But this leaves the Mac Pro, the machine that is traditionally most associated with the creative market and which Apple has promised will be completely redesigned in 2018 or 2019. Should pro users wait patiently for what is sure to be a beast of a system, or will one of the other new and updated Macs offer what they need?
If you’re a pro looking to upgrade your Mac you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got all the buying advice you need.
15in MacBook Pro
The MacBook Pro has pro in its name, so does that make it a pro machine? We’re not convinced in the case of the 13in model, but the 15in MacBook Pro is a great laptop for pro users, and not surprisingly it’s a popular choice.
The 15in MacBook Pro has quad-core processors, which are actually better than those in the iMac because they are i7 rather than i5 (we’ll look at the iMac next). Build-to-order options include a 3.1GHz processor and a 2TB SSD.
The 2,880×1,800 resolution display on the 15in MacBook Pro is great, but in our opinion it lets down the range slightly because there are 4K displays available on other laptops now. A better display on the MacBook Pro is something pros have been calling out for.
They’re also asking Apple to offer 32GB RAM on the MacBook Pro, but for now it’s limited to 16GB – hopefully this is something that Apple will rectify in 2018. (Read about what we expect here: New MacBook Pro rumours.)
If you need a better screen and more RAM then we’d advise you to look at Apple’s other pro machines, but if you are looking for a fast and powerful portable Mac, and the resolution and RAM aren’t important, you can’t really go wrong with the 15in MacBook Pro.
We help you decide between Apple’s MacBook laptop ranges and Apple’s Mac desktops here.
The standard 27in iMac may not have Pro in its name, but with quad-core processors, discreet graphic cards, and a high-power processor, it’s very much a pro machine.
Best of all, the 27in iMac offers a 5K Retina display that’s capable of showing one billion colours thanks to some clever technology that mimics 10-bit colour.
The iMac’s 5,120×2,880 resolution display really is one of the best 5K screens out there – and it costs a lot less than buying a separate 5K display would (which is definitely a point in the iMac’s favour).
The 27in iMac range starts at £1,749. For that you get a 3.4GHz quad-core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, a Radeon Pro 570 graphics card with 4GB video memory, two Thunderbolt ports, and a 1TB Fusion Drive.
You can pay more and get a faster processor and graphics card, and you can max out your 27in iMac with up to 64GB RAM and a 4.2GHz quad-core i7 processor as build-to-order options. An iMac with those specs would cost £3,689. Or you could go the whole hog and update the storage to a 2TB SSD for a cool £1,260, bringing the final price to £4,949.
By that point you’re in iMac Pro territory, and that’s the next professional Mac we’ll take a look at.
Like the iMac, the iMac Pro has a 5K Retina display: in fact it’s identical to the one on the 27in model. That means a 5,120×2,880 resolution, 500 nits brightness, P3 wide colour and 10-bit colour support. There are no extra pixels or special technologies here.
But the iMac Pro gets some pro components that the standard iMac lacks, justifying its pro name. There are workstation-class Xeon W processors with up to 18 cores (even the base spec gives you eight cores), rather than the paltry four offered by the iMac. These processors top out at a Turbo Boost of 4.5GHz, and the Pro performed stunningly well in our battery of speed tests.
You’ll also find the state-of-the-art AMD Radeon Pro Vega GPU inside the iMac Pro (the 56 by default, with 8GB of memory, but you can upgrade to the 64 with 16GB).
The iMac Pro offers four Thunderbolt ports, twice as many as the iMac, and offers 10GB rather than 1GB Ethernet.
RAM-wise, the iMac Pro offers up to 128GB RAM, while the standard iMac maxes out at 64GB.
As for storage, you can get a 4TB SSD as a build-to-order option with the iMac Pro, with the iMac offering a maximum of just 2TB.
All these components come at a high price, though. The price of the iMac Pro starts at £4,899/$4,999. And if you add the extras on to that price you’re getting into mortgage territory.
If you need a workstation-level processor and the best graphics you can get your hands on we recommend sizing up the iMac Pro before making your decision. That said, there is another Mac in the works that should top the iMac Pro. We’ll move on to that one next.
Mac Pro (2018)
The Mac Pro is a bit of a difficult one right now.
Apple has admitted that the current trashcan Mac Pro has been a bit of a disaster. It didn’t use those words exactly, but did concede that the current design means the company itself can’t upgrade the machine with new components, as a result of which it’s been left to stagnate since it launched in 2013. We think disaster is probably fair.
With that in mind we definitely do not recommend the current Mac Pro as a good buy if you’re a professional Mac user. The only reason to buy one right now (from the UK store or US store) is if you’re producing audio, because it’s completely silent in operation.
Should you wait until the new Mac Pro launches? If you need a new Mac urgently or even semi-urgently then this isn’t the solution for you: Apple hasn’t yet put a time frame on when the new machine will arrive. There are hopes that we could see the new Mac Pro at WWDC in 2018 (we certainly expect Apple to be showing off a prototype on stage there), but the new model may not arrive until 2019.
On top of that, we don’t know much about the new Mac Pro (although that hasn’t stopped us speculating here). We expect that like the iMac Pro, it’ll offer up to 128GB of RAM, an impressive Xeon processor and up to 4TB flash memory, but beyond that the sky’s the limit. You can be sure it’ll have some truly pro features that you won’t find in the iMac Pro, but we don’t know what they are yet.
Apple has promised that the new Mac Pro will be modular, so we are hoping for a return of the upgradability of the previous generation Mac Pro – this may well be what sets it apart from the iMac Pro. Being able to add new graphics cards and the latest processor down the line is something that Mac professionals have been crying out for since Apple released its current Mac Pro and discontinued the cheese-grater style Mac Pro.
So in conclusion, which pro Mac should you buy? Or should you wait for the Mac Pro?
Obviously it depends on your needs. If you need a portable, the MacBook Pro is your only option. We’d recommend that you spec it up beyond what you think you need now because that will future-proof it for a few more years. If you need 32GB RAM you might want to wait a little longer as we think that might be rectified in 2018.
The standard 27in iMac is a good option, especially thanks to its 5K display. There are plenty of build-to-order options that should allow you to build a really powerful Mac – without having to spend a fortune on the iMac Pro.
If you need your iMac to have workstation power and a graphics card to match, then the iMac Pro will answer your needs. But it’s a high price if you really want to spec it to the max.
If you need a Mac that will be upgradable in the future as well as having the ultimate specs now, we’re sorry to tell you that such a machine doesn’t exist… yet. But when the Mac Pro launches we are hopeful that it will offer just that. So if that’s what you need, then you need to wait a little while longer.