First iMac in 4 years- need help!

Discussion in 'iMac' started by Greenhoudini, Oct 13, 2013.

  1. Greenhoudini macrumors newbie

    Apr 20, 2013
    Hey all,


    I used to own an iMac (Late-2009) until I sold it in 2011, and we've been sharing a mid-2009 MacBook pro 13" since (I upgraded the RAM to 8GB and the HDD to 750GB). No SSD in place of the optical drive for me since my wife vetoed it.

    I've been using the MacBook for coursework, using Lightroom, handbrake, and to act as a media hub so we can access media through our iPhones, iPad, and Apple TV (often these run at the same time). I've been wanting to buy an iMac for a while but have been put off because I've been needing money for other things around the house.

    Anyway, my wife will now be studying for her MCAT, and we'll both need a computer full-time for when we come home after work.


    It's been so long since we bought a computer, we've fallen behind on the ins-and-outs of macs in general. At present, the MacBook uses about 6-7GB RAM on average, and when I run handbrake, the CPU usage regularly hits 200%. Aside from that it runs quite well (if slowly, at times) and I anticipate it should run well for 12-18+ months longer.

    Our budget is up to $2,000 ($2,200 at a push). We can use education pricing too, so that helps. I just don't want to buy a computer that is too powerful for our needs. We went to the Apple store yesterday and my wife fell in love with the 27". I could still use the 21.5"; I just don't know if the jump to the 27" is worth it from a specification POV?

    I would want this computer to last 4-5 years, so would like to "future-proof" as best as I could with this machine. I don't like that the 21.5" RAM can't be upgraded except at the time of purchase. In terms of what processor, I admit I am a complete novice, so any help would be much appreciated. Also, I'm still unsure about the fusion drive. I don't doubt its speed performance, I just wonder if it will last since it hasn't been out that long in comparison to HDDs. It may be unfounded, but it's just a worry that I have. I'd prefer the 3TB HDD/Fusion drive in size.

    Sorry to make this post quite long; I just wanted to let everyone know as much information as they needed in offering their opinions.

  2. comatory macrumors 6502a


    Apr 10, 2012
    Handbrake will always push the CPU to its limits. Your MBP acts just fine considering its specs and age.

    Core i processors are huge jump compared to Core2Duos. You will feel the significant boost especially in Hanbrake and Lightroom.

    If your partner likes 27" version then I would go for it. Apple RAM that would go in 21.5 model (since its hard to replace) costs so much that I would go with 27 inches anyway.

    Just go with the base model if you dont trust fusion drive. Most people here will agree that its perfectly fine to add SSD boot drive later via USB3 connection. Its way cheaper than paying for Apples SSD and you dont have to lose warranty opening up the iMac.

    Buy a base model. It will still have 2 free RAM slots. Put one 8gb stick in there which will give you nice 16 gigs. i5 processor is perfectly fine for what you do. Expect Hanbrake encodes to speed up at least five times.
  3. Greenhoudini thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 20, 2013
    Thank you for your response :)

    That's sealed my thoughts about the 21.5" vs 27" debate then- the 27" wins! The RAM upgrade was a big factor for me. I hate the idea of not being able to upgrade on my own in the future.

    I'd be interested in hearing people's thoughts about the fusion drive. I know it's designed as a compromise between functionality and price, but I get (from a really preliminary look) the feeling that I could get a decent SSD that I could boot from for less than the price jump between the 3TB HDD and the 3TB Fusion drive. If I get the fusion drive, am I really paying for a more aesthetically pleasing looking desk, having no external SSD on it? I'll continue to read other posts, but I would be interested in other's thoughts.

    Thanks again!

  4. comatory macrumors 6502a


    Apr 10, 2012
    Well yes basically you're paying for convenience. If you;re not so sure about Fusion Drive get Apple Care along with your new iMac. If anything breaks down, they will fix it for you.

    As finances go, getting external SSD makes more sense. Any SSD will do, for example I'm fine with 128GB for OS X and my Applications, those are really cheap nowadays. USB3 enclosure costs only little.

    You could get TwelveSouth Backpack so the disk doesn't get in the way. I think having external boot drive is a plus. In case of failure you just plug in the new one. Imagine sending iMac for servicing or opening it up after warranty expires.

    Yes it does "blemishes" the visual look but since it's a stationary machine and you sit in front of it, having SSD in Backpack won't be really noticeable.
  5. MrGimper macrumors 603


    Sep 22, 2012
    Andover, UK
    If you go for an external SSD in a USB3 enclosure then I would recommend getting an enclosure that supports USB Attached SCSI Protocol (UASP). It boosts performance significantly and is fully supported on the iMac.

    I have several of these StarTech enclosures. 2.5 inch Enclosure for USB 3.0 External SATA III Solid State Hard Drive ...

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