Advice on choosing between options

Discussion in 'iMac' started by lkalliance, Oct 16, 2015.

?

Which one should I get?

  1. Midrange iMac with no customization

    60.0%
  2. Low-end iMac with extra RAM

    10.0%
  3. Low-end iMac with Fusion Drive

    30.0%
  1. lkalliance, Oct 16, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2015

    lkalliance macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2015
    #1
    Hi, all,

    I find myself, for the first time in several years, considering a new iMac. I have an idea of the neighborhood in which to spend, and I'm looking for advice from those who have real-world experience with newer Macs.

    User profile: light users. Between all the family users of the machine, there is mostly photo work (not major: but a lot of time in Photos for OS X), Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, some web browsing (most of that has migrated to our iOS devices), and budgeting.

    Our current machine is a 2009 iMac (8,1), with 4GB of RAM and a 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo. There's a couple of FireWire peripherals attached. I'm considering upgrading because, although the machine does run El Capitan, I've noticed since Mavericks a gradual slowdown in performance. I suspect within the next OS X or two that the hardware won't be supported. So, I figure it's time to "reset the hardware clock."

    Aaaaaanywho...I'm looking at the new iMacs 21.5", and I'm trying to keep the cost reasonable, and I'm considering two options:

    (1) The midrange model, 2.8 GHz i5 ("Turbo Boost" up to 3.3 GHz), stock with no customization ($1300)
    (2) The low-end model, 1.6 GHz i5 ("Turbo Boost" up to 2.7 GHz) with RAM bumped to 16 GB ($1300)
    (3) The low-end model, with the Fusion Drive upgrade instead of the extra after-market RAM ($1200).

    I also note that option (1) has a better graphics card. At least I assume it's better.

    Back in the old country, I'd just look at the speed and perhaps the RAM and that was that. But in today's Modern World™ I know there are a lot of things that affect performance.

    What do you think? Which model above do you think represents the most bang for my buck? I've included a poll if you don't feel like a full reply.

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. zhenya macrumors 603

    zhenya

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    #2
    You want a fusion drive if not a SSD no matter what. Don't even consider one without it.
     
  3. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 603

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    Oct 24, 2013
    #3
    I have to agree with Zhenya, an SSD is a muct and don't go for the 1TB fusion it only has a 24GB flash storage cache (pathetic) you want a 2TB (128GB SSD) Fusion or pure SSD drive, for me all the other upgrades are unimportant in comparisson. For your stated use case it will be the best upgrade you can have.
     
  4. lkalliance thread starter macrumors member

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    Jul 17, 2015
    #4
    So for both you and Zhenya the SSD is worth more than the 1.2 GHz of chip speed?

    The 2TB Fusion Drive doesn't seem available on the low end, and I'm not considering adding customization cost to the midrange. So it's either 1TB Fusion or 256 GB pure SSD. That would be a drop in storage, but I have a TB of external HDD to attach, but they are FW 800 and not native Thunderbolt. Would that be a big hit to performance? Would it negate the benefit of the SSD if I were using it for Time Machine backup or media libraries?
     
  5. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 603

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    Oct 24, 2013
    #5
    I'm sorry I didn't even think the about the lowest level machine as an option. That is basically a macbook air with a 4K screen I would avoid it, or buy a macbook air and a 4K screen and at least have all the bonuses and portability of a macbook air when needed.

    The midrange version has a quadcore over dualcore and far better graphics and is the one to go forl. However with upgrades very difficult or impossible I also wouldn't dream of getting a new computer to last 5-6 years without some sort of SSD in it either. I'll be honest I would save for another couple of months and get the midrange with fusion drive.
     
  6. fathergll macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2014
    #6


    You're already committed to dropping a lot of money on this computer so I personally would not try and save a few hundred dollars on a purchase now which ends up being a rather lame long term purchase. You already established you don't need a computer now so you're best bet is to keep your current machine and save up money to purchase a better iMac in 2016(you will also be able to have the option down the road to either buy a higher end iMac on sale or even refurbished from the Apple Store).

