$8,000 Mac Pro vs $8,000 Puget PC | High-End Apple vs PC in 2020
Imagine having $8,000 to buy or build your dream computer. Which route would you take? Apple or PC? If you’re interested in finding out which option represents the better buy, then stay tuned. We’re going to pit these systems against one another in a head to head showdown to find out where your $8,000 will be best spent.
Video: $8,000 Mac Pro Vs. Puget Systems
In general, when comparing Apple & PC’s, you’re going to get more hardware and performance value on the PC side. Those who love Apple, however, appreciate Apple’s overall operating system and the experience that goes with owning and operating an Apple computer. That said, we’re going to base our test strictly on performance at the purchase price of $8,000 and see just how significant a difference there is between Apple and a high-quality PC system builder.
Why Mac Pro Vs. Puget Systems?
The Mac Pro is a thing of beauty, both inside and out. It’s completely free of cables and clutter, and its sleek design has become iconic. Moreover, the components used inside Apple computers, from the hardware to the displays, are generally high quality. Even though I’ve personally had issues with some of the Apple computers I’ve purchased over the last few years, they generally hold up better than our store-bought PC’s.
For the PC, we chose to go with Puget Systems. Why? As I mentioned previously, finding a quality PC has always proven challenging for our studio. PC’s typically do not feature the same design forethought that clearly goes into Apple products and they usually use cheaper components. Our outlook changed, however, when we came across Puget Systems. Puget specializes in purpose-built PC’s. For this contest, I asked Puget to build a flagship PC that would be a content creator’s dream. I wanted it to be able to masterfully handle RAW processing, high-megapixel cameras, as well as a 4K RAW production workflow for video.
The resulting PC from Puget Systems, which included the AMD 3970X Threadripper, priced out at $8,000. I then went to Apple and spec’d out a Mac Pro for the same price. To be clear, we’re comparing computers at the same price point, not with the same hardware. If we were to build out the Apple to match the Puget Systems PC, we would have to shell out over $16,000.
Some may argue that these machines can be built for less money rather than purchasing them all ready to go, but that’s somewhat like saying, “Why buy a car when you can build one yourself for less?” A lot of people don’t know how to build their own computers and they don’t care to learn. Many of us have little to no interest in spending our time building out our own computers. That said, let’s scratch the “you should build it yourself” argument.
While Apple takes the prize in design aesthetics, that’s not why we’re here. Puget’s PC may not look quite as sleek as the Mac Pro in a side-by-side comparison, but they DO look sharp, and their performance is what really matters, especially for this showdown.
With that out of the way, let’s dive in and see how these two computers compare.
- 3.3GHz 12-Core Intel Xeon W Processor Turbo Boost up to 4.4GHz
- 48GB (6x8GB) DDR4 ECC Memory
- 1TB SSD Storage
- Radeon Pro 580X with 8GB GDDR5 Memory
- Gigabyte TRX40 AORUS Pro Wifi Motherboard
- 3.7GHz 32-Core AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X
- 128GB (4x32GB) DDR4 ECC Memory
- 1+2TB SSD Storage
- EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti XC Gaming 11GB Open Air
We ran four different tests with different applications to deliver a broad set of results for the showdown. We also ran the tests multiple times and averaged the results to ensure accuracy.
Test #1: Adobe Lightroom
We filled a test catalog with 100 61-megapixel images from a Sony A7R4 in order to give each machine a set of RAW files to churn through. We set both computers to the same resolution, started each test with a fresh catalog, and used the same catalog settings on both computers.
First Lightroom Challenge: Render Smart Previews After Initial Import
- The Puget Systems PC averaged 17.4 seconds to render Smart Previews for the entire catalog
- The Mac Pro averaged 21.8 seconds
Based on the above results, Puget won this test and came in at 25.3% faster than the Mac Pro.
Second Lightroom Challenge: Building 1:1 Previews from a Fresh Catalog
- The Puget Systems PC averaged 70.3 seconds to build 1:1 Previews from a fresh catalog
- The Mac Pro averaged 85 seconds
Based on the above results, Puget also won this test and came in at just over 20% faster than the Mac Pro.
Third Lightroom Challenge: Image to Image Lag in the Develop Module
- The Puget Systems PC averaged 1.96 seconds from image to image
- The Mac Pro averaged 2.32 seconds
Based on the above results, Puget won yet again and clocked in 18% faster than the Mac Pro.
This challenge is important and represents “active development time,” or the time you spend in front of the computer. We wanted to see how quickly each computer could move from image to image, apply the develop adjustments, see the results, and then move to the next image and do the same thing. For this test, we applied the Visual Flow Crush Pack HDR Preset over each 61-megapixel RAW file. The difference in the resulting times were noticeably visible while processing the images.
Fourth Lightroom Challenge: Exporting
- The Puget Systems PC took 314 seconds to export 100 processed images
- The Mac Pro took 361 seconds
Based on the above results, Puget won its fourth consecutive challenge and performed 15% faster than the Mac Pro.
