Advice on getting an iMac

Discussion in 'iMac' started by Razzosinni, Dec 25, 2013.

  1. Razzosinni macrumors member

    Aug 8, 2013
    I've been using OS X for a couple of months on my 2013 MBA that I got back in July and I loved it ever since. I am planning to get rid of my current Windows PC. I want to get an iMac in the upcoming weeks as my primary machine.

    I am considering a maxed out 21.5" iMac. 1TB Fusion Drive, 16GB RAM and an i7 3.1 GhZ processor. I am going to use it mainly for heavy music production and recording. And since I want to use it in the next 4 or 5 years, I want to future-proof it as much as possible.

    Firstly, I wanted to go with the 27" model because of the screen resolution and the fact that I could go all the way up to 32GB RAM thanks to the user upgradeable slots. But as soon as I put the two side by side, I realised that the 27" is overkill for me in terms of real screen estate. I also have a small desk and workspace, and I don't know how I would manage. I always thought that if in the next couple of years a 1080p resolution won't be enough, I can hook up a second monitor at anytime. But the RAM upgrade and the faster CPU and GPU got me thinking.

    Then, there is the Fusion vs SSD thing. I don't know if I should go for the 1TB Fusion Drive or for an 256GB SSD, since I have a lot of external HDDs that I can store everything I need on. Will there be noticeable differences in performance between flash memory and the Fusion Drive?

    What about RAM? Do I actually need more than 16GB? It seems overkill for me, as on my previous PC, all my audio editing software ran flawlessly at 8GB RAM, but as I said, I am trying to future-proof this baby.

    What do you think?
  2. fastlanephil macrumors 65816


    Nov 17, 2007
    If you are mainly recording audio then the 21.5" iMac with the 2565 SSD should do you. If your going to also work with pro sample libraries like LASS, Cinesamples and VSL then a you'll want the 27" 2.5 i7 or 3.5 i5, 16 to 32 GB of memory and the Fusion or SSD drive.
  3. propower, Dec 25, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2013

    propower macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2010
    27" i5 3.4GHz (3.8turbo) 256GSSD 8G ram - $2199
    -make do with the stock 8G, can easily up that to 16G or 24G down the road for $200 or less.

    21" i5 2.9GHz (3.6 Turbo) 256GSSD 16G ram - $1999
    - Have to get 16G when you buy it.

    These are your two best cost conscious choices today (IMO). i7 not worth the extra $200 (again IMO) for a cost conscious purchase. Both of these will be Awesome music machines! The 27" has the best heat sinking so will stay at Turbo speed the longest. I had the 27" 3.4G i5 for a month and actually you can run 100% CPU and still never get the fan above base 1200rpm - CPU less than 90degC - Turbo still active.

    I don't trust fusion drives or like internal spinning drives so SSD all the way (IMO)

    FWIW I do ProAudio on the machine in my sig but run 100% of the time with Hyper Threading off (for other reasons) - so the 3.4i5 would be just about identical in performance.
  4. Razzosinni thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 8, 2013
    Thanks a lot. :)
    How about the GPU? Is there something that should specifically be taken into consideration?
  5. propower macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2010
    The 27" 3.4GHz comes with the middle of the road Graphics. I believe only gamers or hard core video people want or need more...
  6. yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Apr 23, 2011
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    If you want to future proof it, don't get a Fusion.

    Fusion read/writes are around 520/350MB/s when tested with Blackmagic.
    SSD read/writes are around 750/650MB/s when tested with Blackmagic.

    If you do audio, you'll want an i7, because of its hyper threading capabilities.

    Here's the comparison between the 2.9GHz i5 and 3.1GHz i7.

    In multithreaded tasks, which audio encoding usually is, the i7 is 25% faster. It's also 28% faster in RAM-intensive apps.

    You can always connect a 27" Thunderbolt Display to it later on.

    Edit: Fusion failure rates are the same as that of a HDD, because a Fusion still has a rotational platter. When the rotational platter part of the Fusion fails, the entire drive is toast. You can't just run off the SSD part. So get a pure SSD setup for reliability and ultimate performance.
  7. thehustleman macrumors 65816

    Jan 3, 2013
    I suggest you just get the best imac you can get.

    Mac it out and be done with it.

