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Old Jan 2, 2013, 07:32 PM   #1
Pabs1980
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Question Bit of a technical question for the experts out there.

Firstly thanks for reading, any help is much appreciated.

OK, i have a late 2009 iMac, 21.5', 3.06 Ghz, 64bit with an Nvidia 9400 Geforce video card. It has a 500gb HDD. (Basically it's the entry level late 2009 iMac).

I have taken good care of it so would like to upgrade it as much as possible and maybe get another few years out of it rather than buy a new computer which i cant really afford at the moment

My first step is to buy either 2x, or 4x 4GB modules for a RAM upgrade, either for 12GB (2x2GB + 2x4GB) or 16GB (4x4GB).

These are the exact explanation of the parts on the website.

Crucial 4096MB Memory Module PC3-8500 1066MHz DDR3 Unbuffered Non-ECC CL7 204-pin SO-DIMM

This i realise is very easy to do, but if someone could just let me know i'm going in the right direction with this that would be great.

The big thing is a potential video card upgrade (if this is possible) vs installing a Solid State Drive.

I read somewhere that the Nvidia 9400 actually uses the onboard memory, so my question is, would upgrading the RAM and adding a SSD actually increase the graphics capability of the machine, without having to change the video card?

The next question is which SSD should i go for (i never use my superdrive so am happy to remove it)

I don't play many computer games but i do watch a lot of HD movies and use the iMac to play them on a projector, so the video card thing is kinda important.

In a nutshell, with an unchanged, as it was when it left the factory iMac like mine, what would you do to try and get another few years out of it if you were on a budget? Am i looking in the right direction, or do you have a beeter idea?

Oh and finally, i have no issues with the teardown side of things, i've taken many computers apart in the past.

Thanks loads for any help you can give guys

Paul

Last edited by Pabs1980; Jan 2, 2013 at 07:39 PM.
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Old Jan 2, 2013, 07:57 PM   #2
Lil Chillbil
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pabs1980 View Post
Firstly thanks for reading, any help is much appreciated.

OK, i have a late 2009 iMac, 21.5', 3.06 Ghz, 64bit with an Nvidia 9400 Geforce video card. It has a 500gb HDD. (Basically it's the entry level late 2009 iMac).

I have taken good care of it so would like to upgrade it as much as possible and maybe get another few years out of it rather than buy a new computer which i cant really afford at the moment

My first step is to buy either 2x, or 4x 4GB modules for a RAM upgrade, either for 12GB (2x2GB + 2x4GB) or 16GB (4x4GB).

These are the exact explanation of the parts on the website.

Crucial 4096MB Memory Module PC3-8500 1066MHz DDR3 Unbuffered Non-ECC CL7 204-pin SO-DIMM

This i realise is very easy to do, but if someone could just let me know i'm going in the right direction with this that would be great.

The big thing is a potential video card upgrade (if this is possible) vs installing a Solid State Drive.

I read somewhere that the Nvidia 9400 actually uses the onboard memory, so my question is, would upgrading the RAM and adding a SSD actually increase the graphics capability of the machine, without having to change the video card?

The next question is which SSD should i go for (i never use my superdrive so am happy to remove it)

I don't play many computer games but i do watch a lot of HD movies and use the iMac to play them on a projector, so the video card thing is kinda important.

In a nutshell, with an unchanged, as it was when it left the factory iMac like mine, what would you do to try and get another few years out of it if you were on a budget? Am i looking in the right direction, or do you have a beeter idea?

Oh and finally, i have no issues with the teardown side of things, i've taken many computers apart in the past.

Thanks loads for any help you can give guys

Paul
Adding a ssd and ram will not increase your graphics performence, However it will increase how fast the machine transfers large files and handles large loads
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Old Jan 2, 2013, 08:03 PM   #3
Pabs1980
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Originally Posted by Lil Chillbil View Post
Adding a ssd and ram will not increase your graphics performence, However it will increase how fast the machine transfers large files and handles large loads
Thanks for the reply.

