Entry Mac Pro or Top Spec iMac?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Memzee, Jun 29, 2011.

  1. Memzee macrumors member

    Mar 22, 2008
    Hi.. I've been a Mac user for about 6 years now. My iMac 24" 3.06GHz (non DDR3) is starting to struggle with handling my camera RAW files in Aperture.

    Now, I'm going to try upgrading RAM to 4GB and a clean OS install, and see how I get on with that.

    But I'm already starting to look at a new machine.. so I have two, maybe three options:

    1. iMac 27" 3.4GHz i7
    2. Entry level Mac Pro
    3. Hackintosh

    My questions are:

    1. How easy will it be to add an internal SSD to the iMac myself?
    2. How will the Mac Pro compare in terms of performance?

    I like the idea of being able to upgrade the Mac Pro easily, but it's obviously more expensive. Hackintosh is a cheaper alternative, but I'm worried about future software updates etc. breaking everything as it will be my main machine.

  2. Panch0 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 23, 2010
    Not easy at all. Well, I guess it depends on your skill level, but if you're asking the question you probably shouldn't do it. I've built many computers over the years, and done the opti-bay HSS replacement on my MBP, but after checking out a couple of how-to videos there is no way I would ever want to crack open my iMac. I just did a really quick search for "256GB SSD" - the prices on the first page of results ranged for $350 to $550. After I buy tools (suction cups, etc) spend my time doing surgery and reconfigure the OS afterward, even the max savings of $250 doesn't seem worth it to me...

    As of today, I believe the maxed out (with SSD) iMac is benching as the fastest Mac ever. That will likely change with the next Pro refresh, especially with the inclusion of SSD. If you've been generally pleased with your current iMac, you'll probably find a new one "Fast enough" (as hard as it is to believe tht such a thing exists);)
  3. Lagmonster macrumors 6502

    Sep 22, 2007
    I think you will be happy with the new iMac as it seems you are not opposed to upgrading on a regular basis.
  4. Dark Void macrumors 68030

    Dark Void

    Jun 1, 2011
  5. foidulus macrumors 6502a

    Jan 15, 2007
    I would also add to this that swapping out the hd is pretty much a non-starter, Apple attaches a proprietary heat sensor to the hd and removing this causes the fans to spin non-stop. You can get a caddy and replace the DVD drive, but you cannot have the SSD, hd, and DVD simultaneously unless you order it from the factory that way. Apple does not put the mounts in for the SSD unless you configure your iMac with the SSD + hd option(also keep in mind you won't be able to upgrade your HD later, though you could probably upgrade the SSD later if you chose)
  6. talmy macrumors 601


    Oct 26, 2009
    Clean OS install probably won't matter, but if your system has 2GB of RAM, the upgrade is important! That might be all you need to do and it's far less expensive than a new Mac!

    Other than that, I agree with all the previous repliers.
  7. mreg376 macrumors 6502a


    Mar 23, 2008
    Brooklyn, NY
    Looks like your current iMac may be upgradeable to 6GB. That might help, or at least help delay your decision.
  8. 7thMac macrumors 6502

    May 10, 2010
    Your machine is already quite fast but has insufficient RAM. Try that first.
  9. Memzee thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 22, 2008
    Thanks all.

    I've got two 2GB sticks from Crucial making their way to me (slowly) as we speak. I read that you might be able to get away with a 4GB and a 2GB but I always thought RAm had to be matched in the new iMacs?
  10. s4yunkim macrumors regular

    Feb 6, 2009
    AFAIK, it's not a requirement for them to be matched, but if they are, you get a little bump in performance from dual-channeling (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dual-channel_architecture). Some say it gives a huge performance boost, some say otherwise, but to the point, no, it is not required that the pairs of ram are the same. :)
  11. AppliedMicro macrumors 6502a

    Aug 17, 2008
    It gives a huge boost in terms of RAW memory throughput - which translates to only little in terms of actual application performance. If you have to choose between more RAM and matched pairs, OWC did a couple of benchmarks a few years ago, coming to the conclusion that more RAM is better than less, even if the latter are in matched pairs:


    I guess that might still hold true today, provided that your application/usage pattern make actual use of that added memory. (though shared-memory GPUs might slightly swing the advantage towards matched pairs in application where memory-bandwith is critical)
  12. Memzee thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 22, 2008
    Hmm.. ok well I'll see how I get on with the 4GB cos they're ordered now. I think if I still need more than I'll skip the 6GB and go straight for a new machine. I don't think having 6GB will really add to the re-sale value.

