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iMac 5K vs Mac Pro: Photoshop Benchmarks

Adobe Photoshop CC 20141014.r257

iMac 5K 4.0 GHz, 32GB, 1TB SSD, AMD Radeon R9 M295X 4GB GDDR5 -versus-
2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core, 64GB, 1TB SSD, D700

The two machines tested here are the fastest possible models for this type of work. The iMac 5K as tested here is well into Mac Pro pricing territory, approaching $5K as configured, though of course it includes the display.

A note on the 8-core 3.3 GHz Mac Pro

Apple offers a 3.0 GHz 8 core, and it would be a bit slower than the 3.3 GHz 8-core Mac Pro tested here.

However, since Photoshop uses far less than its 8 cores, it is likely that the 3.5 GHz 6-core Mac Pro would similarly outperform the iMac as seen here, since the 3.3 GHz 8 core and 3.5 GHz 6-core CPUs have nearly identical turbo boost behaviors.

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diglloydSpeed1

The diglloyd Speed1 benchmark uses a mix of the most commonly used Photoshop operations with a file size that allows everything to stay in memory. Hence it accurately represents what one might expect in everyday use of Adobe Photoshop CC. Specialty operations such as Liquify and other GPU-intensive tasks are just that—specialty, and are not included in this suite.

The 3.3 GHz 8-core Mac Pro easily outperforms a maxed-out iMac, the iMac taking about 15% longer to finish.

diglloydSpeed1 Photoshop benchmark
iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700

diglloydMedium

The diglloyd Medium benchmark uses a mix of the core Photoshop operations with a moderately larger file size that exceeds what most users are likely to use, taking about 15GB of memory usage in Photoshop.

The 3.3 GHz 8-core Mac Pro outperforms a maxed-out iMac, the iMac taking about 14% longer to finish.

diglloydMedium Photoshop benchmark
iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700

diglloydHuge

The diglloyd Huge benchmark uses a mix of the core Photoshop operations with a file size that requires about 56GB of memory usage in Photoshop, far beyond what most users are likely to encounter.

Hence maximum memory capacity and SSD speed (scratch) are both relevant, the Mac Pro taking 64GB as tested here (or 128GB possible), and the iMac hardware-limited at 32GB (CPU and/or firmware rule out anything more).

The 3.3 GHz 8-core Mac Pro outperforms a maxed-out iMac, the iMac taking about 90% longer to finish. this is to be expected given the ~56GB memory size needed for this test and the 32GB in the iMac.

diglloydHuge Photoshop benchmark
iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700

Conclusions

The iMac 5k when maxed-out turns in very respectable performance about 15% slower than the best possible Mac Pro until and unless memory runs short.

That difference might not matter much to many if not most users, but the Mac Pro also offers three Thunderbolt busses with six ports, dual GPUs, and the ability to drive three displays, and up to 128GB memory. With the maxed-out iMac 5K well into Mac Pro pricing territory (albeit with display included), those considering a maxed-out iMac might do well to consider the Mac Pro—in essence one trades off the more robust versatility of the Mac Pro for the 5K display of the iMac.


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