Best bang for the buck - i7 5K iMac?

Black Diesel

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Original poster
Mar 15, 2011
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I'm looking to upgrade my old 2012 iMac and I'm wondering what upgrades are worth buying. I'm assuming it's best to order with only 8GB of RAM and purchase 3 more sticks of 8GB if I want 32GB of RAM?

Is the 3TB fusion drive worth the extra $100?

Is this a good time to buy a 5K iMac or is there some super duper hardware upgrade expected soon in the next generation of iMac's that will improve performance greatly?

I can wait about 6-8 months if there's something exciting expected on the horizon...
 

wardie

macrumors 6502
Aug 18, 2008
425
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I'm looking to upgrade my old 2012 iMac and I'm wondering what upgrades are worth buying. I'm assuming it's best to order with only 8GB of RAM and purchase 3 more sticks of 8GB if I want 32GB of RAM?

Is the 3TB fusion drive worth the extra $100?

Is this a good time to buy a 5K iMac or is there some super duper hardware upgrade expected soon in the next generation of iMac's that will improve performance greatly?

I can wait about 6-8 months if there's something exciting expected on the horizon...
The stock RAM will come as 2x 4GB sticks so you’ll only have two slots to play with. Either stick a pair of 8GB in if you can live with 24GB like I have, or get 2x 16GB sticks or sell the originals and put in 4x 8GB.
 

mreg376

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Mar 23, 2008
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1. As the above post says, the 8GB machines come with 2x4GB. If you buy two sticks of 16GB each you can have 40GB total.
2. If you're committed to getting a fusion drive instead of an SSD and you need the storage space.
3. No one knows. Read the hundreds of messages in several threads here about that.
4. See 3.
 

wardie

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Aug 18, 2008
425
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2. Don’t buy a fusion drive. Doesn’t work with latest file system and a compromise in performance and reliability (2 components for 1 fused drive). By biggest SSD you can afford internally and plug in a external HDD for space via USB3 or Thunderbolt (many TB drive is cheap).
 

wardie

macrumors 6502
Aug 18, 2008
425
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2. Don’t buy a fusion drive. Doesn’t work with latest file system and a compromise in performance and reliability (2 components for 1 fused drive). By biggest SSD you can afford internally and plug in a external HDD for space via USB3 or Thunderbolt (many TB drive is cheap).
I meant a “many Terabyte” drive is cheap not many Thunderbolt drives are cheap, USB3 interface drives cheaper than Thunderbolt.
 

mreg376

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Mar 23, 2008
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2. Don’t buy a fusion drive. Doesn’t work with latest file system and a compromise in performance and reliability (2 components for 1 fused drive). By biggest SSD you can afford internally and plug in a external HDD for space via USB3 or Thunderbolt (many TB drive is cheap).
While I would personally not recommend a fusion drive over an SSD, to be fair there are many long threads about this here and many people use fusion drives successfully and tout their speed and reliability and the monetary savings. If the OP is on the fence I would advise him to go read those other threads, rather than just telling him "don't buy a fusion drive."
 
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wardie

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Aug 18, 2008
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While I would personally not recommend a fusion drive over an SSD, to be fair there are many long threads about this here and many people use fusion drives successfully and tout their speed and reliability and the monetary savings. If the OP is on the fence I would advise him to go read those other threads, rather than just telling him "don't buy a fusion drive."
Indeed lots to read up on this topic. My opinion & philosophy above of course. In essence that given high speed interfaces allow easy and cheap expansion of drive space externally, then if you’re buying an all-in-one new machine ensure that the non-replaceable bits are the most future proof you can afford. If OP is looking to invest extra on storage I would personally spend it as I’ve outlined not on a bigger fusion drive.
 

Black Diesel

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Original poster
Mar 15, 2011
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Okay thanks for warning me about the fusion drive....I don't have time to research so I'll just get an SSD. Is the SSD not upgradeable in these iMacs?
 

mreg376

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Mar 23, 2008
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Okay thanks for warning me about the fusion drive....I don't have time to research so I'll just get an SSD. Is the SSD not upgradeable in these iMacs?
Well, it's "upgradable," in the sense that it can be done, but it is a project, it is not supported by Apple and will void your warranty. Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the show?

You're best getting the largest SSD you can afford up front.
 

Ph.D.

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Jul 8, 2014
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The best "bang for your buck" is a base level 27" iMac with a SSD-only drive, and with 2 sticks of after-market RAM added later. It will also be the coolest and quietest (i7's are notorious for over-active fans).

All other upgrades are a poor value (and a huge profit center for Apple) if you compare the actual cost of the upgraded components vs. what Apple charges for them. The catch, of course, is that you can't get the upgrades aside from RAM from anywhere but Apple.

People considering a high-end i7 should give a look towards the base iMac Pro.

While nothing much is expected at WWDC, you might as well wait for that just in case.
 
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mreg376

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Mar 23, 2008
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The best "bang for your buck" is a base level 27" iMac with a SSD-only drive, and with 2 sticks of after-market RAM added later. It will also be the coolest and quietest (i7's are notorious for over-active fans).