So if the article i read about the Nvidia 9400 card using on board memory is correct, (still not sure on that one) and the on board memory is increased, this will still not affect the performance of the card for the better? Seems odd that it would have no effect at all...

Might be back to the drawing board then
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Old Jan 2, 2013, 08:52 PM   #4
painless6505
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The graphics card has its own RAM, I doubt it is shared (but correct me if I'm wrong). Typically discrete graphics will have their own memory, and on board graphics (meaning running from the mainboard itself), will share system memory.

BTW, I would recommend buying ram in matched pairs/size. So 4x4gb models would be my choice.
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Old Jan 2, 2013, 09:17 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by painless6505 View Post
The graphics card has its own RAM, I doubt it is shared (but correct me if I'm wrong). Typically discrete graphics will have their own memory, and on board graphics (meaning running from the mainboard itself), will share system memory.

BTW, I would recommend buying ram in matched pairs/size. So 4x4gb models would be my choice.
Thanks for the reply.

I've actually been reading up about this further after i posted and it looks like although the Nvidia 9400m card does have shared memory rather than its own RAM, it is essentially capped at 256mb. (can reach 512 in bootcamp or something but essentially its a 256 card)

So is the SSD and RAM upgrade going to make any difference at all, particularly with reagrds to watching HD movies? If not, can anyone give me a yes or no answer as to whether or not the late 2009 iMac has the video card soldered onto the board, or whether i can swap it out?

Thanks
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Old Jan 2, 2013, 09:28 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pabs1980 View Post
Thanks for the reply.

I've actually been reading up about this further after i posted and it looks like although the Nvidia 9400m card does have shared memory rather than its own RAM, it is essentially capped at 256mb. (can reach 512 in bootcamp or something but essentially its a 256 card)

So is the SSD and RAM upgrade going to make any difference at all, particularly with reagrds to watching HD movies? If not, can anyone give me a yes or no answer as to whether or not the late 2009 iMac has the video card soldered onto the board, or whether i can swap it out?

Thanks
The base 21.5" 9400m is built right into the Nvidia Northbridge so there are no video upgrade options. The other models with discrete graphics use an MXM video card so although they are technically able to be upgraded to compatible models within the series it is usually an expensive option and it makes more sense to just sell what you have and use the proceeds to buy what you need.

Do you find the 9400m inadequate for watching HD movies? Is it stuttering?

Normally the reason people are looking for faster graphics is for gaming but maybe that is not your primary concern.

----------

And to answer your question about SSD's be careful buying any Sandforce 2 SATA 3 based drives since there is a known compatibility issue with the Nvidia MCP79 chipset (which is what you have) where you will only get SATA 1 speeds. OCZ evidently has a patched FW to fix it but Intel and others have not and will not fix the issue. Crucial M4's or Samsung 830 seem to be recommended for the 9400m MCP79 based machines.
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Old Jan 2, 2013, 09:49 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Dadioh View Post
The base 21.5" 9400m is built right into the Nvidia Northbridge so there are no video upgrade options. The other models with discrete graphics use an MXM video card so although they are technically able to be upgraded to compatible models within the series it is usually an expensive option and it makes more sense to just sell what you have and use the proceeds to buy what you need.

Do you find the 9400m inadequate for watching HD movies? Is it stuttering?

Normally the reason people are looking for faster graphics is for gaming but maybe that is not your primary concern.

----------

And to answer your question about SSD's be careful buying any Sandforce 2 SATA 3 based drives since there is a known compatibility issue with the Nvidia MCP79 chipset (which is what you have) where you will only get SATA 1 speeds. OCZ evidently has a patched FW to fix it but Intel and others have not and will not fix the issue. Crucial M4's or Samsung 830 seem to be recommended for the 9400m MCP79 based machines.
Wow, thanks a lot for the info!

