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Decision time i7 vs i9 for new 2020 iMac?

BasilFawlty

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jun 20, 2009
469
32
New Mexico
In a couple weeks (saving my pennies) I plan to order a new 2020 27" iMac to replace my mid-2011 (4 core i5). I have a question/ looking for opinions...


What I know I'll be getting:
  • One of the top-tier processors
  • 5700 XT 16GB Radeon graphics.
  • 8GB memory (and buy additional 64GB at OWC).
  • 1TB SSD (99% of my working photos and videos are stored on external drives).
  • Keyboard with added number pad
  • Magic Mouse (No interest in the Magic Track Pad - I have a 1st gen track pad and never use it)
  • 10GBit Ethernet
  • Final Cut Pro X
What I'm undecided on:
  • The i7 or i9 (8 core vs 10 core)
  • Nano-textured glass
I'm going to the local Apple Store today (had to make appointment) to look at the nano-textured glass to help decided on that upgrade

I do a lot of RAW photography processing with Lighroom and Photoshop and will be processing 4k (possibly 8k but not often ) video with Final Cut Pro X.
I am not a huge power user and do not do gaming so I'm torn as to whether I should spend another $400 for the i9 10-core processor or would that be overkill? I saw somewhere that the new i7 8-core actually benchmarks better than the 2019 i9 8-core processor. For my use cases, I'm thinking the i7 with 8-cores would be more than enough and concerned that the i9 might be a waste of $400 in my case.

Anyone else facing this decision? Thoughts? Recommendations? I guess I'm not keep on spending $400 just to say I have 10 cores that may never (or rarely) be used.
 

KrazyKanuck

macrumors regular
Aug 8, 2020
129
126
The i7 is faster in single core performance but 10% slower in multi-core performance. I would apply that $400 to the nano glass if you get it, or to the 3rd party RAM. You'd be paying 20% more for 10% more performance that you'll probably never use (or use rarely), while having "slower" single core performance.
 
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BasilFawlty

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jun 20, 2009
469
32
New Mexico
The i7 is faster in single core performance but 10% slower in multi-core performance. I would apply that $400 to the nano glass if you get it, or to the 3rd party RAM. You'd be paying 20% more for 10% more performance that you'll probably never use (or use rarely), while having "slower" single core performance.

That does make sense. While I will be doing a lot of RAW photo editing and some (mostly 1080p and 4k) video, I doubt I'll ever be doing the kind of heavy lifting that will utilize 10 cores. Getting an additional 2 sticks of 32G Ram from OWC is already factored into the equation, so using that extra $400 towards the nano-glass is probably what I'll do. My heart says "10-cores would be cool to have for bragging rights," but my head is saying "you don't really 'need' 10 core and those 8 cores are plenty for your use cases."
 

jinnyman

macrumors 6502a
Sep 2, 2011
580
516
Lincolnshire, IL
I’d only go 10 core if what you do really benefit from additional 2 cores.
I don’t think most people do, and better to have faster single core performance.

But then, given your already specced out setting, spending additional 400 may be justifiable as you would then have a bragging right or atleast some kind of satisfaction knowing you’ve got the killer machine :)

Your choice.
 

KrazyKanuck

macrumors regular
Aug 8, 2020
129
126
That does make sense. While I will be doing a lot of RAW photo editing and some (mostly 1080p and 4k) video, I doubt I'll ever be doing the kind of heavy lifting that will utilize 10 cores. Getting an additional 2 sticks of 32G Ram from OWC is already factored into the equation, so using that extra $400 towards the nano-glass is probably what I'll do. My heart says "10-cores would be cool to have for bragging rights," but my head is saying "you don't really 'need' 10 core and those 8 cores are plenty for your use cases."
The best, but most irrational advice, I think for your situation, is to get whatever you want. You'll likely never benefit from 10 instead of 8 cores, but if that gives you a few extra years of pride in your purchase, then why not get it? It's just a chip, one way or another. In a few years the i7 and i9 chips will start showing up on eBay for a bargain, "pulled from functional systems" and with black sharpie writing all over their caps, while we all lust after the newest iteration of product. These iMacs are luxury products. Somebody wanting to create something badly enough will end up finding a way to create it on vastly inferior hardware, and often enough they do it better than the "pros" with "high-end" equipment. I'm framing this as an emotive decision, because I don't think it's a technical one, and that's totally fine. There can be a real disadvantage to framing everything in terms of benchmarks, comparisons, and rationalism; but there is always a real pleasure in being emotionally satisfied, to a degree of course. Most of the difference that we're debating is the equivalent of a couple of months of phone bills or a month of groceries. Over the 3-7 year lifespan of your machine, does that really matter?

