Comparison shopping - upgrade MBP or get a used iMac?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by chordstrummer, May 17, 2018.

  1. chordstrummer macrumors newbie

    Jun 20, 2009
    I was looking into upgrading the 500 GB HDD in my mid-2010 13” MacBook Pro to a 1TB SSD ($306 at OWC). The HDD currently has about 65 gigs free, and also 8 gigs of RAM.

    I happened to notice that they also sell preowned Macs and decided to look. I could get a mid-2010 27” iMac, with a 2.8 GHz i5 quad core, with a 1TB HDD and 8 gigs of RAM for $699. seems like pretty good value for money to me.

    The most intensive usage is photo editing in Lightroom and Photoshop. I notice significant slowing when importing large numbers of photos at a time, exporting files, and also a general sluggishness when using these apps. All files are stored on an external RAID, connected by Firewire.

    Obviously the large screen would be nice. What I’m wondering mainly is which would be ultimately more up to the task of what I am doing: MBP with upgraded SSD, but slower Core2Duo processor, or iMac with slower HDD but with faster i5?

    Secondly, anyone have any experience, thoughts, and/or feedback about these pre-owned Macs?

    Any and all comments welcome. Thanks.
  2. mroy16 macrumors regular

    May 28, 2017
    In a modern computer, a mechanical HDD is going to be the biggest bottleneck.

    If you can't afford, or don't want, a more recent model, I would encourage you to add the SSD to your current computer. Both models you describe are from 2010 and might not have much life left, so I would pursue the cheaper option and save the extra money for a newer system in the future. I also believe that the SSD would be a more noticeable upgrade in your everyday use.
  3. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    Personally, I agree with @mroy16. An 8-year old computer is near end-of-life - if anything other than the HD gives up then its 'beyond economic repair' unless you fancy buying broken Macs on ebay to cannibalise. If you already have one, get one as a hand-me-down or buy one at "mates' rates" then an old computer can still do useful work, but I wouldn't spend good cash-y money on one from a dealer while your existing system is still getting the job done - I'd save up for something better.

    If you do splash out on a SSD for your MB, and your MBP dies, you can always stick the SSD in a USB 3 enclosure as a useful, fast external store.

    If you do go for the iMac, the screen is obviously going to be day-and-night better, even though its a 1440p and not 4k/5k - however, your MBP will quite happily drive a new, external 1440p display which will still be useful if your MBP goes to silicon heaven. Speed-wise - my guess is that your MBP with a SSD upgrade will feel generally "snappier" than the HD based iMac when it comes to boot times, application loading and general responsiveness. I wouldn't want to call it when it comes to Lightroom/Photoshop performance since that depends where your bottleneck is, but with Photoshop storing its temporary/working files on SSD I wouldn't fall off my chair if the SSD in the MBP at least gave the iMac a run for its money. If you're opening lots of large images then you might benefit from a tad more RAM (look at "memory pressure" in activity monitor).

    $300 seems a bit steep for a SSD for your MBP, too:

    (a) do you really need 1TB (unless you are hoping to move your photos off the RAID?) - could you manage with 512GB? The big boost in general performance comes from having the system and temporary files on SSD. One option if you want more space for data and don't use the optical drive much is to get a "data doubler" caddy that lets you mount a second HD in place of the optical drive (could be the old system HD, or a cheap 1-2TB hard drive for a fraction of the price of that much SSD). Its a bit harder to fit than just replacing the HD.

    (b) a 2010 MBP probably won't do justice to an upmarket, high-speed SSD. People obsess about peak transfer rates for sequential access, but a lot of the speed-up in general use comes from faster seek times when accessing lots of files, and even a budget SSD thrashes a spinning hard drive in that respect.
  4. chordstrummer thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 20, 2009
    Thanks very much to both of you. I really appreciate all of the useful info. You've certainly given me a lot to consider. Wish I did have the funds for a more modern machine, but unfortunately, I'm stuck with a tight budget for now.

    Again, thanks much.
  5. mroy16 macrumors regular

    May 28, 2017
    If the budget is really tight, I would strongly consider @theluggage 's suggestion (a). I upgraded my old laptop with a smaller SSD and then put the HDD in an OWC Data-Doubler. The combination was under $100, and my machine was definitely snappier (until it died ~2 months later). I would hesitate to invest more than $100-$200 in an 8-year-old computer. Anything you save now can be used to save for an eventual replacement.

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