3.4 GHz non-retina iMac vs base riMac - advice

Discussion in 'iMac' started by fc14, Jan 29, 2015.

  1. fc14 macrumors newbie

    Jan 29, 2015
    Hi guys,

    I’ve been reading lots of threads here for weeks now and decided to ask you for advice.

    My current setup is a Late 2013 rMBP13 with 2.6GHz i5 and 8GB Ram. I extended it by an old TFT 24”, wired apple keyboard (need num.pad) and Thunderbolt Ethernet Adapter. I’m mainly working at my desk, say about 95% of my computer time. But this is also due to the fact that I’m tired of plugging out and in all my devices for one hour lying on the couch while surfing the web.

    So I’m thinking for weeks now if I purchase an iMac with 27”. I would take the 3.4 GHz configuration and only upgrade the HDD to an 256 GB SSD (I will never again miss an SSD!). I will buy additional 8 GB RAM outside of Apple Store.
    But upgrading to SSD means also that there is only a small price difference left to the base model of the retina iMac which already includes an 256 GB SSD.

    My usage is of course basic things (surfing, mailing etc.), low to medium-level programming (MATLAB, maybe Java soon, VBA via Parallels Excel), Parallels Desktop for Microsoft Office mostly (the 8GB of my rMBP are slowing down the virtual machine), trying out other things from time to time (creating Wordpress website, …), but the latter doesn’t need that much power. Rarely I’m working on photos or movies (even more rarely!).

    Based on my usage both iMacs should be a speed improvement to my rMBP even though it’s fast enough to handle my tasks (only the RAM is sometimes a problem). I would be open to upgrade maybe CPU or GPU of non-retina model, but I think I don’t need those upgrades for my usage. Deciding for the retina model, I prefer the base model since I don’t want to spend more money than that.

    Of course, I could also buy a thunderbolt dock and a new LED display (my display definitely has to be replaced if not buying an iMac), but I don’t know if I would be happy with this solution, and it also costs minimum 500€ in total. Same for LG 34UM95 which more or less includes a thunderbolt dock.
    I’m living in Germany and have access to apple on campus.

    I can't give up my MB at the moment, because I need it at least half an year until I got my master's degree. What do you think is the best option? Is the retina iMac in the end less powerful than the non-retina iMac (due to the the display)? Is the retina display eating up the additional power of the CPU? Is it better to buy a thunderbolt dock and/or a new display (in the end it's cheaper, but also better?).
    If I missed some information, please let me know.

    Thanks for any help!
  2. JustMartin macrumors 6502a

    Feb 28, 2012
    If you're still doing a masters, then money would be my major concern. If you can work as you are for 6 months, it's better to wait. Of course, it's always better to wait if you don't actually need a new computer. Alternatively, upgrade the system you have as the cheaper option rather than duplicating kit.

    As far as I understand it, VBA is available on the latest office for mac. Would that ease the pressure on your ram?
  3. fc14 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 29, 2015
    I'm using Excel intensively, and Office for Mac is killing me. It's no alternative to the "real" office.

    Besides that, you're not wrong with your opinion. But the options I mentioned are no problem in terms of money. If I don't need my Macbook after my degree, I still can sell it. I would use the iMac in the next six months the most because of programming for my thesis, so it's like buying an iMac now or never :D after that, depending on time.

    I have three options:
    1) stay with Macbook, but buy a new display (absolutely necessary) and maybe a thunderbolt dock, if it's not included in the display. That costs (depending on the display) 500-700€.
    2) buy a non-retina iMac, which gives me extra power for Parallels Desktop and other RAM-exhausting tasks, more future-proved. That costs 1940€ (incl. SSD-Upgrade).
    3) buy a retina iMac, same as 2) 2250€ costs, so 300€ additional costs for the retina display.

    Just looking at the costs, 1) is the cheapest by far. But it's not cheap though, that's why I'm thinking about option 2) and 3), which also give an all-in-one solution instead of MB, Dock(ing) and Display...
  4. thundersteele macrumors 68030

    Oct 19, 2011
    I would go for option 3, except maybe I would consider upgrading the GPU to make sure you have a smooth retina experience. In principle for anything that isn't gaming the base GPU should be good enough, however some people claim that there is UI lag with the M290.
  5. AlifTheUnseen macrumors member


    May 17, 2014
    I'd base that decision on your income forecast - do you study some phil I subject such as journalism or history? Well, you might find yourself under budgetary restrictions for some time.. however, you mentioned MatLab, which indicates a numerical scientific background, maybe even engineering… --> your budgets will be much more relaxing soon… if you'll be the poor wise man of science for some time to come, I'd wait, seconding JustMartins thoughts.

    To be frank, Apple's desktop computer offerings are currently underwhelming across the board. I desperately want to update my aging 2010 iMac, but, alas, there's just no suitable offering… the MacPro is a nice machine, but both pricey and beginning to age, besides being total overkill in most use cases. The Mac mini is basically a step backwards or at least none forward compared to the former version, the RiMac is a sad design failure, hands down, putting one of the hottest mobile GPUs into a form factor not able to cope with the heat, and it's noisy… not nice if you'll try to concentrate while hunting Matlab bugs… the old iMacs are still pricey and contain tech approx. 2-3 years old.

    I hope they will update the old iMacs to use Retina displays, but maybe they wait until Skylake, so it could be almost a year now…

    Buying a second-hand maxed-out iMac 2012 or a second-hand 2013 model will probably not be a huge improvement over your existing gear. I honestly don't know what advice to give… I understand why you asked here, even after having read so much lately. It's no easy decision if you are under budgetary constraints.

    It's sad that Apple doesn't need to care about the Mac anymore.
  6. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    I'd say you'd regret having retina a year from now more than you'll regret the loss of the money. You stare at that screen for a lot of your life; it's too short to waste that time on an old fashioned TV screen.

    Having used retina now on mobiles, and on my riMac, I'll never use a low def monitor again if there's any way I can avoid it. It's like trying to go back to watching field sports on SD instead of HDTV; simply unbearable. It's also easier to work on for long periods, at least for me with aging eyes.
  7. fc14 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 29, 2015
    You're right, I'm studying Business Mathematics, so dealing with numerical methods of mathematical optimization and so on.

    Thank you for your reply. It's very helpful since it's an objective view. After reading it and comparing it to my "research" I come to the conclusion, that the non-retina iMac is overpriced especially with SSD. Because of the various problems/troubles with the riMac, waiting a year should be better.
    My rMBP is a good machine, I will stay with it and buy a new display. Maybe in autumn / winter there are new possibilites (new/updated products, more financial independence) so that I then can make a decision, which makes me happy and not thoughtful if I did the right thing!
  8. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    If you find you need it badly, you'll buy it. Not like they're going away. Waiting to buy tech products only very rarely proves to be a big mistake (as in the case of the disappearing quad core Mini perhaps). And you never know, maybe a used one under warranty will pop up.
  9. thundersteele macrumors 68030

    Oct 19, 2011
    The riMac is dead silent. Full CPU load will not spin up the fans. Of course if for some reason you feel the need to run a GPU benchmark in the background while debugging MatLab, then you might hear it.
    The M295X might not be the optimal solution, but it works well. The heat issues have been completely blown out of proportion - this is common with new Apple products, we get over-heating discussions in the MBP forum every time a new model is released. Even iPhones and iPads have had their "heat-gate." Usually these issues are forgotten after a few months ;)

    Still, if OP is willing to wait, 2015 might bring alternative GPU options.

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8 January 29, 2015