iMac vs iMac Pro: Should you wait?

iMac Pro with Magic accessories
iMac Pro with Magic accessories (Image credit: iMore)

The 2017 iMac is brighter, faster, and more powerful than any iMac previously available. It's powered by the fastest Kaby Lake processor, has USB-C ports, and faster storage than ever before. But, is this the Mac for you, or do you need something with even better graphics, even more memory, and even faster processing? Because if you do, the iMac Pro is coming this December and might be worth the wait.

See iMac at Apple

Get notified about iMac Pro{.cta .shop.nofollow}

Better graphics vs. advanced graphics

The 21.5-inch iMac comes standard with Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640. You can upgrade to Radeon Pro 555 with 2GB of VRAM or Radeon Pro 560 with 4GB of VR Ram. At its base level, the graphics in the 2017 21.5-inch iMac are ... fine. You're not going to be able to render 3D graphics or play graphics heavy games. It's perfect if you're just using your Mac to browse the internet, watch YouTube videos, or play decent graphics games. It'll take care of most people's everyday computing needs.

The 27-inch iMac comes standard with Radeon Pro 570 with 4GB of VRAM. You can upgrade to Radeon Pro 575 with 4GB of VRAM or Radeon Pro 580 with 8 GB of VRAM. It's bigger and better with VR gaming support, faster processing, and the ability to handle some fairly heavy gaming. Latency and lag are much improved and you can successfully get your MMORPG on with very little issues. It's great for complex music and video editing project, app building, and 3D graphic rendering.

The iMac Pro sports the fastest Radeon Pro Vega graphics processor (3X faster than any previous iMac GPU). It also supports double-wide graphics cards. It has higher frame rates for the most power hungry graphics activities, like VR gaming, 3D editing, and much more. The Vega can fetch data up to 4000GB per second. It's powerful enough to allow you to create VR from scratch.

If your computing needs involve standard internet activities, plus some basic, but not too extreme video, photo, or music editing, you should take the plunge and buy the current model iMac (if you do a lot of graphics editing, might I suggest the 27-inch iMac).

If you spend most of your waking hours building 3D models, developing graphics heavy games, or rendering VR maps, you should wait until December to invest in the iMac Pro.

Quad-core vs. 18 cores (no, that's not a typo)

The 21.5-inch iMac starts at the low end with a 2.3 GHz dual-core processor and can be upgraded to a quad-core processor with up to 4.2GHz Turbo Boost.

The 27-inch iMac sports a 3.4GHz quad-core processor at the low end and is configurable up to the 4.5GHz Turbo Boost

The iMac Pro is capable of maxing out with an 18-core Xeon processor with Turbo Boost up to 4.5GHz and up to 42MB cache so you can perform such detailed rendering as animating rain fall in a bustling city environment in 3D with incredible smoothness and speed.

If you use apps like Logic Pro or Final Cut Pro for editing, and you want your Mac to perform at lightning speeds, the 27-inch iMac is yours right now.

If your career goals involve rendering large files, editing 4K video, making synthwave soundtracks from scratch, or building a multitude of graphics-heavy games, you should hold out for the iMac Pro in December.

A lot of memory vs. a ridiculous amount of memory

The iMac starts you off with 8GB of memory in the 21.5-inch iMac (not upgradable after purchasing) and maxes out with configurable memory slots of up to 64GB with 2400MHz DDR4 memory and four SO-DIMM slots (upgradable after purchasing).

The iMac Pro packs in as much as 128GB of memory, great for rendering massive 3D sculptures. It's also ideal for testing multiple environments at once. It can also be maxed out with up to 4TB of all-flash storage so you can really dig into those HD projects without slowdown.

If your computing needs involves having about a half dozen productivity apps open at the same time, plus Apple Music playing in the background while you edit video in Final Cut Pro, you can get 'er done with the 2017 iMac right out of the gate.

If you are building and testing a full-scale model of the Milky Way in 3D (or some such crazy huge project) or test a half-dozen cross-platform apps all at the same time, wait until December and place your coins on the 18-cores available in the iMac Pro.

32 million pixels vs. 44 million pixels

With two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports on all 2017 iMacs, you get up to 40Gb per second data transfer. The latest model iMac also comes with four USB-A ports, an SD card reader, a standard Ethernet port and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The two Thunderbolt 3 ports make it possible for you to add one 5K or two 4K displays for up to 32 million pixels across your workstation.

The iMac Pro is outfitted with four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, four USB-A ports, an SD card reader, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a 10GB Ethernet port. The Thunderbolt ports alone make it possible for you to connect two RAID systems and two 5K displays at the same time, which produces up to 44 million pixels across your workstation.

If you aren't crazy insane for all the pixels, or you don't plan on adding, at least two 5K external displays to your set up, you'll do fine with the iMac.

If 32 million pixels is somehow not enough for your princess eyes, or you plan on pimping out your computing set up with no less than two 5K monitors, December is just around the corner, and so is your iMac Pro.

tl;dr: Should I buy or should I wait?

  • If you need the most advanced graphics ever built into an iMac, wait until December for the iMac Pro. If your graphics needs are standard-to-heavy for gaming, but you aren't going to be developing graphics heaving games on it, grab the 21.5 or 27-inch 2017 iMac today.
  • If you need all the cores ... like four of them are not enough, have a little patience and check out the iMac Pro this December. If you need lightning fast, but not necessarily faster-than-the-speed-of-light processing, then you will be more than happy with the iMac today.
  • If your memory is the most important part of your daily computing needs, that is; if you render 3D graphic models in real-time or test a bunch of VR games at once, it will be worth it to wait until December to pick up the iMac Pro. Otherwise, if you're more like the average person; half dozen Safari tabs open, four productivity apps, photo or video editing on the fly, then stick with the iMac.
  • If you plan on connecting two 5K displays ... at all ... ever, then you need to hold out for the iMac Pro this December. If you don't have space or the need for all those Ks in your office, the iMac is beautiful and powerful enough for one 5K or two 4Ks, so you're still doing pretty good.

See iMac at Apple

Get notified about iMac Pro{.cta .shop.nofollow}

Still not sure?

If you want a little more feedback on whether you should get the iMac today or wait for the iMac Pro this December, take it to the forums and see what other Mac lovers think is the best option.

Lory Gil

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).