Become a MacRumors Supporter for $50/year with no ads, ability to filter front page stories, and private forums.

7necniv

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 12, 2022
12
1
I am intending to purchase a second-hand iMac, with the most intensive expected usage to be photo (and perhaps some video) editing of family photos (and videos) (I have a newborn in the house!). I have spotted two that I think suits my needs. However, each has its drawbacks, and I am not sure what that means to performance. Any advice would be greatly appreciated, please!

Primarily, my considerations are: (i) option #2 uses a fusion drive (which I understand is basically a HDD + a 24GB SSD), and I am not sure what the real-world performance difference is vis-a-vis an SSD. (ii) whether the option 1#'s SSD's read/write lifespan might work against me since it would be 2nd hand. (iii) according to cpu.userbenchmark.com, option #2 has a 7% faster processor, which I am not sure is discernible in real-world usage.

Both are roughly the same price (option #2 is costlier by $100 or so).

option #1:
2017 iMac
3.8GHz Quad-Core i5
8GB 2400MHz DDR4
1TB SSD
Radeon Pro 580 8GB

option #2: 2019 iMac
3.0GHz 6-core i5
8GB 2667MHz DDR4
1TB fusion drive
Radeon Pro 570X 4GB
 

rpmurray

macrumors 68020
Feb 21, 2017
2,148
4,321
Back End of Beyond
I normally go with the i7 rather than the i5 (the i9 is overpriced).

Of these two I'd go with option 1, assuming that the 1TB SSD is an NVMe and not a SATA SSD that someone replaced the HD with. The Fusion drive on option 2 will be a problem since the anemic 24GB SSD will wear a lot faster than the 1TB (assuming it's NVMe) in the 2017. Both Macs are capable of having the SSDs replaced if you get the budget for that in the future.

Do you have the two machines available to run tests on? You'd at least want to know how many hours and TBs read/written are on each of the drives, the more the worse off. In either event I'd update the RAM since the OS seems to gobble up more resources for background tasks with each new version update.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 7necniv

MacGizmo

macrumors 68040
Apr 27, 2003
3,135
2,458
Arizona
Fusion drives are shockingly horrible. Not only are they spinning hard drives, but they're SLOW spinning hard drives. The pure SSD will offer much faster read/write speeds, which can make the entire computer feel faster – particularly when dealing with photos and video.

That being said, the Core i5 isn't best-suited for video editing, and having only 8GB of RAM is anemic for both those tasks when we're talking about Intel-based Macs (actually, ANY Mac in my opinion).
 
  • Like
Reactions: 7necniv

7necniv

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 12, 2022
12
1
Fusion drives are shockingly horrible. Not only are they spinning hard drives, but they're SLOW spinning hard drives. The pure SSD will offer much faster read/write speeds, which can make the entire computer feel faster – particularly when dealing with photos and video.

That being said, the Core i5 isn't best-suited for video editing, and having only 8GB of RAM is anemic for both those tasks when we're talking about Intel-based Macs (actually, ANY Mac in my opinion).
Thanks for sharing this data point about fusion drive! That helps my decision making. I am intending to upgrade the RAM to 32GB :)
 

7necniv

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 12, 2022
12
1
I normally go with the i7 rather than the i5 (the i9 is overpriced).

Of these two I'd go with option 1, assuming that the 1TB SSD is an NVMe and not a SATA SSD that someone replaced the HD with. The Fusion drive on option 2 will be a problem since the anemic 24GB SSD will wear a lot faster than the 1TB (assuming it's NVMe) in the 2017. Both Macs are capable of having the SSDs replaced if you get the budget for that in the future.

Do you have the two machines available to run tests on? You'd at least want to know how many hours and TBs read/written are on each of the drives, the more the worse off. In either event I'd update the RAM since the OS seems to gobble up more resources for background tasks with each new version update.
Thank you! How do I check if the SSD is an NVMe or SATA? ^^" Unfortunately I won't be able to test the machines nor run the diagnostics to see how many read-write cycles have been used. I will definitely upgrade the RAM. Likely 32GB cause I am a little wary of 16GB being barely enough.
 

Jumpthesnark

macrumors 65816
Apr 24, 2022
1,118
4,777
California
Thanks to my personal experience, I'd say stay away from the model with the fusion drive. Not so much due to r/w speed (though most likely the SSD will be much faster), but because of long-term longevity.

I replaced my fusion drive with an SSD after it failed. The iMac can be user-serviced, but it is not easy or simple, and care must be taken with the glass when the monitor is removed and replaced. So if you can get one that has a built-in SSD from the start, that is a plus.

You can find tech specs here and here for the 2017 model you're considering. The first page indicates that the SSD is SATA, if it was a BTO option when it was purchased from Apple. If it originally came with a fusion drive that the owner later replaced by an SSD, though, I don't know. I would assume it would be SATA as well, but that's just an assumption.

