Graphic Designer Needing Advice Buying Desktop

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Paper&Plastic, Mar 4, 2009.

  1. Paper&Plastic macrumors newbie

    Mar 4, 2009
    I apologize if this is covered elsewhere-if so, just yell at me and point me to the right thread. I see a lot of similar questions here, but not exactly what I'm looking for.

    I'm a mostly print, with some web, designer. At my office I work on a 20" 2.4Ghz iMac (mid 07) w/ 3 g RAM. At home, I'm still on a now very slow Single 1.25Ghz G4 MDD. I use CS3 Design Suite at both locations and it has gotten to the point where I try to do any and all Freelance work at the office now, because the MDD is just a pain to wait on for anything.

    I finally convinced my wife a few months ago that it was time to get a new computer at home and I've been holding out until the new iMacs came out. Now with my limited knowledge and my limited budget, I want to make sure I'm making the right decision.

    I think I've been approved by the bank of Ball & Chain for about a $1200 budget; I may have a little wiggle room here. I'll probably be waiting for our tax return for a few weeks and I was hoping that I can find something new in the refurb section then (or just use the credit card now if I need to jump on the current refurb deals).

    And finally for the dilemma. I'm reading that I may be better off to go with a refurb 24" iMac 2.8 with the ATI Radeon card over the new 24" 2.66 with the NVIDIA 9400 because of shared graphics memory and I just don't know what to go by. Will the DDR3 RAM in the newer models make a difference, or for that matter, will the extra RAM that is available on the newer machine far outweigh the negative of having the video card share onboard RAM (am I even making sense here–I'm still really trying to figure this all out)? And how will Snow Leopard play into all of this? I've seen that question asked a couple times on similar threads, but not yet answered that I can find.

    To further complicate the issue, I was just browsing at some used MacPro's today and found a Dual 2.66 for $1800, and I started to wonder if I should scrimp and save a little longer to do something like this.

    Sorry for the rambling post, but I'm obviously quite frazzled by this and just want to make the right decision and get something that will last me at least a few years time and allow me to do some work from home.

    Thank you in advance for any and all help.
  2. Paper&Plastic thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 4, 2009
    Okay, sorry...

    I'm a first time poster & I looked at this again this morning and have to apologize for the rambling; Hopefully this is more concise and addresses the issue better.

    I'm seeing a lot of talk here that the base graphics card in the new iMac is junk, but since I'm not playing video games, does Adobe CS3 (and CS4 for that matter, hope to upgrade soon), take advantage of any of this enough to notice? Also is the upgrade to 1066Mhz DDR3 memory over the older 800Mhz DDR2 memory noticeable? I'm at 3 Gb of RAM in the 20" 2.4Ghz iMac at work right now and I already notice that I could use more–I usually have at least InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop open at the same time, and at sometimes it's the entire suite (including DreamWeaver, Flash & Bridge). Am I just asking too much from my computer?

    Basically, I just don't want to drop a bunch of money on something that I'm going feel is obsolete in a year and a half. I may be able to replace this within 2-3 years, but I'm hoping up until then, it's bearable to use at least–I've got a G4 1.25Ghz w/ 1.5G RAM at home now and it's about miserable to try to do any photo editing on, and I never try to have multiple apps at once open if possible.

    Sorry if I'm breaking etiquette by replying to my own post, I just want to act quickly if I need to to get the refurb while it's still in stock.

    Thanks again.
  3. nateDEEZY macrumors 6502a

    Jan 24, 2007
    San Francisco, CA
    Either one will honestly be fine for your needs.

    Here is a list of GPU's tested on Mac's with Photoshop CS4
    • MACTEL iMac 8800 GS 512 MB
    • MACTEL 8800 GT 512 MB
    • MACTEL Radeon x1900 512MB
    • MACTEL nVidia Quadrofx 4500 512MB
    • MACTEL nVidia 8600M 256MB
    • PPC nVidia 7800 256MB
    • MACTEL ATI HD 2600 MAC 256MB
    • 17" MACTEL iMac x1600 128MB
    • Macbook Air intel GMA X3100

    Features that take advantage of the above.

