Lightroom Shootout: $6,700 iMac Pro vs $5,700 PC

Pye Jirsa over at SLR Lounge recently published a Mac vs PC comparison that answers an important question for photographers: which is better for Adobe Lightroom Classic CC, a powerful iMac Pro or an equivalent custom-built PC?

It’s important to note that this is not a straight-up Mac vs PC “shootout” that takes every variable into account vis-a-vis operating system, upgradability, etc. It’s just meant to pit a very powerful Apple computer against a very powerful custom built PC and see which of the two is best for editing photos in the notoriously slow Lightroom Classic.

For this comparison, Pye pits an iMac Pro with a 3.2GHz 8-Core Intel Xeon W Processor, 64GB 2666Mhz DDR4 RAM, 2TB SSD, and Radeon Pro Vega 64 w/ 16GB of dedicated memory against a custom-built PC from Puget Systems sporting an Intel Core i9 9900K 3.6GHz 8-Core processor, 64GB of 2666Mhz DDR4 RAM, 500GB Operating System SSD, 2TB Secondary SSD, and NVIDIA GeForce RTOX 2070 Founders Edition graphics card with 8GB dedicated memory.

The price tag of the iMac, with Apple Care, came out to just under $6,700 before tax. The price tag of the Puget Systems PC, after buying the necessary peripherals like a BenQ PD3200U 4K display and including a lifetime warranty, came out to just $5,700. If you want to bring them a bit closer in price, just imagine they bought a more expensive photo-editing monitor like the 4K BenQ SW271 and we could potentially close that $1,000 gap a bit.

So, how did they do? Did either the Mac or PC have any significant advantage when it come to churning through images in Adobe Lightroom Classic CC?

The short answer is “yes,” in Pye’s testing, the PC had a significant advantage in several categories. While the iMac Pro won out when performing passive tasks importing, exporting, and rendering previews, the Puget Systems PC really came into its own during more critical tests like moving from image to image in the Develop module, panorama stitching, or using local adjustment brushes.

If you’re only using Lightroom to edit the odd image, you probably wouldn’t benefit much from the difference; if you’re editing a lot of images—i.e. a professional workflow—the PC seems to be the way to go in terms of sheer performance.

Of course, this is just a very brief summary. Check out the video above or read the full comparison over on SLR Lounge to see exactly how the two computers compared in each category, with timed breakdowns of each task. Then, once you’re done, feel free to argue over the merits of the Unix-based operating system, upgradability (or lack there-of), the “Apple tax” and so on in the comments.