Cheaper mid-2011 vs New 2014 iMac - who wins???

Discussion in 'iMac' started by hamdcam, Apr 21, 2015.

  1. hamdcam macrumors newbie

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    Australia
    #1
    hi,

    looking for a home computer (email/photo/home video/games for kids/internet etc.), and looking at a used mid-2011 model (specs are below).

    I would most likely upgrade the 2011 HD to 1TB. Cost of used machine is around $1,200 after upgrade (see below for costs).

    So i'm weighing up this vs a new 2014 model for $1,600. Am in decision making conundrum!

    I'm new to iMacs, so would love some advice here. Would the 2011 give me a good 4-5 years of reliable service, or should i pay extra $400 and get a newbie?

    2011
    iMac Intel 21.5” 2.5GHz i5 QC 4Gb RAM, 500Gb Hard Disk, Superdrive (Mid 2011 MC309X/A)
    $895 plus $230 for upgarde and $45 for One year Warranty

    VS

    2014
    2.7GHz quad-core Intel Core i5
    8GB (two 4GB) memory
    1TB hard drive1
    Intel Iris Pro graphics
    $1600

    Thanks,

    H.
     
  2. yjchua95 macrumors 604

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    #2
    First, it's not a 2014 iMac. It's a late-2013 iMac. Either way, it will still be way better than the 2011 iMac.

    That said, I'd still upgrade it to at least a Fusion Drive. It will make a night and day difference.
     
  3. rkaufmann87 macrumors 68000

    rkaufmann87

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    #3
    That is a no-brainer, get the new machine and I agree, either get a Fusion drive or SSD. The difference in performance between the new machine and a used 2011 will be night and day.
     
  4. hamdcam thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Australia
    #4
    Thanks. Just wondering why you wouldn't choose the 2011 at that price? Do you think it will struggle with performance? If you add fusion or SSD I assume price goes up to around 2,000 (AUD).

    If I'm budget conscious would the entry level 2013 model with fusion) be better?
     
  5. yjchua95 macrumors 604

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    #5
    The 2011 is hopelessly outdated, with a far worse GPU (6750M vs Iris Pro) and no USB 3, plus no Bluetooth 4.0.

    The entry level late-2013 model (2.7GHz i5 quad core with 8GB RAM and add a 1TB Fusion Drive) will be way better.

    Even the mid-2014 iMac (1.4GHz dual core i5, 8GB RAM, and add a 1TB Fusion Drive) will still be better, because of USB 3.0 and BT 4.0.

    No one should buy a computer with only a HDD these days.
     
  6. muffinss macrumors member

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    Feb 27, 2011
    #6
    the 2013 imac has been upgraded and it has hardware that's still latest hardware. like intel haswell processors, ddr3 1600mhz, intel iris pro and nvidia + amd gpus.

    the late 2013 imac is much faster than the 2011 and runs cooler. i had a 2011 27 imac and it ran hot like a oven. my new late 2013 27 imac i bought a few weeks ago is much faster and much cooler.
     
  7. toddzrx macrumors 6502a

    toddzrx

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    Nov 20, 2012
    #7
    The price on that 2011 machine sounds pretty high to me: a quick search on eBay shows prices around $650. $230 for the HD is pretty steep too. Just based on that alone, the new machine is a much better deal.
     
  8. Dirtyharry50, Apr 21, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2015

    Dirtyharry50 macrumors 68000

    Dirtyharry50

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    #8
    First off as a former owner of a 2011 iMac which Apple replaced due a known issue with many of these tending to run too hot (mine was literally melting itself) I would immediately tell you do not buy a 2011 iMac. However, mine was a 27" model so I am not certain that the same heat issue was any problem with the one you are considering.

