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Premiere Pro CC 2018: iMac Pro & Mac Pro vs PC Workstation

Written on May 15, 2018 by Matt Bach
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Introduction

Over the last few years, we have had more and more customers coming to us looking to make the move from Mac to PC. Whether they were unhappy that the Mac Pro hasn't been updated since 2013, upset because they feel like Apple has been ignoring the Content Creation community, or something else entirely, one of the biggest reasons they decided to switch was often due to the higher performance they could get out of a PC. With the rise of 4K, 6K, and even 8K workflows, high performance is no longer just a convenience - it is a necessity. In this article, we will be looking at how much more performance a PC workstations can give you in Premiere Pro compared to a new iMac Pro or the aging Mac Pro.

For this testing, we will be using two high-end iMac Pro systems and the old (but still current) Mac Pro alongside a similarly priced PC workstation looking at performance for live playback, render in to out, and export. Just as a warning, this article contains quite a few charts with over 1,000 different data points. If you don't like scrolling through this amount of data, we recommend skipping right to the Conclusion section.

Test Hardware & Methodology

To see how the iMac Pro and Mac Pro compare to our PC-based workstations, we will be testing the following system configurations:

 

Puget Systems
Workstation

Apple
Mac Pro 12-core

Apple
iMac Pro 14-core

Apple
iMac Pro 10-core

 

~$7,200
[Configure]

~$8,200
[Configure]

~$8,200
[Configure]

~$7,400
[Configure]

Motherboard: MSI X299M Micro Pro Carbon AC​ N/A
CPU:

Intel Core i9 7940X 3.1GHz
(4.3/4.4GHz Turbo) 14 Core

2.7GHz 12-core with 30MB of L3 cache 2.5GHz 14-core Intel Xeon W processor
Turbo Boost up to 4.3GHz
3.0GHz 10-core Intel Xeon W processor
Turbo Boost up to 4.5GHz
RAM: 4x DDR4-2666 16GB (64GB Total) 64GB 1866MHz DDR3 ECC 64GB 2666MHz DDR4 ECC
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 11GB Dual AMD FirePro D700 GPUs with 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM Radeon Pro Vega 64 with 16GB of HBM2 memory
Hard Drive: Samsung 960 Pro 1TB M.2 PCI-E x4 NVMe 1TB PCIe-based SSD 1TB SSD
OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit macOS 10.13.4
Display: Samsung 31.5-inch UH750 UHD 4K Monitor 27-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit Retina 5K display
Keyboard: Das Keyboard 4 Professional Mechanical Keyboard Space Gray Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad
Mouse: Logitech M500 Laser Mouse Space Gray Magic Mouse 2
Warranty: Lifetime Labor and Tech Support
3 Year Parts Warranty
AppleCare+ for Mac
(3 yr limited warranty & telephone technical support)
AppleCare+ for iMac
(3 yr limited warranty & telephone technical support)
Software: Premiere Pro CC 2018 (ver 12.0.1)

To make our comparisons as realistic and fair as possible, we tried to keep the specs and pricing relatively similar between the Mac and PC systems. For example, we used a single 1TB NVMe drive on our workstation even though we would normally recommend multiple storage drives as that can improve performance when importing media and generating peak files. However, since the Mac systems only support a single internal drive we decided to hold our PC to that limitation as well. In addition, since the iMac Pro systems come with a built-in display and force you to purchase a keyboard and mouse, we also added a quality monitor, keyboard, and mouse option to both the Mac Pro and our PC workstation. This works out to about a $1,000 price increase over the cost of the PC itself, but we wanted to account for the additional cost of the accessories included with the iMac Pro systems. Of course, an exact price/performance comparison is going to depend on what monitor and peripherals you purchase - or if you need new ones at all.

One thing we specifically want to point out is that we are not using the latest version of Premiere Pro that was available at the time of this article. In the course of our testing, we discovered major performance issues with Premiere Pro CC 2018 (ver 12.1). Oddly, they were not consistent between Mac and PC but we saw performance drops with ProRes footage on the PC side and performance drops with RED footage on the Mac side with version 12.1 and 12.1.1. Due to these issues, this article was done using results with version 12.0.1.

To compare these systems, we will be looking at three different tasks in Premiere Pro: live playback, export, and render in to out. The footage used in our testing is shown below with links to where you can download it yourself:

