2015 or 2017 21.5” 4K iMac

Discussion in 'iMac' started by HoosBruce, Jul 19, 2017.

  1. HoosBruce macrumors 6502a

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    Oct 21, 2013
    #1
    I am in the market for an iMac and have decided on the 21.5” 4K one, but want to get some advice on which model and year to buy. We will be using it as a main hub for all of our music and photos, web browsing, some video/photo editing (very light nothing crazy intensive), and some audio editing as well (also nothing intensive). There are other uses for it, but those are the main ones. I know for sure that we are going to need at least a 1 TB Fusion drive for everything.

    Anyways, I was hoping for some input on whether I should go ahead and get the 2017 version with the 1 TB Fusion or if I should be looking for a used 2015 version that could possible have better specs? ANyone have a suggestion or some information that could help me? Thanks everyone!
     
  2. HoosBruce thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #2
    Also, would I get annoyed with the Fusion Drive? I have 0 experience with these and 0 experience with iMacs haha
     
  3. Sid The Kid, Jul 19, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2017

    Sid The Kid Suspended

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    #3
    1TB Fusion Drive is only 32gb SSD. By the way, do you plan on adding more RAM? Because if so, it would be significantly more difficult on the 21.5" because you have to open the iMac.

    You can read some posts about people having a hard time with the HDD while some are doing just fine. I think it's just a matter of luck or bad luck.

    A lot are people are happy with their Fusion Drive. You won't even know the difference of speed if it's your first iMac except if you watch videos on YouTube about Fusion Drive vs pure SSD. Believe me.

    What are the specs of the 2015 iMac? And what about the 2017 5k 27" iMac?
     
  4. daybo macrumors newbie

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    Oct 21, 2015
    #4

    From my understanding the older 21.5" iMacs have soldered RAM, whereas the newer model I believe is replaceable, which might be a consideration?

    I have the last generation 27" i7 32MB RAM with a 2TB fusion drive, and to be honest I think it is great. Lots of people will say that the SSD is essential, but mine operates brilliantly on the fusion drive. The SSDs are crazy expensive from Apple, and I couldn't justify that extra cost. I had an SSD in my last machine, and TBH it didn't make that much of a difference IMHO.
     
  5. HoosBruce thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #5
    I doubt I will add more RAM. Why would I notice it while watching a YT video?

    As far as specs go, I haven’t researched much about the 2015. 27” is probably going to be too big for our desk space so I wasn’t really considering it.
     
  6. Velin macrumors 65816

    Velin

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    #6
    The answer always is: 27-inch 5k iMac.
     
  7. nambuccaheadsau macrumors 6502a

    nambuccaheadsau

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    #7
    Go with Velin's advice and pop 24GB of after market memory in it from Crucial or OWC.
     
  8. HoosBruce thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #8
    Why is that? Even for the small amount of stuff I need it for?
    --- Post Merged, Jul 19, 2017 ---
    Why would I need more RAM you think?
     
  9. jlseattle macrumors 6502

    jlseattle

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    #9
    I would go with the 2015 mac if you are considering the 1tb fusion drive on a 2017 iMac. If the 2015 has that drive, it will be slow too. But at least you will be paying the right price for a slow computer. That drive is terrible and not worth the money. You would need to upgrade to the 256gb SSD to really see any real speed in the 21" iMac. I got the 1tb fusion drive with the i7 processor and it was slower than my old laptop.

    The fusion drive is the slowest component in the iMac hardware. Its the very first component that you need to upgrade.
     
  10. HoosBruce thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #10
    Sheesh they’re that bad? SSD is just so damn expensive
     
  11. Appleaker macrumors 68000

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    #11
    I would go for the 2017, it is a much better performer especially since it has dedicated graphics, the fact the 2015 models only ran on integrated graphics was a joke. And then there are all the other improvements. It’s much more future proof too, you have TB3 and if you want to open it up in a few years time, once the coverage has expires, then you’ll be able to upgrade he CPU, RAM, and storage.
     
  12. HoosBruce thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #12
    The whole TB3/USB-C deal is a big draw I feel like.
    --- Post Merged, Jul 19, 2017 ---
    Another question: would it be better to go with the cheaper internal drive then invest in an external SSD and run stuff off of that?

    Another tidbit of info is that I just sold my 2016 13” MBP to make room for the iMac so I’m used to an SSD haha. Maybe that will help my decision?

    I’m trying to keep total costs under $1700 total if possible (including an external SSD if I bought one).
     
  13. Sid The Kid Suspended

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    Jul 10, 2017
    #13
    It will be easier and less expensive to just change the RAM in case it's broken rather than opening everything.
    --- Post Merged, Jul 19, 2017 ---
    People who have the possibility to remove the HDD part and put SSD in their iMac shouldn't worry. If the HDD becomes way too slow or break, removing it and putting an SSD inside will surely give a huge boost and make your computer feel like a new one.
     
  14. HoosBruce thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #14
    What do you think about a 256 internal SSD and attaching an external SSD to the back of the iMac as well? I’d be able to run the OS and other files on the internal and run music and photos on external right? Or would it be ether to jump to 512 internal and forget the external for now? Idk if I even need purely SSD for my usage, but I know it’s so much better than HDD.
     