    That said, I agree with other advice that 2011 is now old for a Mac and would still advise against it because of that. If you want 5 years out of an all-in-one computer your best bet is a brand new iMac and get AppleCare while you are at it to guarantee you the first 3 years trouble free or they take care of it. I can tell you I sure was glad I did. I never thought my $2000 Apple iMac would be a lemon but it was. I would have been out of luck without AppleCare. Currently I note this is selling for $125. on Amazon.com for the most recent version of it. I very highly recommend spending for this just for the peace of mind and protection. Plus, where you are new this offers you telephone support not only about your hardware but also OS X the operating system and any Apple apps you or the kids may use such as the included Pages word processor or Numbers spreadsheet and a lot more.

    Next, you mentioned using Photos on the iMac. Given how precious digital family photos are you will need a backup drive for these not to mention the rest of the system. A 1 TB USB 3.0 drive should only run you around a hundred bucks on Amazon.com. I recommend something from Western Digital. I had problems with Seagate and Apple's included Time Machine backup program but it worked perfectly out of the box when I replaced it with a Western Digital. Don't skip out on this expense. Sooner or later you will be very sorry if you do. Of all system components you can pretty much depend on the hard drive dying some day, particularly the longer you own a system but it is possible to be unfortunate and lose one earlier. Here again is another good case for having AppleCare not to mention a backup drive.

    You can store a lot in iCloud if you want including all your photos but with only 5 gigabytes free you will probably soon use this space up and have to pay for more although it is relatively cheap. My feeling is even with iCloud, I still need to use Time Machine because iCloud does not backup anywhere near everything on my system and it would be painful having to reacquire and setup everything in the case of a total loss even if my most precious data was in the cloud. The other issue is how much does one want to depend on the cloud for something as valuable as family photos. Redundant backups are the best way to go to greatly reduce the chance of pain. Trust me here and you won't be sorry. My kids have found ways to lose stuff but old dad could save them because he was prepared and now that they are grown I've taught them to be prepared themselves. Time Machine is great. I backs up unobtrusively in the background every hour getting just newly changed items. As time goes by, you can open up Time Machine and easily retrieve documents or whatever from previous days, weeks even months. You will absolutely love this the day one of your kids is all upset because they accidentally deleted a paper that is due in the morning and similar such disasters. That paper will almost certainly be either mostly or completely in the most recent Time Machine backup. Somebody accidentally trashes permanently some photos? No problem. Just retrieve them from Time Machine. The first time this saves yours or somebody else in the family's bacon you will be quite glad that wise old dad invested in backups. This dad speaks from experience here, a lot of it. Mine are both out of college now and both of them use Macs because dear old dad enlightened them of course. :D

    So, there's another hundred bucks you need to figure on plus about 125 for AppleCare and I suppose some might tell you they never needed it, etc. but I know I did. So the question becomes do you like to play roulette where the odds are actually random and unknown? I don't.

    I saw some advice about Fusion drives and SSD drives. You need to be aware that no matter what anybody might tell you however passionately, these drives are luxury items, not necessity items particularly for a family home computer. Yes, the computer will boot up more quickly. Is that really worth spending for? Yes, apps will initially pop right up too but you know what? The kinds of apps you'll be using on that home system are going to pop up quickly anyway. Not only that but the operating system does something called caching in memory. This means once you've fired up an app like say, Mail, the next time you open it chances are it is still in memory and loads instantly as such. The operating system will use all the memory available to it to enhance performance this way. You will get snappier performance with an SSD or Fusion drive but frankly for a home system where you are on a budget buying this the money would be far better spent on the above mentioned AppleCare and backup drive. You will find the computer is still nice and responsive anyway. Don't get me wrong, sure faster is nice. Who doesn't like faster when it comes to computers. Again though, this option is costly and I believe you are trying to hold down the costs here while getting the best system you can with hopefully a 5 year lifetime. As such, I would not recommend spending on an SSD certainly. If you wind up spending enough for a newer iMac that includes a Fusion drive standard, great. It's a plus but don't be afraid to get what you can best afford. It isn't going to suck not having this is what I am trying to say but I expect there are people who would differ with me. The thing is, those folks are speaking out of their own desire for maximal speed more than your stated needs here. There's a big difference between needs and wants and I think you need to focus first on needs. If there's enough in the budget to move on to wants, wonderful. If not, you'll still have a very, very nice computer following the advice I am giving you here.