    Get the max size fusion drive, max RAM, max cpu and you're as future proof as you can get for a pc
  8. propower, Dec 25, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2013

    propower macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2010
    The above post compares the 21.5" imacs -- here is for the 27" ones - i5 4670 and i7 4770

    With the exception of the memory intensive gains for the i7 (probably due to larger L3 in i7, but under what conditions do these matter?) the rest is at most 18% gain in multiprocessor apps. IME the i7 absolutely lets you instantiate more VI and or Reverb like plug ins. As far as EQ's Comps and Dynamics not so much so. IME - sessions above 70% CPU become hard to work with for a number of reasons -- But here is the thing with THESE two Cpus.

    This will only matter once you have more than 100 tracks and 300 plugins going! In fact in my testing of protools I only got to 60% CPU usage with 20 tracks - 200 Channel strips and 80 Reverbs - all at 96kHz and 64 buffer!!!! This is with the i7 chip and Hyperthreading OFF ie just like the i5. So sure - for some power users the i7 may be the point between a session running or not. In general -- I don't think so. But the popular wisdom will PREACH i7. Best of luck determining what matters most to you.

    I had these two machines in house...
    imovie render - same
    ProTools sessions - within 5% of one another...
    I chose the i7 for myself because - I wanted that last bit of headroom just in case and I could easily afford it. In the end I run ~20% to 30% CPU load in my densest sessions with Hyperthreading off 100% of the time. THe i5 would have performed the same and have run cooler...

    PS>> Somehow I got it in my mind that the OP was somehow $$ limited... If not then: By all means get what I did plus a bit larger internal SSD.....

    27" (for the RAM expandability), 512G SSD (for expansion and speed), 16G RAM from apple and 16G more from OWC all with the 3.5GHz i7 and the 775M 2G video card. Will compete with the nMP quad quite nicely and is an absolute KILLER audio machine... why not --- it's Christmas!!!
  9. yjchua95, Dec 26, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2013

    yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Apr 23, 2011
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    You're wrong. The 21.5" 2.9GHz i5 is i5-4570S and i7-4770S.

    Oh and how do you turn off hyper threading in an i7 on OS X? Through processor.prefpane in Xcode or

    Attached Files:

  10. Razzosinni thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 8, 2013
    Eventually, I am going to max out the RAM. I am going to go with an SSD and forget the Fusion Drive thing. If something goes wrong, I'd rather have it in an accessible place. Still, my main concern is the CPU. My budget is around 2200$ and I am not able to spend more than that. I can max out the 21.5" and get the 3.1 GhZ i7 or get the 27" with the 3.4 GhZ i5. If I get the 27", I'll get 8GB and add the rest myself.

    What are the differences in performance between the two of these? The 21.5" i7 is clocked lower than the 27" i5. This bugs me.
  11. joema2 macrumors 68000


    Sep 3, 2013
    My wife got a 2012 BTO 27" iMac, and I was worried it was too large for her small desk, which is 39" wide and 24" deep. I did all the measurements and knew it would technically fit, but feared it would visually be an oversized monstrosity.

    It looks great and the desk space is no problem, even though she also has Harman Kardon Soundsticks speakers. It is so thin and aesthetically well designed it visually blends in much better than the 27" would indicate.

    The extra screen real estate and resolution is very useful.

    I also have a 2013 27" iMac, and both of them have the 3TB Fusion Drive. I do video editing and really like that, even though most of my large files are on an external RAID array. The FD saves me worrying about file placement between SSD vs rotating drive, yet delivers most of the performance of SSD. The large size saves worrying about running out of space.

    Re theoretical drive failure, whether SSD or FD, either one can fail or the computer can fail for other hardware or software reasons. You have to have backups either way. You can't go without backups on professional work just because you have an SSD. In the comparatively rare event of a failure (whether SSD, FD, or whatever) you recover from backups.

    My 2013 iMac 27 is an i7-3.5Ghz with 32GB, however I have done lots of video editing with FCP X on a 2011 iMac 27 i5-3.1Ghz with 16GB, and it worked fine.

    Personally I'd suggest the i5 27". Yes in theory i7 hyperthreading gives a little more CPU under very specific conditions, but in most cases you will not notice that. You *will* notice the difference between 21.5" a 27" every minute of every day.
  12. propower macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2010
    So sorry - right you are! I amended my post to say I was talking about the 27" model.

    Yes - Xcode preference pane for instrument app for turning HT off.


  13. blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
    Why not a Mini with 2.6 quad, Dell U2412HM (you will love the slightly bigger screen with 1200 pix vertical), DIY 16GB RAM + DIY 256 GB SSD+stock HD.
    It will be around 1500 bucks. You can even hook up nice Firewire audio mix panels.

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