If you can go to the Apple menu at the top left, then About this Mac > Storage that will tell you about the drive. Good luck!
 
  • Like
Reactions: 7necniv

rpmurray

macrumors 68020
Feb 21, 2017
2,148
4,321
Back End of Beyond
You can find tech specs here and here for the 2017 model you're considering. The first page indicates that the SSD is SATA ...
The HD portion of the Fusion drive is SATA, the SSD portion is NVMe.

If the drive is a SATA SSD it will be in a 2.5 inch form factor, an NVME is a small circuit board. Best way to tell once you have the iMac in hand would be to do About This Mac > Overview > System Report. Then under Hardware select NVMExpress. If you see the drive listed then it's NVMe. If you click on SATA/SATA Express and see the drive there then it's SATA.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 7necniv

Clix Pix

macrumors Core
Something to take into consideration is how long the machine will be compatible with MacOS releases...... the 2017 iMac will be able to use Ventura, but it may not be able to take advantage of all the features and functions. It is quite possible that in 2023 when the next version of MacOS is released that the 2017 will no longer be able to install and use it.

Another thing to consider is the image editing program(s) you will be using. Some of them have specific requirements for the machine's technical specs, including RAM, storage capacity and the version(s) of MacOS, and while they might work just fine right now in an older machine, it is possible that they will not continue to do so as new versions and updates are released.
 

7necniv

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 12, 2022
12
1
Thanks to my personal experience, I'd say stay away from the model with the fusion drive. Not so much due to r/w speed (though most likely the SSD will be much faster), but because of long-term longevity.

I replaced my fusion drive with an SSD after it failed. The iMac can be user-serviced, but it is not easy or simple, and care must be taken with the glass when the monitor is removed and replaced. So if you can get one that has a built-in SSD from the start, that is a plus.

You can find tech specs here and here for the 2017 model you're considering. The first page indicates that the SSD is SATA, if it was a BTO option when it was purchased from Apple. If it originally came with a fusion drive that the owner later replaced by an SSD, though, I don't know. I would assume it would be SATA as well, but that's just an assumption.

If you can go to the Apple menu at the top left, then About this Mac > Storage that will tell you about the drive. Good luck!
Oh gosh thanks VERY much for breaking it down and sharing the links! The difficulty you mentioned about replacing the fusion drive with an SSD pretty much seals the deal for me. Too bad about the SATA vs NVMe I guess haha. According to this link, a SATA SSD would have a speed that is three-fold of a HDD anyway. Thanks once again, that was most helpful! :)
 

7necniv

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 12, 2022
12
1
The HD portion of the Fusion drive is SATA, the SSD portion is NVMe.

If the drive is a SATA SSD it will be in a 2.5 inch form factor, an NVME is a small circuit board. Best way to tell once you have the iMac in hand would be to do About This Mac > Overview > System Report. Then under Hardware select NVMExpress. If you see the drive listed then it's NVMe. If you click on SATA/SATA Express and see the drive there then it's SATA.
Thank you for the instructions! That will come in very handy. Can't quite seem to find any definitive information on whether the default Apple SSD is SATA or NVMe. Will have to rely on the steps that you shared. Thank you! :)
 

MacCheetah3

macrumors 68020
Nov 14, 2003
2,208
1,156
Central MN
I would pick #1.

https://everymac.com/ultimate-mac-c...el075&prod2=iMacIntel080&prod3=iMacSilicon001

The CPU performance is negligible. See the Geekbench scores in the above link.

According to this link, a SATA SSD would have a speed that is three-fold of a HDD anyway.
Exactly, though more like 3-5x. Additionally, Fusion drives do not play well, noticeable performance hit, with newer macOS, Catalina and beyond (i.e., APFS). I say that with personal experience.

option #2 is costlier by $100 or so
That up to $100 could go to a 16 or 32GB RAM upgrade, even discounted by $10 via trade-in at OWC.

Lastly, the GPU is potentionally better:

 

Mlrollin91

macrumors G5
Nov 20, 2008
14,131
10,116
Avoid the fusion drive at all cost. I've replaced all our fusion drives with external SSDs as the boot drive. Fusion is just too slow.
 

profcutter

macrumors 68000
Mar 28, 2019
1,514
1,230
Thank you for the instructions! That will come in very handy. Can't quite seem to find any definitive information on whether the default Apple SSD is SATA or NVMe. Will have to rely on the steps that you shared. Thank you! :)
As long as they’re the original drives that shipped from apple, the SSDs in these machines will be NVME, or apple’s version, AHCI which is quite similar, just with a proprietary interface. The ssd would only be a SATA unit if it had been replaced by a previous owner. So as long as the drive is the original 1tb drive, you don’t have to worry about SATA vs NVME.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 7necniv

7necniv

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 12, 2022
12
1
Something to take into consideration is how long the machine will be compatible with MacOS releases...... the 2017 iMac will be able to use Ventura, but it may not be able to take advantage of all the features and functions. It is quite possible that in 2023 when the next version of MacOS is released that the 2017 will no longer be able to install and use it.

