Advice for Purchasing a New iMac?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by timeforanewimac, Feb 9, 2015.

  1. timeforanewimac macrumors newbie

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    Feb 9, 2015
    #1
    Apologies if it's bad form to post this in a new thread -- I buried it in the "new iMac" delivery thread originally and I think that was the wrong place for it. Happy to delete that post if that's proper protocol around here. This said, here's my (very long) question:

    Hi, all. New poster to this forum. As you can tell from my user name, we are about to a buy a new iMac. I am having a bit of trouble picking the best option and would love your advice. Here's what I'm thinking:

    We've gotten every inch we can out of our 2007 iMac -- it's got a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo and 4 GB of RAM and beach balls pretty much whenever I want to even think about opening a photo or editing a video. It's been outmatched for a good while, but we were't in a position to replace it. Now we have reached the point where we have to do so and I am pretty sure I am going with a refurb. There are two appealing choices, both 27" (and both of which I'll likely upgrade aftermarket to 32GB RAM):

    1. 3.4GHz (i5), 8 GB RAM, 1TB hard drive, and the 2GB graphics card. This is $1659.

    2. 3.5GHz (i7), 8 GB RAM, 3TB Fusion drive, and the 4GB graphics card. This is $2289.

    I'd love the latter option, which is essentially top of the non-5K line (putting aside the memory upgrade, the only option missing is the 1TB flash drive in lieu of the Fusion drive, and I'm not sure that's really better considering the relative capacity). But I wouldn't mind saving $630 either.

    My kids generally limit their use to Office products and surfing the web. I edit a lot of photos, but only lightly using Aperture and have no interest in switching to Photoshop any time soon (but likely will use Pixelmator if necessary). My photo library, however, is around 10K photos and growing. I also edit video, both from smartphones and a GoPro. But no 4K -- at least not yet.

    Recognizing that even the lowest end 21.5" machine would be blazing compared to my current system, we finally reach my questions:

    1. How much of a plus is the Fusion drive day-to-day, particularly if we really only turn our computer off when we are on vacation? And how reliable do we think it is considering flash memory often dies for no apparent reason at least when using memory cards? (I realize we are talking 3TB v. 1TB, but I don't mind expanding via an external drive if I have to.)

    2. How much of a benefit is 3.5 GHz chip over the 3.4 GHz chip? I've seen the various benchmark scores, but they are meaningless to me.

    3. How much of a benefit is the better graphics card, particularly as I don't really use our computer for games? (Is it important for photo or video editing, or only for rendering graphics? I can't seem to get a straight answer on this.)

    4. Any overall advice as to which system I should buy? Arguments for buying new? If so, any particular configuration?

    Thanks in advance for any and all insight!
     
  2. redheeler macrumors 603

    redheeler

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2014
    #2
    For photo and video editing I would recommend a retina as the higher resolution display benefits those tasks. I would also recommend an SSD with external storage instead of Fusion as it will make your system run faster and cooler.
     
  3. timeforanewimac thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Feb 9, 2015
    #3
    Thanks!

    Tempting, but I'd have to go with the lowest end Retina and am not sure it's worth the performance difference to get the better screen. Thoughts on that?

    Also, are you saying that you'd use the external SSD to store media and not worry about having the OS on the regular HDD? Or can I move the OS to the external SSD?

    Thanks again.
     
  4. The Economist macrumors 6502

    The Economist

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    Apr 4, 2011
    Location:
    Mexico
    #4
    In my opinion...

    A Fusion Drive is a HDD mixed with a small SDD. It stores frequently used data and apps on the SDD and the rest on the HDD, or something like that. The Fusion Drive is faster than the HDD. Faster to startup, faster to open programs, faster to write to the disk. I'd always go for the faster option.

    3.4 to 3.5 GHz is a negligible difference for you and for msot people for that matter, unless you plan on doing heavy-duty tasks with your computer, where an i7 comes in handy.

    The graphics card won't really make a difference either, unless you play games or do some other stuff.

    If those two Macs are your options, I'd buy the first one. Someone will suggest that by buying the second one you are "future-proofing" your computer. Meaning, you'll be able to use it for longer without worrying about the specs.

    So this comes down to whether you want to spend the additional money or not.