    Beyond that the newer machine seems fine with one possible exception. The Iris graphics on it. This is a laptop graphics option basically and while it does support some gaming pretty well it is at the lowest end of the spectrum there. It's pretty light duty for this purpose compared to a discrete graphics card by Nvidia in a current iMac. So whether this cuts the mustard for some five years or not depends a lot on your kids and what you think they may want to play. If you have a son who wants to play stuff like Call of Duty games this is not going to do it adequately. On the other hand, if they are little ones playing iOS ports or whatnot from the app store it'll be fine assuming they are little enough that they'll still be fine with it in say 3 to 4 years or so.

    Gaming is not really the Mac's forte but many of us do enjoy it on Macs. The way to do so though with modern more demanding games is basically to spend considerably more for systems with the best graphics processor options that can do this.

    Maybe your kids like console games and none of this is all that important. In fact, from an economic standpoint you'd probably be better off going the console route with a Playstation 4 or something which offers tons of gaming fun and far less hardware expense over time.

    It's impossible to know what to tell you about the gaming aspect here without knowing a lot more about the kids ages and preferences, etc. not to mention possibly your own. There's a lot of fun stuff to enjoy if you've never done much with it before.

    So if you want to talk a little more about the gaming aspect let me know by replying to this so I see a message thingy telling me to check this thread for it.

    In any event it is almost universally true I would say that at any given point in time it is always best to purchase the best, most capable computer you can reasonably afford for the best user experience and longevity out of the system.
     
  9. hamdcam thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Apr 21, 2015
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    Australia
    #9
    Thanks for the detailed response - I think you understand my needs. Only other thing is doing some home photo/video editing as well.

    So which new imac would you purchase? I'm now thinking the 21 inch 2.7 quad core option for $1600AUD is probably best.
     
  10. yjchua95 macrumors 604

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    Location:
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    #10
    I would also spring for the same thing, but with a Fusion Drive upgrade.

    It's a disgrace that Apple is still selling HDD-only Macs in 2015.

    Try going to the education store for discounts (if you're eligible for it), or better still, refurbs. Refurbs are bloody good.
     
  11. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2013
    #11
    This

    A refurb with a fusion is the answer if you can find one.

    However there are currently none in the australian apple store.
     
  12. hamdcam thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Australia
    #12
    OK.

    so excuse my naivety here, i assume one can upgrade RAM and/or a Fusion (or other) drive after they've bought a machine with HDD?
     
  13. colodane macrumors 6502a

    colodane

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    Location:
    Colorado
    #13
    That would be nice, but unfortunately Apple doesn't see it that way. On any recent iMac the screen has to be removed in order to service the SSD/HDD. Not a job for the typical owner, and expensive to accomplish at an authorized repair center. On the 27 inch iMac the RAM is easily user upgradeable, but not so on the 21.5 inch that you are considering. Unfortunately on that model you have to purchase the RAM you want up front from Apple at quite inflated prices ;>(
     
  14. yjchua95 macrumors 604

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    #14
    Your assumption is wrong.

    Neither the RAM nor the HDD is upgradeable. Unless you don't mind voiding the warranty by tearing apart the entire screen and logic board to get at the RAM slots and hard drive bay.
     
  15. hamdcam thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #15
    Ok. 8gb should be fine. Can you add an external drive?
     
  16. toddzrx macrumors 6502a

    toddzrx

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    Nov 20, 2012
    #16
    Sure: pick USB 3 or Lightning. Plenty of options out there for external storage.

