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Old Sep 2, 2013, 03:41 AM   #1
scubawizard
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iMac 27" vs MBP 15" + PC

Hello,

Been following MacRumors for a while, as I'm thinking of upgrading my old MacBook Black, but have hit a snag and was hoping I can get some "real life" experience from other users. So thought I'd post here as I'm sure lots of people have a lot more Mac/OSX experience around here than me.

Sorry in advance for the long post, but trying to give as much info to "help you help me" (or something like that).

So first, this is what we want the computer to be able to do:

- Photo editing: Nothing fancy, not that good at it yet, and nowhere near professional level. As I have Aperture already will probably be using that, instead of iPhoto. If we do really get into it, would consider upgrading to the latest version of Aperture (or Lightroom) and Photoshop Elements;

- Video editing: Even more basic than the photos, but do have a camera capable of making some nice videos and Final Cut Express, so why not? Doubt it would become a main use though;

- Sound / Music: My girlfriend is into music, and would like to fool around with it a bit. I believe Garage Band would probably cover all her needs;

- Games: This will be done on Windows mostly. I'd like to have a good gaming experience. By good I mean 30-40 fps average on medium to high settings on the most recent games, but if able to do more even better. Older games (still have a massive backlog I'd like to go through) would probably run at max settings. I'm not what some people call a "hardcore gamer" in need of all the latest gadgets and being able to put all the sliders to extreme settings and still be able to run a game at over 120 fps!

Now... Putting aside the fact that Apple is likely to come out with some upgrades (and Mavericks is coming out) in the next couple of months, I can't decide between these 2 options:

Option 1: Maxed out iMac 27" - CHF 2939.- (USD 3155.-)

Upgrade everything to the max, except memory I'd leave at 8GB (can get a lot cheaper from Crucial) and the hard drive would only go to a 1TB Fusion.

I don't change computers all the time, so this should last us a few years (5+) I'd hope and fulfill all we need. The downside for me is lack of portability (not a major issue, have a tablet for that) and the fact I might be paying a premium for components that are OTT for the OSX tasks (photo, video, etc.) and not value for money on the Win tasks (gaming)

Option 2: MBP 15" - CHF 2219.- (USD 2380.-)

Only upgrade from the base model would be memory to 8GB (unless 16GB is possible, then will leave it at 4GB and buy from Crucial) and the antiglare screen.

Advantages are it quite the saving and portable, in case we need it out and about. But would it be powerful enough for the OSX tasks? Don't want to spend all this money and figure out can't really fulfill one of the main reasons for staying with OSX. As for gaming, I'm sure I can entertain myself for a while with older games for a while, and then use the money saved to buy a good gaming PC, that would be a lot better than the iMac even for only CHF 1000.-, like the Alienware X11 or whatever Valve's steam box will be. Already have a 27" display, so can use that with the MBP on a dual display setup for editing and later connect it to the PC.

Another advantage is that my girlfriend will be going to the US, so assuming Apple release the update on the MBP before, would be able to save even more (only USD 1999.- for the same thing) or use the difference to upgrade the processor/graphics card combo.

So finally, my questions are:

- Which option would you go for and why?

- What's the experience like with photo, video, etc. editing on the MBP? Would I find myself missing the extra horsepower of the iMac?

- My girlfriend threw a spanner in the works yesterday by asking what would happen if both of us needed to work at the same time, but we have only one computer... Any suggestions then on a suitable 2 computer option, considering for her there is no need for something too powerful, as she won't be gaming?

Thanks a lot for any help.
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Old Sep 2, 2013, 11:10 AM   #2
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You can certainly game in boot camp on the iMac, and it should perform well. If you are into gaming in a big way, then I would go with a PC, because they are still the best bet for gaming (as much as I may hate to admit it).

For basic video and photo editing, and everything else you listed the MBP should be fine. As far as performance for video and photo editing–it all depends on what kind of photos and video you are working with. Performance wise a base MBP will be noticeably slower than the iMac, and doesn't have near the GPU power.