     
  5. timeforanewimac thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Feb 9, 2015
    #5
    Thanks. I just came up with a wild card. I was jumping around the website and realized there's special pricing available to me as a federal government employee. So that means that a 5K version with a 1TB fusion drive costs $2299. That version has a different video card than the non-5K. I am tempted to go for the killer screen, even though it means giving up a bit on the video card front (and going with a 1TB Fusion instead of a 3TB). Or does it? I know the card in the 5K has half the memory of the high end card in the regular 27", but I also know that memory isn't everything and as the cards have different manufacturers (standard is NVIDIA, Retina has AMD) and I don't know enough to really compare them.

    Thanks again.

    ----------

    Whoops! Just realized there's no high and low end in the 5K. As I noted below, I can get good pricing on that one . . . Very tempting.
     
  6. redheeler macrumors 603

    redheeler

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2014
    #6
    Unless you're doing something GPU intensive like gaming the M290X should be just fine. I would recommend you get a 256 GB SSD instead of Fusion because the Fusion uses a slow 128 GB SSD and the HDD adds heat to the machine. You can get an external HDD for storage.
     
  7. The Economist macrumors 6502

    The Economist

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    Apr 4, 2011
    Location:
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    #7
    Would you kindly read this review by Ars Technica?

    I think it can help you decide whether the base retina iMac is good or not.

    These parts are important:

    At $2,499, the Retina iMac begins to encroach on the Mac Pro's $3000 starting price. It's $700 more expensive than the cheapest 27-inch non-Retina model. The gap narrows to $500 once you add a 1TB Fusion Drive,

    If you're a new iMac buyer or if you're upgrading something a little older (particularly dual-core models from 2010 or earlier), give the Retina iMac a good long look. Yes, it's expensive, but it has no major dealbreakers and you get a lot for what you pay, and even the base configuration is going to get you a fast CPU and GPU, a decent amount of RAM with two slots free for easy upgrades, and a Fusion Drive (I've been using one for two years in my 2012 iMac and only rarely run into situations where it feels much slower than a "pure" SSD).


     
  8. timeforanewimac thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Feb 9, 2015
    #8
    Thanks. I will read this this evening.
     
  9. timeforanewimac thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Feb 9, 2015
    #9
    Read it and appreciate it. Seems like a really good fit for us at the federal employee price. Almost surely going to buy it.

    ----------

    Thanks, but it doesn't appear I can customize and still get the discount. At least as important, I am pretty much topping out my available cash at this price and the SSD is crazy costly.

    ----------

    Then again, I have no idea what I am talking about. Clicked through to buy and I can customize, and the SSD cost the same as the 1TB Fusion drive. Tempting to go that route as I already have a 3TB external HDD lying around. Decisions, decisions . . .
     
  10. colodane macrumors 6502a

    colodane

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2012
    Location:
    Colorado
    #10
    I pretty much agree with "red heeler" on this one.

    Get a SSD. 256 GB or, if the discounts help you enough, the 512 GB.

    And stay with the 290 GPU. The more expensive 295 will not provide you with any significant advantage in your usage. But it does burn more power and may be more noisy due to increased fan speed.

    Use an external USB3 hard drive if you need extra storage for files, media, etc. They are inexpensive and easy to replace in the event of failure. Also plan on an external drive for Time Machine backup.

    You will really like what your new system!
     
  11. timeforanewimac thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Feb 9, 2015
    #11
    Thanks. One more question. As I look more closely, I realize that the refurb I was originally thinking about has an 3.5GHz Core i7, whereas the 5K has a 3.5GHz Core i5. I suspect for my purposes there's not much difference, but would appreciate either confirmation or advice to the contrary.

    Thanks again, to everyone.
     
  12. timeforanewimac thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Feb 9, 2015
    #12
    So I went to the store. Was about to buy it when the salesman said for the money he'd recommend the refurb 27" (3TB Fusion, 3.5 GHz i7, 4GB graphics card). But then it turned out there were refurb 5Ks. He recommended buying Two options:

    3.5 GHz with 1TB Fusion and 2GB graphics card for $2119

    4.0 GHz with 1TB Fusion and 2GB graphics card for $2339

    I can't imagine I am going to get an extra $220 of performance out of the nicer chip for my purposes, but am tempted just because better is better. But I wouldn't mind saving the money. Any thoughts?

    Thanks again. This is a heck of a friendly and helpful forum.
     
  13. The Economist macrumors 6502

    The Economist

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    Apr 4, 2011
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    Mexico
    #13
    So what did you by in the end?
     

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