21.5 vs 27 iMac internal debate...

Discussion in 'iMac' started by AR86, Dec 11, 2014.

  1. AR86, Dec 11, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2015

    AR86 macrumors member

    Dec 7, 2014
    So i've been pretty much set on getting the 21.5 iMac with the following specs;

    3.1ghz (Turbo to 3.9) i7 processor
    16GB Ram
    1TB Fusion Drive
    NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M 1GB

    With the Apple care plan (which i'm thinking is a must given the money involved) it comes to a total of £1818

    Recently though the 27" model seems to be catching my eye a little more and though originally I felt it was a touch too big I now feel I could probably accomodate it on my desk. I was having a look and stacked up the following spec on it;

    3.4GHz (Turbo to 3.8GHz ) i5 Processor
    8GB Ram (kept to a minimum as its easy and cheaper to install extra on the 27" model)
    3TB Fusion Drive
    NVIDIA GeForce GTX 775M 2GB

    Again with the apple care plan comes to £2018 so about £200 more than the 21.5 iMac

    I'm still pondering and am a couple of months off getting it yet but just wanted to gather some thoughts from people on what they'd go for?

    In terms of budget i've not really set one as i'm just putting money together for a solid buy so don't want to overly limit myself but I think it's safe to say the 27" £2018 mentioned above would be just about the max i'd go to.

    When it comes to use i'll be honest and say I do the regular general web browsing etc. maybe some LIGHT video/photo editing nothing too intense but I always want to be safe in the knowedlge that there's more power if I ever needed it and given Macs in general are pricy i'd be prefer to have suitable power under the hood with a certain amount of future proofing done as I intend to keep it for a while and am not like these media professionals who sell off and upgrade after 2 odd years.

    So just a quick recap, the 21.5" imac being considered is essentially the maxed out top of the line one with the most hard drive space (1tb fusion drive), Ram and best processor whilst the 27" one is maybe a step down in terms of processor but still has the best i5 processor available on any iMac, 3tb fusion drive and better graphics card...


    Going with the Retina Imac, I know I stated my absolute peak budget was around £2k but after seeing it in person i'm going to have to make it work so i'll just delay the purchase by a couple of months which i'm cool with.

    So the spec I have in mind is;

    Upgraded i7 CPU
    Upgraded M295x GPU
    8GB Ram (will increase myself at a later date)
    256GB SSD (will add one some external storage via usb 3 or TB)
  2. AllergyDoc macrumors 65816


    Mar 17, 2013
    Utah, USA
    I would forget the fusion drive and get the largest SSD you can afford. The 27" screen is great, so much more useful than the 21", IMO.
  3. AR86 thread starter macrumors member

    Dec 7, 2014
    Thing is the SSD really blasts it out of the park when it comes to budget, I know I mentioned not restricting myself too much but SSD really is one thing that is simply TOO much for me, also the storage space restrictions are a killer with pure SSD and one of the major attractions of the 27" is having 3TB as opposed to just 1TB on the 21.5"
  4. yjchua95, Dec 11, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2014

    yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Apr 23, 2011
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    I'd go for the 21.5", but with a 256GB SSD setup instead (I have this exact same configuration), because a pure SSD setup is more reliable and way faster than the Fusion drive in writes. All my media are kept in an NAS. I could've bought a Fusion model instead, but I needed pure speed and reliability, so I went with a 256GB SSD and a permanently hooked-up external storage. It's an iMac, not a MacBook, so you can always leave external storage attached to it.

    And keep in mind that the 3.1GHz i7-4770S in the 21.5" is more powerful than the 3.4GHz i5-4670 in the high end non-retina 27", because the i7 supports hyper threading. You'll notice this in video editing, rendering and running VMs.

    Results: http://browser.primatelabs.com/geekbench3/compare/1424151?baseline=611544

    Even in single-core performance, the 3.1GHz i7 trounces the 3.4GHz i5.

    Single core performance is 14.2% better on the i7, and multi-core performance is a massive 63.1% better on the i7.

    Note: Both machines in the benchmark have 16GB of RAM. I selected a 27" i5-4670 with 16GB RAM to compare with my own 21.5" i7-4770S with 16GB RAM to make the test fair.