    I've got a portable 1TB drive plugged in over USB 2 on my 2010 iMac for media storage; works great and actually not too slow.
     
  17. toddzrx macrumors 6502a

    toddzrx

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    #17
    Sorry, but I don't think most people would consider a Fusion Drive or SSD a "luxury item" at this point, for a couple reasons. First, prices have indeed come way down, below $.50 (USD) per GB for the most part (granted, the cost from Apple is higher). That's 1/3 what I paid in 2010 when I bought a Corsair 120GB SSD. Second, at least for pure SSD, you get the best of both worlds: a faster AND more reliable machine. Luxury usually implies superfluous features just for the sake of spending money, but that's not the case here.

    In my case, an SSD installed in my early 2006 17" MBP kept it relevant for another 2 years. I was considering just getting rid of it because it had gotten pretty slow, but the SSD made such a dramatic difference that I kept what I had. So a $160 SSD extended the life of my laptop for another 2 years, far cheaper than buying a new (or at least a newer used) machine.

    That same SSD now sits in my 2010 21.5" iMac (which I found used on Craigslist), and it's running like a champ: 5 years old and neither my wife nor I feel the need to upgrade to something newer and faster, because the one we have already is fast.

    My suggestion for the OP: an SSD or FD would be the best upgrade option by far, if you can afford it.
     
  18. Dirtyharry50 macrumors 68000

    Dirtyharry50

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    #18
    Again, in a perfect world that is nice to have and I would recommend it. However, on a limited budget where costs need to be prioritized, for an AIO computer and photo plus other data kept on that computer, I have to recommend AppleCare & an external backup drive first. These count as needs as far as I am concerned because systems can and sometimes do fail in the first two or three years in one way or another. My iMac did.

    This person seems to be on a budget with a family, etc. So I am guessing they cannot easily afford a failure when $125. will at least guarantee zero cost if there is one in the first three years. It is an added plus that they can call for not only hardware but software support (OS X and the many included Apple apps) for the full three years. Considering they are new to this, that has value too. You know, I might be wrong about the software support being that long. It might extend the default 90 days I think it is to one year. The hardware though is fully guaranteed, in-home service and all in many places for the full three years.

    I doubt you'd argue with me about whether a backup drive is more important than internal SSD upgrade if you can only have one because of budgetary constraints.

    That said, I don't really differ that much from you in that I agree it is nice to have if you can afford it. If the OP can, great. I didn't say not to get one. I just wanted to encourage a certain set of priorities with their benefit in mind.

    I will still argue however that an SSD is not a need, it is a want at this point. The speed is nice but it is in no way a need unless it benefits your productivity in the workplace but that doesn't apply here. As for reliability, SSDs also fail and so do Fusion drives. I haven't devoted any time to reading up on reliability testing of SSD drives vs mechanical drives over time. If you can provide any links to credible data on the subject that would be interesting to read but I doubt whatever difference may exist would be dramatic enough to change the priorities I listed above. Still, by all means if you can prove me wrong here I am not above being corrected at all.
     
  19. toddzrx macrumors 6502a

    toddzrx

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    #19
    I hear you. Here's a recent PC World article that sums up pros and cons nicely:

    http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2404258,00.asp

    My personal experience is that I've modified 3 computers and an iPod (not all my own equipment) with SSD's. The iPod in particular survives summers out here in Phoenix in my car with no problems. In contrast, the stock drive I got with my used iMac crapped out about 9 months after I got the computer, for a total lifespan of 3 years. The SSD that replaced it, on the other hand, has been in use for 4.5 years with no sign of slowing down. Although the upfront cost is higher, I think an argument can be made that an SSD is the better purchase from a speed and reliability standpoint.
     
  20. lowendlinux Contributor

    lowendlinux

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    #20
    I'd get the 2011 version and forgo the SSD or Hybrid. If you for some reason need access to fast external storage then you always have TB. For the uses you described the improvements made from 2011 forward won't be noticeable.
     
