Most people who go to the trouble of assembling a powerful custom-built rig are going to be playing games. But artists working with digital media will also benefit from having an amazing editing PC at their disposal. It shortens rendering times, makes interfaces more responsive, and generally makes for greater productivity.
For many content creators, the preferred platform is Apple’s macOS. This might be the case for many reasons, but among the most compelling is familiarity. If you’ve spent several years acquainting yourself with the workflow of a given program, be it Logic Pro or Final Cut Pro, and you have every hotkey committed to muscle memory, you probably won’t want to make the transition to an entirely different way of doing things – at least, not without good reason.
Mac versus PC is a debate that’s been raging in certain darkened corners of the internet for decades, and no conclusive victor has emerged. It’s a bit like the debate of whether pineapple should go on a pizza: however strong the opinion, the choice is entirely subjective, and it has a lot more to do with familiarity, aesthetics, and personal philosophy than component lists and benchmarks.
Video Editing versus Games
Before we delve into the pros and cons of PCs and modern iMacs, it’s worth looking at what’s actually important when it comes to video editing PCs. Whichever system you opt for, the graphics card is actually among the least important components – what matters more are the CPU and RAM.
Video-editing software tends to be optimised to take advantage of multiple cores. Allocating more of your budget to a processor with eight, 16 or even 64 cores will yield an improvement in performance roughly proportional to the amount you’re spending.
Memory and Storage
When you’re editing 4K or even 8K video, you need lots of RAM to juggle all that data. If you don’t have enough, your computer will need to create virtual memory on your storage drive, which will slow things down to a crawl.
The more RAM you have, the more video you’ll be able to deal with at any given time. 16GB of RAM should be considered a minimum for serious work. The investment in 64GB or even more can yield worthwhile improvements for some professionals. Similarly, large videos eat up enormous amounts of storage space, which makes investing in storage capacity super-important.
Does GPU matter?
Unless you’re working with visual effects or with certain types of software built to take advantage of the GPU, your graphics card can take a back seat in your video-editing build. That said, it’s probably unwise to hobble your machine with an inferior card, especially if you’re investing thousands of pounds into it. First, you might want the flexibility to bring VFX elements into your workflow. Second, you might later decide to switch program to something that’s more GPU-dependent, like DaVinci Resolve. In either case, you’ll want a GPU to match your creative ambitions.
What components do I get for the money?
At the top of the Macintosh tree is the company’s Mac Pro range. These are serious business, coming with Intel Xeon processors, a range of custom components, and price tags ranging from £6,000 to £36,000 (that’s if you elect to install a somewhat insane 12 128GB sticks of memory for a total of 1.5TB of DDR4).
We’ll venture that most of the people reading this would consider that mildly excessive. Fortunately, there’s a more affordable option in the form of the iMac, which still packs a hefty punch but for around the same price as a high-end PC.
One of the biggest differences between an iMac and the equivalent PC is that the former comes built into a ‘Retina’ display, so you won’t need to worry about an external monitor.
The component that contributes the most to your overall experience is the CPU. Here’s a fundamental drawback for those going Mac: they’ll have to put up with older hardware. The newest 10th-generation Intel chips haven’t yet found their way into the iMac – and those that have tend to be underpowered.
If you’re buying a smaller 21.5-inch machine with a view to saving money, be aware that the size of the display isn’t the only thing that’s been compromised. If you’re spending less than £2,000, you should expect your machine to be slightly – well, puny. The lowest-spec iMac doesn’t even come with a graphics card.
If you’re willing to spend a little more, then there are the iMac Pros, which come with many of the same high-end components – but then you’ll be spending upwards of £5,000.
Performance-wise, you get a lot more for your money with a custom PC than you do with a Mac. Our range of high-end workstation PCs, for example, comes with two Xeon processors working in tandem, along with space for masses of extra memory.
Of course, the major advantage of a Mac over a PC is that all of the components are built in and matched with one another. If you ask the average Mac user what speed their memory is clocked at, they may well neither know nor care, even if their livelihood depends on the machine. Put simply, everything works well right out of the box.
It’s for this reason that Macs are often perceived as being more reliable – when the build is done for you and it’s consistent across thousands of machines, there’s less potential for error.
The flip side of this is that PCs offer greater flexibility. You can easily swap out parts, and there are a host of manufacturers to choose from. Many of your existing parts and peripherals will work just as nicely with a new machine as they did with the old one. New storage drives and extra RAM are easily installed, and a good PC is built to be easily taken apart by an educated layperson.
Can my PC do what a Mac does?
Now, being a custom PC store, we’re obviously biased in favour of PCs. So why not put us to the test with a simple side-by-side comparison? Decide upon a budget, and see what sort of machine you can construct using our custom PC builder. Go for a high-end processor and a decent whack of fast RAM. Even if you’re putting funds to one side for a high-end monitor, your money will go a lot further than it would at the Apple Store…