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Cinema 4D: Apple iMac Pro and Mac Pro vs PC Workstations

Written on May 17, 2018 by William George
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Introduction

Cinema 4D, from Maxon, is widely used for creating advanced 3D graphics. The central processor (CPU) in a computer is of paramount importance in this application - both when drawing and animating various elements as well as when rendering out either still scenes or motion clips. Different aspects of the CPU impact these activities in different ways, though, as we have seen when exploring Cinema 4D performance. Thankfully, Maxon also makes Cinebench: a benchmark tool which measures both the single-threaded speed of a processor - which impacts graphics creation, animation, and simulation - as well as multi-threaded performance for rendering.

Mac vs PC

Both PCs and Macs are widely used in content creation, and if anything Macs have probably had a higher profile in this are of computing in the past. Since Cinema 4D and Cinebench are available for both platforms, it is easy to measure and see if either side has an actual performance advantage in this particular use case. We've gotten hold of two new iMac Pro workstations from Apple, as well as an older (but still being sold) Mac Pro desktop. Read on to see how do they stack up to PCs based on Intel and AMD processors in Cinebench.

Test Setup

To see how these different platforms compare in Cinema 4D, we ran Cinebench R15 on three Mac workstations and three PC workstations. On the Mac side, we've got an older Mac Pro with a 12-core CPU and two newer iMac Pros with 10- and 14-core processors; all of those use Intel Xeon chips. For the PC side, we wanted to have similar core counts included - so one workstation uses Core X series processors from Intel and was run with 10-, 14-, and 18-core chips installed. We also used a high clock speed Core i7 8700K and an AMD Threadripper for additional comparison points.

Things like the video cards and SSDs varied a bit between the Mac and PC systems, but that should not impact Cinebench CPU scores. If you would like more details about the full hardware configurations we tested, .

Benchmark Results

Cinebench provides three scores when run, so here are charts showing how the systems described above performed. The first is an OpenGL test, which primarily measures video card performance within Cinema 4D - but is impacted by the rest of the system as well:

Next up, we have single-threaded CPU performance. This shows how well these systems handle tasks like modeling, animation, and physics simulation within Cinema 4D:

And lastly, a multi-threaded CPU comparison demonstrating rendering speed in Cinema 4D:

Analysis

Apple's newer iMac Pro all-in-one workstations perform quite well in the OpenGL and single-threaded CPU tests. They are close enough to PCs using similar processors on the single-threaded side that minor 1-3 second differences are probably within the margin of error. The lower core count i7 8700K tops the chart, though, owing to its higher clock speeds.

On the GPU side, Apple's choice of AMD Radeon Pro Vega 64 cards in the iMac Pro seems just fine - though the NVIDIA GeForce cards in our PC systems did have a slight edge there.

When we get to multi-threaded CPU rendering, though, the iMac Pros fall noticeably behind the PCs with similar chips. The 10-core system is about 6% behind its PC counterpart, while the 14-core is more than 14% slower. Since the CPUs here are built on the same technology (Xeon W and Core X both use the Skylake architecture) my suspicion is that the iMac Pro doesn't reach as high of all-core turbo speeds. That makes sense, given the limited space available for heatsinks or fans inside these all-in-one computers - and their remarkably quiet operation, even under load. We didn't have an 18-core iMac Pro to test, but I assume this trend would continue.

I hadn't mentioned the older Mac Pro yet because its performance in Cinebench (and by extension, Cinema 4D) is really poor. That is surely due to its use of a three-generation-old CPU and similarly old video card, so I cannot fault the hardware too much... but I do think it is rather embarrassing that Apple is still selling such old hardware. They have said a newer Mac Pro desktop will be coming, in 2019 from what I have heard, but even when the current Mac Pro is finally retired this can still serve as a reminder to look under the hood of a computer before buying it. Someone purchasing one of these systems today, in 2018, is overpaying for an under-performing system.

Price Comparison

Speaking of overpaying, let's take a look at how much a full Puget-built PC workstation might cost - and compare that with what Apple charges for the iMac Pro (and the dated Mac Pro). To be fair here, we included a full kit of keyboard, mouse, monitor, and tech support that were selected to match or exceed the quality of what Apple bundles with their systems.

Puget Systems
Workstations

14-core

6-core

 

~$7,200
[Configure]

~$5,200
[Configure]

Motherboard: MSI X299M Micro Pro Carbon AC Gigabyte Z370N WiFi
CPU: Intel Core i9 7940X 3.1GHz
(4.3/4.4GHz Turbo) 14 Core
Intel Core i7 8700K 3.7GHz
(4.7GHz Turbo) 6 Core
RAM: 4x DDR4-2666 16GB (64GB Total) 2x DDR4-2666 16GB (32GB Total)
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 11GB
Hard Drive: Samsung 960 Pro 1TB M.2 PCI-E x4 NVMe
OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
Display: Samsung 31.5-inch UH750 UHD 4K Monitor
Keyboard: Das Keyboard 4 Professional Mechanical Keyboard
Mouse: Logitech M500 Laser Mouse
Warranty: Lifetime Labor and Tech Support
3 Year Parts Warranty

