Display Models - is it the hard drive?

bluewooster

macrumors member
Original poster
Jul 18, 2007
85
14
Hi - I'm just about to order a 27" iMac from Apple but needed some quick reassurance...
I live in an area where the closest Apple store is a 9 hour drive so I have only ever seen display models in the larger chain stores in town (Best Buy, Staples, etc). These have all been the base model with the 1TB 7200 rpm drive. In each case, without exception, I've noted that the computer feels quite sluggish compared to my rMB and my 2012 Mac Mini (quad core with 256gb SSD). Loading most applications (even System Preferences) takes >5 "bounces" and is certainly slower to load than I'm accustomed. Is it the hard drive?

My plan was to get the base model with a 256gb SSD. I am not a power user and don't play games. I'm assuming that, with an SSD, even the base model would feel much more responsive and comparable to what I'm used to? (I'm certainly not trying to imply that my rMB or Mac Mini is more powerful than the iMac but the perceived speed difference feels quite dramatic to me.)

Before I order, I'd definitely like to hear from anyone with an SSD or Fusion drive - are you generally satisfied with the overall responsiveness (day to day activity - not handbrake encodes, etc)? Thanks!
 

T'hain Esh Kelch

macrumors 603
Aug 5, 2001
5,205
4,814
Denmark
Why Apple still sells machines without SSD's is just pure greed. It has been the primary upgrade to improve user experience for years, and still they don't have it across the line.
 
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redheeler

macrumors 604
Oct 17, 2014
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Go for the 256 GB SSD, the SSDs in the 5K iMacs are fantastic, super fast. It's too bad they aren't standard, but that's Apple's way of offering a deceptively low starting price, as the people who buy those cheaper HDD-only models are punished with performance.
 

maflynn

Moderator
Staff member
May 3, 2009
67,072
34,162
Boston
Before I order, I'd definitely like to hear from anyone with an SSD or Fusion drive - are you generally satisfied with the overall responsiveness (day to day activity - not handbrake encodes, etc)? Thanks!
I have the 2TB Fusion drive and its been great, but then for my needs, I cannot fit in a 256 or even a 512GB SSD, so it made a lot of sense to embrace the Fusion Drive. I do get near SSD speeds for much of my work, but at times I can tell its not an SSD.

If you can fit your data into a 256GB SSD, then by all means get that model
 

roadkill401

macrumors 6502
Jan 11, 2015
438
83
I have the 2TB Fusion drive and its been great, but then for my needs, I cannot fit in a 256 or even a 512GB SSD

Not wanting to hijack a thread but i am ever curious when people say they need these huge amounts of storage space, what they are using it for?

I will admit that I do have a good 9tb of offline storage that sits on a NAS, but that is more archival in nature. Meaning it is stuff that I want to keep but it sure isn't accessed on a regular basis and/or the required access speed is not mission critical. That storage is backed up but just as important, it had drive redundancy so its far more protected than what is on my local drive. This includes things like photographs, videos, digital copy of my music, older personal documents, application install sources.

I can understand in business wanting to have a large capacity drive if you were say a photographer and did lots of editing, or a video producer. But then my thought would be you'd have that again sitting on an external drive, say a Thunderbolt 4 bay or larger with 1tb SSD in some form of raid for increased performance.

I can agree that the logic of a spinning hard drive only for the local drive seems a bit antiquated now. I grew up with computers from the ordinal Apple ][ and there was no such thing as a hard drive. I remember getting one of the large ESDI 700mb hard drive (for close to $3000 in 1992) that was mind blowing fast and large as the average drive for an IBM was 60-100mb. I get that the OS and apps have grown in size but your OS should not take more than 30gb now and the apps likely should fit inside of another 90gb. Games do take up a large amount of space its not like an iMac is a powerhouse game machine.

I am just curious.
 

bluewooster

macrumors member
Original poster
Jul 18, 2007
85
14
Thanks everyone - that is exactly what I was hoping to hear!
Maybe I could get your thoughts on one other dilemma before I take the plunge - I was planning to get the base model as, truthfully, my 2012 Mac Mini suits all my needs adequately (I am just in the mood for more pixels!). However, I am also of the "in for a penny, in for a pound" mindset and wonder if I shouldn't just pay the difference to get the middle model and upgrade the processor to the 4.0ghz i7. (I'm planning to upgrade memory on my own whichever model I get). I'm guessing that may be a better plan in terms of future proofing (or is it just throwing money away on needless benchmarks that I would never notice?)
 

redheeler

macrumors 604
Oct 17, 2014
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Getting the middle model with a 256 GB SSD is only $100 more for the better M390 GPU, I'd say that's worth it. You can spend a little extra to get the better M395 GPU and 3.3 i5 instead, that configuration should beat an i7 Mac mini quad in every way. The quad-core i5 will be adequate for most day-to-day usage for some years to come, as my 2010 iMac i5 is today.
 

FriarTuck

macrumors 6502
May 26, 2003
442
3
Chicago area
Not wanting to hijack a thread but i am ever curious when people say they need these huge amounts of storage space, what they are using it for?

