Desktop Mac buying advice

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by nmaxcom, Aug 28, 2014.

  1. nmaxcom macrumors member

    Aug 28, 2014

    I want to replace my old desktop computer for a Mac, but I'm just lost at which one to choose. I have a Macbook Pro and I'm pretty happy with its performance, I guess desktop size it'll be even better.

    I work dual monitor in my current desktop, two 23" Acer displays, would I be able to use them with any of Mac's available desktop products? If so, is it easy? I would like to keep my workflow as it is just with a better machine.

    Now to the to options: I immediatly discard the Mac Pro, is way over budget and way over my needs.

    Also, do I have to discard iMac because it already comes with a screen? If that's the case I'm only left with Mac mini, which I'm not sure it has enough power for my needs, does it?

    I'm a designer and a developer and a time waster, in any regular day I'll have 3-4 Adobe apps simultanialy opened as well as code editors, 15 Chrome tabs...

    Also I'd like to be able to play BF3 from time to time (I guess boot camp no problem).

    So please, which one should I buy and why? THanks!
  2. boast macrumors 65816


    Nov 12, 2007
    Phoenix, USA
    What are the specs of your older Desktop that is now computationally inadequate?
  3. nmaxcom, Aug 29, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2014

    nmaxcom thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 28, 2014
    These are my specs (I'm not really good at hardware stuff, I better paste from the program):

    • Intel(R) Core(TM) i7 CPU 920 @ 2.67GHz
      • Description: Intel64 Family 6 Model 26 Stepping 5
      • Architecture: x64
      • Number Of Cores: 4
      • Number Of Logical Processors: 8
    • Total Memory: 12,00 GB
    • ASUSTeK Computer INC. Rampage III Extreme
    • BIOS Date: 03/31/10 11:02:49 Ver: 08.00.15
    • (1) Maxtor 6L200S0 ATA Device (2) MAXTOR STM3500320AS ATA Device (3) ST32000641AS ATA Device
    • (1) AMD Radeon HD 5900 Series (2) AMD Radeon HD 5900 Series
    • Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit 7601 Multiprocessor Free Service Pack 1

    One of the things I'm pretty certain of is that these hard drives are slow, I don't know if it's because they are not very current or what.

    The Windows Experience Index thing gives every item at least a 7'5 (out of 7'9) except the "Primary hard disk" which gives a 5'9.

    Either way, the laptop that I had before this MacBook Pro was an ASUS UX31 and it worked wonderfully well. Yet I've seen a major difference when I bought the MBP. Things load very quickly, I am more productive, everything just works snappier and better.:eek:

    I still like Windows, but I have no problem loading Windows7 and Debian in my Parallels boxes. And if I need full performance for an AAA game for example I always have BootCamp, right?

    I wouldn't like to spend more than a 1000€ on this but it's not strict.

    So, what's your advice?

  4. AcesHigh87 macrumors 6502a


    Jan 11, 2009
    New Brunswick, Canada
    Don't discard the iMac just because of the multiple screen hinges. I run an iMac with a second monitor and it runs beautifully. You can set it up to run the iMac screen just like any other monitor.

    Keep in mind though if you want to use both your current monitors and the iMac you'll need the 27" version that has 2 thunderbolt ports (in your case, 2 mini-display ports).

    iMacs, IMO, are best bang for your buck with macs. Bunch of power and a cost that isn't too high. However a high end mini could do the job as well.

    What I worry about is whether or not, in your price range, you can get a computer that spec wise is an upgrade. What you're using seems pretty powerful, at least on the surface.
  5. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    Keep your current beast


    [/COLOR]To be honest sounds like you have a good setup there and you like windows so why would you not just put in a fast ssd (Samsug EVO is good and cheap) and see how your current machine works then????

    You will not get a similar setup in a mac without going for a nMP, as you say too expensive, and the mac mini will not game well enough for your needs (If it ever gets updated it might be worth a punt).

    The only one likely to get close to what you want is the 27" Imac and that is at least 2x your $1000 budget.

    EDIT: just checked your hard drives seems they are ols and slow and on sata 1.5 that is your bottle neck if you can get sata 2 speeds it might be worth keeping it but otherwise a new windows box seems your best bet.
  6. nmaxcom thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 28, 2014
    Well, I agree it looks powerful but it was buying the MBP and realized I have a desktop from the past. Really.

    So... you think the hard drives could make the whole thing feel slower than a cow?

