Apple just updated their 5K iMacs for the last time EVER with Intel chips, and they basically went all out. These new iMacs FINALLY come packed with Apple’s T2 chip, Intel’s 10th-gen processors and new graphics based on AMD’s Navi architecture. Which are all going to be incredibly important in the battle versus Apple’s $5,000 iMac Pro which is what this article is all about.
We already ordered the high-end model with the 10-core CPU and the top of the line 5700XT graphics card, but unfortunately, that model won’t ship until next week, so we decided to see how this new $2300 model with the 8-core CPU and the 5500 XT graphics card will compare to the $5000 base iMac Pro that I’ve been personally using for over a year now. But a huge benefit of the 5K iMac is that you can upgrade the RAM yourself, so instead of paying Apple $600 for 32 GB of RAM, we just bought a 32gig kit from Amazon for $120 matching the 32 GB on the iMac Pro, which by the way, has ECC RAM.
So this new iMac model is less than half the price of the iMac Pro if you add in the price of the 32 GB of RAM so it’s definitely going to be tough to compete with the iMac Pro, but we might see some surprising results because this iMac is packed with the latest technology from Intel and AMD. And I know you’re going to say that the iMac Pro is basically 2 and a half years old right now, and brand new, it now comes standard with a 10-core CPU, but the current base iMac Pro that I’m using is now valued at around $3,500 if you buy it used without any type of warranty, so our brand new 5K iMac is still over $1000 cheaper, so this will be a very interesting comparison!
Starting out with Geekbench 5’s CPU test, the 5K iMac blows it away in terms of single-core speed, even though they’re both using 8-core CPUs. And in Multi-core, this new iMac absolutely killed the Xeon in the iMac Pro, which is surprising because there’s also a 10-core CPU option for the 5K iMac which we’re going to be testing very soon! Now moving on to the Metal Graphics test, the iMac Pro gets a huge advantage in terms of raw graphics power since it comes with the more expensive Vega 56 GPU compared to the 5500 XT in the iMac. We then tested the Cinebench R20 CPU Stress Test, which puts a 100% load on the processor, and the results were absolutely shocking! Even though the iMac Pro has a better cooling system compared to the 2020 5K iMac, which by the way, didn’t change at all which was confirmed by OWC’s teardown, the new 5K iMac is scoring 33% higher in this stress test even though it was only 11% faster in raw processing power in Geekbench 5’s multi-core test. This is totally unexpected because usually, there’s a smaller difference in Cinebench.
Moving onto the Unigine Heaven Gaming test we see about 10 more FPS with the iMac Pro because of that high-end GPU with more raw performance, so it’ll be better for gaming, but don’t forget that the 5K iMac also has more GPU options like the 5500 XT which is what we ordered on the high-end model!
Since that test uses OpenGL, I downloaded GFXbench Metal 5.0 and a couple of benchmarks. In the 1440p Aztec Ruins Offscreen test, the iMac Pro got about 30 more FPS than the 5K iMac. And in the 1440P Manhattan Offscreen test, the iMac Pro scored about 33% more FPS, which is definitely a nice difference! I then tested Novabench, and the 5K iMac killed the iMac Pro in terms of the overall score which includes the CPU and the graphics. With all of those benchmarks out of the way, it’s pretty clear that in terms of raw performance, the 5K iMac has more processing power, but quite a bit less graphics performance, so let’s move onto real-world tests, starting with Final Cut Pro X.
The first test we’re running in Final Cut is the classic BruceX benchmark and surprisingly, the new 5K iMac was faster, even though this is a graphics-heavy test, so it seems like the new 5500 XT is more optimized because of the newer architecture.
Moving onto our 1 minute HEVC stabilization test, we were blown away by the 5K iMacs performance, with it finishing over 3x quicker than the iMac Pro! The reason for that is because the new GPUs in the 2020 5K iMacs use the new Navi architecture, which comes with faster hardware encoders and decoders for H.264 and HEVC file formats. And along with that, the 2020 iMac now finally comes with a T2 chip which also helps with HEVC footage.
Moving onto exporting a 5 minute 4K H.264 clip, which is the most common format that YouTubers use, the 5K iMac was faster by about 11 seconds. And what was interesting was that the new 5K iMac stayed completely silent during this export, just like the iMac Pro, which is pretty impressive!
And then moving onto a 5-minute 8-bit 4K HEVC export, the 5K iMac was about 8 seconds faster, so we’re getting really great results for less than half the price of the iMac Pro! A lot of people are transcoding their 10bit footage on the brand-new Canon R5 camera, so we wanted to see how long this would take by transcoding a 30-minute clip, and 5K iMac ended up being quite a bit faster, finishing in 37 and a half minutes compared to 45 minute on the iMac Pro. We then tried exporting a 5-minute Canon C200 Raw clip, and this time, the iMac Pro came out ahead by a good amount! The reason the 5K iMac was slower is that it was limited in terms of raw graphics performance, since there aren’t any special hardware chips that handle RAW footage. So for a lot of higher-end work that includes RAW footage, the iMac Pro is still going to be the better choice because of the higher raw graphics performance, but you also need to remember that for $500 more, you can get the 5700 XT graphics card with 16 GB of VRAM that will definitely outperform the Vega 56 GPU in the iMac Pro.
To finish things off, we decided to do an export test in Lightroom Classic, exporting 500 42MP RAW images, and the iMac Pro was the winner, but by only around 47 seconds. This result didn’t really make sense since the 5K iMac is faster in terms of CPU power, but the huge benefit is that in the future, you can pay another $120 and add in another 32 GB of RAM if you want roughly 10% more photo editing performance.
From all of those tests that we ran, we can see that even though this new 5K iMac has less raw graphics power, it was actually quite a bit faster in most of the video editing tests we ran, because of the newer hardware technology. We especially saw a big difference in editing HEVC footage, which is quickly becoming the new standard for shooting video. The only areas the 5K iMac lost was in terms of very graphics heavy C200 RAW footage and it was also a bit slower in terms of Lightroom Classic exporting, but considering that it’s half the price of the iMac Pro, or over $1,000 less expensive than a used model, this type of performance is incredible for the price!
I want to remind you one more time that this isn't the top-of-the-line model. We ordered a better one with the new 10-core CPU and the 5700 XT GPU, so we’ll be testing that iMac very soon. And by the way, we’ll be comparing it to the 16” MacBook Pro with the 5600M graphics and our $15,000 Mac Pro as well.