We all recoiled at the headlines as Apple unveiled their latest iMac Pro graphics and memory configurations last week.
If you haven’t read yet, this includes an excessive 256GB of 2666MHz DDR4 ECC Memory that takes the total cost of a single fully configured iMac Pro up to £14,757. Yes, you read that right, £14,757. I shot coffee out of my nose when I first found out.
‘Apple, excessive?!’, I hear you gasp in disbelief. ‘Never’.
You can essentially buy a brand-new basic iMac Pro (£4,899) for the price of a single £4,680 RAM upgrade.
Also included in the latest configurations are:
- 2.3 Ghz Intel Xeon W processor with 18 cores for £2,160
- Radeon Pro Vega 64x graphics with 16GB of HBM2 memory for £630.
- 4TB SSD storage for £2,160.
But is all this good value for professionals?
To be frank, no. Almost £15,000 for a computer is a lot of money to invest in a system, even for a professional workstation or anything with the word Pro in it.
The latest iMac Pro configurations are overpowered for most roles and applications. At Novatech, we love a challenge. That’s why we’ve decided to experiment and try to beat Apple’s latest £14,757 configurations with a cheaper and more powerful system.
From our selection of customisable Novatech PC Workstations, we have designed an entire Workstation PC setup that will include: system components that match the iMac Pro’s, the best available accessories for professionals, and even the desk and chair that you’ll be sitting on.
Oh, and did I mention that we are going to do it for under £10,000?
I did say that we love a challenge.
Novatech’s Workstation PC system
To start, we are going to take the core Novatech HyperStation WSW-QR5 Workstation PC
Motherboard: Supermicro X11SRA Motherboard
Processor: Intel Xeon W-2155, 10 Core, 3.30GHz, 13.75MB Cache, 140Watts.
Memory: 128GB(4x32GB) Samsung ECC Registered DDR4 2666 MHz Memory Modules.
Graphics: PNY NVIDIA Quadro RTX 5000 Graphics Card.
Storage: 2 x Samsung 970 Pro 1TB NVME M.2 SSD (up to 3500MB/s R | 2700MB/s W).
Base Price: £5,489.99
iMac Pro - Unconfigured
Motherboard: Apple Motherboard
Processor: 3.2GHz 8-core Intel Xeon W processor, Turbo Boost up to 4.2GHz.
Memory: 32GB 2666MHz DDR4 ECC memory.
Graphics: Radeon Pro Vega 56 with 8GB of HBM2 memory.
Storage: 1TB SSD storage.
Base Price: £4,899.00
The Novatech HyperStation WSW-QR5 gives us a great starting system to develop what will still be cheaper than a fully configured iMac Pro. At this point, an unconfigured iMac Pro is cheaper than the Novatech HyperStation WSW-QR5 and notably includes the fixed screens that iMacs are built with. However, the power of the HyperStation is significantly more powerful than the iMac Pro’s components before we have even started to swap out some of them.
Let’s see if we can get more bang for our buck by swapping out some of the components:
COMPUTER PROCESSOR (CPU)
Intel Xeon W-2195 processor with 18 cores.
Novatech price: £1,455.83
Intel Xeon W processor with 18 cores.
Apple price: £2,160.00
The Intel Xeon W processors are designed for the power requirements of workstation professionals, delivering defining performance, security, and reliability for a professional’s increasing workload demand.
From the specs, these are the same Intel Xeon W processors, although Apple is known to modify the sockets of their processors. The Intel Xeon W processors come equipped with 36 threads, 24.75 MB Cache, and up to 4.30 GHz Max Turbo Frequency. These are perfect for the intensive workstation requirements of a professional workstation system.
The notable difference between the two system’s hardware is the price, which puts the iMac Pro’s total price just above our workstation.
Total price of Novatech HyperStation: £6,945.82
Total price of iMac Pro: £7,059.00
256GB (8X32GB) 2666MHz DDR4 ECC.
Novatech price: £764.65
256GB 2666MHz DDR4 ECC.
