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Old Jun 18, 2013, 04:39 PM   #1
bigmc6000
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Best 1K(ish) Mac?

So I've done a pretty exhaustive amount of research and looked at every number I can possibly find but I'm still torn on what setup provides the most bang for the buck. My budget is around 1k - 1200 so I'm limited there. I've pretty much narrowed it down to a few options.

1) current gen Mac mini (either the 2.6 or 2.3 i7) refurbed (when they become available) and upgraded to 16GB of RAM (about $110), an optical drive and a new monitor, keyboard and mouse that would run me around $150 (I figure I can get a pretty decent 21" monitor for around 100 - 110)

2) previous gen MBP - 15". Again it's a refurb but it's running a 2.2 quad core i7. I'd probably upgrade the RAM to 8GB on that one since it's got a stand-along graphics card

3) previous gen iMac - refurb'd. 2.8 quad core i7, upgrade ram to 8GB.

4) current gen iMac - either the base or 1 up version. (refurb'd...)

I'm really attracted to the scores for the mac mini but then I go over to macworld and look at their real world performance on things like Hand Brake and the iMac just blows it out of the water so I'm conflicted. I know the current gen i7's are loads better but there are no options for a dedicated GPU with a macmini. Portability doesn't really play into anything although I would like to have the option to upgrade to an SSD at some point in the future (either via thunderbolt or internal - I've read some #'s on that as well). Sooo - thoughts?

Thanks in advance!
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Old Jun 18, 2013, 04:48 PM   #2
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What will you be doing with the mac? What type of work and will you be doing any gaming on it? I assume you don't need the portability of a laptop?

If you don't need a laptop then you can narrow the choices down to the Mac Mini or iMac. If you don't need a dedicated GPU (gaming) then the Mac Mini is your best choice, it can also easily be upgraded to an SSD internally down the track.
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Old Jun 18, 2013, 05:15 PM   #3
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What will you be doing with the mac? What type of work and will you be doing any gaming on it? I assume you don't need the portability of a laptop?

If you don't need a laptop then you can narrow the choices down to the Mac Mini or iMac. If you don't need a dedicated GPU (gaming) then the Mac Mini is your best choice, it can also easily be upgraded to an SSD internally down the track.
Mainly media stuff - I dabble around in iMovie, CS5 and I use Hardbrake fairly often. I would lean towards the Mac mini just because of the geekbench score but the iMac is way faster in handbrake and a few other real world tasks. I'm upgrading from an early 2008 MBP so I'm sure it'll be a noticeable improvement. However, I bought my wife an entry level 2011 Mac mini and, many times, my 5 year old MBP does a better job than the Mac mini that scores much higher on geekbench. (Both have 8GB ram),
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Old Jun 18, 2013, 05:31 PM   #4
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Mainly media stuff - I dabble around in iMovie, CS5 and I use Hardbrake fairly often. I would lean towards the Mac mini just because of the geekbench score but the iMac is way faster in handbrake and a few other real world tasks. I'm upgrading from an early 2008 MBP so I'm sure it'll be a noticeable improvement. However, I bought my wife an entry level 2011 Mac mini and, many times, my 5 year old MBP does a better job than the Mac mini that scores much higher on geekbench. (Both have 8GB ram),
No doubt the iMac is the more powerful machine (i have one myself) the thing is you are then restricted to the display attached to it and its also much harder to upgrade the HDD in the future. If those two things don't bother you then definitely go the iMac.
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Old Jun 18, 2013, 06:00 PM   #5
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No doubt the iMac is the more powerful machine (i have one myself) the thing is you are then restricted to the display attached to it and its also much harder to upgrade the HDD in the future. If those two things don't bother you then definitely go the iMac.
So should I go with the previous gen iMac because I can upgrade the RAM or is the uptick in performance from the previous gen to the current gen enough to cover that?