  15. Appleaker macrumors 68000

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    #15
    Yeah it might be frustrating after you’ve got used to those speeds, so you might want to get an internal SSD, but I think it just comes down to cost. While internal is preferable, external will be a lot cheaper, allowing for more money spent on other internals.
     
  16. HoosBruce thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #16
    Would a good solution be to have the base internal SSD storage (256) and then also have an external SSD? How easy of a workflow is it to run the OS on the internal and then run photos and iTunes off of the external? Seems like I could save costs by doing it that way and possibly be able to up the cpu or ram with the savings.
     
  17. MacDevil7334 macrumors 6502a

    MacDevil7334

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    #17
    One other reason to consider the 2017 over the 2015 is that you will be getting a processor that is 2 generations newer. Apple only updated the 27” iMac to Skylake (6th gen) processors in 2015. The 21.5” got left at Broadwell (5th gen). So you will be getting a much more modern processor for your money by going with the 2017 since you will get a Kaby Lake (7th gen) processor. Might not be a huge difference given the storage options you are considering but every bit helps.

    I would also echo what others have said about the internals a future upgrades. All the internals (RAM, processor, etc) were soldered to the logic board in the 2015, making upgrades at a future date basically impossible. This is not the case on the 2017. It’s not easy to do since you still have to remove the display to get at the internals (thus voiding your warranty). But, you could update the internals at a later date in theory if you chose to.

    As for storage, I agree with others that you should either go with a SSD plus external or at least a 2TB fusion drive. The 32 GB SSD portion on the 1TB fusion is just too small to make a real difference IMO. It’s a shame Apple chose to cheap out on the SSD because the 1TB fusion would probably be a really attractive option for many people otherwise (which is why they did it I’m sure).
     
  18. HoosBruce thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #18
    How easy is it to run files off of the external SSD on a daily basis? I’ve never done it so I wouldn’t know. Fairly seamless?

    Also, what’s the best way to do so? I’ve seen people just attach an external SSD to the back of an iMac or monitor (using 3M tape or whatever) and running it that way, or have seen where people talk about using an enclosure. Are there advantages/disadvantages to either?
     
  19. QCassidy352 macrumors G3

    QCassidy352

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    #19
    Yes, a very good solution. There's really no reason not to do this with a desktop because you'll always have access to both drives. The only active management you have to do is choose which drive to save files to. And, I guess, point iTunes/photos/imovie/whatever to the correct library the first time you ever launch it.
     
  20. MacDevil7334 macrumors 6502a

    MacDevil7334

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    #20
    I have not used an external SSD, only HDD. Mine is USB3 so I just plug it into one of the ports on the back of my iMac and it shows up in Finder as if it were a second internal drive. I’m assuming an SSD would work the same way. If you are opening files stored on that drive, you just navigate there in the open dialog or in Finder like you would if locating a file on your main drive. It’s all pretty seamless as all you have to do is point your programs to where your files are stored.
     
  21. HoosBruce thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #21
    That does seem pretty damn easy actually. I’m sure I’d be semi-confused at first seeing as though I have never done it before, but I’m assuming there are plenty of videos or articles on how to do it. I’m not a “nerd” but I’m not a “noob” either, so I can’t imagine it’d be too crazy to learn.
    --- Post Merged, Jul 21, 2017 ---
    Pricing it out it almost seems like it is more worth it to splurge on the internal 512GB SSD and not even mess with the external for now. It wouldn't cost me but $100 more to do that over opting for 256 internal and another 256 external.

    Such a tough decision haha and all based on the storage really...ugh.
     
  22. MacDevil7334 macrumors 6502a

    MacDevil7334

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    #22
    That’s exactly what I did. 512 GB seems to be the sweet spot this year for people equipping an iMac with a SSD as far as price vs storage goes. However, your original post said you needed at least 1 TB for your files so would 512 GB of internal storage even be enough? If you are going to have to buy an external drive anyway, I would suggest configuring your iMac with as much SSD as you can realistically afford right now and then buying a cheaper external HDD for music, older files you rarely access, and anything else you don’t need fast read/write speeds for. That’s basically the setup I have right now (512 GB SSD internal and 3 TB 7200 rpm HDD external) and it is working pretty well.
     
  23. HoosBruce thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #23
    I might go with the 1 TB Fusion and then add an external ssd and strap it to the back of the machine. Not sure where I’d place what yet as far as files and OS go, but I’d assume it would be smart enough to run the OS and most used apps on the internal ssd right?
     
  24. MacDevil7334 macrumors 6502a

    MacDevil7334

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    #24
    Are you planning to boot from the external SSD then? I guess if you left all the system files on the fusion drive (where it would reside on the small 32 GB SSD portion) and then used the external drive for your files that would get you speeds similar to having just the internal SSD. Seems like a rather convoluted way to do that (especially for only saving a few hundred dollars). I still think the thing that makes the most sense would be to get a 256 or 512 GB SDD internal and then add cheaper external HDD storage as needed but that’s just my opinion.

    Also, for physical storage solution for your external drive, TwelveSouth makes a little aluminum shelf called a Backpack that attaches to the iMac stand base. You can put the drive on there to keep it out of view. It’s a little more eligant that tape!
     
  25. HoosBruce thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #25
    Interesting. That’s a good call on the TwelveSouth stand I like that. I think investing in the internal SSD now makes the most sense than trying to gerryrig everything. Bite the bullet in the beginning and be much happier down the road.
     

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