Is the IMac faster than the MacBook Pro?
August 19, 2012 3:20 PM   Subscribe

My older Mac mini cant handle my music making needs anymore. I use it to run Logic, Reason, and many soft synths. as well as record 8 channels of audio and applying effects etc. I am not sure if I should get an Imac or a MacBook Pro.


Someone told me once that the Mac Mini is basically a laptop without the screen, and that makes sense to me, after having opened a few of them.

I have no personal experience with the iMac though I have seen a lot of them. I need a new computer that can handle al of my music making needs.

I figured I would buy an Imac since I hoped it was more of a regular computer than a laptop but thinking about it has made me unsure.

The basic question I have is if a brand new MacBook Pro will be slower than a brand new IMac?

All things being equal I would prefer a MacBook Pro I think, but in terms of expandability and IO + processing power is one preferable to the other?
posted by digividal to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I am almost certain that a MacBook Pro would be more than enough for your needs. I primarily use a 2012 MBP with Ableton Live, but on occasion use Logic and Reason; I've used it on songs with say, 50 MIDI channels running soft-synths or samplers, 20 audio channels, each with its own effects chain and maybe a half-dozen send channels, and it never even sputtered for a second.
posted by Tiresias at 3:25 PM on August 19, 2012

If you don't need a laptop, an iMac would probably be a better choice. However, the conventional wisdom of "laptop slow, desktop fast" isn't quite as true as it once was. Things like SSDs have considerably narrowed the performance gap, and these days most CPU advancements are aimed at reducing power requirements and heat rather than increasing raw performance.

How old is this Mac Mini?
posted by The Lamplighter at 3:25 PM on August 19, 2012

I don't know much about the software you'd be using, but as the owner of a new Macbook Pro and even newer iMac, I'd suggest going with the iMac if you don't absolutely need the portability. You'll definitely be able to put more RAM in the iMac and the greater screen space is wonderful if you're using software that relies on a lot of pallates/windows/menus being open at once (like Photoshop, etc)
posted by blaneyphoto at 3:43 PM on August 19, 2012

Um, ok, but an iMac is their entry-level, casual-user desktop, and as such is probably less powerful than a MacBook Pro.

If you're going for maximum power, I think you want a Mac Pro tower.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:45 PM on August 19, 2012

Oops, messed up the link
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:45 PM on August 19, 2012

I agree the Mac Pro would be the best solution, but I guess I would prefer to get a MacBook Pro things being equal or an iMac both can be had cheaper than the Mac Pro.
posted by digividal at 3:46 PM on August 19, 2012

My Mac mini is maybe 2.5 years old.
posted by digividal at 3:46 PM on August 19, 2012

Ah OK. I just wasn't sure if you were aware of Mac Pro's since they are relatively rare. I would say go with the laptop then, as it is probably a better computer than the iMac and also portable.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:55 PM on August 19, 2012

(But with the caveat that you cannot upgrade the RAM in a new MacBook pro, which is incredibly obnoxious IMO. So you need to either buy it from Apple with as much RAM as you'd ever conceivably need, or buy a slightly order model and upgrade it to 8 or 16GB of RAM via

(I'd go with the latter, personally)
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:56 PM on August 19, 2012

Um, ok, but an iMac is their entry-level, casual-user desktop, and as such is probably less powerful than a MacBook Pro.

This is not accurate information. The iMac can be configured for a VERY WIDE spectrum of users and although not as expandable as the Tower, the iMac will be the better choice, hands down unless portability is a must.
posted by blaneyphoto at 3:59 PM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

The iMac is going to have a faster CPU, be able to hold more RAM, and can be configured with two hard rives. They're really pretty burly machines. I'd get the iMac, with the SSD for a boot drive, and a 2nd spinning hard drive for data. That would make the app more responsive, and give you more throughput for recording audio. RAM is super-easy to add to the iMac, so you could add more later if it looks like you need it.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:07 PM on August 19, 2012

The top-end iMac with the i7 cpu upgrade and an ssd is said to be the fastest Mac ever. Currently $2700 + options. There is also outboard Thunderbolt storage which both the iMac and an MBP can use, if you're needing Terabytes for your stuff.
posted by rhizome at 4:48 PM on August 19, 2012

Um, ok, but an iMac is their entry-level, casual-user desktop, and as such is probably less powerful than a MacBook Pro.

This once may have been good advice but isn't really true any more (and apple seems to be practically phasing out their old pro lineup; the macrumors buyers guide actually advises you not to buy a mac pro because they are so outdated). My ~2-year old work imac still tops just about any of the macbook pros you can buy now, except that I didn't get an SSD.
posted by advil at 6:05 PM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

475 days since last iMac refresh. It doesn't have USB3 or the latest Intel CPU, Ivy Bridge, that the MacBook Pros (including the non-retina ones) just got. RAM is 1600MHz on new MacBook Pros, 1333MHz on iMac. iMac can go to 16GB of RAM officially, 32 GB unofficially.

iMac can use 3.5" hard drives which can be faster (7200 RPM) (and a bit more capacious) than 2.5" laptop drives (5400 RPM in bigger sizes), but if you're going SSD, that matters less. The iMac can hold both a hard drive and SSD, though, which is nice for keeping non-current projects close-at-hand. Also a 27" 2560x1440 screen is pretty awesome, but is $1k extra for a notebook.

I'm a coder & I switched from an 8 core Mac Pro with a hard drive to (last year's) Mac Book Air with SSD and only 2 cores and most things are faster on the Air. I'd spend the $$ on an SSD even if you have to choose a slower CPU.

Ars Technica on the newest Air: "Ivy Bridge processors make the new low-end i5 equivalent to last year's i7 in performance"
posted by morganw at 8:44 PM on August 19, 2012

Geekbench scores
iMac 12,2 Core i7 12,2 3.4GHz 11648/12651
[old] MacBook Pro 8,2 Core i7 2.3GHz 10326/11166
MacBook Pro 9,1 Core i7 2.7GHz 12367/13477
Mac Pro 5,1 Quad Core 3.2GHz Nehalem 9850/10440
Mac Pro 5,1 Six Core 3.33 Westmere 14089/15802
posted by morganw at 9:30 AM on August 20, 2012

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