Firstly in answer to your question, no, i do not really find it inadequate, the only time it really slows down is when i am using the extended desktop (projector) to watch a 720p/1080p movie on Plex, anf for whatever reason i open up a movie in VLC on the iMac screen itself, then the HD movie will jump a little...but i think i'm just being overly picky. I wated to 'futureproof' the iMac as much as possible but it looks like the graphics card is an area that will just have to stay as it is.

The info on the SSD is greatly appreciated! I had no idea about the compatability issues with the chipset.

I am now looking at a Samsung 830 64GB or a 128GB. I have 14gb of applications, so would 64GB be enough? I know i want the OS and apps on there at the very least so would 128 GB be better?

Thanks again for all your help, you've saved me a lot of hassle!
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Old Jan 2, 2013, 10:09 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Pabs1980 View Post
Wow, thanks a lot for the info!

Firstly in answer to your question, no, i do not really find it inadequate, the only time it really slows down is when i am using the extended desktop (projector) to watch a 720p/1080p movie on Plex, anf for whatever reason i open up a movie in VLC on the iMac screen itself, then the HD movie will jump a little...but i think i'm just being overly picky. I wated to 'futureproof' the iMac as much as possible but it looks like the graphics card is an area that will just have to stay as it is.

The info on the SSD is greatly appreciated! I had no idea about the compatability issues with the chipset.

I am now looking at a Samsung 830 64GB or a 128GB. I have 14gb of applications, so would 64GB be enough? I know i want the OS and apps on there at the very least so would 128 GB be better?

Thanks again for all your help, you've saved me a lot of hassle!
64GB might be a little tight for space and if you are going through the bother of opening the machine put as large a unit as you can afford so you aren't doing it again in a year.

I run SSD's in every one of my Macs including my media centres. For just the base OS X plus iLife, iWork you only use about 30GB so technically you "could" get away with a 64GB but not much room left and SSD's slow down if you fill them up. I personally try to keep them under 50% for best performance. You would want to keep most of your user files (documents, pictures, music) on an external firewire or USB drive.

In my case I have a Mac Mini that sits in my basement and has a 4 bay external disk enclosure where I keep all my media for ready access by any machine in the house. Another alternative, if you use an Apple Airport Extreme router is to add an external drive on that which gives you disk space accessible by all of the machines in the house.

Lot's of options... The one thing I can say is that putting an SSD in your iMac will make it feel like a new machine. Everything is so much more responsive. Fast boot time, almost instant app opening. The mechanical disk drive is the slowest part of the machine and it is amazing how an SSD breathes new life into an older machine.
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Old Jan 2, 2013, 10:42 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Dadioh View Post
64GB might be a little tight for space and if you are going through the bother of opening the machine put as large a unit as you can afford so you aren't doing it again in a year.

I run SSD's in every one of my Macs including my media centres. For just the base OS X plus iLife, iWork you only use about 30GB so technically you "could" get away with a 64GB but not much room left and SSD's slow down if you fill them up. I personally try to keep them under 50% for best performance. You would want to keep most of your user files (documents, pictures, music) on an external firewire or USB drive.

In my case I have a Mac Mini that sits in my basement and has a 4 bay external disk enclosure where I keep all my media for ready access by any machine in the house. Another alternative, if you use an Apple Airport Extreme router is to add an external drive on that which gives you disk space accessible by all of the machines in the house.

Lot's of options... The one thing I can say is that putting an SSD in your iMac will make it feel like a new machine. Everything is so much more responsive. Fast boot time, almost instant app opening. The mechanical disk drive is the slowest part of the machine and it is amazing how an SSD breathes new life into an older machine.
Great, i'll go for the 128 then.

Thanks loads for your help Dadioh, i'm also designing a media setup for my brother in laws new home (building house from scratch so i have a few months) so if you don't mind i might send you a pm in a few weeks when i have posted on the AV forums and you can check the setup, as it sounds like you have something simalar to what i am advising him to get.

