Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Lightroom $4K iMac vs. $4K PC Performance Test

Pye Jirsa (via Hacker News):

So, I wanted to do another Mac vs PC test to see if we could purchase pre-built Apple computers that can compete in terms of performance and price with our custom PCs which have been built by our own internal IT guru Joseph Wu.


While we really appreciate Apple’s approach to their hardware quality and design, we can’t justify the price to performance difference at this time.

The custom water-cooled PC was between 26% and 114% faster than the top-of-the-line iMac. The most obvious objection to these results is that the iMac has a Retina display and so was pushing around a lot more pixels:

We were using a 2.5K Eizo vs the 5K Mac, however, to compensate we lowered the Smart Preview resolutions to 2048px on both machines, so all tests/previews were running at the same sizes on both sides.

John Gruber:

To me it just shows how many hoops you have to jump through to make iMac look bad.

Marco Arment:

There’s a lot of bullshitting in the parts choices, but the conclusion stands.

Cabel Sasser:

To me it’s a broader “Mac performance has lagged behind PC performance more than I can remember”


Of course a purpose-built PC will outperform an iMac, dollar for dollar. That’s not exactly news. The iMac also has a severe price-to-performance disadvantage here by including an expensive 5K panel, while the PC is tested with a much cheaper 2560x1440 monitor.

However, the disappointing thing to me here is that you can’t reach performance parity with the iMac by throwing more money at it. The iMac tested here is a completely maxed out machine.


The Skylake processor in the iMac is something the end user cannot overclock (without doing something extreme). And none of the Mac Pro cores are as fast. And Apple doesn’t water cool their machines. They simply don’t offer robust overclocking options to us. So, for a single-core, the 4.0 GHz Skylake in the iMac is the fastest thing Apple offers.

If there is an underlying, valid core criticism in this article, it’s the same one everybody already knows about: Apple doesn’t offer their end users a truly competitive array of system configurations. Instead, they force their users into carefully defined and limited product tiers, each one costing significantly more than the last.

3 Comments RSS · Twitter

I really hate these types of comparisons; they always do a terrible job and building equivalent machines.

All that said, it's really unfortunate that the Mac Pro is really the closest machine even capable of being a monster with real desktop parts. Too bad it's still so limited.

The MacPro is attracted to a niche market of limited video users. Even there the iMac often trumps the MacPro. Even when released the MacPro didn't have top end GPUs and Apple didn't even keep up with the level they did have. The dream of a GPU centric computing platform came out half baked and then was largely rejected other than very small niches where Windows machines running 2 - 4 or more high end GPUs dominate. Apple really doesn't even want to compete in that niche which makes the MacPro an even more confusing product. If Apple wants to compete with the high end they should just offer some dongle and license OS X to some top end video oriented PCs.

The better solution is the ever dreaded xMac. Something more like the old MacPro but without some of the necessities it had from a decade ago. Give people the option of adding graphics cards as they need them. Allow internal RAID. Right now the vast number of people who once bought MacPros are best served by the top end iMac but that doesn't really meet their needs either. Get rid of the MacPro and the MacMini and give something that offers the best of both but the expandability pros want.

Not that I expect Apple to listen.

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