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Old Sep 2, 2013, 01:54 PM   #3
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i'm gonna go with MBP 15" with PC.

if you opt the classic MBP where you can upgrade the memory and HDD it will be a long run for you in terms of upgradeability. I just upgrade my 2011 MBP with 16 GB ram and 1 tb HDD.

like you said you already owned 27" external display. the current MBP offering from apple with your requirements is already capable enough.

and mobility with the laptop is really a big plus for me.
and my MBP is connected to external monitors and working as a desktop 24 hours / day.
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Old Sep 3, 2013, 03:09 AM   #4
MH01
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I'd go for a 13 rmbp , though only once they are updated to haswell,especially for the battery improvements and GPU.

If you like to game get a pc desktop, with a decent gpu. Especially as u already have a monitor. Nothing beats a PC for gaming , especially if u want good fps in recent titles. If your budget stretches look at a Alienware 14, though a desktop is best bang for ur buck
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Old Sep 4, 2013, 02:19 AM   #5
scubawizard
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Thanks for the advice. Surprised to see the MBP at a slight advantage.

Tankmaze: you mention upgrading the MBP to 16GB RAM. For the newer ones Apple only talks about 8GB. Is that only what they are willing to sell you, but in actual fact it can take up to 16? If that's the case I'd save on the memory upgrade from Apple and for the same money buy 16GB from Crucial!

MH01: I've sort of discounted the retina screens for now. Just seems a lot of money, specially as I'd be more inclined towards the 15". Also, still have a lot of stuff on discs, so would have to buy a separate drive (same issue with the iMac).

As for gaming, I understand what everyone is saying about a dedicated PC. But to be honest, it's not like I'll be able to play a lot everyday. More like whenever I manage to steal an hour or two. I play more for the story than the graphics, so not averse to bringing the quality down a bit to have a more fluid experience. Of course would love to put everything at max, but need to consider the budget.

MacForScience: On the photos, at the moment it just JPEGs. Have lots of underwater photos that need some color correction and small things like that. Once I know more about it, might start shooting in RAW. Not looking to make massive photo projects really. Same with video, a bit of editing here and there for the videos taken out of the SLR.

Anyway, it's food for thought. Let's see what Apple comes up on the update and go from there. Next thing they'll say the Pro will come out at a reasonable price (i.e. no more than an iMac) and my geek side is gona go bananas!
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Old Sep 4, 2013, 07:14 AM   #6
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I own a 27" imac, and I don't use it as much as I did, now that I have my 11" macbook air + 23" external display. I initially got a desktop because my old windows PC finally kicked the bucket, and I need to share with my dad. Nothing wrong with the Imac, just that in hindsight, it didn't really suit my needs. I would have been just as well off with a mac mini and 2 23" screens.

A maxed out imac is definitely overkill for your needs, IMO.

I would recommend building your own windows desktop for gaming, and a 13" macbook air + external monitor for your standard computing needs. You can still work on the desktop if need be.
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Old Sep 4, 2013, 01:23 PM   #7
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Hmm... I discounted the mac mini, as it doesn't seem to offer any of the advantages of either iMac or MBP (power or portability) and all the disadvantages (no portability and not as powerful). It is cheap, I'll give you that, but can't really see the point of having two desktops (with 2 screens, 2 keyboards, etc...).

I do realise the iMac would be overkill at the moment, but I do prefer to spend a bit more to get a few more years from the machine, i.e. 3 grand for 5 years use feels better than 2 grand every couple of years. Not really into replacing stuff all the time, just to make more waste and someone else richer... As shown by the fact I'm still using the black MacBook!

