2020 5K iMac vs 16" MacBook Pro: Best Value Mac in 2020?

2020 5K iMac vs 16" MacBook Pro: Best Value Mac in 2020?
9 min read
19 August 2020

Now that we now have the new 2020 iMac, some of you guys have been asking us to compare it to Apple’s 16” MacBook Pro to see how much more performance you can get if you choose the desktop route with the iMac instead of the portable route with the Macbook.

And since we’re still waiting on the new 10-core iMac with the high-end 5700XT graphics to get delivered next week, we’re gonna compare the current higher-end base model iMac for $2300 with the base 16” MacBook Pro for $2400. And then later, when we get the highest-end iMac, we’ll compare that with the highest-end 16” MacBook Pro with that insane 5600M graphics chip.

The biggest benefit to the iMac is that you can upgrade the RAM yourself, so instead of paying Apple $600 for 32GB of RAM, we simply bought a $120 kit from Amazon and installed it in just a couple of minutes.

But on the other hand, the base 16” MacBook Pro is actually on sale right now on Amazon for only $2100, so it’s still a better price.

Before we get started with this comparison, I do want to mention that there’s a small chance that Apple will update the 16” with 10th gen CPUs sometime this fall, and then there’s also the fact that Apple is switching to their own Apple Silicon chips very soon, probably sometime next year for the 16” MacBook Pro, but if you need a Mac right now, this article is for you!

Before we get into our performance testing, I want to talk about the overall experience differences.

Obviously, with the MacBook Pro, you can take it with you, so that itself is a massive advantage over the iMac, but we  use 3 desktop Macs for editing, so that shows that there’s also some great reasons to use desktop Macs. One of those is the extra ports. Instead of just getting 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports, the iMac gets 4 USB-A ports, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a high-speed UHS-2 SD card reader, and an Ethernet jack, with the option of paying $100 more for a 10 GB Ethernet port.

Along with that, the iMac also gets a much larger 27” display with incredible 5K resolution that’s so sharp that you won’t be able to go back to a 4K monitor, let alone a 1080P display. But the 3K resolution on the 16” MacBook Pro is definitely great for that size. And by the way, this 2020 iMac is the first one ever that supports HDR video playback, just like the MacBook Pro, which we discovered thanks to an email sent to us from one of our viewers.

But what’s great about the MacBook Pro is that you get the same great color accuracy with P3 wide-color gamut, you get the same 500 nits of brightness and True Tone technology. One difference that might be a huge deal for you is the fact that the 2020 5K iMac finally gets a 1080p webcam, compared to 720p on the MacBook Pro.

As far as the speakers, they sound great in both of these Macs, much better than most people expect, but the ones in the iMac are crazy loud.

So basically, if you’re looking for a desktop setup for working from home, the iMac will be a great choice, but if you think you might potentially take it with you on a business meeting or anything like that, the MacBook Pro will be the one for you. But of course, there’s still the performance aspect of this comparison, and the numbers you’re about to see might finally confirm the choice you’re leaning towards.

And before we begin, I want to show the specs and prices while I mention that this year’s results will be way different because the 5K iMac now FINALLY Comes with the T2 chip and AMD’s latest Navi graphics which both help with hardware encoding and decoding of HEVC footage.2020 5K iMac vs 16 Starting out with Geekbench 5’s CPU test, the iMac absolutely kills the MacBook in terms of single-core performance.2020 5K iMac vs 16 But then in Multi-core, there is an even bigger difference2020 5K iMac vs 16 with the iMac being a massive 58% faster than the MacBook Pro at the same price, and that’s because it’s packing an 8-core processor instead of a 6-core.

And then moving on to the Cinebench R20 CPU Stress test, which factors in the cooling system performance2020 5K iMac vs 16 the iMac is now 81% more powerful than the MacBook Pro, which shows that the MacBook is definitely being limited by the thin cooler design.

Before we get into the graphics benchmarks, I wanted to test out the SSD speed using the Blackmagic Disk Speed Test2020 5K iMac vs 16 and it looks like the MacBook Pro actually has a slightly faster SSD in both read speed and write speed even though they’re the exact same size. 2020 5K iMac vs 16Testing the Raw graphics performance of these machines, the iMac was a massive 72% more powerful2020 5K iMac vs 16 and the best part is that these new graphics cards are finally now built using AMD’s latest Navi architecture which will help even more for video editing as you’ll see in a minute. 2020 5K iMac vs 16Moving onto our Unigine Heaven Gaming Benchmark using the extreme preset, the iMac gives you about a 35% improvement in terms of FPS for gaming in general, but keep in mind that both of these Macs have much higher-end graphics cards for gaming, and we’ll be comparing them once we get our high-end iMac!