    GPU performance and hard drive performance are not taken into account by Geekbench.
  5. cincygolfgrrl macrumors 6502


    Apr 2, 2012
    Somewhere In Time
    It's a Mac!

    If screen size isn't an issue for you, I'd think the maxed 21.5 would be a better choice. Whichever you choose I think you'll be pleased with the result — it's a Mac, what could possibly go wrong?
  6. MartinAppleGuy macrumors 68020


    Sep 27, 2013
    Go for the 21.5" with the Fusion Drive then just unfuse it (so it's seen in Mac OS as 2 drives rather than one, a 128GB SSD, and a 1TB HDD).

    The i7 in the 21" vs the i5" in the 27" is easy. The i7 21 will destroy the i5 27" and it really screams. It's perfromace is very close to the maxed out i7 in the 27" iMac so I would highly recommend that if you feel that you need the power (plus you will get hyper threading so it is seems as an 8 threaded/core Mac to compatible apps).

    In terms of GPU, I have the 21.5" iMac with the 750m and it screams. I recently installed Windows 8.1 via Bootcamp (I know, how bad of me :p) and I am able to run games such as Far Cry 3 and Battlefield 4 at 1080p at high and I could run Just Cause 2 completely maxed out at 1080p. In terms of professional work in OS X, I am a graphic designer who commonly does the following:

    HD video editing (heavy work, large projects in Premere Pro and shorter projects in After Effects)
    Photo Editing
    3D work (Maya and 3DS Max on Windows)
    Flash animations
    Web Design
    Music work

    My iMac easily handles all of these tasks without a sweat. Here is the spec of my iMac:

    21.5" Late 2013/2014 iMac - 2.9-3.6Ghz quad core i5 - 8GB RAM - Nvidia GeForce GT 750m w/ 1GB GDDR5 VRAM - 1TB HDD
  7. CasablancaDR macrumors member

    Nov 27, 2014
    Paris, France
    Don't forget that the Fusion Drive in the 21.5 iMac comes with a 5400 RPM hard drive (7200 RPM with the 27). When you're going to access files not located in the SSD, you'll feel it.
  8. MartinAppleGuy macrumors 68020


    Sep 27, 2013
    Funnily enough I have a 5400rpm and am amazed at the amount of people that comment on it. Everyone that has used my iMac thinks it's a Fusion Drive. For example, even after a restart Photoshop takes just 3 seconds to open up. And my Windows 8.1 paritiion takes only 15 seconds to boot. I have never had an issue with this 5400rpm HDD and from what I have used of pure SSD 15-inch retina MBPs, there is not a massive difference. Opening an app like iTunes after a restart takes only half a second longer on my iMac over a MBPr with PCIe SSD.

    I am pretty sure most people just compare their new SSD iMac to their say 2007/8/9 iMac with a HDD and say the HDD is so slow in comparison. The HDD is not slow in comprision, it's their 5+ year old iMac is slow in comparison to their new one.
  9. JustMartin macrumors 6502a

    Feb 28, 2012
    I dithered for a little while between large or small screens and spent a lot of time with a tape measure trying to work out how I could arrange my desk (it has to accommodate my work computer as well). In the end, I went for the 21" and I'm glad I did. When I viewed the two machines next to each other in store, the larger model seemed much, much larger in comparison and more imposing.

    I think the only time I've missed the extra real estate is using Logic Pro or Sibelius where it would be nice to spread things about a bit. But, a multiple screen solution might be better in those cases anyway.

    And, yes, I got a fusion drive, which I think consigns me to the stone age in the eyes of most people here. But, I get storage in one place without the need for hanging collections of drives out the back and I get the speed of SSD because my most accessed stuff is on there.
  10. AR86 thread starter macrumors member

    Dec 7, 2014
    Firstly I just want to say after having a look at my desk again i'm fairly certain i'll be going for the 21.5"

    You know after reading your post something just clicked in my head about the whole storage space or lack of with SSD's for the first time, your point about it being a iMac not a MacBook really makes me think about the possibilty of maybe settling for a smaller pure SSD and getting a some nice external storage for storing stuff like movies/music/pictures etc.