Another thing to consider is the image editing program(s) you will be using. Some of them have specific requirements for the machine's technical specs, including RAM, storage capacity and the version(s) of MacOS, and while they might work just fine right now in an older machine, it is possible that they will not continue to do so as new versions and updates are released.
Thanks for pointing out this consideration! I hadn't considered that at all. Hopefully Photoshop doesn't exclude a 2017 mode so quickly? 😅
 

7necniv

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 12, 2022
12
1
I would pick #1.

https://everymac.com/ultimate-mac-c...el075&prod2=iMacIntel080&prod3=iMacSilicon001

The CPU performance is negligible. See the Geekbench scores in the above link.


Exactly, though more like 3-5x. Additionally, Fusion drives do not play well, noticeable performance hit, with newer macOS, Catalina and beyond (i.e., APFS). I say that with personal experience.


That up to $100 could go to a 16 or 32GB RAM upgrade, even discounted by $10 via trade-in at OWC.

Lastly, the GPU is potentionally better:

Thank you! That was very helpful! Regarding the CPU, may I please check which GeekBench score I should be looking at? And yes, I am planning to upgrade the RAM! I suppose I will go for 2x16GB cause I suspect my usage will go near 16GB. Would you happen to know if it would be detrimental to performance in any ways if I do not remove the current 2x4GB (hence totalling 40GB of RAM), or is more always better? Lastly, thanks for sharing that link regarding the GPU; that was informative too!
 

MacCheetah3

macrumors 68020
Nov 14, 2003
2,208
1,156
Central MN
Would you happen to know if it would be detrimental to performance in any ways if I do not remove the current 2x4GB (hence totalling 40GB of RAM), or is more always better? Lastly, thanks for sharing that link regarding the GPU; that was informative too!
Apple said:
For best performance, use memory modules with close capacities. For example, you’ll get better performance using two 8 GB and two 16 GB modules compared to two 8 GB and two 32 GB modules.

Regarding the CPU, may I please check which GeekBench score I should be looking at?
Geekbench 5 is the latest. The MC stands for multi-core and SC for single-core. For most programs, SC is the most relevant. However, image editing (e.g., Photoshop) and video can utilize multi-cores (i.e., multithreaded).

For example, the Geekbench 5 MC scores are 4849 vs. 3556, ~36% difference. The fine print/footnote is synthetic benchmark scores are more of a “perfect world” scenario. The following is a bit dated, but gives a good depiction on how well parallel processing actually scales — basically, diminishing returns:

 
  • Like
Reactions: 7necniv

profcutter

macrumors 68000
Mar 28, 2019
1,514
1,230
I wouldn’t worry so much about geek bench scores. I have a 2017 at work, it does just fine with photoshop, Lightroom, and Final Cut, editing 4K videos. I’m not doing a feature at the moment, but for the work you’re describing, the 2017 would be just fine. Not mac studio ultra, but fine.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 7necniv

7necniv

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 12, 2022
12
1


Geekbench 5 is the latest. The MC stands for multi-core and SC for single-core. For most programs, SC is the most relevant. However, image editing (e.g., Photoshop) and video can utilize multi-cores (i.e., multithreaded).

For example, the Geekbench 5 MC scores are 4849 vs. 3556, ~36% difference. The fine print/footnote is synthetic benchmark scores are more of a “perfect world” scenario. The following is a bit dated, but gives a good depiction on how well parallel processing actually scales — basically, diminishing returns:

Thank you for the guidance! Much appreciated :)
 

7necniv

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 12, 2022
12
1
I wouldn’t worry so much about geek bench scores. I have a 2017 at work, it does just fine with photoshop, Lightroom, and Final Cut, editing 4K videos. I’m not doing a feature at the moment, but for the work you’re describing, the 2017 would be just fine. Not mac studio ultra, but fine.
Thank you for the assurance! I am very glad to hear that you have no problems editing 4K videos even! :D
 

7necniv

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 12, 2022
12
1
Hi all, I have proceeded with option #1. Hope it will work out well for me. Thank you very much for your kind guidance and tips! Very grateful :)
 
  • Like
Reactions: MacCheetah3

Fishrrman

macrumors Penryn
Feb 20, 2009
28,761
12,867
OP:

Of the 2 options posted, you want the 2017 iMac with the internal SSD.

DO NOT BUY ANY Mac with a fusion drive !
They will give you problems down the road, both with speed and reliability.

SSD is the ONLY choice you want !
(on ANY Mac purchase, new or used)

Is this a 27" Imac?
If so, you can upgrade the RAM yourself using "the door on the back".
 
  • Like
Reactions: 7necniv
Register on MacRumors! This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.