$6,700 IMac Pro Vs $5,700 Custom PC: Adobe Premiere Performance Test
Both Apple and PCs have their pros and cons, but this article and video aren’t about that. A couple of weeks ago we compared two similarly priced high-end computers to test how Lightroom performed – the first being the new iMac Pro, and the other being a custom build from Puget Systems. In this video, we’ll compare Premiere Pro’s performance with the same computers to see how they perform.
Budget & Specs
Let’s start with the budget and specs. We started with the iMac Pro configured with:
- 3.2 Ghz 8-Core Intel Xeon W Processor
- 64GB 2666Mhz DDR4 Ram
- 2TB SSD internal storage
- Radeon Pro Vega 64 w/ 16GB of memory
For comparable warranty, we also added AppleCare to the iMac which gave us a pre-tax total of just over $6,700. Not cheap, but it does also include the beautiful 5K retina display which has beautiful and accurate colors out of the box. Not too long ago, I shared my thoughts on Apple products for photographers, and let’s just say it’s been a love-hate relationship. I will say that since the article, and since all of my machines have been repaired, I haven’t had any more issues.
On the PC side, we know we can build our own machines for cheaper. But, honestly, we don’t have the time anymore. If you enjoy building and troubleshooting your own machines, great! By doing so, you can save quite a bit of money. For us, we need pre-built machines that just work and we need the manufacturers of those machines to stand behind them so we can focus on what we do best, take pictures, and create education. Our research pointed us to Puget Systems, who designs purpose-built PCs for specific software applications. We had a working budget of around $5k since we wanted to leave plenty of room in the budget for whatever monitor/tweaks upgrades you might want.
The PC was configured with:
- Intel Core i9 9900K 3.6Ghz Eight Core 16MB processor
- 64GB of 2666Mhz DDR4 RAM by Crucial
- NVIDIA GeForce RTOX 2070 Founders Edition with 8GB memory
- 500GB Operating System SSD
- 2TB Secondary working SSD
- 10TB Western Digital Red Drive
Our pre-tax price, including our additional storage, was just over $4,800. This leaves us $1,900 for the monitor and potential upgrades. Side note, this price also includes Puget Systems lifetime labor and tech support warranty, as well as 3 years on parts. For the monitor, we added the BenQ PD 3200U 4K display for an additional $700 and pocketed the $1,100 difference. Also, keep in mind that we’ve built this system with an OS SSD and an additional 10TB drive. Had we built it with the same 2TB storage option as the iMac Pro, we’d drop another $640 from the price tag. At this point, I felt that familiar freedom in designing what I needed with my PC, versus just taking what Apple offers.
[REWIND: My Experience With Apple As A Photographer And Creative Professional…]
The Premiere Pro Tests
Both of these machines are highly capable, but our testing is specifically just for Premiere Pro use on the types of projects we typically do – trailers, full workshops/courses, webinars, etc. Most of the time we deal with 4K UHD footage from a Canon C200, occasionally dipping into Cinema Raw Light.
Again like the Lightroom Classic comparison, we’ve divided our tests into two categories: Passive tasks vs. Active tasks within Premiere. Passive tasks are things that we can run in the background such as importing, rendering, and exporting. Active tasks are the things we do while editing video: playback, cutting, color grading, graphics, etc. Of the two categories, Active Tasks are more critical since these tasks directly relate to how much time we spend on editing within Premiere. When editing hours of video content, delays in active tasks can exponentially affect the amount of time we spend on an edit.
For each set of tests, the appropriate/identical footage was loaded onto the desktop of each machine. Each task was tested at least three times to ensure accuracy.
Passive Task REsults
Let’s start with passive task results beginning with Importing. We’re importing an identical 476.7gb set of 4K UHD footage of a section of one of our workshops.
IMPORTING (WINNER = iMAC PRO)
The iMac Pro had an initial import of 1 minute 50.56 seconds while the Puget had a slower initial import of 1 minute 59.50 seconds, showing the iMac Pro to be around 8% faster than the PC when it came to importing.
Rendering Video (WINNER = Puget PC)
This test could be considered active or passive considering the length and complexity of the sequence being rendered. We ran a stress test that consisted of four 5-second C200 4K UHD files shot at 59.94p in a 2×2 split-screen on a 3,840×2,160 sequence. A LUT was placed on an adjustment layer that affected all 4 clips and two of these clips were reversed. The iMac Pro rendered out on an average of 55.99 seconds while the Puget was a good deal faster at 40.21 seconds or around 28% faster than the iMac.
