Can someone give advice on Imac configuration

Discussion in 'iMac' started by Shanster573, Oct 25, 2013.

  1. Shanster573 macrumors newbie

    Oct 23, 2013
    Hi there. I'm a graphic designer mostly for print. Can anyone suggest the best performance configuration on the imac. I work mostly with cs6. That is.. Indesign, illustrator, photoshop.. I don't create video. I use suitcase, acrobat, occasionally Bridge, most days I might have most of these open.. Do I benefit from i7 over i5?, would 3TB Fusion suffice over 512 flash? do I really need the better graphic card. The differences are important as I also need to buy CS6 which is also the best part of 800 quid, so I am on a budget and can't afford to max out the 27inch just because I can. Thanks a lot guys.
  2. MacDarcy macrumors 65816

    Jul 21, 2011
    I'm planning to buy an iMac for pretty much the same reasons(with some video editing thrown in)....but found out, you don't have to spend a huge chunk of money buying the CS6. Here in the states its close to $2,000...but you can now sign up to Adobe's "creative cloud" and have access to not only CS6, but Adobe's entire catalog of programs for $40 a month. So if $ is tight after purchasing an imac, this is one way to lessen the sting, by not having to shell out full price for cs6 upfront and instead just paying a small monthly fee. FYI :)
  3. cateye, Oct 25, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2013

    cateye macrumors member


    Oct 18, 2011
    You and I are very similar: I've been a professional print designer for 20+ years. I work on high-end publication design: A lot of niche magazines, book covers, etc. I use a 2013 iMac as my primary work machine, having upgraded from a 2009 iMac (both 27"). I use Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator 90% of the time (CS6). I can share my experiences, although realize this is just my experience. Others may disagree.

    1. My 2009 had an i5, as does my 2013 (3.4GHz version). None of the software you mention will materially benefit from an i7, especially if your budget is limited. It's not worth the $200 expense. Note I say materially. The i7 Apple offers is clocked slightly faster than the i5, so there is some difference, I just don't think it's $200 worth of difference for the software we use. The i7's primary benefit comes from the eight virtual cores made possible by HyperThreading, which won't benefit the software you mention to any great degree. The four real cores of the i5 offers more than enough threading potential for the limited ways ID/IL/PS take advantage of it.

    2. Don't bother with the upgraded video card. Of the software you mention, only Photoshop offloads work onto the GPU, and even the lowest-end dedicated GPU has more than enough horsepower for this purpose. One thing to consider is if you might want to add a second (or third!) monitor in the future. If so, more VRAM will help—choosing the higher-end iMac with the 2GB option will buy you some headroom. The only reason to upgrade the GPU is for games or if you anticipate pushing hard into 3D modeling at some point in the future.

    3. I don't have any experience with the Fusion drive so I can't directly compare it to a pure SSD solution. For my 2013 iMac, I went with the 512GB SSD and can say it's been the greatest single improvement over my 2009 iMac. I keep all of my immediate "in process" work files on it, and everything absolutely flies. PSD files—even giant ones with dozens of layers—pop open in Photoshop like nothing. Similar with complex InDesign files. My goal in getting the SSD was to be rid of internal spinny disks. I wanted my machine to be as quiet and reliable as possible.

    Using the SSD does require me to manually manage files between my external storage (6TB of archives, client files, raw media, etc.) and the SSD, but I like having that control. I would rather be able to exactly dictate what goes where and what I want to have on the SSD for immediate access. I haven't found that process to be problematic. I went with the 512GB SSD, despite the cost, because I knew it would give me plenty of space to hold all of my in-process files, plus applications, plus the system, with room leftover. The 256GB SSD would not have, and certainly the 12GB SSD that makes up part of the Fusion system wouldn't be enough. I'd have ended up hitting the regular hard disk way too often for my liking.

    Finally, and this goes for any system you buy: memory, memory, memory. I have 24GB in my 2013, up from 16GB in my 2009. I regularly hit swap in my 2009. 24GB has bought me some headroom, although I'll likely max it out to 32GB before too long. Anything you can do to avoid swapping will keep the software you use speedy. Photoshop performance in particular degrades tremendously if it can't allocate enough memory. But this will depend on the size and complexity of the files you work on—print imagery is (of course) significantly larger and requires more resources than imagery for the web.

    Hope this helps.
  4. Shanster573 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 23, 2013
    Cateye. Thanks a lot for that overview of how you are working with the Imac. Thats a great insight. I am pretty much working along the exact same lines, so it's fantastic to hear that your spec is more than capable of doing the job... I have for ages been off loading work onto externals manually also, maybe its a bit old school, but all the same its how I work, so thats not a problem. Likewise I only have current working jobs on my desktop. Yes I will defo be buying memory.. 16 gig to add to the 8. It sounds like your spec is what I should aim at. I have been reading so many comments about people maxing out their imac and understanbably for labour intensive video rendering or 3d rendering but I wont be doing any of that so was looking for someone like yourself to give some advice. Thanks a lot.!

    Thanks also MacDarcy for the info on adobe cloud, I was aware of it, and might look into it again, depending on what the bank manager says :)

    Thanks a lot for the feedback a great help!
  5. cateye macrumors member


    Oct 18, 2011
    You're welcome! I'm glad my thoughts are useful.

    One of the nice things about 2D design is pretty much any modern computer is going to offer enough horsepower for what we do. it's the people working with video or complex 3D who still need to make substantial investments in their computing resources to make sure they're not bogged down. It's a much more complex balance of cost vs. benefit for them.

    For us, it's easier to identify the few areas where strategic upgrades are useful: until SSDs, disk speed was always the single greatest limiting factor in any computer. That Apple now offers a wide array of options, from Fusion to 1TB SSD, means there's not a single reason (other than extreme budget pressures) to settle for just a spinny disk. It's just not reasonable anymore to kneecap a modern computer with slow storage like that.

    The rest is really up to your budget and what you feel like splurging on. I don't fault people who max out their machines, but I do question how much they realistically need those upgrades, and whether the value is there. I'd rather be strategic and put that money into more memory, or new versions of software, or even something completely unrelated to the computer at all. :)

  6. MacDarcy macrumors 65816

    Jul 21, 2011
    Agree. Single biggest limiting factor is the spinning HD storage. I think the fusion drive is a nice compromise...but I look forward to the day when SSDs are standard, and spinning HDs go the way of the dodo bird.

    But right now SSDs are hideously expensive. $1,000 extra dollars for a 1TB SSD? Yikes Apple!

    I will probably spring for the happy medium of the 512 SSD. Because like Cateye, I prefer to have the speed and no moving parts in my new thin imac. :)
  7. tomwvr macrumors regular


    Jun 12, 2012
    Frederick Maryland
    I dont do all that you all do but I do have a 1TB fusion drive and it feels like and runs like a SSD drive. My iMac is a 2012 and have had no problems at all with the fusion drive .


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