    Is there any way to be more certain? I wouldn't really want to buy a new SSD (I don't have any to try) and see that things haven't improved much.
  7. campyguy macrumors 68040

    Mar 21, 2014
    Portland / Seattle
    I'll chime in. I run a small company that is mixed Mac/PC and have Macs with Windows in VMs using Parallels. I have a few guys that are Windows only, using CAD and Adobe apps. Your PC is fine and needs a few tweaks and a small investment, and your workflow really needs adjustment - I've taken older, slower PCs and made them work well for a few years after they might have been binned.

    First, your Maxtor 6L200S0 drive is a dog - SATA 1.5Gb/s, while your other two drives are SATA 3.0Gb/s and SATA 6.0Gb/s, respectively. Replace that drive with a small SSD (especially if it's your startup and applications drive) and install Windows on it. Now. I'll wait.

    Next, while your ordering a new SSD for your new primary drive, consider increase the RAM - you're running 64-bit Windows. Install Windows and your apps on this new drive.

    Get a hammer. Destroy the Maxtor 6L200S0 drive.

    If it were me and my PC, I'd remove everything from one of your two other drives (they're both 7200 RPM drives, but I don't know what your bus speed is - I'm surmising its at SATA 3.0Gb/s), I'd choose the smallest and designate that drive as the paging/cache/scratch disk. More on this follows.

    I'd also likely replace one or both of your other drives as they're a few years old. The Seagate would be the one I'd retain of the three. See the following, but a second smallish SSD or a fast platter would be ideal.

    Move all of your files to the third drive, and plan to work from that drive.

    Your drive setup would look like this: C Drive - SSD for boot and applications drive; E Drive - Seagate for files and general storage; F Drive - new blank disk (for caches/paging/scratch, see next point).

    Adjust the virtual memory settings from the default to a suitable fixed cache size AND designate the fastest drive you have as the paging disk, using a cache that's at least 24-36GB (2x-3x times the amount of RAM that you have installed). Lots of what/why/how are summed up and explained here: - I've been setting up PCs like that since Win 3.1 for CAD work - and I've turned boat anchors into zippy machines many times over. The rest of that website's advice regarding Win7 is straightforward and helpful.

    If you use any apps that can accommodate a scratch disk, like Photoshop, use your paging disk as the scratch disk.

    When I'm done with my Adobe apps, I generally will log out or restart. Adobe apps have been RAM and resource hogs since I started using PS at Version 3.

    Last: Chrome is a freaking RAM hog. Stop using it while working - get a cheap Nexus tablet. I use an iPad Air for my other stuff, and put it next to my Mac - for my browsing/email. Google should call its browser "Google (uses all available PC resources) Chrome".

    Make a few minor and easy tweaks, make a small investment, and you'll be happy with your PC for a few more years. SSD - yes. Paging/scratch disk - yes. More RAM - maybe. Adjust Win7 settings and workflow - absofrickinlutely. Cheers.
  8. L Oquence macrumors regular

    L Oquence

    Jul 10, 2014
    perhaps an older mac pro would work? you can get the 2010-2012 models which are all fairly recent for much cheaper, and then you can always upgrade the graphics cards and hard drives to your content.

    then again your current set up seems more bottlenecked by an old drive that needs replacing than anything else tbh
  9. JohnPi314 macrumors member


    Jun 27, 2014
    BF3 will require a discrete graphics card (I think) so I see an iMac in your future.
  10. Yebubbleman macrumors 68030


    May 20, 2010
    Los Angeles, CA
    First off, I have to ask, why you are discarding your old computer? This will play a bit of a hand into my recommendation. I also ask as your old computer, on the surface doesn't seem that sluggish. Yes, it's a first gen i7, but for most tasks, that's still plenty of power.

    Second off, while the iMac comes with a screen, it's your best non-Mac-Pro option for performance; a Mac mini won't offer you much performance from your current PC. You can also use the two Thunderbolt ports to attach your two monitors to it and have three screens; which isn't shabby at all. If you go the iMac route; do NOT go for the entry level 21.5" model as it is drastically slower than the other ones and is a terrible bang-for-buck. Secondly, for all other 21.5" models, you'll want to max out the RAM at 16GB as the option to do so later requires a technician to completely tear apart your iMac and that is costly. If you get a 27" iMac, the RAM is user-installable and very easy to do; plus aftermarket RAM is cheaper than Apple's so you'll want to not beef up RAM at the time of purchase. Storage is something you'll want to decide on at the time of purchase as that is also not user-upgradable (if on the 21.5", go with either an all SSD drive or a Fusion drive; on the 27" it sort of doesn't matter; just make sure you have enough capacity).

