1st time iMac 21.5" buyer: SSD or Fusion? 16GB RAM or 2.9 i5 upgrade?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by Tribefan, Oct 30, 2013.

  1. Tribefan macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2011
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    #1
    Ok, I know there are threads on similar things, but I need some guidance. For reference, I'm currently using a Mid-2011 MBA with 1.7 Intel Core i5, 4GB 1300mhz DDR3 R and Intel HD Graphics 3000 384MB. I don't do video or photo editing, gaming etc. I LOVE the quiet operation of my MBA and quick speed of the 128GB SSD I have. I hate the sound of fans or components running in an otherwise quiet room. I have to admit, managing the space (currently have about 20 GB free) gets annoying at times.

    I'm mostly doing web browsing, viewing/tweaking (but not full-on Photoshopping) pictures, listening to iTunes music or watching iTunes movies and streaming downloaded video content from my MBA to my tv via Air Play on my Apple TV.

    I've decided on the 21.5" iMac, but I can't decide (mainly because I'm not educated enough) between choosing between two possible sets of upgrades:

    Should I go wight the 256 SSD or the 1TB Fusion hard drive?

    Regardless of which option I choose, I think I'm going to finally purchase an external HD to back up my important or sentimental data. My initial instinct is to go with the 256 SSD because I'll have an external HD anyways and because I've read some "complaints" about the noise when the HDD is running on the Fusion drive. Due to the performance, lack of noise and dependability of the SSD, I've pretty much eliminated the 1TB 5400RPM HD, unless someone can give a compelling argument for it.

    Should I spring for upping the RAM from 8 to 16GB, or would that money be better spent on upgrading the i5 from the 2.7 to 2.9 GHz?

    Which one of these would be a more noticeable benefit for an user of my type? Also, which of the two would help delay the want/need to upgrade to a new iMac down the line?

    Because of my budget, I can't do more than 2 of these 4 (well, technically 3 since I can't have both HD options at the same time). What advice do you all have for someone in my scenario? Thank you in advance.
     
  2. Bear macrumors G3

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2002
    Location:
    Sol III - Terra
    #2
    On the 21.5" iMac, the memory is not designed to be user upgradeable. Under what you said, I would go with 16GB plus SSD. Processor would be the last thing to upgrade in that list.

    If 256GB turns out not to be enough you can use external storage to supplement.

    Remember you want separate external disks for your data disk and your backup disk.
     
  3. kaellar macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2012
    #3
    For that kind of usage scenario I'll definitely NOT go with 16gb RAM. AND a CPU upgrade neither.
    If no gaming is meant, there's zero reason to upgrade to 2.9GHz i5 + 750m. CPU-wise there won't be any performance difference at all.
    If you don't actually know, if you need the 16gb or not, you don't need it, trust me. And it probably won't change during the lifetime of your iMac.
    If I were you, I'd get the base model with 256gb and invest those extra $200 into better external storage.
    Cheers!
     
  4. MikeChicago macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2013
    #4
    I would suggest that you absolutely upgrade to the SSD, but skip the CPU upgrade. You won't notice the difference.

    As for the RAM, I'm honestly not sure. It doesn't sound like you really need it, but than again, you won't be able to update it down the road (at least not easily) should your needs change in the future.
     
  5. Mike Oxard macrumors 6502a

    Mike Oxard

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2009
    #5
    I'd say upgrade the SSD and the RAM, fast storage can be added later (Thunderbolt or USB 3) and I don't think you'll see a huge difference between processors given your usage.

    ----------

    Don't think this, just do it, a cheap USB 1TB drive plugged in to the iMac as a time machine backup is really a no brainer. Get two external drives and swap them offsite for an even better backup. (Time machine can bak up to multiple drives)
     
  6. Tribefan thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2011
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    #6
    Well, it overwhelmingly seems like I'll skip the CPU upgrade, and go with the 256 SSD over the 1 TB Fusion drive. Although I may not "need" it, I'm tempted to upgrade to the 16GB of RAM, just to have it. Sometimes my MBA slightly pauses when opening something or responding to something I've clicked on or whatever and I can't help but wonder if the extra RAM would help, and therefore, when my iMac gets to be a couple years old, it may do the same thing and wish I had done the upgrade.

