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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.

The slim housing of the iMac gives it as small a footprint as possible for a device bearing a 27-inch screen, and in use the machine ran nearly silently even when being pushed to the limit. The Mac Pro is equally compact, bearing more resemblance to a pedal bin than a powerhouse computer.

That small, cylindrical frame does still manage to pack a copious amount of ports, which include 6x Thunderbolt 2, 4x USB 3.0, 2x Gigabit Ethernet, and a HDMI 1.4, plus 2x 3.5mm mini jack outputs, one of which is a combined stereo analogue line-out with Toslink digital audio output. The iMac sports a healthy, if slightly smaller, amount of options, with 4x USB 3.0, 2x Thunderbolt 2, 1x Gigabit ethernet, a 3.5mm headphone/speaker jack, and an SDXC card reader.

One major difference between the iMac and the Mac Pro is that whereas the only element of the iMac that can easily be upgraded is the RAM, the Mac Pro features a number of options that are surprisingly quick to access. Removing the outer shell is a simple operation involving pressing a button and then sliding it off. Once inside you can remove the RAM, which is on the outside of the chassis and held by a couple of clips, and the flash-storage is accessed by removing a solitary, standard phillips screw.

The GPUs and even the CPU itself can also be changed by the user, although you'd need a steady hand and steely nerve to venture into the heart of a machine this expensive. In a teardown on iFixit, the always excellent repair site, the Mac Pro scored 8 out of 10 for repairability, which is the highest score we've seen for an Apple product in a long time.

Contrast this with the 5 out of 10 that the iMac with 5K Retina display marked up, and you see how the modular nature of the Pro makes it a great choice for those who like to save money and upgrade machines themselves. This should also prolong the life of the device, as swapping out faulty parts in a few years time can be done by the user.

Both machines have been out for a little while now, and rumours are already spreading about updates coming this year. With Intel experiencing production delays in 2014, the expected Broadwell chips didn't arrive in time to make it into the iMac, but we would assume that this will be rectified in 2015 with a refresh. It's a similar story on the Mac Pro, with the new Xeon E5 V3 'Grantley' chips now available and sure to replace the V2 'Romley' versions currently fitted in the workstation machines.


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