  21. MacBH928 macrumors 68020

    MacBH928

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    #21
    I just want to say $1200 is extremely expensive for a 2011 machine. its already outdated.
     
  22. Dirtyharry50 macrumors 68000

    Dirtyharry50

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    #22
    I agree. I bought a 27" 2011 with the best GPU option for 1,900. brand new when they were the latest model and the 1 TB 7200 RPM hard disk in it was standard equipment.
     
  23. Dirtyharry50, Apr 24, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2015

    Dirtyharry50 macrumors 68000

    Dirtyharry50

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    #23
    Well, although he does not quote any studies conducted to verify his claim, according to the author of the article you linked: "Longevity is a wash when it's separated from travel and ruggedness concerns."

    Considering we are talking about a desktop system here that isn't likely to be traveling anywhere or dropped it would seem physical ruggedness isn't too much of an issue. He agrees there isn't a longevity benefit per se. Both types of drives tend to last a long time and both types of drives will fail over time with use.

    Otherwise, he of course makes the point about faster speed that I do not dispute however he also notes a difference of 7 cents per gig for a mechanical drive and 14 cents per gig on a SSD. So, we're talking twice as expensive for faster performance which while nice is not a need. It's a want. That makes it a lesser priority than backup hardware and a relatively inexpensive guarantee of complete hardware coverage for 3 years plus telephone support for a year.

    Stubborn old son of a gun, aren't I? ;) I mean well though. I just want to help the guy.
     
  24. Dirtyharry50, Apr 24, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2015

    Dirtyharry50 macrumors 68000

    Dirtyharry50

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    #24
    I'm sorry I missed this earlier in all the back and forth. I would think the best and newest 21" iMac you can afford should be fine for your stated needs.

    Something I am not knowledgeable about is video editing. You might want to just put a post in the relevant forum here and ask how much memory they think you should have and if the processor you would have is adequate.

    My guess is the processor is fine for home projects but you probably want to make sure you have at least 8 gigs of memory. If you just want to do family things with Apple's iMovie app that comes with OS X, 8 gigs should be fine. If you want to do more serious movie editing than this again, get some advice from the people who do this in the relevant forum here.

    Be sure though to be very specific with them about what you have in mind for projects or videos to create so it will be clear what you need versus what many of the pros there may use or tend to recommend.

    All that said, I would encourage you to go for 8 gigs of RAM in any case. 4 is not enough for the lifetime of the computer you want and depending on what you run on it, perhaps not even now really performance wise. 8 gigs would tend to improve performance as there is more room to cache apps that have been opened, etc. That's a very worthwhile expenditure that I'd probably put into the needs column at this point personally. Even if apps do not individually require it, the operating system will make good use of it to improve your experience using the computer.

    I just scrolled up and noticed the system you mentioned has 8 gigs of memory so that is very good. You are probably in good shape with that one I would think. I have a feeling you may just want to edit some video of the kids and stuff or perhaps put together some movies with photos of vacations or whatnot. If that's true, iMovie should work well and there are other products you could look into later if you need any more functionality. iMovie just got an update today that I installed here which was to correct some problems people had been having with it so it should be fine now. Apple does update the include apps that come with OS X on a fairy regular basis as needed which is nice.

    You'll find there is a great selection of reasonably priced apps in the Mac App Store accessible right from your desktop too. There is all kinds of cool things you can do with your Mac. I hope you and the family will enjoy yours as much as I do mine.
     
  25. dogslobber macrumors 68020

    dogslobber

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    #25
    The 2011 21.5" iMac is the last great iMac of that size that Apple produced. It has 4x user accessible memory slots that can be upgraded to 32gb maximum. If you install a SSD internally in place of the built in hard disk then this thing will fly. Successive years of upgrades to iMacs have introduced trivial enhancements that you typically won't notice for the average user.

    That being said, these machines go for about 600 bucks on ebay.
     

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