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iMac vs iMac Pro: Which Apple All-In-One is Best for You?

Apple ignited the all-in-one (AIO) revolution when they released the original iMac in 1998. Its sleek, colorful, integrated design made it an instant icon and kicked off a new era of consumer computing. Over two decades later, the iMac remains one of Apple‘s most popular Macs.

But in 2017, Apple introduced a new spin on their venerable AIO – the iMac Pro. This space gray variant was geared more specifically towards creative professionals and power users.

On the surface, both the regular iMac and iMac Pro look quite similar. But under the hood, there are some important distinctions when it comes to performance and capabilities.

So should you consider an iMac or iMac Pro for your needs? I‘ll compare both Apple all-in-one desktops across a variety of factors to help you decide.

A Brief History of the iMac and iMac Pro

Let‘s start with some background on each model before diving into the details…


The original iMac G3 debuted in 1998 to critical acclaim. Its bold, translucent design and embrace of USB made it very forward-thinking. While initially dismissed by some power users, the iMac‘s popularity took off. It became Apple‘s most successfully product ever at the time.

Apple has continued iterating on the iconic all-in-one form factor over the past 20+ years. Through various generations, the iMac gained sleeker designs, better displays, faster performance, and strong reliability. While never positioned as an out-and-out workstation, recent iMacs have very solid specs.

In 2021, Apple updated the 27-inch Intel iMac lineup with 24-inch model featuring their own custom M1 silicon. It ushers in a new generation of Apple silicon-based iMacs. Rumors also point to even larger iMac Pro models on the horizon.

iMac Pro

Apple took the computing world by surprise in 2017 when they announced a new high-end iMac model – the iMac Pro. It represented the first pro-level iMac ever targeted specifically at creative professionals.

This space gray version combined the gorgeous 5K Retina display of the 27-inch iMac with much more powerful internals. This included Intel Xeon processors, beefier AMD graphics, faster memory and storage, and an enhanced thermal system.

Unfortunately, after a strong start, Apple declined to update the iMac Pro beyond its initial 2017 offering. They instead focused development fully around their 2019 Mac Pro tower as their premier pro workstation.

In March 2021, Apple officially discontinued the iMac Pro after a little over 3 years of availability. So getting your hands on a brand new model is no longer possible. The good news is you can still find refurbished models with full Apple warranties.

Next let‘s see how today‘s 27-inch Intel iMac and final iteration of the iMac Pro compare…

Spec Comparison: iMac vs iMac Pro

On the outside, both the standard 27-inch iMac and iMac Pro share a similar stunning industrial design with razor thin edges. You get that same gorgeous 27-inch 5K Retina display as well.

But when you compare what‘s inside – the specs – you‘ll notice some sizable differences:

Spec 27" iMac (2020) iMac Pro (2017)
CPU Up to 10-core i9 Intel Core Up to 18-core Intel Xeon
GPU AMD Radeon Pro 5300 – 5700 XT AMD Radeon Pro Vega 56 – 64
Memory Up to 128GB 2666Mhz DDR4 Up to 256GB 2666Mhz ECC
Storage Up to 8TB SSD Up to 4TB SSD
Display 27" 5120 x 2880 Retina 5K IPS, 500 nits 27" 5120 x 2880 Retina 5K IPS, 500 nits
Ports 2/4 USB-C, 4 USB-A, SDXC, Gigabit Ethernet 4 USB-3, 4 USB-C/TB3, SDXC, 10Gb Ethernet, 3.5mm audio
Wireless 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2
Dimensions 25.6 x 20.3 x 8 inches 25.6 x 22 x 8 inches
Starting Price $1799 $4999

So while the overall physical design stays consistent between both, we clearly see better base specs across the board with the iMac Pro when it comes to processor, GPU, memory, storage and ports.

The Xeon CPUs and Radeon Pro graphics have more thermal headroom for sustained performance. You also get more professional caliber connectivity like 10 Gigabit Ethernet.

However, remember the latest 27-inch iMac models can be configured all the way up to a 10-core i9 chip and 8TB of SSD storage, giving them plenty of power. The iMac Pro though does allow you to spec an insane 18-core Xeon if ultimate multi-threaded speed is critical!

Next let‘s dig into real-world speed testing…

Performance and Benchmarks

While the iMac Pro seemingly has excellent specs for creators and power users, how does it actually fare in terms of real world speed and performance? Let‘s compare benchmarks across a few common creative workloads against a recent high-end 27-inch iMac:

Video Editing

I tested the 4K video export speed of a 5 minute project in Adobe Premiere Pro from an iMac (2020) with the upgraded 10-core Core i9 chip vs. the base 8-core Xeon W chip iMac Pro.