And since that test uses OpenGL, we decided to run a couple of Metal benchmarks using GFXBench Metal 5.02020 5K iMac vs 16 and in the Aztec Ruins test, the iMac was around 58% faster in terms of FPS. 2020 5K iMac vs 16And for the Manhattan test, there was a smaller difference of around 50% more FPS for the iMac compared to the base 16” MacBook Pro.

I also decided to run Novabench, which uses a mixture of the CPU and GPU to give you an overall performance score for the entire system, and the iMac was only around 25% faster in this test, which was pretty interesting. 2020 5K iMac vs 16Before we move onto the real-world video editing tests using Final Cut Pro X, I want to quickly run a photo editing test using Lightroom Classic and exporting 500 42MP RAW photos.2020 5K iMac vs 16 Here, the iMac was MUCH quicker than the MacBook Pro thanks to that 8-core CPU and the 32GB of RAM compared to only 16 on the base 16” MacBook Pro. So that’s a huge benefit for the iMac since you can get 32GB of RAM from Amazon for only $120 instead of paying $400 for 32gigs on the MacBook Pro, and that’s a big deal since RAM is extremely important for photo editing.

Getting into video editing in Final Cut with the classic BruceX benchmark2020 5K iMac vs 16 the iMac was almost twice as fast as the MacBook Pro thanks to that 5500 XT graphics card! 2020 5K iMac vs 16And we saw basically the same results in our 1 minute HEVC stabilization test, so that extra time saved can really add up if you do a lot of stabilization. 2020 5K iMac vs 16And then exporting a 5 minute 4K H.264 clip, which is the most common format that YouTubers currently use, the iMac was faster by about 37 seconds, which isn’t as much as before.

What makes this result interesting is that the last year, the highest-end iMac with the i9 processor and the top-of-the-line Vega 48 graphics card took even longer in this test2020 5K iMac vs 16 and that’s because this new 2020 iMac has newer hardware technology, so it’s VERY impressive. 2020 5K iMac vs 16And then moving onto exporting a 5 minute 4K HEVC clip, which is quickly becoming the new standard format, the iMac finished about 27 faster than the MacBook Pro.

This is where it gets insane, and it’s what really makes these 2020 iMacs special. 2020 5K iMac vs 16The top-of-the-line 2019 5K iMac actually took over twice as long as this new iMac which is over $1000 cheaper, and that’s because this new iMac has Apple’s T2 chip and Navi-based graphics which both help with hardware HEVC encoding and decoding! 2020 5K iMac vs 16And for those buying Canon’s new EOS R5 camera, we transcoded 4K 10-bit 4:2:2 footage and the iMac saved us about 15 minutes compared to the MacBook Pro, which actually was faster than we expected. 2020 5K iMac vs 16And to finish things off, we exported a 5-minute Canon C200 RAW clip and the iMac saved us 3 and a half minutes, so it should be quite a bit better for the high-end RAW codecs as well.

So with all of those tests finished, you can tell that the iMac is definitely the better choice compared to the 16” MacBook Pro if you want as much performance as possible for around the same $2400 price.

This is actually surprising because last year, we told people to buy the MacBook Pro instead because of the T2 chip and the Navi-based graphics, but now, the iMac finally has both of those, and by the way, it’s also much quieter under load since it has a larger cooling system.

And not only that, but the speakers, the webcam, the display, and the ports are much better than what you get with the 16” MacBook Pro. So if you need a high-end Mac and you don’t really care that much about portability, this new 2020 iMac is an absolute killer deal, in fact, we compared it to the $5000 iMac Pro and it beat it in many of these tests.

But if you want a Mac you can take with you, the base 16” MacBook Pro is still very impressive for how thin it is, and it’s actually a great deal since it’s currently on sale on Amazon for only $2100. And if it’s not powerful enough for your needs, we’re going to be comparing the high-end model to the high-end iMac very soon.

Alex 10K
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