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Old Dec 7, 2012, 01:52 PM   #1
erikbailey
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Subjectively - how slow is iMac 21.5" 5400rpm disk?

Hi - I'm looking to replace an old Windows XP machine as a media and file server (also serving iTunes for our AppleTV 1), and also be a small family computer. The new iMac 21.5 suits my needs perfectly (also considering a Mac mini, but like the integration of the iMac). I will also be supplementing this with a rMBP 13 in the coming months to do Lightroom work, so the target for this machine really is just as a server and light family use.

I have used SSDs exclusively for years, so going back to a pokey spinning disk doesn't thrill me. But $450 is a significant premium to pay for an SSD ($200 jump from base 21.5 to higher model, and another $250 for the Fusion disk). I have a 2x1TB Thunderbolt disk I'll be using as a RAID 1 storage array regardless of what internal drive I use.

Does anyone here have the base model new iMac with the 5400 disk? How is standard usage? (boot time isn't really an issue, since as a server it will be on 24x7) For example, web browsing, word processing, etc. Nothing fancy. [hopefully the display can turn off without the computer going to sleep...]

I know that I can also add a TB SSD as a replacement disk, but would like to avoid that if possible.

Thanks! --Erik
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 01:55 PM   #2
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Do you mean "objectively?"


Honestly, by now I would have hoped 5400 rpm drives would have seen their way out for good. With 7200 rpm being more of a standard in everything. Not so much I guess but I certainly wouldn't want a 5400 rpm drive especially if you're going to be using it as a media server.

And how slow is a 5400 rpm drive? It runs at about 5400 rpms.
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 02:04 PM   #3
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I have seen videos on youtube (I think TLDToday did one) showing the iMacs 21.5" disc speed (according to blackmagic disk speed test app) and I believe it came to over 100MB/s.

This actually seemed really good to me because my 2010 mbp which came with a 7200rpm driver only managed about 80MB/s. Though it is Sata 2 vs 3 which might make the difference visible.
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 02:15 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by jessica. View Post
Do you mean "objectively?"
:-) No, "subjectively". Benchmarks are easy to come by. Harder is "Safari opens quickly enough for me" vs. "I have to wait forever for web pages to open". That sort of thing is very subjective, and I wouldn't expect two people to react the same way to the same performance. I'd wager that most folks here are rather impatient with slow computers so if it's really too slow for use, I'm sure folks will speak up...
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 02:28 PM   #5
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Subjectively: Slow as balls.
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 03:33 PM   #6
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Regardless of what some here say (like the post above), for what you are describing as the usage model, I think you'd be hard pressed to notice any difference.

Additionally just the overall speed is likely to be a jump over the XP machine you had just due to the overall faster architecture of new hardware.

To be more specific, I also have a retina macbook pro.

For web browsing, Office 2011, Itunes and even most iPhoto stuff I'm hard pressed to notice any difference at all.

Three places where the mbpr is noticeably faster
1. Bootup and shut down
2. Heavy image work in Aperture with 36MP images from a Nikon D800
3. Playing Diablo III (and that probably has more to do with the greater VRAM than anything)
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 05:13 PM   #7
erikbailey
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sno1man, teerexx52 - thanks - your feedback is really helpful (esp. since you are comparing to rMBPs). That means that I am probably going to be fine.

lali - thanks as well. I certainly acknowledge that it will be much slower than the upper model with the Fusion drive (which also has a faster processor).

Quote:
Originally Posted by sno1man View Post
For web browsing, Office 2011, Itunes and even most iPhoto stuff I'm hard pressed to notice any difference at all.

Three places where the mbpr is noticeably faster
1. Bootup and shut down
2. Heavy image work in Aperture with 36MP images from a Nikon D800
3. Playing Diablo III (and that probably has more to do with the greater VRAM than anything)
This is really helpful, since the former list is things that I would do on this, and the latter list is things that I would not. It also means that I can put the $450 toward the rMBP that is my "want to have" (this server is the "have to have" since I can't keep fixing iTunes on the headless XP box via VNC so the Apple TVs work...). 90% of the time no one will be on the console of this, so as long as it is basically functional (and it sounds like it is), I'm going to be good.