Not sure about the MBA... Wouldn't the fact it's only dual instead of quad core affect performance in photo and video editing, specially in the mid to long term? Feel a bit cheated when for the same money as a MBA 13" I can get a more powerful MBP 13" or for only a bit more a MBP 15". As I said, portability is not a major need, as the tablet can cover over 90% of the situations where I can see us needing something on the go.
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Old Sep 8, 2013, 12:39 PM   #8
blanka
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Why not get a nice (Dell U2713HM) or super (NEC PA271W) display and buy both a 2.3 quad mini and a simple PC. On the Nec you can KVM-switch between the two, so one mouse and keyboard work on the active display source.
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Old Sep 9, 2013, 01:40 AM   #9
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Only just found out that KVM exists and what it is from another thread! Always thought switching HDMI inputs would work, but this is even better. Wort looking into it (it would definitely make my girlfriend happier knowing there would be less clutter... )

Already have a screen (Samsung SMS27A550H - 1920x1080) and I'm happy with it, so wouldn't change it for the moment.

Found the mac gaming guide on mac rumors and there was lots of interesting ideas there.

At the moment I'm shying away from the mini. My main concern is the lack of a dGPU. Wouldn't that affect performance for photo and video work? Then I'd definitely would need a gaming PC sooner, rather than later. Guess will have to wait and see what Apple comes up with on the refresh. Also, would loose portability...

Based on the gaming guide above, I'm now leaning towards the MBP set up. That way can save some money now and use bootcamp for my gaming fix. Considering the backlog of games I'd want to play (SC2, Diablo 3, The Witcher, etc...) it should do fine for now, then when I start feeling it's not quite enough I'd get one of the small form gaming PC (like the X11, or whatever the steambox will be) and KVM it. Space and weight are always a consideration, as we are still likely to move countries at some point in the not so distance future...

On the MBP side, what upgrades would you guys BTO? I'd get the glossy screen at least, then do the memory (16GB) and SSD (250Gb or 500GB) my self (SSD probably at a later date). Or should I bump up the processor/gpu combo? Is it worth it for what you pay for?

As an aside, if I BTO a cMPB to the same specs as the rMBP it comes out more expensive (or slightly less if I do it myself)!!! What's that all about? In that case, might as well go for the retina, or would that be foolish, i.e. finding that the GPU can't quite deal with the screen, or not having as good as a performance with games, etc. Would miss the drive (yes, I still need one) but that can easily be sorted out with an external Bluray from Samsung.

Anyway, thank everyone for the input. If you have any suggestions on value for money BTO upgrades on the MBP I'd be happy to hear.

Now bring on the refresh tomorrow (or is it next month? Next year? Argh!! ).
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Old Sep 9, 2013, 02:01 AM   #10
Ddyracer
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I would advise against the mbp non retina is it? If your doing mostly gaming get the pc. Or iMac.
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Old Sep 9, 2013, 02:06 AM   #11
scubawizard
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Originally Posted by Ddyracer View Post
I would advise against the mbp non retina is it? If your doing mostly gaming get the pc. Or iMac.

Sorry, didn't quite get it, are you for or against the retina?

I wouldn't be doing mostly gaming. Alas, don't have as much time for gaming these days, probably averaging a couple of hours a week.
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Old Sep 9, 2013, 02:28 AM   #12
Serban
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i would go with the haswell imac max out with 780M dGPU.
if you go with the MBP+PC, you should get at least GTX 680 GPU to worth the lost of imac in terms of games. i think the 780M is in top 15 of all graphic cards
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Old Sep 9, 2013, 02:47 AM   #13
scubawizard
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Originally Posted by Serban View Post
i would go with the haswell imac max out with 780M dGPU.
if you go with the MBP+PC, you should get at least GTX 680 GPU to worth the lost of imac in terms of games. i think the 780M is in top 15 of all graphic cards
So far this doesn't exist... Unless you work at apple and know something we don't...
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Old Sep 9, 2013, 03:08 AM   #14
Serban
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scubawizard View Post
So far this doesn't exist... Unless you work at apple and know something we don't...
i can't tell you that, but even http://buyersguide.macrumors.com/ says "don't buy"
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Old Sep 9, 2013, 03:47 AM   #15
scubawizard
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Originally Posted by Serban View Post
i can't tell you that, but even http://buyersguide.macrumors.com/ says "don't buy"
I know... Was just joking... I fully intend on waiting for the refresh. Haven't changed my computer for 5 years, a couple of months is not going to kill me...