Exporting Footage (WINNER = IMAC PRO)
For our export test, we wanted to test a real-world finalized project. We tested our Lighting III Teaser video, which is a 5 minute 22.13 second 4K UHD 23.976 sequence, complete with color grading, graphics, images, audio tracks, voiceover, and a mix of 4K UHD and 1080p footage. The iMac was faster at 8 minutes 58.80 seconds to export while the Puget took 10 minutes 35.58 seconds showing the iMac to be around 18% quicker than the PC. *Overall, the iMac Pro and Puget had fairly similar import times, the iMac Pro had a slight edge resulting in about 8% better import times. However, when it came to our rendering stress test, the Puget unexpectedly performed just over 28% quicker than the iMac Pro. We expected the processing power of the iMac Pro to outdo the PC on rendering, but it was quite the opposite. However, when it came to exporting, the iMac Pro once again stood out with an 18% quicker speed over the PC.
PC users don’t worry, in our conclusion, we’ll provide you an upgrade option that will get the Puget System to match or outperform the iMac Pro within budget. For now, let’s move to active tasks.
Active Task REsults
In regards to Active Tasks, we wanted to test some of the things we consistently do in every project. Although simple, one of the main things to look at when deciding what machine to buy is how well it handles playback and scrubbing, mainly with 4KUHD footage with effects applied.
Playback & Scrubbing Through Footage (Winner = iMac Pro)
We did start off testing Cinema Raw Light footage from a Canon C200 shooting 10-bit 59.94p to see how far we could push the machines. After importing our Cinema Raw Light footage, we dragged all our footage to a new timeline and hit the space bar. The iMac Pro performed significantly better in this aspect. Playback was smooth at full quality. There were also no issues while scrubbing, even without rendering. The Puget would drop frames right from the start although scrubbing was responsive. When the Puget was reduced to 1⁄2 quality, playback was smooth. Drop frames did occur but they didn’t affect playback. Once rendered, playback was smooth. We then added an adjustment layer and LUT. The iMac Pro would still perform well with little to no playback issues. The Puget performed the same as without the LUT, stuttering with playback but scrubbing was responsive.
We then did this test with standard 4K UHD footage from a C200 shot at 59.94p to see how each performed. The iMac Pro did just as well with playback and scrubbing. The Puget machine did significantly better handling the standard 4K UHD footage compared to the Cinema Raw Light footage. Scrubbing, surprisingly, was still a little choppy with the 4K UHD footage. Overall the iMac still wins this test hands down.
Adding Warp Stabilization (Winner = Puget PC)
The next active task we tested was adding Warp Stabilization to 5-second clips both in Cinema Raw Light and 4K UHD. With Cinema Raw Light footage shot at 59.94p, the iMac averaged 3 minutes 18 seconds while the Puget averaged 2 minutes 44 seconds on the same 5-second clip. We then applied Warp Stabilizer to a 5 second 4K UHD clip shot at 59.94p and the Puget was faster, but only slightly, averaging at 2 minutes and 16 seconds versus the iMac Pro’s 2 minutes and 23 seconds. Overall the Puget handles Warp Stabilization faster, especially with Cinema Raw Light footage.
Which Is The Best Computer for Video Editing?
On the iMac Pro side, we’re impressed. Apple has designed a sleek and sexy piece of hardware that’s as pretty to look at, as it is ferocious in speed and performance. The iMac Pro is highly capable in both still and video editing, although we can see it clearly shining on the video side. It’s not cheap, and we don’t have the same flexibility as the PC, but it’s a fantastic machine that will be more than enough for most power users. In addition, it comes with one of the most beautiful 5K displays money can buy. If your focus is video post-production, and you like Mac OS, this is the clear route. I do have to note that in recent years, we’ve seen Apple’s quality control and reliability take a dip, but, we’re hoping they change things around on that front. In the meanwhile, make sure you add AppleCare to any system you buy. It sucks, but it’s becoming a must-have.
With Puget Systems, we think we’ve found a PC system builder that delivers custom high-end and reliable PC product at a good value. Our tested build is solid for both still and video editing. But, if you’re wanting this machine to fit a still and 4K UHD editing workflow and compare to the iMac Pro in performance, I’d recommend removing the additional storage, and adjusting the processor to the i9920x which would yield an approximate 50% performance boost over the 9900x at a budget of $5,700 still leaving $1,000 for a 4K display of your choosing. If you want a PC for the 6K/8K editing workflow, we’d recommend stepping into their larger form factor which starts at $6,900.
For me, I’m going to order one last Puget System machine to suit both of my needs on the Lightroom and Premiere side by making that simple tweak to an i9 9920x 12-core and call it a day. That’s going to be my primary workstation at the office for both Lightroom and Premiere. But, I still love my Apple machines for home and on-the-job use. The displays built into the iMac Pro, as well as my MacBook Pro, make them far better machines when working on location. Fortunately, I have the luxury of living in both Apple and PC worlds and while I love the performance of my PCs, I also love the environment of Mac OS.
Which computer works best for you when it comes to video editing? Do these results line up with your testing? Let us know in the comments below!