    • Smooth Display at ALL Zoom Levels
    • Animated Zoom Tool
    • Animated Transitions when doing a One Stop Zoom
    • Hand Toss Image
    • Birdseye View
    • Rotate Canvas
    • Smooth Display of Non Square Pixel Images
    • Pixel Grid
    • Move Color Matching to the GPU
    • Draw Brush Tip Editing Feedback via GPU
    • 3D GPU features include:
      [*]3D Acceleration ​
      [*]3D Axis ​
      [*]3D Lights Widget ​
      [*]Accelerated 3D Interaction via Direct To Screen ​

    In my case the differences I notice between my desktop and laptop, seem to be processing aperture databases quicker as well as browsing through previews faster. Which could also be broken down to just faster hard drives.

    If you do enough vector design you will notice faster processing times, but i mean as a rough estimate that could be just a difference of processing filters/plugins 10 seconds faster.

    As a side note, when I was taking some Digital Media/Graphic Design courses to learn CS3 (illustrator/photoshop/indesign) we were using Power Mac's. Only noticable difference/"seat of your pants" feeling was application load time and like I had mentioned before vector design.

    We would hardly multitask since we focused on one application at a time, but in regards to your question, you are asking quite a lot out of an iMac IMO, which is an all-in-one essentially with laptop components and just a desktop hard drive.

    Hope that helps.
  4. Paper&Plastic thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 4, 2009
    Thank you nateDEEZY, actually, this does help a great deal. I used to kid myself into thinking that I was a "Power User" when it comes to photoshop, but I really don't use it as much as I used to (used to do a lot of portrait work) and now when I do, it's often just for some color correction and some minor retouching. More than anything I just want it to be fast with the minimal tasks I throw at it. I guess my main concern really is how does this machine hold up for the next few years, and will Snow Leopard show me dramatic increase with one of these machines over the other with the tasks that I throw at it.

    And yes, as I was typing all of that, I realize that I probably am asking a little too much out of this by having so much running at once. I could probably do a better job of trying close a program or two and try to focus on one task at a time. More memory should help with that though(multiple programs that is, not my distaste for opening and shutting down apps), correct?

    If not, does my desire (not necessarily a need) to have multiples apps running justify holding out for a MacPro? Or is that a moot point there as well? Am I just being really dumb about the way I work, or does anyone else here run into this? I've always thought that I'm most productive when I can quickly hop back and forth between programs if need be. Isn't that the whole point of Adobe making the push to better integrate all of their products (i.e. editting a link from within InDesign sending you to the program that you need and then back)?
  5. cdinca macrumors 6502

    Jun 13, 2007
    If you are being dumb, then I am the same kinda dumb. At all times while working I have 5 CS3 programs running (Ai, Dw, In, Ps, Fl), microsoft word, fetch, preview, acrobat, iPhoto, itunes, ical, firefox, safari, thunderbird, and some misc stuff. the only one that ever gives me problems in firefox.
  6. nateDEEZY macrumors 6502a

    Jan 24, 2007
    San Francisco, CA
    If you purchase your computer with a set purpose in mind, it can last well over 3 years. Keep in mind, that CS3 was revolutionary enough in comparison to CS2 that through word of ear I heard of people upgrading to intel mac's to take full advantage of them. I mean right now these programs that are running fine, are so future rich, so many plug-in's exist that I've seen at Photography Expo's I'd be hard pressed to see something "that" revolutionary come out within the next 3 years for most users.

    Yes, more memory would help with keeping that many power applications open. A tip I''ll try to recall from memory that can help you determine if you need more ram: Start the application Activity Monitor, it'll open it on your dock but you have to click the icon on the dock to actually get the panel open. You should see a few tabs towards the bottom of the window select Memory. Under memory you should see 2 columns, you want to look at the column on the right hand side. In that column you should see two rows Page In and Page Out. Take care to look at your Page out. If there is an excessive amount of Page Out's, you might need more ram. Especially since you made the case that you can feel the sluggishness.

