$4,000 custom build PC trounces a $4000 iMac in a photography showdown

A $4000 custom build PC beats $4000 iMac hands down in a photography test

For years running, we have always pitted an Apple’s iMac against numerous custom built PCs, and the comments have been fueled that the separate machine are better in their own ways. Now, thanks to the efforts of SLR Lounge, we finally have real-world test results when a $4,000 iMac is pitted against a $4,000 custom PC. To provide an even more detailed comparison, here are the hardware specifications of both machines:

Custom PC Specs

  • Intel i7-5960X @ 3.00Ghz overclocked to 4.5Ghz ($1025)
  • RAM 64GB ($350)
  • EVGA NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti ($630)
  • Samsung 850 EVO 1TB ($300)
  • Corsair 450D Case ($125)
  • Corsair AX860 Power Supply ($140)
  • Corsair Hydro H110 Water Cooler ($120)
  • Windows 10 Pro ($100/$200)
  • EIZO 27-inch FlexScan IPS Display 2560×1440 ($1000)
  • FINAL PRICE $4,370 (Amazon No Sales Tax Where applicable)

Apple iMac Specs

  • 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K Display
  • Intel i7 Quad-Core 4.00Ghz
  • 32GB 1867Mhz DDR3 SDRAM
  • 1TB Flash Storage
  • AMD Radeon R9 M395X w/ 4GB Video Memory
  • FINAL PRICE $4,431 (Apple Tax required)

Given below are the tests that were carried out on both machines.

Image Testing Methodology

For the following series of tests, 1,121 identical RAW images from the Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 5DS were used on both machines. All image settings were held equal between machines for control, and all tests were run 2-3 times to ensure accuracy.

Lightroom Import

Time required to import a total of 1,121 images directly from the internal SSD drive on each machine.

  • Custom PC took 51 Seconds
  • Apple iMac took 81 Seconds

RESULTS: CUSTOM PC approx. 114 percent quicker than Apple iMac

Lightroom Smart Previews

Time required to generate 1,121 Smart Previews for the imported images, both machines used 2048px and the same ‘Medium’ quality settings for their Smart Preview settings in the Catalog Preferences.

  • Custom PC took 19 Minutes 22 Seconds
  • Apple iMac took 26 Minutes 01 Seconds

RESULTS: CUSTOM PC approx. 26 percent quicker than Apple iMac

Lightroom Develop Module Image To Image Time

All catalogs/previews deleted. Images re-imported without any form of previews. This test measured the amount of time it took to scroll through 114 RAW images within the Develop Module as we wait for each image to fully load on screen.

  • Custom PC took 114 Images in 1 Minute and 10.3 Seconds
  • Apple iMac took 114 Images in 1 Minute and 58.1 Seconds

RESULTS: Custom PC approx. 81 percent quicker than Apple iMac

Looking at these test results, we can safely conclude that a custom built PC is much powerful than an iMac that carries the same price tag, mainly because of Apple’s affinity to price its products at an insanely high price. This goes to show you that if you want more firepower, then you should invest in a custom built computer system.


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Muhd. Omer cannot control his love for tech, so he became an author at Techworm to report on the latest happenings in technology, and to educate others


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