    As far as the comment from Bear regarding "separate external disks for your data disk and your backup disk", are you saying I can't use the same external HD to place music, movies, photos to keep space free on the 256 SSD, etc AND to backup my computer? If that's the case, I never realized the same HD couldn't be used for both remote storage and backing up. That sucks.
     
  7. cmmaia macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2010
    #7
    It can.. though you won't have a backup of whatever is on that drive. There's no point backing up to the same drive. In this scenario, you would need an extra drive to backup the external drive.
     
  8. Mike Oxard macrumors 6502a

    Mike Oxard

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2009
    #8
    He's saying that if you store files on an external drive, you can't back them up to the same drive. The external can only back up what's on the internal drive.

    I'd say start with everything on the SSD and get a big (1 or 2 TB) external for Time Machine. If you eventually need more space get another external. The Time machine drive can back up this external drive as well.

    It may sound like a lot of attached drives, but TBH they hide nicely behind an iMac, or on the floor under the desk.
     
  9. Tribefan thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2011
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    #9
    Ok, I see what you're saying. I didn't think of it that way. So I'd want to keep one plugged in all the time, which I'm using as remote storage. And then the other, I'd only want to plug in when I'm doing a Time Machine back up? One last question: If I go that route, when I do a Time Machine back up, will it automatically recognize there is an external drive plugged in with content being remotely stored on it and back that up as well? Or is that something I'd have to manually manage?
     
  10. Tribefan thread starter macrumors member

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    Aug 2, 2011
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    #10
    Got it. Sounds like a good way to go. And you're right, I think they'd never really be noticed back there.
     
  11. Mike Oxard macrumors 6502a

    Mike Oxard

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2009
    #11
    As it's a desktop it's perfectly reasonable to leave both drives connected all the time, you'll forget they are there. The Time Machine drive will back up the external drive, you just go into Time Machine preferences and remove it from the excluded list.

    If the external drives are to noisy you can perhaps do what we did and route the cables through the wall in to a cupboard in the room behind. There's 24TB attached to our iMac!!:

    [​IMG]
     
  12. Tribefan thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2011
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    #12
    Holy cow. I love your set-up! I'm renting so I can't do too much fabricating stuff, and because of physical layout. But that's a great idea.
     
  13. Mike Oxard macrumors 6502a

    Mike Oxard

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2009
    #13
    Thanks! It's in our studio which is pushed for space, the desk folds down to give a bit more room for manoeuvre. It's not usually this tidy!
     
  14. toddzrx macrumors 6502a

    toddzrx

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2012
    #14
    I currently run an internal SSD with the OS, apps, and all non-media data, and two external HDs on my iMac. One contains all music and pics, the other is strictly for Time Machine. Sounds like this is what you are pretty much looking to do. My Time Machine drive is actually the original internal that I put in an enclosure; I only do a backup about once a week on it, or after creating or downloading anything significant (like my monthly finances). And, when I do turn it on, Time Machine recognizes the drive and starts a backup on its own; I don't need to do anything other than turn the drive on, then dismount and turn it off once the backup is done. The other (media) external is a portable Seagate 1TB USB drive that I just got to replace an old FireWire drive; it is surprisingly fast and I never hear it spin. It stays plugged in all the time.

    Honestly, you will probably be fine with 8GB of RAM for the next 2 years at least; after that OS X might need more? I guess it depends on how long you'll want to hang on to it. If you're looking for max lifespan (5 years or more), 16GB might be best. IMO of course.
     
  15. Tribefan thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2011
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    #15
    Assuming there is no "must have" feature in the next couple/few iMacs that come out, I'd ideally like to have this iMac for 3-5 years. I feel that, given my usage, that is more than reasonable to expect. Now, if one of the next iMac updates brings some kind of feature that I just "have to have", then I'd sell this one I'm about to buy and buy the one with the new "must have" feature I want. I can't imagine what kind of feature that would be though. For the iPhones and iPads, I usually upgrade to the new ones each year because those upgrades are more significant (relatively speaking) and I use them, at least my iPhone, all day long.
     

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