Don’t Buy The iMac Pro, Build This Instead

Image result for Don't Buy The iMac Pro, Build This InsteadI’ve been a full-time wedding photographer for the past eight years and an “Apple Fan” since I was in 4th grade. But today, that has all changed. Here is why.

In 4th grade, I remember using the Apple II GS workstation in math class. When I was in high school I learned Photoshop on the famous colored and clear iMacs. In 2004 I bought the first line of the G5 white iMacs and I upgraded a few years later to a Mac Pro tower with dual processors. In 2008 I bought a Macbook Pro and after that a 27” iMac i7 with an array of connected G-Tech hard drives. So to say I was an Apple “fan” would be an understatement… I was truly committed in every way.

Six months ago it was time for an upgrade and I was willing to pay an extremely high price to purchase a computer that could keep up with my busy wedding photography business. I went to my local Apple store and was sadden to see Apples current “workstation” options. It felt like Apple was completely neglecting the “pro” market.  As an example, a top of the line 27” iMac costs $5300 and this doesn’t even include the markets latest hardware. $1400 of that price was for the RAM alone (more than double the market price). I was told by an Apple Store employee that the new line of iMacs are no longer user upgradable, and if I attempted to add RAM after the sale it would void the warranty.  I was willing to pay a premium for an Apple computer but this was ridiculous.

When it comes to the physical look and design of Apple computers, it’s obvious that they are still the king. How do they do it? Throttling. Have you ever held a powerful GPU? They are huge; almost the size of an iMac by itself, and that’s why you can’t get a powerful GPU in any Mac. Even if an iMac has the same chip as a comparable Windows computer, by slowing down the performance of that chip, it will create less heat, and Apple can save space. I love the beautiful design but for my business, I need the best tool for the job, not the sleekest.

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably a big fan of Apple’s operating system, but if you really think about it, you may realize just how little you rely on your operating system. I don’t know about you, but for me as an actual working pro my software needs are simple:

  • Email
  • Lightroom
  • Photoshop
  • Photomechanic
  • Premiere Pro
  • Word & Excel
  • Google Chrome / Google calendar

None of the computing needs for my business require an Apple computer. But, when I thought about building my own computer, I realized that the Apple ecosystem was limiting me. Here’s a list of things that you could never do with an iMac.

  • Ability to experiment with VR
  • Ability to play some 3D AAA game titles.
  • Ability to integrate ALL external drives inside of ONE case (clear off my desk!)
  • Ability to have removable internal storage for offsite backups
  • Ability to replace/upgrade any part at any time
  • Ability to use a screen larger than 27” and not have to have more than one (or have to use Thunderbolt)
  • Ability to use the LATEST tech, and have FULL control over power and performance.

So I decided to leave Apple and for the first time in my life, I built a PC, and not just any PC, “my” PC.

My Computer Components

Case: $215.00
Motherboard: $300.00
CPU: $329.89
CPU Cooler: $89.90
RAM: $778.00
GPU: $799.99
PSU: $244.99
Display: $902.00
Keyboard: $99.00
Mouse: $99.95
m.2 SSD (OS & Applications) $289.99
1TB SSD (Live Work) $437.00
1TB SSD (Games / VR) $437.00
2TB SSD (Pictures / “Digital Warehouse”) $859.00
2TB 7200rpm (Video Drive) $139.00
1TB 7200rpm (Data Drive) $84.99
1TB 7200rpm (Archive Drive) $84.99
8TB 5400rpm (Master Backup Drive) $274.00
8TB 5400rpm (Offsite Drive x2) $274.00 + $274.00
Removable Hot Swap Drive bay $17.49
Card reader: $29.95
Bluetooth dongle: $12.95
Windows 10 Pro: $139.00

Now, I will save you the time in totaling this all up and tell you that it’s $7,213.00 before shipping. That might sound like a lot, but it is still more powerful and way cheaper than a top of the line iMac Pro and external storage. If you’re unfamiliar with building a computer, check out this video.

My Workflow and Data Backup System

Speaking of storage, one of the things that I am most proud of on either system (Apple or PC) has been my personal “data workflow” which I shared here on Fstoppers about this time last year on my Apple computer system. I am so excited to have been able to finally refine this, and drastically reduce the amount of “mess” needed to accomplish the same task with this PC build. I use separate internal drives (listed above) for different applications. Then, every night at 3:30 am my system “looks” at all the connected drives one by one and writes not one, but two copies of ALL the data creating a “mirror” on large 8TB drives (basically a RAID 1). One of them is the “master backup” and lives in my PC all the time. The other is the “offsite drive” and this is ejected, and replaced with a third 8TB drive once a week and taken offsite. So, this means that all my data is on four drives at all times and one of them is off-site. The program that I use on the PC to manage all of this is incredible, and its called “ViceVersa Pro” and costs just $60. I would strongly recommend this setup for anyone who can not afford to lose their clients data, and complete details can be found in the video at the top of the post.  To me, this is what it means to have a professional setup and workflow.

What’s it Like Using Windows?

Coming from a lifetime of using OSX, moving to Windows was my greatest fear. I can tell you that all of the “little” things that I loved about OSX are now available in Windows 10, and a current PC is not like it was years ago. Microsoft has finally caught up to Apple in this sense and is leading in many ways. Gone are the days of worrying about blue screens of death or viruses. My computer just works and the operating system is almost completely forgotten as I use the same software that I used on my Mac.

OSX is a closed system, with hardly any user options. This is not the case with Windows 10. You have the control to use your computer how you see fit, but, at the same time, it doesn’t require any customization, if you’d rather keep things simple. Using Windows 10 has been incredibly easy, and at no point have I wished I was back on OSX.

I am not here trying to say that Windows PC’s are the best solution for everyone, it all depends on how you use a computer. If you don’t have a long list of performance expectations, then Apple’s products may be the best choice for you. But, if your goal is to work as quickly and efficiently as possible, you may want to consider building a custom rig to meet your exact needs.

Don’t just listen to me, or any one person. Do your own research and become your own expert. Don’t let emotion cloud your judgment when it comes to high ticket items like this.  Do what makes the most sense, and don’t be afraid to consider all of your options. I can tell you that my only regret is that I did not do this sooner.

Written by Travis Harris