Codec Resolution FPS Camera Clip Name Source
H.264 3840x2160 59.94 fps Panasonic GH5 60p Snow Handheld The Angry Video Guy
Panasonic GH5 Sample Footage
ProRes 422 HQ 3840x2160 24 fps Ursa Mini 4K City Train Station Blackmagic Design
Production Camera 4K Update
ProRes 4444 3840x2160 59.94 fps Canon C200 Untitled00024199 4K Shooters
Canon C200 Raw Footage Workflow
ARRIRAW 6560x3100 23.976 fps ALEXA 65 A003C025
(Open Gate spherical)
ARRI
ALEXA Sample Footage
RED 3840x2160
(11:1)
23.976 fps EPIC DRAGON A016_C001_02073O_001 RED
Sample R3D Files
RED 4096x2304
(7:1)
29.97 fps RED ONE MYSTERIUM A004_C186_011278_001 RED
Sample R3D Files
RED 6144x3160
(12:1)
23.976 fps EPIC DRAGON A007_C115_07181B_001 RED
Sample R3D Files
RED 6144x3077
(7:1)
23.976 fps WEAPON 6K S005_L001_0220LI_001 RED
Sample R3D Files
RED 8192x4096
(12:1)
23.976 fps WEAPON 8K S35 S002_C074_02065Z_001 RED
Sample R3D Files
RED 8192x4320
(9:1)
25 fps WEAPON 8K S35 B001_C096_0902AP_001 RED
Sample R3D Files
RED 8192x4320
(7:1)
23.976 fps EPIC-W 8K S35 S002_C074_02065Z_001 RED
Sample R3D Files
DNxHR HQ
8-bit
3940x2160 29.97 fps Transcoded from RED A004_C186_011278_001
DNxHR HQ
8-bit
6144x3160 23.976 fps Transcoded from RED A007_C115_07181B_001
DNxHR HQ
8-bit
8192x4320 25 fps Transcoded from RED B001_C096_0902AP_001

While this is by no means every codec available, we do feel that this covers a much wider range than our previous testing. In the future we may cut down on the number of RED clips and replace them with something like XAVC-S or AVCHD but we really wanted to see how the different compression levels impact performance.

Our testing was done with three different timelines to simulate different types of workloads.

Basic
(Live Playback)

  • 4 Clips in series
  • No effects
  • No transitions

Lumetri Color Only
(Live Playback)

  • 4 Clips in series
  • Lumetri Color on all clips
  • No transitions

Heavy Effects
(Live Playback, Export, Render In to Out)

  • 10 Clips stacked
  • Lumetri Color on all clips
  • Cross dissolve between all clips
  • Audio track
  • Includes:
    • Keyframed position, size, & crop
    • Gaussian Blur
    • Multicam sequence
    • 2x2 grid of clips
    • Text overlay

To be clear, these test sequences are not anything fancy and frankly don't end up with a very pretty final product since they are simply copies of the same clip over and over. However, if you wish to replicate our testing we have all the project files and export presets available for download. You should be able to replicate any of our tests by downloading the clips from the original source, making 10 copies of each clip, and re-linking the media in the appropriate project file. Export time was simply recorded from when the "Export" button was clicked until the export completed. Live playback FPS (frames per second) was measured based the number of dropped frames relative to the total number of frames in the sequence. For example, if we dropped 100 frames in the 4K ProRes 422 HQ "Basic" timeline (which has 579 frames), that means we rendered a total of 479 frames over 24 seconds for an overall result of ~20 FPS. Note that if you are doing this on a Mac, you will likely need to delete and re-apply the Lumetri Color effects as they often do not translate properly from PC to Mac. The Lumetri effects we used are from the "Lumetri Presets -> Speedlooks -> Universal" effects folder.

Live Playback - Raw Benchmark Data

Live playback performance is a challenge to accurately test since performance depends not only on the codec and resolution of your media, but also the playback resolution (full, half, etc.) and the effects you have applied. Since we get asked about live playback performance more than anything else, we decided to go all out and benchmark all our test media with not only three different timelines, but also at full and half playback resolution.

This results in a huge amount of benchmark data, so we encourage you to jump to the Benchmark Analysis section if you don't have a specific media resolution and codec that you are primarily concerned about.

4K Media

6K Media

8K Media

Live Playback - Benchmark Analysis

We always like to mention that if there is a specific codec that you tend to work with that we tested, we highly recommend finding the result in the previous section and making your own analysis. For a more general look, however, we decided to calculate the average performance of each system relative to the 10-core iMac Pro using OpenCL:

Premiere Pro iMac Pro vs PC Live Playback

Even averaging the results, there is still quite a bit of data to examine, although there are a few things that stand out immediately. First of all, for live playback it looks like using Metal is a bad idea on the Mac systems. We saw a 20-30% drop in FPS with most of our test media and a massive drop in FPS with RED footage. Just as an example, with 4K RED 11:1 footage the iMac Pro 14-core went from 24 FPS to 6 FPS even without any effects applied to the footage.

Clearly, you don't want to use Metal if you care at all about live playback performance. Even sticking to OpenCL, however, you are looking at a nice bump in FPS by using a PC. Compared to the slightly more expensive iMac Pro 10-core, our PC workstation gave about 25% higher FPS with ProRes media, 30% higher with DNxHR HQ/H.264/ARRIRAW, and almost 75% higher FPS with RED footage. That isn't quite double, although it was knocking on the door in our "Heavy Effects" test where it was on average 94% faster.