    I would personally aim for the below machine. IMO It's better to figure out how to save $1.50 a day for the next 8 months and purchase something good then to drop $1300 on basically a Macbook Air attached to a lame monitor.


    21.5-inch iMac with Retina 4K display - $1,699.99
    • 3.1GHz quad-core Intel Core i5, Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz
    • 8GB 1867MHz LPDDR3
    • 256GB Flash Storage
    • Intel Iris Pro Graphics 6200



    If you're current computer broke tomorrow and you had to buy a new iMac right now for $1300 I would get the following

    21.5-inch iMac - $1,299.99
    • 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5, Turbo Boost up to 2.7GHz
    • 8GB 1867MHz LPDDR3
    • 256GB Flash Storage
    • Intel HD Graphics 6000
     
  7. lkalliance thread starter macrumors member

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    Jul 17, 2015
    #7
    I appreciate that there are several ways to skin this particular cat, but I see the situation as having a few more moving parts. I could save a couple hundred more, but that assumes that the initial principal is still available. I could wait another year (and I just might, this at the moment is still buying research) but then of course there might be another better machine a this same price point. The longer I wait, too, the less I will get in trade-in (or resale) on my CURRENT computer as well.

    It's my feeling that when the time is right, I buy...if I wait until the time is PERFECT, I'll never buy. I can account for where the variables are right now...I can't account for where they will be a year from now. But thanks very much for the advice!
     
  8. fathergll macrumors 6502a

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    #8

    The amount difference that your current computer's worth between now and a year from now is negligible in the big picture unless your computer breaks.

    There are perfect times to buy. The problem is the options you are considering are pretty crappy purchases for your dollar. It seems like you are under the impression they are good deals because they are the cheapest options. You are spending $1300 for an all-in-one computer thats essentially a underpowered laptop connected to an an average 1920x1080 display. I'm not sure if I'd want that as my primary computer to last to the year 2020. It's your money but i'd rather wait a bit to afford a computer that won't seem as dated in the years to come. The most bang for your buck is the 4k display model because Apple is price gouging you on the other models by charging a lot of money for a computer with an outdated display. Thats why the 27" iMacs Retinas are the best bang for the buck. The displays on those computers are worth $2000 alone. I know some people state that they don't care about the display as it's some kind of luxury item which is quite mind boggling. The display is literally the window that allows you to interact with your computer. It's the first thing you notice and the thing that is always constant unlike say a cpu upgrade where you may only notice the benefit when exporting out video to save 15 seconds of your time.
     
  9. antman2x2 macrumors 6502a

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    Location:
    New YAWK
    #9
    This seems like the PERFECT set up for you.
     
  10. The Doctor11 macrumors 603

    The Doctor11

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    New York
    #10
    I agree with the other posters. The options provided in the OP aren't very good. At the very least get the 2.6 Ghz with a fusion. But remember that the 1TB fusion is only 24 GB SSD so really only the OS is going to be stored on it. But at least the rest of the HDD isn't 5400 RPM.
     
  11. lkalliance thread starter macrumors member

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    #11
    Is the stock HDD 5400, while the Fusion HDD 7200?
     
  12. lkalliance thread starter macrumors member

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    Jul 17, 2015
    #12
    In light of other advice on this thread, I was pondering that configuration. My Photos library and iTunes library alone are larger than that; it seems best to go either standard HDD or Fusion.

    I'm beginning to lean towards the midrange, to get the quad-core chip, which may have longer staying power as the upgrade cycle continues on.
     
  13. The Doctor11 macrumors 603

    The Doctor11

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    #13
    I believe so. At least they were before Apple went all crazy with 5400s.
     
  14. zhenya macrumors 603

    zhenya

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    #14
    Go with a smaller SSD and use an external drive for pictures and music storage. There is no performance hit to that configuration and you get the full benefit of the SSD inside the computer.

