SSD or faster CPU/GPU? Can't afford both.

Discussion in 'iMac' started by robertpetry, May 4, 2011.

  1. macrumors 6502

    Feb 12, 2009
    Indianapolis, IN
    I posted this in another thread but it is really a different topic.

    I don't have the $3k my ideal system would require so I am trying to decide between the base 27' with the 2.7 i5 and 6770m + SSD/1TB HD for $2299 or the 3.4 i7 6970m + 1TB for $2199.

    So both are about the same price and this maxes out my price range. I am wondering when it makes more sense to spend the money on an SSD vs. a faster processor and GPU?

    My usage will be:

    1- Office apps
    2- Web
    3- Steam games CSS, maybe Portal 1/2 and the like
    4- Handbrake/MTR a couple of times per week
    5- iMovie/iPhoto

    I don't reboot often so that is not a big deal but I want to future proof as much as possible. I am a fairly typical user I think who spends most of the day opening, editing and saving work documents, browsing the web, email (also on web - Google apps).

    I have been leaning toward the SSD after seeing how impressive even the MBA is with SSD and a slower processor. However, if I decide on a new game or something down the road I want to be covered. Resale value matters too.

    I think a lot of people will be in this situation. There is a budget and so I must decide between faster components or an SSD based on which will have a bigger impact on my day-to-day usage.

  2. macrumors newbie

    Feb 28, 2011
    Chicago, IL
    If I were you I would go for the processor now and attack the SSD issue later. With the thunderbolt port you could easily connect an external SSD in the future, with the processor your basically stuck with it until you buy a new computer.

    Just my 2 cents.
  3. macrumors member


    Aug 29, 2010
    This is my problem as well, I keep seeing people saying thunderbolt will help down the line with an external SSD, which does sound good but makes me wonder when it will happen.

    But either way SSD is a bit pricey still so :-/
  4. macrumors 6502

    May 25, 2010
    Los Angeles
    I'm getting both and am going to quit smoking cigarettes both to punish myself and also out of necessity. ;)
  5. macrumors 6502a

    Lord Appleseed

    Nov 7, 2010
    Apple Manor
    Depending on your needs its either

    GPU > CPU > HDD
    CPU > GPU > HDD

    SSDs are far to expensive just yet, so I too would rather buy a CPU and/or GPU upgrade rather than a SSD for a horrendous price.
  6. thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 12, 2009
    Indianapolis, IN
    As a MBA 13 owner, I am guessing you would know the relative benefits of an SSD v. better processor. Unless you have an older model. Do you have the SSD version?

    I am not sure about an external boot drive added down the road. I doubt that will be much cheaper than an internal now. It would be easier to just add it now I think. Just not sure it is the best use of my $$.
  7. macrumors 68030


    Jun 12, 2009
    San Clemente, CA USA
    IMHO, you'll get the most bang for your buck getting a SSD. It's not just boot up times, but the whole system will be much snappier. You could put one in yourself if you are really adventurous. ;)

    As far as using an SSD via TB, no one knows at this point if you will be able to boot off of a TB device, unless I missed something.
  8. macrumors 6502a


    Sep 13, 2006
    Charlotte, NC
    There is an easy way to approach this decision. Always purchase now what you can't reasonably, easily replace/upgrade in the future.

    Installing an SSD is not incredibly difficult and for all intents and purposes is something that you can upgrade later. The CPU/GPU? Not so much. While technically possible, they almost certainly would be cost prohibitive (possibly with the exception of the GPU, but that remains to be seen).
  9. macrumors 6502a

    Mar 31, 2010
    Get the CPU/GPU now and upgrade to a SSD later.
  10. thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 12, 2009
    Indianapolis, IN
    Looks like 5 to 1 in favor of the CPU/GPU. I really thought for my usage the SSD might have a more noticeable impact.
  11. macrumors 601


    Feb 19, 2008
    It's more of a practical issue. You should think of the SSD as something that CAN be added latter. You only have one chance to order the faster CPU/GPU. And TB may allow you to get as good performance from and external SSD as an internal one, so you may not have to crack the case at all.
  12. iamthedudeman, May 5, 2011
    Last edited: May 5, 2011

    macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2007
    A SSD is the best and most beneficial upgrade you can do for your computer. The prices Apple is charging is quite competive even cheaper in most cases than a third party SSD. They used to charge 600.00 now they are charging 500.00. Price a 256SSD and see what prices you get. The Toshiba drive is very reliable and has very good GC due to their very aggressive controller. The difference between processors is the queston.