    Just had a few questions beforehand though, going by youtube reviews pretty much everyone raves about how awesome Fusion drives are and how they're 'the best of both worlds' etc. and seeing some demos I was honestly convinced about their greatness but only after signing up here and another Mac Forum have I seen people consistently recommending going with the pure SSD (even with the smaller capacity) over the Fusion drives on a lot of occasions, could you please possibly tell me more about this (ie why there seems to be a lot of informed people recommending SSD over Fusion) or atleast link me to something informative on the matter so I can get clued up? Also is 256gb enough for all your programs etc. including the OS?

    Another question is what type of external Hard drive set up have you got? if I went that route i'd want atleast 2-3TB minimum and would want it to be quite low profile sitting beneath or behind the mac as not to be an eyesore.

    Big investment for me, especially for a computer so I want everything to be spot on and avoid regrets later (hence the current debate about SSD and Fusion Drives)

    Another post that's helped me more or less make my mind up with sticking to the 21.5" maxed out model.

    Same here@ measuring things up to see if a bigger screen can be accomodated, I think going with the 21.5" is the smart choice for me.

    Even the negatives you listed about the smaller screen will probably not affect me as I doubt i'll be doing any INTENSE work ie advanced picture and video editing etc that will make me miss extra screen real estate.
  11. cynics macrumors G4

    Jan 8, 2012
    Just to throw in my 2 cents to thoroughly confuse you.

    Given those to options I would go with the 27".

    The extra desktop real estate is a usable spec all buy itself. Many think of it like a television where bigger is better until you've gone too big. But currently I have 3 home screens I keep loaded with windows depending on what I'm doing.

    So while specs are important based on your usage I find the screen size one of if not the most useful spec of all of them (i5/7, HDD/SSD, RAM, etc).
  12. AR86 thread starter macrumors member

    Dec 7, 2014

  13. AR86 thread starter macrumors member

    Dec 7, 2014
    Ok going to resist the temptation to get hooked back into the 27" mac debate, think it's just a question of 1TB Fusion Drive vs 256GB of Pure SSD.

    Space and Speed vs Pure Speed
  14. FredT2 macrumors 6502a

    Mar 18, 2009
    Since you asked for opinions, I'll give you mine: if all of your storage needs will fit on a fusion drive, get the fusion. The majority of the time it will feel just as fast as a pure SSD. I've been using a Mini with fusion for a couple of years and now have an iMac with SSD, and in day to day activities, they feel the same. The Mini with fusion boots up and loads apps just as fast as the iMac.
  15. AR86 thread starter macrumors member

    Dec 7, 2014
    Thanks for the input, i've been reading up a few articles and given my needs I agree with your analysis and think a 1TB fusion drive will be just fine for me, because I honestly don't see myself pushing the Mac to it's limits or even hard (despite it having a high spec) as a general rule I don't let my PC's/laptops get more than 60% full in terms of storage and normally start moving stuff like movie files and photos over to my 3.0 external hard drive, so with it being about 40-50% empty most of the time I don't see performance lagging too much
  16. redheeler macrumors 604


    Oct 17, 2014
    The slowness of my Mac mini with 5400 RPM HDD drives me crazy. I'm really glad I don't have to use it as my main machine. Boot times are twice as long, and beachballs are much more common. Loading heavy apps (not light ones that even my MDD can open with just a few bounces) also takes much longer.

    SSD (with external 7200 RPM HDD storage if necessary) is the only way to go.
  17. yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Apr 23, 2011
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    In reply to your response to an earlier post of mine, 256GB is sufficient for me as I keep almost everything in external storage. I only have FCP X, AutoCAD, some Adobe CC software and the usual iWork suite, and I've 190GB free to this day. It was purchased over a year ago. All my media is stored in a Synology NAS and a WD 1TB MyPassport USB drive.

    Sure, if you want space go for FD, but if the HDD platter breaks, the entire setup is toast. I'd rather have external storage break on me rather than having an internal drive break, because it's bloody hell to tear apart the display just to access the hard drive bay.

    And if you do ever want to Boot Camp, it will only run off the slow HDD platter of the FD setup.
  18. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    I hate to throw in another variable, but have you considered a retina MBP?

