claim your copy of DAVINCI RESOLVE 14 - SIMPLIFIED COURSE with 50% off! Get Instant Access for $99!