Appreciate all the help - love these forums! --Erik
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 03:33 PM   #8
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Subjectively: Slow as balls.
And there you have it... :-) Thanks - maybe I need to spend that $450... *sigh*
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 03:50 PM   #9
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I have a retina MBP 15" so I am use to SSD. I have the base iMac and for what I do it is fine. I really am happy with it. I think it has much to do with what you are going to use it for. I tend to do some light photo work and rip and burn some dvd's surf and email. Works fine for that. Boot time is about 45 seconds for me.
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Old Dec 8, 2012, 09:51 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by erikbailey View Post
And there you have it... :-) Thanks - maybe I need to spend that $450... *sigh*
More important than the 7200rpm to 5400rpm drop is the switch from 3.5" platters to 2.5" ones. It's a slow laptop drive in there. If you are used to SSD's, this drive is going to be painfully slow.
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 03:57 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by erikbailey View Post
And there you have it... :-) Thanks - maybe I need to spend that $450... *sigh*
erik
funny timing that you ask this at the same time that I just returned from the Apple store. I played a bit with the new iMac 21 with the 5400 rpm drive and it feels slow to me. I have an older iMac which I am aching to upgrade (to the new 27") and it is going to have to be a fusion drive for me or an external tbolt ssd for the boot drive

i suggest you go try one at an apple store or best buy. it was fast enough in a few tasks but opening up the applications folder felt like my old iMac - not fast

i really suggest you go try one before making your decision
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Old Dec 9, 2012, 10:53 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by erikbailey View Post
Hi - I'm looking to replace an old Windows XP machine as a media and file server (also serving iTunes for our AppleTV 1), and also be a small family computer. The new iMac 21.5 suits my needs perfectly (also considering a Mac mini, but like the integration of the iMac). I will also be supplementing this with a rMBP 13 in the coming months to do Lightroom work, so the target for this machine really is just as a server and light family use.

I have used SSDs exclusively for years, so going back to a pokey spinning disk doesn't thrill me. But $450 is a significant premium to pay for an SSD ($200 jump from base 21.5 to higher model, and another $250 for the Fusion disk). I have a 2x1TB Thunderbolt disk I'll be using as a RAID 1 storage array regardless of what internal drive I use.

Does anyone here have the base model new iMac with the 5400 disk? How is standard usage? (boot time isn't really an issue, since as a server it will be on 24x7) For example, web browsing, word processing, etc. Nothing fancy. [hopefully the display can turn off without the computer going to sleep...]

I know that I can also add a TB SSD as a replacement disk, but would like to avoid that if possible.

Thanks! --Erik
Really, Fusion is not THAT big of a dent, and you'll largely offset most of what sucks about going from SSD to a spinning disk drive, let alone one that spins at only 5400RPM. Though if it is just a family computer/server and won't be seeing heavy use; and if you are going to get a 13" retina that you'll be using for yourself, it probably doesn't matter a whole lot. But if that sort of thing is likely to bother you, I'd say get a Fusion drive and then you'll largely have nothing to worry about; just be sure to get a time machine drive for it.
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Old Dec 9, 2012, 03:56 PM   #13
tuccillo
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Quote:
Originally Posted by erikbailey View Post
Hi - I'm looking to replace an old Windows XP machine as a media and file server (also serving iTunes for our AppleTV 1), and also be a small family computer. The new iMac 21.5 suits my needs perfectly (also considering a Mac mini, but like the integration of the iMac). I will also be supplementing this with a rMBP 13 in the coming months to do Lightroom work, so the target for this machine really is just as a server and light family use.

I have used SSDs exclusively for years, so going back to a pokey spinning disk doesn't thrill me. But $450 is a significant premium to pay for an SSD ($200 jump from base 21.5 to higher model, and another $250 for the Fusion disk). I have a 2x1TB Thunderbolt disk I'll be using as a RAID 1 storage array regardless of what internal drive I use.

