$10,000 iMac Pro vs Custom PC – Which One is Faster?

$10,000 buys a lot of computer but to see which comes out on top we’ll need to watch a head-to-head match-up between two heavyweight contenders! iMac Pro vs Custom PC.

I always enjoy Matt Granger’s reviews and in this video, he does a good job of comparing two monstrous, power-house editing computers. So, let’s figure out how does a well spec’d iMac Pro stack up against a custom built PC in the same ballpark when it comes to rendering and export times.

Before we delve deeper into the tests, here are the iMac specs:

  • 2.5 GHz Intel Xeon W 14-Core
  • 128GB of DDR4 RAM | 2TB SSD
  • AMD Radeon Pro Vega 64 (16GB HBM2)
  • 27″ 5120 x 2880 IPS Retina 5K Display
  • UHS-II SDXC Card Reader
  • Thunderbolt 3 | USB 3.0
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi | Bluetooth 4.2
  • 10Gb Gigabit Ethernet
  • Magic Keyboard & Magic Mouse 2 Included
  • macOS High Sierra

…and the PC specs:

  • Fractal Design Define R5 Black ATX Midtower Silent PC Computer Case (Amazon)
  • Gigabyte Intel X299 AORUS Gaming 7 Chipset LGA 2066 DDR4 SDRAM Motherboard  (Amazon)
  • Intel Core i9 i9-7940X Tetradeca-core (14 Core) 3.1GHz (B&H, Amazon)
  • PNY Technologies Quadro P5000 Graphics Card (B&H, Amazon)
  • Samsung DDR4 2400 64GB (Amazon)
  • Samsung 960 PRO series M.2 SSD 2TB (Amazon)
  • Samsung 860 PRO 2TB 2.5 Inch SATA III Internal SSD (B&H, Amazon)
  • WD Gold 4TB Enterprise Class Hard Disk Drive (B&H, Amazon)
  • EVGA Supernova 850 G3, 80 Plus Gold 850W (B&HAmazon)
  • Noctua NH-U12DX i4, Premium CPU Cooler (Amazon)

So both machines have been tricked out to roughly the same price point, with the exception of the screen that is included on the Mac. Matt makes an adjustment for this by reducing some storage space on the PC to allow for the purchase of a similar screen.

Test 1 – “The real world is messy”. Using 4K footage scattered around various different drives, Matt performs a video file export and times the results. As expected, the PC wins, taking roughly half the time of the Mac export. This is likely due to the higher spec video card in the PC.

PC vs iMac Pro Tests

PC vs iMac Pro Tests

Worth noting is that Premiere essentially locks while exporting whereas FCPX will export in the background letting you continue working.

Test 2 – “Red RAW 8K”. Ouch. The thought of down-res’ing RAW 8K footage and handling 4K slow-motion, both with lashings of effects added, will already have many editors feeling queasy, but these machines handle it impressively. The PC again comes out on top, not by as much but still a significant margin.

Matt PC vs iMac Pro

Matt PC vs iMac Pro

Comparing specs, be it for cameras, computers, cars or whatever, is great and the more scientifically and impartially the tests for those specs are carried out the better. Matt Granger prefers to use ‘real-world’ tests for this showdown between Mac and PC. While I don’t doubt his results, and I think there is a lot of value in going beyond the spec sheet, I do have a few caveats I’m keeping in mind about these tests.

As Matt mentions, Apple optimise their software for their hardware and as such, I would be curious to see how FCPX performed in these tests. I understand that in Matt’s work he feels Premier Pro is the “industry standard”, but in my day job of broadcast TV and corporate filmmaking, I wouldn’t say it’s that simple.

I am also a little concerned about the number of variables that we don’t know in great detail: the various drives used for the footage, their connections, the effects used on the footage. Again, the test results make sense given the various higher specs on the PC, Video Card and RAM particularly, but this is where scientific lab specs tests have a higher degree of reliability.

PC Internal

PC Internal

I am a Mac user and have been for many years, but I have certainly spent a lot of time editing on PCs. Often Mac fans will seek to dismiss tests like these to protect their egos and beloved machine’s reputation, but personally, I find them really interesting.

In answer to the headline question, ‘Which £10,000 machine is faster?’ It’s the PC. Simple.

Cider-House PC

Cider-House PC

As Matt points out, speed matters! It directly relates to your productivity and therefore potential income. If speed is your primary concern, then your choice is made – build a custom PC.

Matt does a great job of pointing out some of the other important considerations when choosing Mac or PC in his video. The PC is more customizable with more options for internals and I/O but getting the build right for a custom PC is a bit trickier than the out-of-the-box ease of a Mac.

The software options are different and not mentioned here – their prices. The PC can be simply upgraded as technology evolves and improves; the iMac is essentially a closed unit. Aesthetically the Mac is a beautiful machine and if that “sparks joy” (thanks Marie Kondo!) for you, then that has value.

iMac Pro

iMac Pro

The release of the upcoming Mac Pro may address many of the concerns above and give pro users the upgrade and customisability they desire but we will have to wait and see.

Both computers in this test are expensive and both are incredible machines capable of crushing tasks that only a few years ago would have been considered impossible. The tests performed are likely well outwith the requirements of the vast majority of users. As always, decide what works for you. Look at your priorities for processing speed, workflow, software, inputs and outputs and of course budget.

Moral: The faster the better but speed is not everything.

[source: Matt Granger]

B&H Order Link:

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

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