    The Mac mini is still rocking processor technology that is two years old. While it is true that the rest of the Macs are rocking processor technology that is now one year old, Intel hasn't come out with anything to replace it just yet. Point being that it's not really worth replacing your desktop with four year old desktop processor technology with a Mac mini with two year old laptop processor technology; unless you REALLY hate Windows THAT much, but even then, an iMac makes more sense.
  11. nmaxcom thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 28, 2014
    Could you recommend me a particular SSD you think is good? (from amazon for example, I don't live in the US and most things from amazon can get here)

    I don't think I ever get close to max out on RAM, would you still suggest it? Also last week I cleaned my computer and it seems i've used up all RAM slots.

    Besides one drive to store movies, I have crap I've been keeping from prior reinstalls. I've always wanted to have just one drive maybe two and this maybe the opportunity to shed weight.

    Thanks! This is gold.

    But if you have several GBs of RAM available, would you still not use it? If so, why?

    You guys have convinced me to keep my Win machine. I'll order the drive campyguy suggests and do all those tweaks.

    I really have no problem with Win, I've been using all the good windows versions (win98, WinXP, Win7...) happily. I'm just ignorant when it comes to hardware. And cooking.

    This thread is helping me a lot, thank you guys.
  12. campyguy macrumors 68040

    Mar 21, 2014
    Portland / Seattle
    Checked back in, it's been a busy day. I'm pleased that we can help you out.

    The short(ish) responses:
    If it were my money, I'd get a Samsung 840 EVO Laptop Migration Kit. And make sure that your desktop has or order a sled that will adapt the 2.5" EVO to your desktop. The EVO is a sweet drive, comes recommended by lots of the tech rags, and the migration kit is US$10 more but comes with cables and software that will ease your move onto that drive. I use MS Office, Adobe's CC, and don't have a huge amount of software on my daily Mac - and there's 275GB of data on it (I've got a 1TB drive, and I move a lot of my work files to a network drive just as I'd recommended to you), so I'd recommend at least a 512GB EVO. You'll wonder why you didn't do this sooner... and, Amazon can hook you up with that drive kit.

    About RAM, you didn't offer whether you use Photoshop. If you use PS - get more RAM. As I'd alluded earlier, and from that web site I referred you to - Windows will grab as much RAM as it can, so some apps will start looking for disk caches (your startup drive) instead of available RAM. I made a 13 year old box that an 82-year-old friend uses actually pleasant to use by maxing out the RAM on her old Dell (XP SP3) before MS pulled the plug on XP (she's using an LTE iPad rMini now!). If I were buying a Mac or a Win box, I'd opt for 24-32GB. A long time ago I roomed with a guy who was into gaming - Dave paid $800 for a 8MB stick of RAM, and that was a good deal then (1992); RAM is cheap now, and I'd max it out. Put what you have in a drawer. But, also, and an SSD and the other tweaks I'd offered will make your PC so much more efficient and faster I'll stick with SSD first, tweaks and workflow revisions first, and RAM third.

    About the "GBs of RAM available" claim, it's crap and I don't buy it. This is directed at Windows and not at you. See my previous point. If you're evaluating your system, you're not using PS/Chrome/Word/et cetera - trust me, if you're using the apps you've offered and Windows, and have 12GB of RAM and 64-bit Windows, your system can use more RAM. Period. But, I'll stick to my previous point in that you have other places to invest your time and money.

    About the two previous points, seriously, installing an SSD, clearing out the cruft and modifying your workflow, and tweaking Windows to work for you - try those first before buying additional RAM. Before SSDs, I used RAID0 setups with 7200-15k drives and moving data over different buses to keep from going nuts. With SSDs, they're so fast that the rest of a system can really suck and you wouldn't know it. I'd spend more money on a quality, bigger SSD before laying out more money on RAM - especially on a 3-4 year old PC like yours.

    I also won't back off on offering that you should consider a tablet to satisfy your browsing/email needs. I use a Logitech K811 keyboard - it can pair to 3 different devices at the same time; I tap on a button and it changes from my Mac to my iPad in a few seconds - I don't even have to open up Outlook or Mail, since I can respond or compose on my iPad now. Mobile Safari is sweet, and the iOS 8 Mobile Safari is better - I don't need to open Mail/Outlook/Chrome/Safari on my Mac now. Just saying.

    Cheers! :D
  13. tillsbury macrumors 65816

    Dec 24, 2007
    Agree with the above, except that I'd just go for the biggest SSD I could and forget about trying to use a spinning drive for any real work. If you get an SSD of between 512-1Tb then you do everything on there, using the faster of your existing drives as a storage for longer-term data (projects you're not working on, music, video, and so on), and the slower drive as a continuous backup for your SSD.

