AMD Ryzen Powered $1500 System Smokes $5500 Mac Pro In Photoshop Benchmark
Tech Guy posted the showdown to his YouTube channel recently as part of a series for content creators to understand the differences between different systems. Mac Pros have maintained a strong reputation among creative professionals despite lacking any revisions since 2013.
The two computers tested have more or less analogous CPUs on the surface, each housing 8-cores clocked at 3.0GHz. Both systems are running 250GB solid-state drives and the Mac Pro has four times as much system memory with 64GB of RAM to the Ryzen system’s 16GB. The GPU configurations are different with dual AMD FirePro D700 cards in the Mac Pro to the Ryzen system’s single NVIDIA GTX 1080, however, this particular test does not leverage the GPUs so the difference is effectively moot.
Tech Guy's test uses a benchmark from Keith Simonian Photography. It leverages a macro which applies various blurs to a test image and times the result. It’s a bit crude and is certainly not an exhaustive showdown, but is perfectly relevant for busy content creators looking to save time in mass operations - exactly the kind of user who would be mulling over a Mac Pro purchase. As mentioned, this test is entirely CPU driven as demonstrated in Tech Guy’s video below.
The Mac Pro system takes 15 seconds to complete the action to Ryzen’s mere 8.8 seconds at stock speeds. Overclocking Ryzen to a comfortable 3.5 GHz shaves just over a second off that time, executing in just 7.7 seconds.
There’s a lot in play here and the results cannot be completely taken at face value. Yes, the Mac Pro system costs nearly four times as much as the custom Ryzen rig. However, a good amount of this may stem from the dual-workstation grade FirePro D700 GPUs onboard. While not available directly, they appear to be based on the FirePro W9000 which retailed for around $4000 each at launch. Even with depreciation, that is a lot of sunk cost into components with zero bearing on this test.
RAM capacity is fairly irrelevant in this test as well since the sample image is under 5MB. The Ryzen system does benefit from substantially faster memory with 3200MHz DDR4 to the Mac Pro’s 1866MHz DDR3 RAM. The Mac Pro’s memory is also error-correcting (ECC) which carries a slight performance overhead. Even still, the test is sufficiently CPU-bound to the point that this is unlikely to be a factor in the Mac Pro’s defeat. We ought to mention the astonishing $1200 premium Apple demands for an upgrade to 64GB of memory over the base 16GB loadout - an upgrade Tech Guy notes would run only $200 for the Ryzen system. ECC memory is expensive, but not that expensive.
Focusing on the CPU, the “Intel Xeon E5” inside turns out to be a Xeon E5-1680 v2 which is listed at around $1700 and is based on now dated Ivy Bridge architecture. The Ryzen R7 1700 by contrast costs a mere $329. That aspect alone makes this more of a demonstration of instructions-per-clock (IPC) gains over the years than anything.
While this test speaks well of Ryzen for content creation, it speaks louder about how Apple has betrayed their professional customer base by neglecting a refresh for four years. With a new Mac Pro formally announced now, we are interested to see this comparison revisited at launch to see if the Apple Tax holds true. Hopefully Apple will make strides to vastly improve their value proposition and at least be competitive with PC systems, but we are not about to hold our breath.