All other upgrades are a poor value (and a huge profit center for Apple) if you compare the actual cost of the upgraded components vs. what Apple charges for them. The catch, of course, is that you can't get the upgrades aside from RAM from anywhere but Apple.

People considering a high-end i7 should give a look towards the base iMac Pro.

While nothing much is expected at WWDC, you might as well wait for that just in case.
Most reasonable current i7 iMac configurations, active fans and all, will still be upwards of $2,000 less than a base iMac Pro. So I'm not sure that's great advice.
 

wardie

macrumors 6502
Aug 18, 2008
425
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Most reasonable current i7 iMac configurations, active fans and all, will still be upwards of $2,000 less than a base iMac Pro. So I'm not sure that's great advice.
1+ My top end i7 iMac with extra memory cost me £2k less than what a base iMacPro is - in the UK. I can live with occasionally noisy fans and cooking an egg on the CPU for my personal use only workloads (mostly photography, bit of video, general web use). Consider an iMacPro is you need to run computationally heavy stuff regularly for long periods e.g. for a living. High premium but worth it depending on your use case and wallet.
 

Black Diesel

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Original poster
Mar 15, 2011
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The best "bang for your buck" is a base level 27" iMac with a SSD-only drive, and with 2 sticks of after-market RAM added later. It will also be the coolest and quietest (i7's are notorious for over-active fans).

All other upgrades are a poor value (and a huge profit center for Apple) if you compare the actual cost of the upgraded components vs. what Apple charges for them. The catch, of course, is that you can't get the upgrades aside from RAM from anywhere but Apple.

People considering a high-end i7 should give a look towards the base iMac Pro.

While nothing much is expected at WWDC, you might as well wait for that just in case.
Okay, so you are saying it's best to get the 3.8ghz i5 over the 4.2ghz i7? I'm assuming there's not much difference in performance while the i5 runs a lot cooler/quieter? A 3.8ghz i5 with 8GB RAM and a 1TB SSD is $2899. How much is it for two sticks of 16GB RAM to get me to 40GB?
 

wardie

macrumors 6502
Aug 18, 2008
425
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There are some other differences, whether it matters to you for the extra cost & heat/fans depends on what you do with it. The Core i7 supports hyper-threading (still only 4 physical cores but 8 threads can run) which may be of use if you use apps which exploit parallel processing. Also it supports Intel Quick Sync hardware encoding for video (unlike i5 or even the Xeon processors in iMacPro I believe). Just for general use I doubt you'd notice much difference. As I'm writing this now my i7 is at 97% idle, down clocked to 2.1GHz and 40C... See lots of threads elsewhere on the forum on this, split opinions... personally if you don't think you need the i7 save the cash and spend it on something else.
 

mreg376

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Mar 23, 2008
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Okay, so you are saying it's best to get the 3.8ghz i5 over the 4.2ghz i7? I'm assuming there's not much difference in performance while the i5 runs a lot cooler/quieter? A 3.8ghz i5 with 8GB RAM and a 1TB SSD is $2899. How much is it for two sticks of 16GB RAM to get me to 40GB?
The best buy on top quality Mac-tested RAM I see at the moment is Crucial, 2x16GB on Amazon for $311.
 

Black Diesel

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Original poster
Mar 15, 2011
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There are some other differences, whether it matters to you for the extra cost & heat/fans depends on what you do with it. The Core i7 supports hyper-threading (still only 4 physical cores but 8 threads can run) which may be of use if you use apps which exploit parallel processing. Also it supports Intel Quick Sync hardware encoding for video (unlike i5 or even the Xeon processors in iMacPro I believe). Just for general use I doubt you'd notice much difference. As I'm writing this now my i7 is at 97% idle, down clocked to 2.1GHz and 40C... See lots of threads elsewhere on the forum on this, split opinions... personally if you don't think you need the i7 save the cash and spend it on something else.
Okay, but the i5 should handle 4K video in FCP with no problem correct? That's about the heaviest load I would put on it other than hi resolution photos in Lightroom and photoshop.
 

mreg376

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Mar 23, 2008
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I wold not give up on the idea of an i7 just yet. As Apple upgrades go, the $200 cost is cheap. And it is significantly more powerful than the i5. From my reading here there are plenty of people with no noise complaints. I'll soon be able to share my own experience. Even though an i7 is in my signature, I'm not actually getting it until tomorrow. And I intend to give it a good workout during my two-week return window, which also covers the WWDC, just in case there are any exciting announcements...
 