    It sounds like maybe you have never had a computer with a SSD? Everyone is being so insistent on this point because a spinning platter drive is bar none the biggest bottleneck in a computer. I honestly can't even stand to use a computer without one anymore - they are honestly so slow that they feel like something is broken. It doesn't even matter if the CPU is cutting edge and it has a ton of RAM.
     
  15. lkalliance thread starter macrumors member

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    Jul 17, 2015
    #15
    A year or so ago they replaced my work computer's HDD with an SSD and I did notice the difference. I was just trying to evaluate between options where I didn't feel comfortable combining. It sounds like SSD is the biggest performance boost I could get.

    Do you think that, down the road some, as we get to the point where the OS doesn't support older hardware, that the dual core i5 would be in danger of being deprecated sooner than the quad-core? Or is it just performance? I realize I'm splitting hairs at this point.
     
  16. lkalliance thread starter macrumors member

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    Jul 17, 2015
    #16
    Hmmmmm ok. I notice they make no mention of it on their site. Not a good sign. Enjoy your new system when it gets there!
     
  17. antman2x2 macrumors 6502a

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    #17
    Go with an external drive for all your photos and media.
     
  18. zhenya macrumors 603

    zhenya

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    #18
    It's not so much a matter of number of cores, but rather that you are also moving into a higher class of processors by stepping to the mid-range model. The base-model is a 15w U-series processor which is similar to what's used in the Macbook Air. Adequate, but not exactly cutting-edge. Moving to just the mid-range model gets you not just the quad-core, but a bump to a 65w TDP - a huge jump in how much heat the processor can dissipate. This will remain adequately powerful for many years to come. For the extra $200 over the base-model it's well worth it. The problem is that with a SSD you are now at $1499, and for just another $200, you get bumped up to a better-still processor AND the retina screen. Money well spent, IMO.

    If the budget is fixed, could you stretch it $100 to outfit the mid-range option to a 1TB fusion drive? That would be the bare-minimum I'd recommend.
     
  19. ryannel2003 macrumors 68000

    ryannel2003

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    #19
  20. lkalliance thread starter macrumors member

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    #20
  21. ryannel2003 macrumors 68000

    ryannel2003

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    #21
    I have purchased many refurbs from Apple and they all looked like new. This model is out of stock right now but I'm sure it will reappear soon.
     
  22. lkalliance thread starter macrumors member

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    #22
    It's not really a matter of setting a price of X. In fact my available dollars is more likely to go down than up. Really it occurs to me now the point of the question is, given a limited budget, am I better served going up in processor or going up to SSD? It sounds like SSD gets me some perceived speed improvement, while the better processor gives me a CPU that will age better. So it's a matter then of evaluating if a compromise is possible, and if not, to weigh the two advantages and choose.

    Could the drive be replaced later on these machines, or are these iMacs non-upgradable now?
     
  23. zhenya macrumors 603

    zhenya

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    Jan 6, 2005
    #23
    As well as may be impossible to upgrade later.

    The thing is that a machine like this will last you, what, 6 years or so based on your previous purchase? A $200 price difference today will make a huge difference in how that computer feels to use every day for the next 6 years. Is a considerably better experience over the life of the computer worth $33 a year to you? You probably spend more than that on a fast food dinner for the family.

    Still, given an absolute price ceiling, I'd take the base model with the 15w laptop processor and a SSD over the mid-range with a plain platter drive. No question.
     
  24. pat500000 macrumors 604

    pat500000

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    #24

    Honestly, I don't know how anyone could survive with 256gb....but i do agree with others...ssd is the way to go.
     
  25. mtneer macrumors 68020

    mtneer

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    #25
    The incremental drop in value for a 2009 era machine between now and next year will be very small. If your current machine is not broken and does what you expect out of it (there will always be something shinier and slightly faster in technology, so don't think of that) - then there is nothing like saving your money and keeping your fully paid off machine. Spend money only when you really, really have to.
     

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