Does anyone here have the base model new iMac with the 5400 disk? How is standard usage? (boot time isn't really an issue, since as a server it will be on 24x7) For example, web browsing, word processing, etc. Nothing fancy. [hopefully the display can turn off without the computer going to sleep...]

I know that I can also add a TB SSD as a replacement disk, but would like to avoid that if possible.

Thanks! --Erik
I believe the Blackmagic benchmark on a 2012 with 5400 RPM drive was around 100 MB/sec. I measured 120 MB/sec on my 2011 with 7200 RPM drive. So, around 20% slower on that particular benchmark.
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Old Dec 9, 2012, 04:00 PM   #14
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7200rpm might be a bit more fast but "oldschool" 5400 are more reliable among other perks.
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Old Dec 9, 2012, 04:15 PM   #15
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7200rpm might be a bit more fast but "oldschool" 5400 are more reliable among other perks.
News to me. Not only have I never read or seen that online, my experience (with probably a dozen or more 2.5" drives) is that the 5400 drives have mostly failed and the 7200 ones have not.

But that's my experience and it's anecdotal.

The 5400 love I see on MacRumors has always been a mystery to me.
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Old Dec 9, 2012, 04:57 PM   #16
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7200rpm might be a bit more fast but "oldschool" 5400 are more reliable among other perks.
I've never seen a single spec or study attesting to this. 7200rpm drives btw, are considerably faster not a bit faster, and hubrid 7200rpm drives, given time for the caching to start working, approach ssd speeds.
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Old Dec 9, 2012, 06:13 PM   #17
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I've never seen a single spec or study attesting to this. 7200rpm drives btw, are considerably faster not a bit faster, and hubrid 7200rpm drives, given time for the caching to start working, approach ssd speeds.
Sadly i cant go any deep because of language barrier but i will leave these link so you take a look, concept its the same:

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/ou/how-hig...ip-you-off/322

Btw 7200rpm are not really that fast, you probably wont even notice (they do will load games and software a bit fast) other than that the 5400 are far better for storage of big files/bulky.
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Old Dec 9, 2012, 06:20 PM   #18
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Sadly i cant go any deep because of language barrier but i will leave these link so you take a look, concept its the same:

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/ou/how-hig...ip-you-off/322

Btw 7200rpm are not really that fast, you probably wont even notice (they do will load games and software a bit fast) other than that the 5400 are far better for storage of big files/bulky.
thanks for the link, I 'll have a look at it. Your opinion of them however is really divergent from the common view of them.
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Old Dec 10, 2012, 10:16 AM   #19
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thanks for the link, I 'll have a look at it. Your opinion of them however is really divergent from the common view of them.
More opinions don't always mean they are correct. Toms hardware website has good info on this also.
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Old Dec 10, 2012, 01:02 PM   #20
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I think it can be very much horses for courses. I work for a national organisation with thousands of employees, no SSD for us, we are on a virtual network with the servers based over a hundred miles away. Personally, my iMac uses sleep and is ready for use in seconds and my Windows 8 Lappy has a total cold boot time of 9 seconds so who needs SSD?
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Old Dec 9, 2012, 06:21 PM   #21
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I don't see all the hype for flash storage. Perhaps for the faster boot time I'd understand, but my machine stays on unless I need to restart for updates or if the power goes out. I'm sure that my opinion is a minority among tech enthusiasts, but I prefer to limit my spending wherever possible.
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Old Dec 9, 2012, 06:44 PM   #22
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Sadly i cant go any deep because of language barrier but i will leave these link so you take a look, concept its the same:

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/ou/how-hig...ip-you-off/322

Btw 7200rpm are not really that fast, you probably wont even notice (they do will load games and software a bit fast) other than that the 5400 are far better for storage of big files/bulky.
Again, it is not the rpm that is important here, it is the speed drop AND the reduction in platter size. These are very slow drives for a late-2012 desktop computer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Spectrum Abuser View Post
I don't see all the hype for flash storage. Perhaps for the faster boot time I'd understand, but my machine stays on unless I need to restart for updates or if the power goes out. I'm sure that my opinion is a minority among tech enthusiasts, but I prefer to limit my spending wherever possible.