If I want to use Bootcamp and run Windows on a partition, I have to devote a significant chunk of real estate to that partition. I don't want all of my photos and videos on external drive. And, as you concede, games take quite a bit of space. If I want to back up my iPhone to my mac, and I have a 64GB iPhone.... It all adds up pretty quickly.
 

Fishrrman

macrumors Core
Feb 20, 2009
20,186
7,118
OP:

I see "two ways" you could go.

FIRST WAY (if you don't have "a lot of stuff" to go onto the computer):
Get the 256gb SSD.

SECOND WAY (if you DO have lots of files and need capacity):
Get the 2tb "fusion drive" setup.
This will give you a 128gb SSD portion -and- a 2tb 7200rpm HDD portion.
You could run these "as fused" (as it comes from Apple), or, if you're creative, you could "de-fuse" the two drives and use the 128gb SSD for booting, apps, and accounts, and use the 2tb HDD for large file libraries, etc.

DO NOT get the 1tb fusion model. That one has only a tiny 24gb SSD as a component of its fusion drive.

The "first way" would be the fastest, but offer the lowest storage.
The "second way" would be a little slower (but not much), and offer you enough storage to last for the life of the computer.
 

roadkill401

macrumors 6502
Jan 11, 2015
438
83
If I want to use Bootcamp and run Windows on a partition, I have to devote a significant chunk of real estate to that partition. I don't want all of my photos and videos on external drive. And, as you concede, games take quite a bit of space. If I want to back up my iPhone to my mac, and I have a 64GB iPhone.... It all adds up pretty quickly.

So what you are really saying is that you bought a mac but wish you had a Windows PC (so you run bootcamp). I will agree that the computer can do that, and if that is what you want to do then great. If you start saying you need loads of drive space for your games, then I would question why you bought a mac in the first place? The video cards on EVERY mac pail in comparison to a similarly priced Windows PC and will have equal if not better build parts.

Your point about wanting your photo's and videos, and your iPhone backup on your internal local drive is just that. Your WANT and not a NEED. For most functions the speed difference between an SSD and a hard drive is marginal when dealing with data. For example. If you were listening to music, the computer will pre-cache the next song before what you are listening to runs out. Watching a movie, again the data will be pre-block loaded well before it's needed. Your photo's saved as a jpeg can be fit inside a single sector on a disk so it takes a single read pulse to find it. It's only loading very large files over multiple sectors or true random access that SSD's win out.
Loading Apps are significantly faster on SSD as generally you are reading in multiple files scatters across multiple blocks on the drive and many can get very large. But that said, an external SSD drive running off Thunderbolt is getting almost as fast as a edge connected SSD found inside an iMac.

According to Apple, you should be backing up your iPhone to iCloud and not to your local computer. In fact there can be some great advantages to storing on external. For example, if you had a fire in your house, have you ever tried safely and quickly getting down a stair case with a 27" iMac under your arm? How about the same task with an USB or Thunderbolt external drive?

Not saying it's for everyone, but I have found myself that junk expands to fill every bit of drive space.
 

FriarTuck

macrumors 6502
May 26, 2003
442
3
Chicago area
So what you are really saying is that you bought a mac but wish you had a Windows PC (so you run bootcamp).

In your original post, you said you were "curious." Turns out you're not "curious," you're convinced you know what's best for everyone else and hoping for a chance to criticize other people's choices. Glad to have provided that opportunity for you today.
 

redheeler

macrumors 604
Oct 17, 2014
7,663
7,509
Not wanting to hijack a thread but i am ever curious when people say they need these huge amounts of storage space, what they are using it for?

I will admit that I do have a good 9tb of offline storage that sits on a NAS, but that is more archival in nature. Meaning it is stuff that I want to keep but it sure isn't accessed on a regular basis and/or the required access speed is not mission critical. That storage is backed up but just as important, it had drive redundancy so its far more protected than what is on my local drive. This includes things like photographs, videos, digital copy of my music, older personal documents, application install sources.

I can understand in business wanting to have a large capacity drive if you were say a photographer and did lots of editing, or a video producer. But then my thought would be you'd have that again sitting on an external drive, say a Thunderbolt 4 bay or larger with 1tb SSD in some form of raid for increased performance.

I can agree that the logic of a spinning hard drive only for the local drive seems a bit antiquated now. I grew up with computers from the ordinal Apple ][ and there was no such thing as a hard drive. I remember getting one of the large ESDI 700mb hard drive (for close to $3000 in 1992) that was mind blowing fast and large as the average drive for an IBM was 60-100mb. I get that the OS and apps have grown in size but your OS should not take more than 30gb now and the apps likely should fit inside of another 90gb. Games do take up a large amount of space its not like an iMac is a powerhouse game machine.

I am just curious.
I suppose it's a matter of preference. Some like me prefer a high-performance SSD inside and HDDs for archival/storage outside, while others want the cheapest and simplest way to adequate storage.

When it's 2 TB vs 256 GB for the same price, and someone has 500 GB-1 TB of OS, apps, and files they've built up over the years, which do you think is most tempting to pick?
 
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