Apple price: £4,680.00
The average user never needs over 16GB of RAM for gaming, or between 32GB to 64GB for 3D modelling and video editing. 256GB is essentially overindulgence for the sake of being overindulgent, even when running advanced AI processes (especially if you are planning to finally develop that grow-your-own-Skynet kit at home).
This addition of RAM was obviously the biggest headline stealer about Apple. Honestly, we can’t really understand the realistic requirements of why a common professional user would need this much memory other than to run applications simultaneously for heavy workloads, but we’ve added it regardless.
Total price of Novatech HyperStation: £7,710.00
Total price of iMac Pro: £11,739.00
PNY NVIDIA Quadro RTX 5000 Graphics Card.
Novatech price: £0.00
Radeon Pro Vega 64X with 16GB of HBM2 memory.
Apple price: £630.00
We decided to keep the GPU that already comes default in the Novatech HyperStation WSW-QR5. This is because the HyperStation’s NVIDIA Quadro RTX 5000 graphics has better specs than Apple’s most expensive Radeon Pro Vega 64X graphics card that can be built into the iMac Pro.
It’s hard to do a direct benchmark because the graphics cards use different technologies and features. However, based off the Radeon Vega Pro WX 9100 16GB GPU – which is similar to the iMac Pro’s Radeon Pro Vega 64X - the RTX comes off 19% better.
Below is a benchmark from Technical City that compares the Radeon PRO WX 9100 and Quadro RTX 5000 to give us a broader idea of the power of both GPUs.
Radeon PRO WX 9100
Quadro RTX 5000
Core clock speed
Manufacturing process technology
Power consumption (TDP)
Memory clock speed
Although the Radeon Pro Vega 64 has some fantastic capabilities, the Nvidia Quadro RTX 5000 is better suited for professionals. For example, NVIDIA GPUs have been known to work better with Adobe Suite CC. Only since 2018 has it been that AMD graphics cards have become compatible with Adobe Suite.
Total price of Novatech HyperStation: £7,710.00
Total price of iMac Pro: £12,369.00
4 x Samsung 970 Pro 1TB NVME M.2 SSD.
Novatech price: £463.97
4TB SSD storage.
Apple price: £2,160.00
Both systems can be customised with a large 4TB of storage for all projects and tasks. However, Apple charge a substantial amount more for 4TB of SSD storage.
Total price of Novatech HyperStation: £8,174.42
Total price of iMac Pro: £14,529.00
Monitor: LG 27" 4K Ultra HD IPS, HDR 10 LED Monitor - £479.98
Keyboard: Ducky One2 Mini RGB Backlit Gaming Keyboard - £109.99
Mouse: Logitech MX Master 2S Mouse - £89.99
Monitor: 27-inch Retina 5K display with 5120x2880 resolution - £0
Keyboard: Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad - £0
Mouse: Magic Mouse 2 + Magic Trackpad 2 - £149.00
VESA Mount Adapter Kit: VESA Mount Adapter Kit for iMac Pro - £79.00
The iMac Pro benefits here because it comes as an all-in-one package that includes a keyboard and a 27-inch 5K display that fits all the system’s components.
The money that we saved on our budget allowed us to splash out on one of our favourite monitors, the LG 27" 4K monitor. We chose the Logitech MX Master 2S Mouse because this is Logitech’s flagship mouse and is perfect for professionals, designed to let you seamlessly control a two-monitor setup and provide exceptional comfort and customisation.
We also couldn’t help but treat ourselves to a raving Ducky One2 Mini RGB Backlit Gaming Keyboard. Come on, just look at that beauty.
The RGB Keyboard features:
-Brand new bezel design
-PBT double-shot seamless keycaps
-Large variety of dual color keycaps
-German made Cherry MX key switches
-3 level adjustable feet
-Detachable USB Type-C cable
-Dual layer PCB
-Supports Ducky Macro 2.0, the most powerful hardware available in the market
-RGB Backlit version
-Brand new RGB lighting modes and mode architecture
-60% size, lightweight and extremely portable
All Ducky One 2 Mini comes with 10 additional PBT double-shot colourful keycaps that glow between random RGB colours.
