iMac 5K (2020) vs iMac Pro (2017): Which should you buy?

iMac (Image credit: iMore)

Both the 27-inch iMac 5K and iMac Pro received updates in August 2020. Only one of the two was a significant one, however. The iMac 5K is the all-in-one Mac solution for most people, while the iMac Pro is geared towards professional creatives that have money to spend. The choice for you will come down to options and budget.

Break it down now

Announced at the 2017 Worldwide Developers Conference and launched a few months later, the iMac Pro offers a 27-inch display with a unique dark space gray finish. Called "the most powerful Mac ever made" at the time of its revealing, the computer serves as a powerful all-in-one alternative to the newer third-generation Mac Pro.

The silver iMac 5K also has a 27-inch display. Placed side-by-side with the iMac Pro, the machines look strikingly similar. And yet, they are very different, as the significant price difference between the two suggests.

Overall, the iMac Pro exceeds the iMac. And yet, recent changes made to the latter blurs that advantage, at least a little bit as you can see below.

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Header Cell - Column 0 iMac (2020)iMac (2017)
CostFrom $1799From $4999
Display Size27-inch27-inch
Weight19.7 pounds21.5 pounds
Body colorsilverdark space gray
ProcessorStarts at 3.1GHz 6-Core Processor with Turbo Boost up to 4.5GHzStarts at 3.0GHz 10-Core Intel Xeon W processor with Turbo Boost up to 4.5GHz
GraphicsStarting at Radeon Pro 5300 with 4GB of GDDR6 memoryStarting at Radeon Pro Vega 56 with 8GB HBM2 memory
5K Retina DisplayYesYes
True ToneYesNo
Optional nano-texture glassYesNo
StorageStarts at 256GB SSD, configurable up to 8TB SSD storageStarts at 1TB SSD storage, configurable up to 4TB SSD storage
Memory8GB up to 128GB32GB up to 256GB
Camera1080p FaceTime HD camera1080p FaceTime HD camera
Ports3.5 mm headphone jackSDXC card slot (UHS-II)Four USB-A portsTwo Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) portsNbase-T Ethernet3.5 mm headphone jackSDXC card slot (UHS-II)Four USB-A portsFour Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports
MicrophoneThree-mic array with directional beamformingfour microphones

iMac (5K): Where it shines

The new iMac scores highest when it comes to the display. It supports 5120‑by‑2880 resolution for one billion colors, 500 nits brightness, and Wide color (P3). There's also True Tone technology for the first time. With True Tone, the color of the screen automatically adjusts based on the time of day to protect your eyes better. Nano-texture glass is also available as an option. Ideally suited for an uncontrolled lighting environment, the nano-texture glass provides lower contrast while producing unwanted haze and sparkle.

On the iMac 5K (2020), you'll also find 10th generation Intel chips, a T2 Security Chip, a 1080p camera (for the first time), a studio-quality microphone, and more. You can also purchase up to 8TB SSD storage on the device, which is double the maximum found on the iMac Pro.

iMac Pro: Where it shines

With room for up to 18 cores, the iMac Pro is still a powerhouse, even though it's nearly three years old. These are industry-leading Xeon processors to boot with a Turbo Boost up to 4.5Ghz. Inside, you'll also find blazing-fast Radeon Pro Vega graphics and RAM up to 256GB. On the back are four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, providing support for DisplayPort 1.2, Thunderbolt (up to 40Gb/s), USB 3.1 Gen 2 (up to 10Gb/s), Thunderbolt 2, HDMI, DVI, and VGA.

At this time, the iMac Pro does not offer True Tone or nano-texture glass support.

Who should buy the iMac 5K (2020)?

The iMac 5K has been designed to appeal to the masses with its exceptional price (at least compared to the iMac Pro) and cutting-edge display. Though it's not as powerful as the Pro model, that's okay since most people don't need the best and priciest internals.

Who should buy the iMac Pro?

If you work in a creative industry (animation, video, publishing), the iMac Pro is for you. And yet, after three years, it feels like a more significant update is coming soon, and perhaps you should wait. If you can't, understand that the least expensive model now offers a 10-core processor, giving you more for the same amount of money as before.

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.