    I'm finding it hard to resist a machine with the new quad core processors and OS installed on an SSD. Watching videos on YouTube is not good for my wallet - those things fly!
  13. Seo macrumors regular

    Jun 1, 2009
    Cupertino, California
    More RAM should hold you out until the next Mac Pro release. I'd recommend that over the iMac, as the iMac is a dead-end for any kind of hardware upgrade. If you're considering RAID through Thunderbolt, the price is actually higher than just springing for a Mac Pro.

    For the harddrive space, customizability, PCI-E, and longer lasting nature of the Mac Pro, I consider it a win over the iMac for users with higher needs.
  14. Vantage Point macrumors 65816

    Mar 1, 2010
    New Jersey
    . My iMac 24" 3.06GHz (non DDR3) is starting to struggle with handling my camera RAW files in Aperture.

    Now, I'm going to try upgrading RAM to 4GB

    Any new Mac with a iX CPU will be better than what you have. I had a 2009 iMac with a 3.06 C2D like yours and now use a 2010 MBP with a i5 2.4GHz CPU and it benchmarks at 50% faster. The 2011's are even better.

    Also, for Aperture to really move use 8GB of RAM (or more). 2Gb of RAM is choking it and 4Gb leaves little room for anything else - remember than since Snow Leopard 64 bit programs can use all the ram you have - no so in the old days. Also, more ram lets you use the RAM instead of the hard drive as a scratch disk. Check out the number of Page Out's in your Activity Monitor after you have done a bit of work in Aperture. If you have enough RAM then that number will be in the MB range, if you are low then it will be in the GB range

    Bottom line is any new Mac, MBP, iMac or MP will be run Aperture significantly smoother than what you have. Aperture runs very well on my MBP - see specs below
  15. Memzee thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 22, 2008
    Well the RAM is in and I can see the difference.. bigger than I expected actually.

    Before, if I had any apps open with Aperture the system would all but grind to a halt. Now Aperture opens in about 3-4 seconds and I can have 15 tabs in Chrome open, and iTunes playing without any noticeable slow down.

    I'll wait to see how it deals with Lion when it's released, and what the new Mac Pros are like.

    But thanks for the advice everyone!
  16. spacepower7 macrumors 68000

    May 6, 2004
    I talked to an Apple Retail Store manager about getting an authorized service provider to upgrade the 27" iMac with an SSD, so I could have my own choice of SSD plus standard apple installed hard drive and DVD.

    He said it would not violate the warranty and to keep a copy of the paperwork if I ever have to deal with apple for repairs.

    I found a local authorized service center that will install the SSD for me for a mere $80.
  17. Duluth Baptist macrumors member

    May 9, 2011
    Duluth, MN

    When you said "I'm going to upgrade to 4g of RAM" my eyebrows raised. I have 4gb of RAM on my machine and that is barely enough when I am doing more than a couple of things. It's not surprising that you were having slowdown issues; what happens is when the programs you have open use up all of your available RAM, your OS starts "paging out" to the hard drive, borrowing hard drive space to store information on what you have running. The hard disk runs very slowly, thus the problem of Aperture "grinding to a halt." It's not a processor problem.

    Since you're open to upgrading, you can certainly do well with a new machine, but it doesn't sound like it's required in your case. If the heaviest stuff you'll be doing is Aperture, you can probably stick with a 27" (with its beautiful screen), add some RAM yourself, and enjoy it for years to come.

    A Mac Pro is a lot of machine for Aperture--it will handle everything just fine, but you'll be paying through the nose for what could be more computer than you need.

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