Just trying to figure out what people think based on the current hardware, as after the refresh not many people will have experience with it (we'll probably get it soon after it comes out, early xmas present... ). My reasoning being that advice that applies to the current line up, like which upgrades are worth it, should still be similar after the refresh. It's hard to know if a certain component is worth the upgrade price. 10% price increase for only 2% gain in performance is not that appealing, but the other way around is. Just hard to figure that out when staring at spec sheets, much better to ask people with real world experience, specially if they have been lucky enough to try both.

As far as I can understand (assuming the rumors are more or less accurate) there won't be an earth shattering change coming (leave that for WWDC), so the relative pros and cons of the different set ups should stay about the same. From what I read, haswell is more of a "sidegrade" that gives better battery performance and potentially better iGPU (depending on what Apple choose) so great on the notebook front, not massive on the iMac. A newer dGPU would be cool though, as you suggested

Also hoping relative prices of things go down, specially on the SSD front (double the size SSD on Fusion for the same price too much to ask?).

Will see what they come up with. In the mean time, keep passing on your personal experience of either set up, and whether you would make a different choice now.
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Old Sep 9, 2013, 07:40 AM   #16
blanka
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If you buy a second PC for gaming, absolute no obstacle is left not to get the Mini. GPU is useless for anything other than gaming. Despite all promises on OpenCL computing, GPU functions in AdobeCS etc, having a quad i7 is still way more important than having a good CPU. The Mini with quad i7 costs little money compared to the iMacs with i7. If you pop in a good SSD and 16Gb RAM, it will crunch through your Final Cut projects, D800 RAW images and so on as easy as a top iMac does. Check Geekbench: the iMac 3.4 i7 BTO is only marginally faster than the Mini 2.6 i7. And you can upgrade the mini with each iteration for roughly 100-150 bucks and you stay fresh. The iMac is often bought for 3-4 years minimum. And for all the regular GPU supported stuff, like fancy OS animations, CSS browser acceleration, funky scrolling in CS, quick previews, HD decoding etc, the HD4000 is totally capable.

I calculated that Buying a Mini i7, upgrade it 3 times the next 4 years to the latest model, with a keyboard, mouse and Dell U2713HM (which is better than the iMac screen) is still cheaper than buying an i7 27 inch iMac. The price edge of buying the all in one package has vanished with the 2012 upgrades.

Last edited by blanka; Sep 9, 2013 at 07:46 AM.
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Old Sep 9, 2013, 08:26 AM   #17
Serban
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Trust me, you dont want a macbook+pc instead of a 27" imac....in option nr 2 you really have all in one and just 1 cable. In option nr 1....do the math, and for what? i think only for the hardcore gamers worth the PC
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Old Sep 9, 2013, 03:06 PM   #18
Ddyracer
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Well, since you won't be a full time gamer :P I would get the iMac. It has the best GPU of the two macs and might future proof it a little over the years.

This is your first time with OS X or have you used it before?
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Old Sep 10, 2013, 04:51 AM   #19
scubawizard
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Ddyracer: Have been using OSX for the past 5 years or so, still tuck on 10.5... Don't know everything about it (started out in the good old days of DOS ) but I do OK. Once Maverick comes out might invest in a OSX for dummies book or something to make the most of it. Mindset and workflow still very PC.

Serban (and Ddyracer): Yes, the appeal of the AIO is rather strong... But the price does hurt a bit. I'm quite platform agnostic, choosing to use whatever fits best for my purposes, but I'm still not 100% happy with the OSX premium. But if I want the best of both worlds don't really have much choice other than buying a mac (don't start on hackintosh, don't have the time or OSX knowledge to make it a viable project...).

blanka: I had initially discounted the mini, but based on your comments, this review and a few other threads this option is starting to gain traction for us. Would have a powerful enough mac for our needs, and a powerful enough (and more than iMac) PC for the games. Add a KVM set up and wireless KB and mouse to reduce cables and amount of peripherals needed and would still be spending about 2 thirds of the iMac price. And no bootcamp. Food for thought...
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