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Which pro Mac desktop: iMac and Mac Pro compared

Martyn Casserly | Feb. 10, 2015
Apple's laptops are brilliant, but sometimes you want the luxury and power of a Mac desktop. In this feature we'll explore the options open to you, and compare the various advantages of iMacs and Mac Pros.

iMac vs Mac Pro: The iMac Range

There are three main categories of iMac at the moment - 21-inch, 27-inch, and 27-inch with 5K Retina display. Ignoring the entry-level & Retina iMacs, there are common fittings across the remaining range. All the 21-inch and 27-inch models feature quad core, Intel Core i5 CPUs (2.7Ghz or 2.9GHz in the smaller machines, and 3.2GHz or 3.4GHz in the larger ones), 8GB of RAM, and 1TB hard drives.

The major differences are that as you move up in price you get more powerful graphical capabilities, with the 21-inch models going from Intel Iris Pro to an NVIDIA GeForce GT750M, and the 27-inch variants arriving with either an NVIDIA GeForce GT755M or NVIDIA GeForce GTX775. The 27-inch models also have the enviable feature of a panel at the back which gives you easy access to the RAM slots, so you can upgrade the memory yourself, and save money on Apple's own highly priced offerings.

The costs of these machines are £1049 (21-inch, 2.7GHz), £1199 (21-inch, 2.9GHz), £1449 (27-inch 3.2GHz), and £1599 (27-inch, 3.4GHz).

Alongside the off the shelf models you can also use Apple's build to order feature on the website. This gives you the opportunity to upgrade the 21-inch models to 16GB of RAM (£160) and replace the slower spinning hard drive with either a 1TB Fusion drive (mixture of flash-storage and normal hard drive) or 256GB flash-storage for £160, or 512GB flash-storage for £400. There's also the option to upgrade the CPU in the 2.9GHz i5 version to a 3.1GHz i7 for an additional £160.

These prices hold true for the 27-inch models, with the added choices of a 3TB Fusion drive (£280), 1TB flash-storage (£800), and upgrading the 3.4GHz i5 to a 3.5GHz i7 for £190.

At the high-end, the new 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina display sits on its gorgeously rendered throne. The standard model features that incredible screen, backed by a 3.5GHz quad-core, Intel i5 CPU, 8GB RAM, 1TB Fusion drive, and an AMD Radeon R9 M290X GPU for £1999.

Again there's the build-to-order option available, which follows the same pattern as other iMacs, but has the unique choices of replacing the 3.5GHz i5 with a 4.0GHz i7 (£200), and upgrading the GPU to an AMD Radeon R9 M295X for £200.

iMac vs Mac Pro: Mac Pro range

In our review, we said that '[the] stunning Mac Pro is a true workstation class computer'. Since it was unveiled in 2013 the diminutive, cylindrical Mac has been collecting plaudits for design and capability, and it's no wonder. Apple has managed to fit an incredible amount of power into a unit that is barely taller than an iPad. Now we are all waiting for Apple up update this Mac which is now more than a year old. Read: Mac Pro 2015 launch date and spec rumours


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