Total price of Novatech HyperStation: £8,554.38
Total price of iMac Pro: £14,757.00
DESK AND CHAIR
And since we are below budget, we continued to add to our workstation’s entire setup by even planning the price of the very desk and chair that you would base the system base on.
L-Shape Executive Desk
Retail price: £409.99
Straub High Back Recliner Ergonomic Executive Chair
Retail price: £129.99
You can always find cheaper variants than these office necessities. But damn, just look at that chair. That looks so comfortable that it could even double as a bed.
The L-Shaped desk will give enough room for those of you that require a vast workspace for paperwork and electronics.
Total price of iMac Pro: £14,757.00
Total Novatech Workstation price: £9,863.39
And there we have it, a customised Workstation that is nearly £5,000 cheaper than a fully configured Apple iMac Pro and includes the whole office setup of a desk, chair, dual monitors and full accessories!
This has been a fun article to write and has been very insightful to the benefits of configuring a customisable workstation system without magnetising towards the familiar and often excessively expensive brands. Don’t be a sheep and get the same copy-paste system. Configure your own workstation that reflects your role and matches YOUR requirements.
Obviously, £10,000 is expensive for a common PC user that is just looking to simply game or is starting out in amateur design, etc. Please remember that these systems have been geared towards professionals that require a robust workstation for heavy-workloads and swift capabilities for creative and PC-intensive roles.
Make sure to leave a comment below and let us know what you’d like to add or change about these system choices. Check out the Novatech website for their full array of fantastic PC variants and accessories.
Thanks for reading!
You can check out our full range Workstations here and filter them between indsustries for use.
Sigurjon Helgi Kristjansson - 28 Mar 2019
As correctly stated in the article, the Apple computer has a lot of bells and whistles that are more for show than what is needed, or put differently WANTS as opposed to NEEDS (i.e. what the manufacturer WANTS to sell you as opposed to what the customer NEEDS). - Regrettably, manufacturers often set up and configure systems to what THEY WANT you to have, instead of what YOU NEED. Some say they will build it to your specification, but when you tell them what you want, all of a sudden, they tell you that they ONLY do such and such. (This puts me off, and I tell them I'll take my business elsewhere). This is where Novatech differs, as they will give me a discount if I DO NOT buy Windows OS, so I can put on the computer the OS that suits me, be it chrome, Linux MX, Scientific Linux, Porteus (Linux) (fastest start up available), Linux BSD or even Android. I can then choose the search engine that suits my needs (or those of my customers), and what I loved most about your article, was how you covered, how much memory was required for the tasks at hand, e.g. 32GB for gaming, and 64GB for video processing. It was very considerate of you to cover the furniture as well, but like you mentioned in the article, there was a lot of overindulgence in the set up from Apple, and it reminded me of an extremely expensive laptop (which covered a whole desk) and wasn't really that special. People are often duped into buying far to much than is required, e.g. for home surfing, watching video and indulging in social media, sure get the next one up maybe, if you only buy a laptop every 10 years, but if you are a professional, and use the machine like a work horse, then you want something that can be scaled up if required (e.g. memory etc.). The problem today, is not so much the hardware, as it is the software. Software manufacturers, are too obsessed with making things bigger and bulkier, making the systems run slower, thinking that people will fall for the jargon saying requires XXX amount of memory to run, then you get someone who has a less expensive model, running PORTEUS Linux (which loads stuff into RAM and in segments so it only runs what is required, when it is required) and starts the computer up in 15s instead of wasting precious time faffing about loading all sorts of stuff, when all you want to do is check your e-mails before you have to catch the train to that all important meeting. The difference is, that an OS like PORTEUS is designed by people who work and want fast working systems that aren't wasting precious memory or processor time, while the others by people who sell, and want to slow down systems because they cannot be bothered designing systems that work fast, instead waste memory and processor time. To put it simple, I loved your article.