    The base on the 27 i5 2500S is not much different than the i5 2400 on the higher end. Not worth the money. Only a 400 point difference in the geekbench scores.

    The i7 2600 has a much bigger geekbench score, but a base 27 with the 2500S + SSD with the 6770M will be faster than 27 a i72600 with the better GPU. Most likely much faster.

    Yes you can boot off a external, but in my experience it is not a good solution. I added a esata to my old 27 and booted off a SSD with a enclosure.

    After every update it would look for the OS on the HD instead of the SSD, and yes I set the SSD as the startup boot disk. After a update OSX would add folders that messed up the system. No I could fix it but it is a pain. It is not the most elegant solution.

    And take into the fact Apple does not support trim, and you will have to hack the OS to add it.

    We still don't know if you can boot off the external thunderbolt yet.

    Any one saying that a CPU upgrade and GPU upgrade is better than a SSD most likely never used one. You're right in assuming a SSD will have more of a impact, because it will.
  13. macrumors regular

    Dec 14, 2007
    i'd choose the ssd.

    ssd wins for your 1, 2, and 5.
    cpu & gpu will help for gaming and shave some time off handbrake encodes.

    from my point of view, after routinely using a machine with ssd, there's no way i would buy a new computer in 2011 without an ssd. cpu and gpu upgrades are like adding a few horsepower, ssd is like steering with your mind while using a free hand to wave goodbye to inertia and physics leaving your other free hand to do something productive at any instant.
  14. macrumors 6502a


    Sep 13, 2006
    Charlotte, NC
    Those suggesting SSD are missing the point here. SSD will no doubt give the most noticeable improvement now, there is absolutely no disputing that. You'll "feel" an SSD the moment you first fire up the computer with one. But once you choose SSD over CPU/GPU in the beginning--that's it, your stuck with that CPU/GPU for the life of the machine.

    But if you go CPU/GPU now, you can very easily add an SSD drive later. Not to mention, the lead times on the SSD BTO configs are 4-6 weeks I believe (and I'm not a patient person). :)
  15. macrumors 68040


    Mar 11, 2009
    From what I've read the SSDs Apple uses just aren't that great. They're not worth the money imo.

    I'd definitely say get the better processor and graphics card. You can't upgrade them later. The SSD will make the system a bit snappier, but that's no good when you're getting too low FPS to max out settings on your nice big 27" (depending on game, of course).

    I'd also pick up an additional 2x2GB RAM from OWC so you'll have 8GB. That'll only cost you $50.
  16. macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2007
    Good point, I get that. I ordered a 27 With SSD and it's killing me. I don't know if I want to wait that long for my machine. With Thunderbolt adding a SSD might be faster than the SSD Apple puts in. We don't know yet. Thunderbolt is faster theoretically than either Sata 2 o 3. But can we boot from thunderbolt?

    Run the os without upgrades messing up your machine. I don't really want to use a computer without a SSD. Once you go SSD, you want nothing else. Period. Apple is not shipping them for six weeks with the SSD built in, but the SSD enclosures are not whipping until the Summer!
  17. macrumors regular

    Jan 23, 2006
    West Haven, CT, USA
    You can add a FW800 SSD for the OS and Applications at any time, and it has very noticeable benefits. You don't need the crazy-high sustained transfer rates of an internal SATA3 SSD to get a tremendous benefit - the times when an OS/Apps SSD would actually be asked to transfer a very large file are pretty rare.