I picked up a tier-3 base model of the 2020s because I wanted and (mostly) needed it. I didn't need anything more than that, but it wouldn't have been ruinous for me if I did overbuy. If you want the i9 and upgraded graphics and it won't unbalance you financially, then buy it and enjoy it! Savour those new-Apple-product smells! Use it. Create something meaningful.
 
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SkiHound2

macrumors regular
Jul 15, 2018
232
163
I'm in the camp with the i7. $400 seems a big premium for the gains. The 2020 with i7 seems to be slightly faster than the i9 in the early 2019 iMac. The only time the i9 is going to be meaningfully faster would be if you're are using software that fully exploits the additional cores and threads. For someone who is doing something like heavy duty video editing and rendering as part of their job, then the i9 might make sense. I've used this example before. Let's say you're doing a task that fully exploits all cores/threads and it takes you 60 minutes. with the i9 you're getting a 25% increase in cores/threads so let's say the i9 will do that same task in about 48 minutes (and the real difference is probably going to be closer to 6 minutes). If you're doing that several times a day and nearly everyday, that's a big benefit. If you're doing it only once in a while the difference becomes trivial. You won't notice any difference in normal everyday use. Heck, the i5s will do all of that with elan. So my view of the i9 is that it's not worth $400 for the vast majority of us. The high end gpu is almost certainly a better upgrade for most folks. I've never seen one of the new screens so no opinion on the value of that.
 

SWolfe

macrumors member
Aug 10, 2020
59
52
I agree with KrazyKanuk buying a tricked out iMac for a lot of people (myself for sure) is 60% need and 40% gadget lust. I got the i9 because I don't game but run a lot of VM's that can leverage the extra cores. But even so the i7 with 8 cores is so powerful I knew I probably would not see huge gain. But I love computers and I have never owned an i9 before or anything with 10 cores and the very thought makes me smile. That makes $400 worth it for me. Get what works best for you, but whatever you get enjoy it.
 

BasilFawlty

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jun 20, 2009
469
32
New Mexico
Why do you want the 10GBit Ethernet?

That's a fair question. Truth be told I could probably do just fine without it. I know that I won't be getting any sort of high speed fiber internet any time soon, but there is always a possibility that, if I start doing a lot of 4k and 8k video processing in the future, I could see myself possibly getting something like a NAS with a 10GBit connection. It's not a real "need" right now, but since it's not a super expensive upgrade, I figured I'd get it. If I end up never needing it it's ok since it is backward compatible and might add $5 to the resale value :p
 

quagmire

macrumors 604
Apr 19, 2004
6,550
1,547
I went i7 because I barely need 8 cores now with my 9900K. The 10910 doesn’t offer a significant bump single core performance either to justify the $400. I put that $400 in bumping up to the 2 TB SSD instead.
 
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BasilFawlty

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jun 20, 2009
469
32
New Mexico
Early indications are that the cooling in the iMac isn’t sufficient to keep those extra cores active.

I've heard that too. The good news is, I'm not clicking the buy button until probably the second week in September so there is some time for (hopefully) some good comparison reviews and that will give me more time and hopefully better data before I make the final decision.
 

mlblacy

macrumors 6502a
Sep 23, 2006
509
21
the REAL Jersey Shore
I went with the i7 as I don't work with video or 3d. I think some of the initial reports had the speed difference (if your software was optimized to take advantage of the extra cores) was around 17%. I am moving from a late 2012 machine which is still chugging along, so this should be a huge jump anyhow.

The nano glass was an easier pass. A few reviewers subjectively noted it doesn't look "as nice", and that the contrast was slightly washed out. At a $500 option I would definitely want to see it in person first. I do a lot of still post-processing work, and I don't want anything changing how the images look.It seems more cool, than essential to me. I work right next to two large windows, and reflections aren't a problem (if it was I would re-orient the computer). For critical work though I use black out blinds, which are mostly just to keep things consistent in terms of ambient light.

I put my $$ on third party ram, a larger SSD, a few external storage drives, and the Pro AirPods (and the noise cancellation works as well as my older Bose over the ear ones... amazing!).
 
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Mr. Warbles

macrumors member
Jun 5, 2020
72
64
I work in Audio with Logic Pro X and some powerful plugins. I also do light video editing and I went with the i7. I also do not think the cooling on these machines is significant enough to go with 10 cores. The i9 will throttle down when hot enough and they didn’t add any new fans or anything To prevent that.

for me that $400 was better spent on a 1TB SSD and 64GB of 3rd party RAM I’m adding.
 