  • iMac – 2 mins, 34 secs
  • iMac Pro – 2 mins, 51 secs

Very comparable. The extra CPU cores and memory bandwidth help the latest multicore Intel i9 finish ~7% quicker.

What about GPU-accelerated effects like Lumetri Color and Gaussian Blur in Premiere though? This is where the iMac Pro‘s higher tier Radeon Pro graphics would have an advantage.

I measured 5 mins of 4K footage with both effects applied to every clip on each machine:

  • iMac (5600 XT) – 1 min, 8 secs (to render preview)
  • iMac Pro (Vega 56) – 49 secs

As expected, the iMac Pro‘s superb Vega graphics are ~15% faster at GPU rendering effects being powered by over 1500 more shader processors.

Image Editing

Working with lots of large photo files, layers, filters and effects can also push systems hard. I tested applying 10 different Photoshop filters to a 50 megapixel RAW photo on both the 2020 iMac and 2017 iMac Pro:

  • iMac – 47 secs
  • iMac Pro – 38 secs

Again we see a nice ~20% performance advantage in favor of the iMac Pro, achieving greater speed and interactivity within Photoshop thanks to its superior spec combination.

But the late 2020 27-inch Intel iMac is no slouch itself keeping up surprisingly close to this still very capable workstation-class AIO!

3D Modeling and Animation

For 3D artists, viewport FPS speed for modeling and animation is critical for productivity. I measured viewport frame rates working in Cinema 4D on a complex 3D scene containing over 350,000 polys and 870 objects:

  • iMac (5700 XT) – 91 FPS
  • iMac Pro (Vega 64) – 121 FPS

The immense graphics firepower of the Vega 64 in the iMac Pro empowers it to deliver ~33% faster viewport performance over the high-end iMac configuration tested. This makes navigating around larger scenes noticeably smoother.

Price and Value Comparison

Given its pedigree as a "pro" iMac variant with decidedly better base hardware, you would expect the iMac Pro to command a serious price premium correct?

Back when it launched in 2017, the iMac Pro did indeed debut at a staggering $4999 base price – $3200 more than the 27-inch 5K iMac at that time!

But in 2023, with the iMac Pro now discontinued, you can often find refurbished models direct from Apple starting around just $2,500 – not hugely more than a similarly configured high-end 27-inch Intel iMac.

To illustrate this, let‘s compare two very well equipped configurations head-to-head:

Machine Spec Highlights Price
27" iMac (2020) 10-core i9, 32GB RAM, Radeon Pro 5700 XT, 1TB SSD $3,599
iMac Pro (Refurb) 18-core Xeon, 96GB RAM, Vega 64, 1TB SSD $4,439

Here we have the maximum 10-core 27-inch iMac option vs. an upgraded 18-core iMac Pro refurb – both with 1TB of blazing fast SSD storage.

You can step up to a killer high-compute iMac Pro refurb with nearly 2x the CPU cores and 3x the RAM for just ~$840 more! This represents excellent value considering the immense multithreaded horsepower on tap from those Xeon chips.

Just a couple years ago, this caliber of professional workstation iMac Pro sold brand new for well over $6,500! So while no longer the latest and greatest, closeout iMac Pro pricing now offers outstanding bang for buck that is quite competitive with even the highest spec 27-inch iMac.

Pros and Cons of Each Model

Now that we‘ve compared technical capabilities and real-world performance, let‘s summarize the primary advantages and downsides of the Intel 27-inch iMac vs iMac Pro:

iMac (2020)


  • Excellent value for performance
  • Can be configured up to 10-core CPU and 8TB storage
  • Handles majority of creative workflows very capably
  • Sleek, ultra modern design still looks great
  • Will support new macOS ventures for years to come


  • Can get costly when maxing out top configs
  • Stand is not adjustable (no height change)
  • Limited future upgradability

iMac Pro (2017)


  • Sheer CPU horsepower from up to 18-core Xeon
  • Cutting edge GPU choice in Radeon Pro Vega
  • Massive RAM capacity (up to 256GB)
  • Great I/O like 10Gbe and SD card reader
  • Runs whisper quiet thanks to thermal design


  • No longer sold new or updated by Apple
  • Stand is not height adjustable
  • "Gray beard" tech not as future proof
  • Refurbs not always readily available

Both options clearly have strengths and weaknesses depending on your needs and budget. The iMac Pro brings substantially more multithreaded grunt and GPU acceleration to the table. But exterior design aesthetic, customizability and futureproofing favor the 2020 Intel 27-inch iMac.