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262Runnr

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Jul 21, 2008
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2. Don’t buy a fusion drive. Doesn’t work with latest file system and a compromise in performance and reliability (2 components for 1 fused drive). By biggest SSD you can afford internally and plug in a external HDD for space via USB3 or Thunderbolt (many TB drive is cheap).
I just purchased my first iMac...I came from a 2012 MBP.
I upgraded to the latest High Sierra because that was what my backup had. My 2015 iMac 5K has a 2TB Fusion drive. I had absolutely no trouble migrating my TM backup to the new machine. The fusion drive works great. Granted, if I had the choice I would prefer a 2TB SSD but the cost for me is simply not worth it and the Fusion drive works well.
I'm even running both window 8 and windows 10 in an older version of vMWare with no real issues but I'm upgrading the RAM because is it a bit laggy in windows 10. I'm putting an additional 2X8GB sticks in on Saturday for only a cost of $120. Great inexpensive upgrade.
I'm very happy with the machine and got it at a significant discount.
 

sublunar

macrumors 65816
Jun 23, 2007
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The 2018 5k iMac is expected to go to 6 cores in the i5 version with Coffee Lake CPU (and 12 threads in the i7) with a small chance of taking up the cooling system from the iMac Pro which locks out the RAM slots. Its well worth waiting a 2.5 weeks to see if they get released at WWDC in June or, for whatever reason they may delay as late as October but the CPUs are available and AMD are only warming over the GPUs to 500X series this year.

Pound for pound the i7 upgrades aren't worth it for my money. The noise may be a factor, but the fact that the extra performance with 12 threads may not be worth the money unless you're taking the 4k videos seriously.

I'd also prefer the pure SSD internally with external HD solutions.
 

Fishrrman

macrumors Core
Feb 20, 2009
19,653
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The best answer to your original question is:
Wait until the new iMacs are released in a few more months (almost certainly by September/October).
THEN make a decision as to what you want to do.

I would recommend against buying extra RAM "right off the bat".
Get the new iMac set up and running, and then evaluate your "RAM needs". Add what you need later on.
(Note: at this point it's unknown whether the 2018 iMacs will have user-upgradeable RAM, if it's NOT user-upgradeable, then you have to buy what you think you'll need right from the start).

I would also recommend against fusion.
Get a "straight SSD" inside, instead.
512gb adds $300 to the "buy in" price (they have to be special-ordered through Apple's "build-to-order" page).
No, it's not "3tb". But if you need more storage, just add it via USB3. Could be an HDD, could be an external SSD -- your choice.
 

Black Diesel

macrumors regular
Original poster
Mar 15, 2011
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The best answer to your original question is:
Wait until the new iMacs are released in a few more months (almost certainly by September/October).
THEN make a decision as to what you want to do.

I would recommend against buying extra RAM "right off the bat".
Get the new iMac set up and running, and then evaluate your "RAM needs". Add what you need later on.
(Note: at this point it's unknown whether the 2018 iMacs will have user-upgradeable RAM, if it's NOT user-upgradeable, then you have to buy what you think you'll need right from the start).

I would also recommend against fusion.
Get a "straight SSD" inside, instead.
512gb adds $300 to the "buy in" price (they have to be special-ordered through Apple's "build-to-order" page).
No, it's not "3tb". But if you need more storage, just add it via USB3. Could be an HDD, could be an external SSD -- your choice.
I can definitely wait for the news considering there's rumors of a new iMac being released later this year. With that said, it sounds like there's issues with the current fusion drive so I will go with an SSD. And there's also complaints about the current i7 running too hot/noisy. If they were to change the cooling system on the next generation iMac then I'm assuming it would be okay to purchase the i7, but it might come at a premium if the RAM turns out to be not user-upgradeable...it will be interesting to see what happens. I'll hold off for now.
 

EugW

macrumors G3
Jun 18, 2017
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Best bang for the buck will be the i5-8500 6-core iMac likely coming in 10 days. I'm guessing the RAM will still be user upgradable.

I would recommend SSD, but if you absolutely must have a Fusion drive, then get a minimum of 2 TB. The 1 TB version only includes a 32 GB SSD. The 2 TB version includes a 128 GB SSD.
 
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mreg376

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Mar 23, 2008
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Best bang for the buck will be the i5-8500 6-core iMac likely coming in 10 days. I'm guessing the RAM will still be user upgradable.

I would recommend SSD, but if you absolutely must have a Fusion drive, then get a minimum of 2 TB. The 1 TB version only includes a 32 GB SSD. The 2 TB version includes a 128 GB SSD.
"Likely" coming in 10 days?? You ARE an optimist.
 
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EugW

macrumors G3
Jun 18, 2017
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"Likely" coming in 10 days?? You ARE an optimist.
At most just a mild bit of optimism is needed to think they'll be announced in 10 days. It's a realistic expectation.

I agree there are no guarantees, but there isn't really good reason for them not to come, since both the CPUs (hex-core 8th gen Intel) and GPUs (Radeon 500X series) have been known to be out there for months now, allowing Apple to ramp up manufacturing. Furthermore, the existing design can easily take both these parts, so this should be an easy and quick update for Apple, with WWDC being the most logical time and venue for their announcement.

Also, because of the timing and the design, I don't think we will see Vega. I don't think I'm being pessimistic here either, just realistic.

BTW, it will be the same venue and exactly one year from the last iMac release, at WWDC 2017.
 
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