The 14-core iMac Pro did a little better with RED footage - coming in at about 10% faster than the 10-core iMac Pro - but our PC workstation was still 25-60% faster depending on the type of footage. And compared to the old (but still actively sold) Mac Pro, it's not even a competition: you are easily looking at up to a doubling or more of FPS with a less expensive PC workstation.

Export - Raw Benchamark Data

Exporting is one of the biggest single time sinks for a Premiere Pro user and is often the go-to metric for measuring performance. For this test, we will be examining 4K, 6K, and 8K projects using all the different codecs listed in the Test Hardware & Methodology section.

Feel free to jump to the Benchmark Analysis section if you don't have a specific media resolution and codec that you are primarily concerned about.

4K Media

6K Media

8K Media

Export - Benchamark Analysis

Premiere Pro iMac Pro vs PC Export

Exporting is an interesting test since on the Mac systems using Metal over OpenCL often resulted in a decent performance gain. RED footage was a clear exception, often taking twice as long (or longer) to export with Metal. However, due to our findings in the Live Playback test where Metal was always significantly worse than OpenCL, we feel that keeping Premiere Pro in OpenCL mode is going to be the best option for most Mac users.

If you do stick to OpenCL, our PC workstation was able to export our test projects roughly 40% faster than the iMac Pro 10-core even though the PC is slightly less expensive. The performance gap closes a small amount if you upgrade to the 14-core iMac, but the PC still has a 30-40% performance lead depending on the type of media you are using. Surprisingly, the Mac Pro manages to keep up with the newer iMac Pro systems with ProRes footage, but fell behind with the other types of media we tested. Due to this, our PC workstation was anywhere from 40% to 60% faster even though it is ~$1,000 less expensive.

If you are willing to switch between Metal for exporting non-RED footage and OpenCL for live playback, the Mac systems do better - although you are exchanging performance for convenience. In this case, the iMac Pro systems were still about 15% slower with DNxHR, H.264, and ARRIRAW footage, although the 14-core iMac Pro was able to pull slightly ahead of our PC workstation with ProRes footage.

Render In to Out - Raw Benchmark Data

Rendering previews is something you really don't want to have to do, but is sometimes a necessity. For this test, we will be examining 4K, 6K, and 8K projects using all the different codecs listed in the Test Hardware & Methodology section.

Feel free to jump to the Benchmark Analysis section if you don't have a specific media resolution and codec that you are primarily concerned about.

4K Media

6K Media

8K Media

Render In to Out - Benchmark Analysis

Premiere Pro iMac Pro vs PC Render in to out

Interestingly, while we again saw a performance hit with RED footage when using Metal on the Mac systems, the drop was closer to 15-20% rather than the 50% we saw in the export tests. Still, due to the lower live playback performance with Metal across all the media we tested, we feel that comparing PC to the Mac systems using OpenCL is the most valid comparison. Of course, feel free to make your own comparisons if you believe you will be using Metal regardless of the much worse live playback performance.

With ProRes media, we saw about a 40% performance gain with our $7,200 PC versus the $7,400 and $8,200 iMac/Mac Pro systems. This drops down a bit with DNxHR HQ, H.264, and ARRIRAW media, but the PC was still about 35% faster than all of the more expensive Mac systems.

Surprisingly, in this test RED media was where the performance gain with a PC was often the smallest. Compared to the 14-core iMac Pro, our PC is a bit over 20% faster, although this rises to 30% faster compared to the 10-core iMac Pro and 40% faster compared to the Mac Pro.

Conclusion

Premiere Pro iMac Pro and Mac Pro vs PC Benchmark

After going through all the data from our live playback, render in to out, and export benchmarks, we feel that the most fair and valid comparison between the iMac/Mac Pro and one of our PC workstations is done using OpenCL on the Mac systems rather than Metal. Metal was faster with non-RED media for exporting and rendering, but was significantly worse across the board for live playback. Since live playback is where users typically want the best performance, sticking with OpenCL is likely the best choice for the majority of Mac users.

Looking at the results from an average standpoint, compared to the $7,400 iMac Pro 10-core we saw roughly a 35-45% performance gain with a slightly less expensive $7,200 PC workstation. Surprisingly, the $8,200 iMac Pro 14-core wasn't much faster than the 10-core version, only increasing performance by about 5% for an extra $800. If you are currently on a Mac Pro (or for some reason thinking about buying one), the performance difference between Mac and PC is quite a bit larger. Live playback performance was on average twice as good on PC while rendering and exporting was 40-50% better.

Keep in mind that the pricing we are using for our PC workstation includes ~$1,000 for a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. If you already have any of those, the price/performance advantage of a PC workstation will be even larger. If you are interested in reading more about the performance of a PC workstation over a Mac system, we have a number of articles you may be interested in that compare Mac to PC in a range of applications. We also encourage you to check out our Recommended Workstations for Premiere Pro and if you have any questions or concerns about making the move to PC, we encourage you to contact us!

Tags: Premiere Pro, iMac Pro, Mac Pro, PC Workstation