    What you get, even via FW800, is zero latency and seek time and the ability to transfer ten files (or parts of ten files) at the same time with no read head thrashing all over. You can get this benefit for much less than the $600 that Apple wants to add an internal SSD - the calculation might be different if they offered a smaller, cheaper SSD in the iMac, and it remains to be seen if Apple will be implementing some of the features of the Z68 chipset. If they do implement the hard drive caching to SSD feature, that could also tip the scales.

    So, I would go with the CPU/GPU combo you want now - you can add a good 64GB SSD in a FW800 enclosure for about $200-250. If you are curious about exactly how Apple will implement the internal SSD, you can wait until they are available before making your decision.
  18. macrumors regular

    Sep 28, 2010
    Oh man that was awesome! LOL
  19. macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2007
    I recently had that exact same setup. Not the worst but not the best. Ran a OWC 240GB SSD running off of firewire 800 than off esata from a added esata port. After a update OSX would look for the OS on the HD and then on the external. Sleep times were also bad. There was always a delay for the imac goiing to sleep.

    Added library folder after every update? I ran this setup up over a year. Worked ok, seek times were non existant. But the write times took a hit over FW 800. FW 800 is useless since thunder bolt is on the new macs.

    I think I will wait it out. Ordered a custom 27 base with combo SSD and 1TB HD. I could have gotten the i7 with better GPU for the same price. But I need reliably. And Apple SSDS are no longer $600.00, they are $500.00, a $100.00 price drop. $500.00 is a very good price for a SSD that is 256GB. Apple might surprise us.
  20. macrumors G4

    Chupa Chupa

    Jul 16, 2002
    CPU/GPU. You can't upgrade those later. In a few months there will be TB enclosures to put an SSD in.
  21. macrumors 6502a


    Jun 20, 2009
    Don't forget that the SSD option will mean no IMac till mid-June.
  22. macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2007
    Well I went with the faster CPU/GPU. Just cancelled my 1TB + SSD combo drive BTO. June 22 is too long.

    Went with BTO i7 and better GPU for same price.


    Don't know what type of Apple SSD, Sata 2 SSD like in the MacBookPro's? No thanks.

    Thunder bolt external may be faster than internal Sata 3. Can upgrade the SSD whenever you like via powered enclosure.

    A 27 i7 2600 booting off a 6Gbs SSD will be the ultimate imac. That did it for me. I called Apple they said you can boot off the thunderbolt SSD but they will not support the OS running off the external, which is no big deal.

    Problem with imac unhook the SSD reload OS on HD and take it in. Problem solved.

    Lion will support Trim. If not third party SSD use trim enabler. Problem solved.
  23. thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 12, 2009
    Indianapolis, IN
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    Well, you guys are hitting on my main concerns with the external route. I don't want to screw around with configuration issues when updating or upgrading the OS or installing or using apps. Re-pointing things to my home directory or resetting configuration settings is a hassle.

    I have no problem waiting till the middle of June. Still, if these are minor issues I woul love the i7 and 6970m.
  24. macrumors newbie

    May 6, 2011
    I am in a similar quandary, however I would be upgrading from last years 2.8ghz i7 model. I will be using it for predominantly video encoding at both 720p and 1080i/p resolution as well as music production using Logic and Ableton as well as graphics work on CS5. I also use Traktor DJ'ing software and iPhoto and iMovie.
    I guess what I'm asking is:
    1) Is the upgrade worth it from my current model? (Hopefully I will be able to sell my current model to offset a significant portion of the expense!)
    2) If so, is it more worth it with the SSD or faster CPU/GPU?

    From what I've read so far, the CPU/GPU way seems to be the most worthwhile expenditure however I'd be interested to hear some opinions on my particular situation?
  25. macrumors 604


    Aug 10, 2010
    Poole, England
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU iPhone OS 4_3_2 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/533.17.9 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.0.2 Mobile/8H7 Safari/6533.18.5)

    Please don't try to run a ssd drive of fw800. It's just silly. It's like putting a Ferrari engine into a 10 ton truck. A decent 7200 rpm is faster than fw800 can do.

    Ssd connected via TB? Sure, that should work.

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