    You're not going to see much performance increase from your existing machine (with an SSD) without going Mac Pro.
  14. nmaxcom thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 28, 2014
    So then you would be against keeping the windows machine? Why? What would you get instead?
  15. nmaxcom thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 28, 2014
    I'm checking that out right now, looks pretty slick. That kit thing means I won't have to reinstall anything? Is that like a clone thing?

    I definately use PS. I should have mentioned that I do webdesign and development and tons and tons and tons of online reading. So I use mid-big boys like phpstorm, illustrator, photoshop etc open simultaneously most of the time + an average of 20 chrome tabs accross my two screens. I just screencap info about the RAM situation:


    I don't know the difference between all those numbers but in "Available" right now it says I have more than 5GB. After I apply all your tweaks, do you think I'll still be needing more RAM? I think i can afford it, i'm just trying to learn on the process. If so but how can I do it if all the motherboard RAM slots are used? (I'm really useless at hardware stuff as you can see).

    IIRC I have 6 RAM cards, so I guess they are 2GB each. Should I change one of mine for one of these?

    This seems crazy to me, i'm absolutely used to and very comfortable using my gmail in one of my tabs, but you seem to know your business so let me ask: does copy&paste work with that set up? Does the gmail webapp really slow a system down?
  16. campyguy macrumors 68040

    Mar 21, 2014
    Portland / Seattle
    I've only got a few minutes before I have to bounce - heading out of town for work for a few days, so short replies for now.

    On the kit, yes - it's a migration kit. Slick stuff, that. It clones and readies your drive. Samsung makes just plain stupid ads (you ought to see their home market ads - yeesh!), but their SSDs don't need ads - they're just that good. Their migration software is too.

    IMO, if you use PS, max out your RAM. The last two iMacs I specced out had 32GB of RAM. I was happy with that. You should watch your RAM diagrams while you work. Making those tweaks - which you should have done awhile ago :rolleyes: - will help if you don't want to invest more in your system besides an SSD.

    The RAM kit you linked to was for a Mac, but I know what you mean. Head over to Crucial's website - they've got two configuration tools (including an automatic one) that can tell you exactly which RAM to select, and they have internal and external buy links. More RAM is better, especially with Adobe apps.

    Regarding email via Chrome - Chrome is a resource pig. I do use it - on a Mac and in Win 7/8. Opera is the same, for some sad reason - it doesn't have the same stuff built in, like Flash - but it's pegging my systems sometimes for no apparent reason. I stick to my guns on this one if you want performance - no Chrome. Chrome will also go after your disk caches if there's not enough RAM. IMO it's just sloppy coding. And I have a maxed out rMBP with 10+ times the throughput than any of your hard drives...
    Take care, and cheers!
  17. tillsbury macrumors 65816

    Dec 24, 2007
    I would get a Mac Pro. If my needs were slightly lower, I would say MBPr (and I did replace a Windows desktop of similar specs to yours but with 512Gb SSD with a MBPr back in the middle of 2012). But if you already have a MBP and you're wanting more oomph, then Mac Pro is the way to go.

    It depends on whether you need a laptop, and whether you are willing to trade some performance for it. I went with the MBPr as it was the first portable laptop to have something approaching desktop power and to have an SSD of greater than 512Gb and a display greater than HD (both were requirements).

    I could do with more horsepower and less portability, and so when the time is right (i.e. when they are announced) I will be replacing my MBPr with a Mac Pro (as soon as the next processor upgrade is announced), and for portability will go for a Retina Macbook Air (as soon as that's announced), and whatever 30"+ 4K display is right for the Mac Pro.
  18. blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
    Get the mini. Cheapest quad i7 machine, and the performance is very close to quad i7 bto imacs and the entry macpro. With dual ssd in raid 0 it even scores the highest io speed of any mac.
  19. campyguy macrumors 68040

    Mar 21, 2014
    Portland / Seattle
  20. nmaxcom thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 28, 2014
    I have been looking forward to the CC subscription, but it is still too expensive for me. I'm mostly a skilled hobbyist, it is only very recently that I've giving in taking some clients in my spare time. I think i'm enjoying it so I'll make more time for it, hoping to then pay for that CC.

    I wanted to thank you for all your help in here. Yesterday I bought the EVO you suggested, it's been a huge pain to set it up (MBR problems, BIOS problems...) but nothing that google and few hours of patience can't sort out :) I haven't had time to play with it a lot but the system already feels very improved. I can't wait to apply the settings you suggested as well.

    So thank you very much.
  21. campyguy macrumors 68040

    Mar 21, 2014
    Portland / Seattle
    You're welcome! Enjoy!

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