Apple Workstations

Mac Pro 12-core

iMac Pro 14-core

iMac Pro 10-core

 

~$8,200
[Configure]

~$8,200
[Configure]

~$7,400
[Configure]

CPU: Intel Xeon E5-2697 v2 2.7GHz
(3.5GHz Turbo) 12 Core
Intel Xeon W-2170B 2.5GHz
(4.3GHz Turbo) 14 Core
Intel Xeon W-2150B 3.0GHz
(4.5GHz Turbo) 10 Core
RAM: 64GB 1866MHz DDR3 ECC 64GB 2666MHz DDR4 ECC
GPU: Dual AMD FirePro D700 6GB AMD Radeon Pro Vega 64 16GB
Hard Drive: 1TB PCIe-based SSD 1TB SSD
OS: MacOS 10.13.4
Display: Samsung 31.5-inch UH750 UHD 4K Monitor 27-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit Retina 5K display
Keyboard: Space Gray Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad
Mouse: Space Gray Magic Mouse 2
Warranty: AppleCare+ for Mac
(3 yr limited warranty & technical support)
AppleCare+ for iMac
(3 yr limited warranty & technical support)

The most direct comparison here is with 14-core systems, and as you can see the Puget workstation is a full $1000 less expensive for equal or better performance. In fact, that computer even costs less than the 10-core iMac Pro option! If you don't care as much about rendering performance, you could save another $2000 by switching to the 6-core CPU that topped the first two tests in Cinebench.

Conclusion

Apple's current crop of iMac Pro workstations offer reasonable performance in Cinema 4D - but you'll pay a lot more to get that performance than you would with a similar-spec PC. As the pricing comparison above shows, you can get the same or better results in Cinema 4D for less money with a workstation from Puget Systems! And don't get me started on the poor showing from the Mac Pro...

Tags: Mac, PC, iMac Pro, Mac Pro, CPU, Rendering, Cinema, 4D, Maxon, Cinebench, Performance, Processor, Intel, AMD, Xeon, Core, i7, i9, Threadripper, Skylake X, Coffee Lake
Steve Pellegrin

Nice write up. As a long time Pro Mac (Cinema 4D) user I'm embarrassed that Apple can't manage to put Nvidia cards and enough punch in their "Pro" systems. They have abandoned their base, and are getting their butts kicked in the professional arena. I'm actually painfully contemplating jumping ship to a Windows machine.

Posted on 2018-07-09 16:15:12
Byron Myers

I ran across this article while trying to find more information about comparisons of older vs newer Mac computers. Although I appreciate the testing you did, I think your comparison between the iMac Pro and your own custom systems ignored the workstation-class features that are important when focused on use with Cinema 4d. On performance alone, yes the i9 processor might out-perform – especially for quick renders. But the iMac Pro is using server grade processors that can run 24/7 without flinching. In the real world, the consumer-grade Core-i9 processors are more likely to freeze or cause errors during long renders than the Xeon processor in the iMac Pro. So any performance gain by the Core-i9 could be lost by time spent re-rendering parts of a project due to errors and crashes. I have an old 2008 Mac Pro with Xeons and it has never crashed in long overnight renders. But I have had Core-i7 and Core-i5 computers crash during long renders many times (none of the computers were overclocked). I believe Core-i9 computers would have the same issues. Along with the Xeon processor in the iMac Pro is server grade ECC memory (another major factor in error-free rendering) – which would significantly increase your the cost of your system if Core-i9 processors supported it (of course they don't). It also would have been more fair if you were comparing similar featured monitors. I think the closest comparison you could do is LG's Ultrafine 27MD5KB-B 5K monitor which runs nearly $800 more than the monitor you included with your system. I understand that you probably were thinking that the extra few inches of screen space of your monitor choice makes up for the lack of pixels. But a professional user might prefer having 5k of space so that they have room for some tools as well as the 4k of viewing space – which is one of the points Apple made in its introduction of the first 5k iMac. Add to that the lack of thunderbolt 3 ports and the consumer-grade video card on your custom build system and it easily makes your system nearly as expensive and maybe even more expensive then the iMac depending on how you looked at it. The iMac Pro with it's server grade CPU and memory and 5k monitor is probably a bargain when considering the hardware it contains.

Posted on 2018-10-09 18:47:04

For folks specifically concerned about ECC memory or Xeon processors, you can get those on the PC side with virtually the same specs & performance as the Core series offers... just a higher price, of course (due to Intel's pricing schemes). However, we have found the Core series to be extremely reliable here. I know that different people will have had different experiences, and thus different anecdotal stories, but we work with thousands of systems and so have compiled quite extensive reliability data. If you aren't overclocking or using extreme performance (beyond CPU spec) memory, the Core stuff should be just as reliable in workstations as Xeons :)

Posted on 2018-10-10 18:02:15