    I say this because at 2560x1600 the 13" retina packs a lot into that small screen; given Apple's retina scheme and hidpi that doesn't mean it's quite the same, but you would end up with a very much better screen. And even more so with the 15". Having used retina, I couldn't go back, so I'm prejudiced, but since you're wavering over screen size.

    I had a buddy who went 13" retina instead of an iMac, and added a 2560x1440 IPS second monitor, all for about the same price. Somewhat less specs in the horsepower, but you notice a crappy screen and/or a crowded screen much more than an occasional slowdown.
  19. cynics macrumors G4

    Jan 8, 2012
    If you are going to be using external storage anyway go with the SSD. Use it for the OS and programs and save your media on external spinners for storage of your media and other things.

    I favored HDD for the space vs cost. However 1tb hasn't lasted me very long so I'm going to be storing everything externally anyway.
  20. MartinAppleGuy macrumors 68020


    Sep 27, 2013
    But that's a Mac mini. My Imac boots in just over 30 seconds and opens Adobe apps in around 2 to 5 seconds depending on the app. Is your 5400 rpm hdd the 500GB? Is it over 85% full? Because me and a few friends with current gen apple hardware and hdds have found the purchase of the ssd pointless due to there be in next to no difference when launching apps and responsiveness on similar hardware. We did notice the difference with both times however, but iMacs should be put to sleep and only restarted once in a blue moon/software update so saving 15 seconds every month is clearly not worth hundreds of pounds ;)

    The only place where I think I could justify a ssd worth a Mac would be with a lot of importing video in the likes of Premiere Pro but this would still be the same importing times as a fusion drive as the video would be on the hdd side anyway.
  21. AR86 thread starter macrumors member

    Dec 7, 2014
    Honestly what's the fail rate on hard drives from Apple? because without tempting fate, from all the PC's/Laptops i've had i've never had a hard drive go bust on me, my current Dell Vostro laptop is about 2 years old and runs right as rain, while I have a brother who has a 6 year old Sony Vaio all in one which has never had such problems aswell, even my previous Toshiba laptop which I kept for 3 years never had a hard drive problem or the PC before it, infact from all my friends and familyi've never come across any of them who suffered a hard drive fault.


    Always loved the MBP's but the price is just something else and a lot of what you're paying is for portability.... portability I just don't need for example my current laptop is hooked up to the mains power and has been for the last 10 weeks, and it's just your run of the mill i5 Dell Vostro hardly a desktop replacement in the two years i've had it i've taken it out with me maybe 4-5 times.

    Also I don't think I could ever go smaller than the 15" i've currently got so that puts the death blow on the 13" retina MBP.
  22. CasablancaDR, Dec 13, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2014

    CasablancaDR macrumors member

    Nov 27, 2014
    Paris, France
    You and your friends failed to see a difference between a SSD drive and a 5400 RPM hard drive ? Come on ! When Yosemite switch between the SSD to the 7200 RPM hard drive of my FD, I can notice the difference immediately.

    The SSD of my FD boots Yosemite in about 16 sec. The 7200 RPM hard drive of my FD opens Windows 8,1 in about 40/50 sec. My old Mac Pro Nehalem with a 7200 RPM hard drive used to open Mountain Lion in about 40/50 sec. My girlfriend's Mac Mini opens Yosemite in about 60 sec with its 5400 RPM hard drive. Those numbers are logical and mechanical, they can be explained easily. Yours are just weird.

    But then again, if you're happy with your 5400 RPM hard drive, good for you.
  23. MartinAppleGuy, Dec 13, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2014

    MartinAppleGuy macrumors 68020


    Sep 27, 2013
    35 seconds boot for OS X, 10-15 seconds for Windows 8.1 (I hibernate when using Bootcamp). Keep a HDD clean with free room and you do just fine. Not spending any more time writing as I'm just not seeing your bad results, are you emphasising them or something?

    Oh, just re-read your comment. We all of course noticed boot time differences but as I said in my post, you hardly ever restart a Mac. Its always been sleep for me, and that is an instant activity on any stage medium. I am talking about the differences for launching apps and just using it.
  24. AR86 thread starter macrumors member

    Dec 7, 2014
  25. yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Apr 23, 2011
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN

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