For this test, we exported all 100 processed images at the same resolution settings.
Fifth Lightroom Challenge: Disk Transfer Speed
- The Puget Systems PC took 13.7 seconds to export 100 processed images
- The Mac Pro took 12.1 seconds
Based on the above results, Apple took its first victory with a 13% faster time than the Puget Systems PC.
We transferred 100 RAW files, which amounted to 5.42GB worth of information, from the same USB-C SSD directly to the desktop of each machine. Apple has always packed a quick transfer speed, and it did not disappoint for this test.
The Puget Systems PC proved a better machine for the Lightroom test, but that’s to be expected, considering that Lightroom itself isn’t designed for multi-threaded performance. We’re looking at the overall clock speed of the CPU, in which case, we expect better performance out of the AMD Threadripper.
Test #2: Adobe Premiere
Like the Lightroom test, we’re using all of the same content for both machines, which includes the same project, folder, settings, etc.
First Premiere Challenge: Importing 100GB of Footage
- The Puget Systems PC took 21.2 seconds to import 100GB of footage
- The Mac Pro took 26.6 seconds
For this test, Puget beat the Mac Pro with a time that was 22% faster.
Second Premiere Challenge: Heavy Duty Render Test
- The Puget Systems PC averaged 260 seconds to complete the heavy duty render test
- The Mac Pro averaged 1208 seconds
For this test, Puget completed the task 460% faster than the Mac Pro.
We took a complex timeline using a 2×2 split screen with 4K 60fps footage. We also applied the same adjustment layers to each project, and on the final test, reversed the clips to play backwards. We ran this test multiple times because of the shocking outcome. Again, the outcome was somewhat expected given the 32-core AMD threadripper in the Puget machine vs the 12-core process in the Mac Pro (which was limited by pricing), but the difference was still quite drastic.
Third Premiere Challenge: Exporting a Project
- The Puget Systems PC averaged 259 seconds to export the project
- The Mac Pro averaged 242 seconds
For this test, the Mac Pro completed the export 6.3% faster than the Puget Systems PC.
Fourth Premiere Challenge: Practical Playback & Scrub Test
- The Puget maintained skipless playback at full resolution without rendering for 4K 60fps footage with and without LUTS
- The Mac Pro required 1/2 resolution for skipless playback without rendering for 4K 60fps footage with and without LUTS
We used 5.5K RAW footage from a Canon 1DX Mark III, with and without LUTS when we tested playback. Both computers struggle to provide smooth playback without first rendering the clip. We then moved down to 4K 60fps footage with and without LUTS.
Fifth Premiere Challenge: Warp Stabilizing 5.5K & 4K 60fps Footage
For this test, the Mac Pro performed 2.5% faster than the Puget Systems PC.
[Related Reading: $6,700 iMac Pro Vs. $5,700 Custom PC: Adobe Premiere Performance Test]
Test #3: Cinebench
If you’re unfamiliar, Cinebench is a cross-platform test suite that tests overall hardware performance, particularly when it comes to 3D Modeling, animation, motion graphics, and rendering performance.
We ran our test three times, using all of the same settings. Here are the results:
For single-core applications, where clock speed rules (with applications like Lightroom), the Puget Systems PC landed a score of 505. The Mac Pro scored only 397. This means the Puget outperformed the Mac Pro with a 21% faster clock speed. This confirmed the real-world results we saw when testing Lightroom.
For our multi-core applications (like Premiere), the Puget averaged a score of 17,316 while the Mac Pro scored only 5,451. Puget came in with a 371% faster time for multi-core applications.
For this test, the Puget scored an average of 34.3 and the Mac Pro scored an underwhelming 13.7, a 250% difference in performance.
Test #4: Unigine
First, we know that both of these machines are not designed for gaming. That said, we also know that some of us do appreciate gaming (you know after our content creation is done!). So we thought we’d throw this little test in there just for fun. Before this test, we did expect the Puget to have a solid advantage for this test. This test is really just for fun and morbid interest if you will.
Frames Per Second
The Puget measured in at 206 frames per second compared to the Mac Pro’s 46 frames per second, which represents a difference of nearly 450%.
The Puget achieved a score of 5,194 while the Mac Pro scored 1,147, which again represents a difference of around 450%.
We expected the Puget Systems PC to be faster, but we didn’t expect it to be 4.5 times faster.
[Related Reading: My Experience with Apple as a Photographer and Creative Professional]
After reviewing the various tests we ran, the results are pretty straightforward. If our budget only allowed us to keep one of these machines, we’d go with the Puget Systems PC. The performance gain with the Puget is more than I thought it would be, and with the Puget in production, everything runs buttery smooth.
Ultimately, the Mac Pro is going back. When it comes to operating systems, it’s harder to let go of the Apple, but the performance cost is significant enough to outweigh my preference for OS X. We’ll do a separate review of Windows vs. OS X in a future video/article.
I hope you found this comparison of the Puget Systems PC and the Mac Pro both informative and entertaining. Be sure to comment below to let me know which video/article you’d like us to create next.