I like the idea of an Airport Extreme, i had already suggested a Mac Mini to him but maybe the router would work even better.

Anyway, i'm going off topic, thanks again Dadioh
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Old Jan 2, 2013, 10:57 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Pabs1980 View Post
Great, i'll go for the 128 then.

Thanks loads for your help Dadioh, i'm also designing a media setup for my brother in laws new home (building house from scratch so i have a few months) so if you don't mind i might send you a pm in a few weeks when i have posted on the AV forums and you can check the setup, as it sounds like you have something simalar to what i am advising him to get.

I like the idea of an Airport Extreme, i had already suggested a Mac Mini to him but maybe the router would work even better.

Anyway, i'm going off topic, thanks again Dadioh
Yes, go for the 128 GB, a reason to go for the 128 instead of the 64 Samsung 830 is it has a longer lifetime, a heavily used 64 will last you a short time.
There are certain SSD types which have shorter lifetime than others.
There are three types now afaik, SLC-MLC-TLC, TLC's are the worst and a heavily used 64GB would only last for 2 years Max.!!!
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Old Jan 3, 2013, 03:01 AM   #11
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Yes, go for the 128 GB, a reason to go for the 128 instead of the 64 Samsung 830 is it has a longer lifetime, a heavily used 64 will last you a short time.
There are certain SSD types which have shorter lifetime than others.
There are three types now afaik, SLC-MLC-TLC, TLC's are the worst and a heavily used 64GB would only last for 2 years Max.!!!
Is this really true? I thought S, M and TLC were just to do with write speed....can a 64GB Samsung 803 SDD really have a lesser lifetime than a 128GB?

Doesn't sound right to me but i could be wrong.
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Old Jan 3, 2013, 03:05 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Pabs1980 View Post
Is this really true? I thought S, M and TLC were just to do with write speed....can a 64GB Samsung 803 SDD really have a lesser lifetime than a 128GB?

Doesn't sound right to me but i could be wrong.
Yes that is true, TLC wear out faster than MLC, MLC wears faster than SLC.

Just a google picture which I found fast, but if you do some search you'll find out too.

Edit: the days are really short here, do some research, it is not as short as this.

Edit again: samsung-ssd-840-250gb-review, there is more info here.

And again: Go to page 4 first

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Old Jan 3, 2013, 03:15 AM   #13
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Yes that is true, TLC wear out faster than MLC, MLC wears faster than SLC.

Just a google picture which I found fast, but if you do some search you'll find out too.

Edit: the days are really short here, do some research, it is not as short as this.

Image
I'm not saying that TLC don't wear out faster than than MLC etc etc, but why would a 64GB be one type and a 128GB be another?

I.e if the 64GB is MLC, then surely the 128GB will be too. Storage capacity has no impact on write speed....does it?

The write speed of a 64GB SSD should thoretically be the same as a 1TB SSD from the same product line (i.e Samsung 803).

I'm not really understanding this to be honest, i might be missing something but it still doesn't make sense
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Old Jan 3, 2013, 03:21 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Pabs1980 View Post
I'm not saying that TLC don't wear out faster than than MLC etc etc, but why would a 64GB be one type and a 128GB be another?

I.e if the 64GB is MLC, then surely the 128GB will be too. Storage capacity has no impact on write speed....does it?

The write speed of a 64GB SSD should thoretically be the same as a 1TB SSD from the same product line (i.e Samsung 803).

I'm not really understanding this to be honest, i might be missing something but it still doesn't make sense
It's not about speed, the speed should be the same more or less, it is the amount of writes to the SSD, if you write the same amount of data to a 64 Gb SSD it would have half the life time from a 128GB SSD.
You should read that Anandtech article, it's the 840 though, but it gives you a start.

You can clearly see in the attachment in My last post the 128 has about half the lifetime of a 256.
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