Restarts are only part of it. If your machine ever hangs for whatever reason, it is almost certainly due to disk access times. SSD's make every part of using a computer better.

Even with my media library stored on an external 3.5" 7200rpm drive, it is clear when I'm waiting for a program to access data from that drive.
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Old Dec 9, 2012, 06:47 PM   #23
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I don't see all the hype for flash storage. Perhaps for the faster boot time I'd understand, but my machine stays on unless I need to restart for updates or if the power goes out. I'm sure that my opinion is a minority among tech enthusiasts, but I prefer to limit my spending wherever possible.
I agree with you for the most part. There is the "elite haxxor" contingent that obsess over 1.5% differences in benchmarks and scream that things are "heartbreakingly slow" when in reality we are often talking about fractions of a second.

My company has it's share, and they will always clamor for the fastest/latest/greatest. My boss shuts them down 99% of the time when he asks them to show how the slowness actually affects there productivity doing real work. If they start out with a benchmark they don't get far, nor do they when they try to present "real work" scenarios such as having 10 applications all open at the same time or 37 browser tabs open.

The two places where I can see real tangible benefits are in things like portables where for example wake from sleep is greatly improved and some apps (like photoshop or some compilers) that are constantly writing or reading from the drive.

But in a desktop I prefer capacity, since mine holds my music.movies and games as well.

Eventually this will be a moot point with SSD being cheap enough that it's not an issue. Last I checked though a 1TB SSD was not wallet friendly

Last edited by sno1man; Dec 9, 2012 at 06:58 PM.
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Old Dec 9, 2012, 06:55 PM   #24
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I agree with you for the most part. There is the "elite haxxor" contingent that obsess over 1.5% differences in benchmarks and scream that things are "heartbreakingly slow" when in reality we are often talking about fractions of a second.

My company has it's share, and they will always clamor for the fastest/latest/greatest. My boss shuts them down 99% of the time when he asks them to show how the slowness actually affects there productivity doing real work. If they start out with a benchmark they don't get far, nor do they when they try to present "real work" scenarios such as having 10 applications all open at the same time or 37 browser tabs open.

The two places where I can see real tangible benefits are in things like portables where for example wake from sleep is greatly improved and some apps (like photoshop or some compilers) that are constantly writing or reading from the drive.

But in a desktop I prefer capacity, since mine holds my music.movies and games as well.

Eventually this will be a moot point with SSD being cheap enough that it's not an issue. Last I checked though a 1TB SSD was not wallet friendly
We put SSD's in all of our new machines starting a couple of years ago at the owner's decree. It's not just restart times, but wake from sleep, every place that your computer normally hangs is generally due to disk access. Individual wait times may be small, but they aggregate quickly, and more than anything it is the break in concentration that is caused. How many of your employees take a 15 minute coffee break every time they need to restart their computer?
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Old Dec 9, 2012, 07:06 PM   #25
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We put SSD's in all of our new machines starting a couple of years ago at the owner's decree. It's not just restart times, but wake from sleep, every place that your computer normally hangs is generally due to disk access. Individual wait times may be small, but they aggregate quickly, and more than anything it is the break in concentration that is caused. How many of your employees take a 15 minute coffee break every time they need to restart their computer?
It sounds like you have much more wrong than just buying a SSD will resolve. If the employees are restarting their computers multiple times a day that's a whole different issue.

The same thing with 15 minute boot times. The systems in our offices all boot up in less than a minute

I'm not saying SSD's don't have their place, they do and we have some users that have them (like the aforementioned programmers) but what gets lost often is cost/benefit ratio. The reality is that per GB SSD is still pricey.

If it's your machine and you can afford it, then no justification needed, But for most of us, it's always a trade off. Not to put to fine a point on it, but for the cost of one fully SSD equipped iMac you can nearly buy two of the base units. With multiple kids fighting over the computer, which makes the more practical sense?

PS: I just timed the boot of my base model 21 inch 2012 iMac- 37.5 seconds from startup chime to desktop

Last edited by sno1man; Dec 9, 2012 at 07:14 PM. Reason: time figure
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