Choosing between two iMac refurbs- advice wanted!

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by PaulMoore, Jul 22, 2014.

  1. PaulMoore macrumors regular

    Dec 3, 2007
    Hi there

    I need a new iMac- for home use- 500GB+ iTunes library feeding an Apple TV and 10GB or so iPhoto is what it would mostly get used for and internet, some light video editing etc. Not much. I would maybe eventually use an Eye TV which might entail a bit of converting video for iTunes

    Trying to choose between two iMacs in Apple's refurb section- sort of want the bigger 27" screen so it can be a 'TV' for the bedroom it's in (also like the physical disc drive) but nervous the specs are too low vs. what I could get for the same money with a 21"... the computer would be needed until it dies (wouldn't be planning to replace any time soon)

    Additionally, could I/should I upgrade the RAM in either?

    Any advice gratefully received!

    Refurbished 21.5-inch iMac 2.7GHz quad-core Intel Core i5

    Originally released September 2013

    21.5-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit display with IPS technology; 1920-by-1080 resolution

    8GB memory

    1TB hard drive

    Intel Iris Pro graphics

    Built-in FaceTime HD camera

    Refurbished iMac 27-inch 2.7GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5

    Originally released May 2011

    27-inch LED-backlit glossy widescreen display

    4GB memory

    1TB hard drive

    8x SuperDrive (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)

    AMD Radeon HD 6770M graphics with 512MB memory
    Built-in FaceTime HD camera
  2. mad3inch1na macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2013
    I don't typically recommend Mac Minis, but in this case you should probably get one. Buy a 256GB Crucial MX100 SSD on Amazon for $110, and you can upgrade the RAM in the future if you need it. Pop the 500GB HDD into a USB 3.0 external enclosure. It will cost about $650 total. You can get a decent TV or monitor for as little as $120. The Mac Mini will be much better for the tasks you want to complete, and it will be faster plus last longer than the iMacs you are looking at.

  3. firedept macrumors 603


    Jul 8, 2011
    I do not think I would go with either. The 27" is okay but will like to heat up. Had one and any time I did any kind of work on it, well the heat came on. The 21.5" will run cooler and is by far the better machine. But again, just a standard HDD.

    Going with a HDD these days is pretty much old news. You need to think Fusion or SSD. An SSD or Fusion Drive would be my number one consideration these days for an upgrade. Then second would be RAM.

    I am no expert on Minis, but would have to agree with mad3inch1na. Your money will go further and you will have a far faster and more powerful machine than either iMac. If you are determined to have an iMac, I think you should at least look with something with at least a Fusion Drive. RAM can always wait on the 27" until later as it can be done by you. 21.5" has to be ordered with additional RAM as it can not be done later.
  4. thetechfixer macrumors 6502


    Apr 21, 2010
    I have to say a Mac Mini may be better. Since you really do not want a computer with a Hard Drive but an SSD instead and the Mac Mini is much easier to upgrade. Grab a nice SSD, upgrade the RAM. Pickup a nice 27" Display and you are all set.
  5. PaulMoore, Jul 23, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2014

    PaulMoore thread starter macrumors regular

    Dec 3, 2007
    Thanks for the responses

    OK I see now from Googling that the Mac Mini can be upgraded- would my best (cheapest) solution be to buy a 500GB and then put my own 1TB HDD and 256GB SSD? (Would prefer everything internal rather than trailing cables)

    And/or should I simply put in a hybrid 1TB drive?

    The only issue is that I also need (should have mentioned earlier) a webcam- I do a lot of Facetime with family abroad- I had initially considered Mac Mini plus Apple Cinema display but the cost of that plus a Mac Mini (now plus an extra SSD) seemed higher than the iMac option... would rather keep costs closer to $1000 than $1500...
  6. PaulMoore thread starter macrumors regular

    Dec 3, 2007
    And if anyone has advice on whether a novice could do any of the above...
  7. mad3inch1na macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2013
    If you have the correct screwdrivers, it is a simple task that involved little to no risk. Here is an informative video guide. You have to remove the RAM to access the hard drive, so that is part of the video as well.

    Also, if you need a webcam, this one works with macs. You can attach it to the top of your monitor. You can get a nicer one for not much more, but this is about the same quality you would get with an iMac.

  8. PaulMoore thread starter macrumors regular

    Dec 3, 2007
  9. willydimes macrumors regular

    Jun 8, 2014
    two separate drives(1TB HDD and 256 SSD would be better) and I would go for the high end base mac mini. The 2.3 i7 and then add the SSD and upgrade RAM as I believe it already comes with a 1 TB HDD. You could find one of the upgraded models with a fusion drive, but again I think most people prefer an individual SSD. But if you poke around enough on eBay or something you might find a nicely upgraded one for not much more than a base model and save on the upgrade cost. Heck maybe even find an ATD for a nice price too and call it a day
  10. mad3inch1na macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2013
    Definitely agree with this. Just as a side note, you can make your own Fusion Drive if you want to, but I prefer separate drives anyways just to have some control. It will be cheaper as well for equal/better performance. ATDs are really expensive, so unless you are doing professional photography work, based on your needs a nice 40" TV might serve you better than an ATD.

  11. PaulMoore thread starter macrumors regular

    Dec 3, 2007
    Thanks for the tips- I will keep an eye out for the Mac Mini refurbs coming back in stock!

    Anyone have any preference of brand for the SSD?

    And also- maybe a stupid question- but once the drives are installed, does the Mac just 'know' how to distribute the workload/configure them or is that a manual setting I would need to adjust?
  12. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    SSD and your files

    If you fit both a HDD and an SSD the you will have to manually manage your files unless you create a fusion drive.

    Fusion drive is not a hybrid drive as many assume but actually just a software system that manages the distribution of your content accross two types of drive. There are many guides for creating your own fusion drives online just google them and follow the rules. The only problem with this is if you install windows you will not be able to use the SSD for your windows partition.

    As for drives the samsung EVO range is often considered the best compromise between speed and price on these boards.
  13. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    I agree about the Samsung; it's a champ.

    I prefer the SSD+HDD solution over the Fusion, however. You have to have some technical competence to set it up, and once done going the other way is a pain. And if one fails, you are in a bit of a jam. But if you clone your SSD boot drive to a partition on the HDD then if either fails you are still in business. I'd only consider going Fusion if I was stuck with a smallish SSD, otherwise I'd just get the biggest SSD you can afford. Managing the files isn't very difficult, depending on what work you do.

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