If I could manage to get the previous gen with an i7 would that trump all the current model i5s? The geek bench points to yes but there are more things to consider than just the geek bench
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Old Jun 18, 2013, 06:34 PM   #6
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So should I go with the previous gen iMac because I can upgrade the RAM or is the uptick in performance from the previous gen to the current gen enough to cover that?

If I could manage to get the previous gen with an i7 would that trump all the current model i5s? The geek bench points to yes but there are more things to consider than just the geek bench
I think a previous gen i7 iMac would be a great purchase if you can get one within your budget.
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Old Jun 19, 2013, 09:05 AM   #7
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I think a previous gen i7 iMac would be a great purchase if you can get one within your budget.
What about a hackintosh? I've read up on a bit but I'm not sure on it. I don't have any experience building my own computer but I've taken apart most of a computer before. I've also got a few years experience with UNIX and some programming (as well as being an engineer) so I'm wondering if the performance payoff would be worth the tinkering to get a hackintosh.
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Old Jun 19, 2013, 09:50 AM   #8
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I think the sweet spot here is the MBP but I would consider saving a little longer for the 2012 as it has USB3. This model gets you portability, dedicated graphics and upgradability. It also makes the purchase of an external monitor optional.
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Old Jun 19, 2013, 09:53 AM   #9
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I think the sweet spot here is the MBP but I would consider saving a little longer for the 2012 as it has USB3. This model gets you portability, dedicated graphics and upgradability. It also makes the purchase of an external monitor optional.
Another question that just came to mind is when is Apple going to update the Mac Mini and the biggest question is what kind of Intel graphics are they going to put in there? If they put in the HD 5100 series (or 5200) that might be enough to win all the arguments. There's a pretty big graphics jump in the MBA from the HD 4k to 5k so I'd imagine the jump from 4k to 5100 would be even better and, dare I say, serviceable. Thoughts?
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Old Jun 19, 2013, 11:32 AM   #10
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Another question that just came to mind is when is Apple going to update the Mac Mini and the biggest question is what kind of Intel graphics are they going to put in there? If they put in the HD 5100 series (or 5200) that might be enough to win all the arguments. There's a pretty big graphics jump in the MBA from the HD 4k to 5k so I'd imagine the jump from 4k to 5100 would be even better and, dare I say, serviceable. Thoughts?
I guess it comes down to urgency. Pick amongst the available crop if delay means you're losing revenue. If a matter of inconvenience, wait until the fall to see what refreshes and price cuts emerge.
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Old Jun 19, 2013, 01:37 PM   #11
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I guess it comes down to urgency. Pick amongst the available crop if delay means you're losing revenue. If a matter of inconvenience, wait until the fall to see what refreshes and price cuts emerge.
I'm wondering if I went ahead and got an SSD for when I do get a new computer I could install that - it would give me a nice boost until it was time to get a new computer.
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Old Jun 19, 2013, 03:31 PM   #12
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I'm wondering if I went ahead and got an SSD for when I do get a new computer I could install that - it would give me a nice boost until it was time to get a new computer.
I don't think you're going to have to wait too long. Besides, prices on SSDs may drop a bit as well.
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Old Jun 21, 2013, 03:49 PM   #13
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Well I ended up getting a 21.5" 2011 iMac with the 2.8GHz i7 off eBay for just under $900. It's also been upgraded to the 2TB HD as well as 8GB of RAM. I thought that was a steal of a deal since the refurb from Apple runs 1229 and doesn't include the larger HD or the 8GB RAM upgrade.

Thanks for all the thoughts guys! I ended up deciding to go with the iMac because I want to use it as the server for my 500GB iTunes library (and growing) and I've already got an iPad for extreme portability.

I also veered away from the mac mini because of the graphic performance - I just couldn't do the 2.6 i7 because of how much I'd have to compromise on the graphics since I can get graphics and an i7 for basically the same cost (if not a little less) than I would have paid for it refurb'd with all the add-ons.
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