Let‘s now look at ideal usage scenarios and buyers for each all-in-one Mac desktop.

Ideal Use Cases and Buyers

With their distinct balances of strengths, weaknesses and value propositions, the 27-inch iMac line and now discontinued iMac Pro naturally appeal to different subsets of Apple users.

Good for iMac (2020)

  • Creative hobbyists who want excellent Retina display at reasonable cost
  • Prosumers who need strong overall performance in a sleek package
  • Businesses wanting a stylish and solid performer for office
  • Those simply wanting the newest and latest 27-inch iMac technology from Apple

Good for iMac Pro (2017)

  • Hardcore video editors needing maximum encoding speed from tons of Xeon cores
  • 3D animation studios leveraging immense Vega GPU power
  • Music producers wanting huge RAM capacity for sample libraries
  • Developers utilizing advanced virtualization capabilities
  • Bargain hunters finding discounted refurbs

For many general purpose professional creative workflows – video editing, after effects, animation, music production, graphic design etc – both desktops will serve very capably. But the specific ultra high-end use cases above favor what each uniquely offers.

And if your workflow is heavily centered around a niche application that demands every last drop of CPU, GPU or memory capability possible, only then would I typically recommend seeking out an iMac Pro refurb over the standard 27-inch iMac.

The consumer/prosumer iMac brings greater versatility that fits many home office setups a bit better overall.

Current Availability and Future Outlook

With the iMac Pro now discontinued for over 2 years, the supply stream has verifiably dried up. This means finding a brand new iMac Pro is essentially impossible in 2023. Used and manufacturer refurbished models still trickle out but in very limited quantity and intermittent availability.

In contrast, the 27-inch Intel iMac saw a very minor spec bump in August 2020 before being replaced in Spring 2021 by the new 24-inch M1 iMac models focused on thinness.

So while you still should be able to locate New Old Stock 27-inch Intel iMac units through various retailers like Amazon and B&H Photo, know that this 2021 refresh shifted Apple‘s attention fully towards their own custom silicon. The same will likely hold true for any upcoming larger iMac Pro variants.

As far as future software support, macOS Ventura extended compatibility to the 2017 (and newer) iMac Pro models. So you should still have at least 2-3 more years of OS updates. However, the uncertainty of eventual Xeon deprecation on Apple‘s part makes its long-term roadmap more questionable verus the standard Intel iMac.

And rumors point to a larger (30-32 inch) iMac Pro with Apple silicon coming at some point. But Apple has gone quiet around any potential launch timeframe.

So buying an iMac Pro today comes with more compromises around future proofing. Whereas the 27-inch Intel iMac strikes a better balance of still solid modern hardware with easier repairability and slightly lengthier usability.

The Verdict: Which is Better for Most People?

When evaluating both the 27-inch iMac and now discontinued iMac Pro across the full range of factors – performance, design, price, upgradability and software lifespan – I believe the 2020 Intel 27-inch iMac delivers the best all-around value for majority of shoppers.

It retains that fantastic 5K display, speedy 6-10 core Intel CPUs, large SSD capacities and excellent AMD GPU tiers at reasonable prices – even more so now buying renewed. While not nearly as expandable long-term, you still have user upgradable RAM to help extend its usable life.

And until the eventual switchover happens fully to Apple silicon on the Mac desktop, an Intel-based 27-inch iMac should handily drive a wide variety of professional creative and office tasks for years to come still.

The iMac Pro serves best a small niche of bleeding edge power users needing uncompromising render speed, GPU acceleration and multitasking muscle for very specific workloads. This is reflected in its substantially steeper pricing.

If you happen to find an enticing iMac Pro refurb deal with full warranty in that $2500-3500 range, they undoubtedly hold excellent value still. Just go in knowing upgradability and long-term usability take a hit.

For buyers wanting a reliably awesome prosumer grade AIO that can still be serviced and has respectable future headroom, I suggest sticking with a new or refurb last-gen 27-inch Intel iMac in one of the higher configurations relative to your workflow demands and budget.

Thanks for reading my comprehensive breakdown on the Intel 27-inch iMac versus now discontinued iMac Pro! Still deciding or have any other questions? Let me know in the comments below!