    Explination of Page in/Page out:

    I'm no longer familiar with the max ram limitations of the new mac's, but with your needs you should be fine with 4GB of ram and (to put it lightly) safer with 6GB if the new iMac's can handle it.

    IMO, no. Simply because a Mac Pro + Peripherals would be about 2.5 than your budget meaning 3 years from now you could purchase another brand new iMac and who knows by then iMac's may have 8 core processors equivalent if not better than the ones in the current gen Mac Pro's.

    I can't comment on how you work since I'm not familiar with your line of work, or Adobe's true intention. Maybe you can take a step back and breakdown your workflow and find ways to make it more efficent, where it doesn't require you to multi-task that much.

    Since I use mainly Photoshop and Aperture my workflow is pretty linear.

    Hope that helps, Good luck.
  7. bntz313 macrumors 6502

    Jul 11, 2007
    I was in this position just a couple months ago, I went with the quad 2.8ghz mac pro for 1999 refurbished, I was also looking at the 24" imac but decided to get the mac pro for a 100 dollars more.

    Something to check out
  8. Paper&Plastic thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 4, 2009
    wow, this really has been a pretty helpful experience here. Thanks so much for your input and I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one trying to work like this cdinca, I actually did forget to mention all those other programs that are often running as well.

    I have messed with the Activity Monitor in the past, but never really knew what I was looking for. I just checked on it and have probably been away from my machine for a couple of hours but at the end of a pretty light day here for me (with some added loaf time on MacRumors that is), the page ins are at 1.78Gb, while the Page Outs are at 1.05 GB and the Swap used is 1.33G. Is this an alright range, or is this indicative of needing more memory. I'll keep an eye on this for the next few days to see if that is the normal range I'm at or if it changes, but I will definitely be reading up for some more info on this; thanks for the heads up here.

    And I do see what you're saying about the MacPro, I wish I could swing it, but even at what seems like the pretty decent price that bntz313 got his machine for, I don't think I could convince the wife of that until the freelance work really starts to pay off. The more I look at it, I think I'm going to be looking at refurb for sure, and at that, it might even be the new 20" 2.66 once it hits the refurb page. Hopefully this will happen sooner rather than later–I've been wanting to replace the MDD for a long time.

    Thanks again for all the advice.
  9. 11800506 macrumors 65816


    Oct 31, 2007
    Washington D.C. Area
    While the performance differences you would notice may be negligible between the 9400m and the 2600 in the old iMac, I certainly would go for a refurb 2.8 iMac with the 2600 because:

    1) The dedicated card will be better and of more use once Snow Leopard comes out and
    2) Performance differences between DDR2 and DDR3 Ram is negligible and DDR2 Ram is insanely cheap (~$40 for 4GB) so I wouldn't worry about no having enough Ram

    It seems that overall the refurb 2.8 iMac is a much better deal for you since it comes with a dedicated card and will cheaply accept the 4 gb of Ram you need.

    As for a Mac Pro - it would be more powerful and much more future proof, but for what you are doing and your budget, an iMac will likely suffice.
  10. Paper&Plastic thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 4, 2009
    That's one of the things I've been looking all over for and I just haven't found a straight answer to. Is this true that the Radeon card will work better use of Snow Leopard. I think I'm ready to be done with overthinking it if that's the case, but I can't find any real evidence of this; obviously it not being released yet would cause a bit of a hindrance in getting that info, but with all the talk of developers seeds and what not, wouldn't somebody have some sort of actual statistics on performance with different hardware setups.......Benchmarks right, that's what they're called. yeesh...
  11. the matt macrumors newbie

    the matt

    Jan 7, 2009
    San Diego
    I'm in the exact same position as you Paper&Plastic. Im mainly concerned about the future release of SL and how the new iMac will compare to the old ones.

    Why would Apple release an iMac that isnt as good as their old model? Is there any chance that the new Nvidia 9400 and extra DDR3 RAM will perform better with SL?

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