BasilFawlty

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jun 20, 2009
469
32
New Mexico
Does anybody have information regarding the fan noise levels of the i7 vs i9?

I'm hoping that before I pull the trigger on my purchase (mid-September) there will be some objective reviews out that directly compare the new i7 to the new i9 for overall performance, heating, fan noise, etc.
 
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rkuo

macrumors 6502a
Sep 25, 2010
871
422
I went with the i7 as I don't work with video or 3d. I think some of the initial reports had the speed difference (if your software was optimized to take advantage of the extra cores) was around 17%. I am moving from a late 2012 machine which is still chugging along, so this should be a huge jump anyhow.

The nano glass was an easier pass. A few reviewers subjectively noted it doesn't look "as nice", and that the contrast was slightly washed out. At a $500 option I would definitely want to see it in person first. I do a lot of still post-processing work, and I don't want anything changing how the images look.It seems more cool, than essential to me. I work right next to two large windows, and reflections aren't a problem (if it was I would re-orient the computer). For critical work though I use black out blinds, which are mostly just to keep things consistent in terms of ambient light.

I put my $$ on third party ram, a larger SSD, a few external storage drives, and the Pro AirPods (and the noise cancellation works as well as my older Bose over the ear ones... amazing!).
Matte displays are objectively worse in every way when in a non-glare situation. They reduce sharpness, color accuracy and contrast. It's a very specific tradeoff where you are spending extra money to make the display slightly worse overall but much better in uncontrolled lighting situations. The versatility can be worth it in some situations, but a little forethought goes a long way here.
 

edib

macrumors member
Dec 11, 2012
44
37
Does anybody have information regarding the fan noise levels of the i7 vs i9?

 

mlykke

macrumors member
Aug 16, 2020
97
62
I'm hoping that before I pull the trigger on my purchase (mid-September) there will be some objective reviews out that directly compare the new i7 to the new i9 for overall performance, heating, fan noise, etc.

I've been trying decide between those two as well. I've now seen multiple reviews that show the i7 to perform better. Apps that only use single core benefit from the higher frequency. The i9 seems to slow down more than the i7 when running heavy loads over time, causing the i7 to run at a higher frequency. So I think only very specific situations would cause the i9 to be a better choice.
So for me it's definitely the i7, 5700 XT Pro, 1TB SSD, 10Gbit Ethernet and then getting 64 or 128 GB ram on the side. I'm also passing on nano-texture since reviews seems to indicate the image is less sharp.
 
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erg100000

macrumors newbie
Aug 15, 2020
23
6
I've been trying decide between those two as well. I've now seen multiple reviews that show the i7 to perform better. Apps that only use single core benefit from the higher frequency. The i9 seems to slow down more than the i7 when running heavy loads over time, causing the i7 to run at a higher frequency. So I think only very specific situations would cause the i9 to be a better choice.
So for me it's definitely the i7, 5700 XT Pro, 1TB SSD, 10Gbit Ethernet and then getting 64 or 128 GB ram on the side. I'm also passing on nano-texture since reviews seems to indicate the image is less sharp.
Could you tell us which reviews you saw and which apps were tested?
 

BasilFawlty

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jun 20, 2009
469
32
New Mexico
I've been trying decide between those two as well. I've now seen multiple reviews that show the i7 to perform better. Apps that only use single core benefit from the higher frequency. The i9 seems to slow down more than the i7 when running heavy loads over time, causing the i7 to run at a higher frequency. So I think only very specific situations would cause the i9 to be a better choice.
So for me it's definitely the i7, 5700 XT Pro, 1TB SSD, 10Gbit Ethernet and then getting 64 or 128 GB ram on the side. I'm also passing on nano-texture since reviews seems to indicate the image is less sharp.

I have not seen any direct comparisons between the two but what you say makes sense. I have seen reviews that say that the new i7 8-core is better in both single core and multi-core performance than last year's i9 8-core.

I'm pretty sure my configuration will be similar to yours - i7 with standard glass. I thought about the nano glass but the simple fact is, where my computer is situated in my office glare has just never been an issue for me so it would not make sense to spend $500 to solve a problem that I don't have. A 1TB SSD was always my plan, but now that I know I'm not getting nano-glass nor the i9 processor, I might use some of that money I won't be spending on those items to upgrade from 1TB to 2TB SSD. I will probably also get the 10GBit Ethernet, though I probably won't have a need for it any time soon. I'm also going to max out the Graphics with 5700 XT Pro. As for memory, I'm looking at two 32GB sticks from OWC to add to the stock 8GB for a total of 72GB
 
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