I need an honest opinion - iMac i5 or i7?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Adamster, Mar 13, 2018.

  1. Adamster macrumors newbie


    Mar 13, 2018
    Hi everyone!

    So I am contemplating buying a new iMac to upgrade my previous one, and I need some help!

    My current specs are:
    Late 2012 iMac, 27 inch
    2,9 GHz Intel Core i5
    8 GB 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM
    NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660M 512 MB
    Operating on MacOS Sierra (10.12.16)

    I can usually run most of my day to day tasks well, although sometimes i have a hard-freeze when I have too many windows open at the same time. It's the gaming and video-editing that got me in the market for updating.

    * I have a Bootcamp partition on my mac on which I run Windows 7.
    * I play games like Cities Skylines, Skyrim, Tomb Raider, The Sims, Firewatch and Age of Empires.
    * I'd love to also play games like Bioshock or GTA, but I doubt I can run them now.
    * I notice that my Cities Skylines and Tomb Raider games have a real hard time with their FPS. Rarely get over 25/30. The latest Tomb Raider game in the franchise I could not even play, so I returned it.

    Editing and designwork
    * I use Adobe a lot for video editing (I'm a documentary filmmaker), transcribing and spotting large materials both video and audio, photography and designing in Indesign and Photoshop. Especially now that 4 and 5K files are getting more standard, I notice my iMac can't keep up all the time. Especially with rendering and exporting.

    So I am looking for a new 27 inch iMac!

    I heard that for gaming, you have to look at the graphics card, and get the best option available, so that would lead me to the Late 2017 iMac 27 inch, 3,8 GHz with the Radeon Pro 580 GB memory. 2600 euro OUCH.

    My question is however: Should I also spend even more money, and upgrade to the i7 now that I am investing anyway? I'm planning to at least use this computer for the next 5 years and I want it to last as long as possible. Or is the current i5 more than enough for me for the coming years with the way I would use it?
    For me, an extra 240 on top of the 2600 would be a lot, so I'm trying to find out if the difference between the two is that significant or not.

    * How much of a difference would it mean though between the i5 and i7 for my kind of use?
    * How much of a difference would the i5 and i7 be compared to my current iMac? If it would be like "The i5 would be a 60% upgrade and the i7 a 65%" or something?
    * Is it worth the money? Or is a better idea for me to upgrade the 8GB of memory with more RAM from a third party?
    * I heard about how the iMac will not have a full 5K resolution if you bootup through Bootcamp? Does this also mean that if you boot through Bootcamp it would not use all the power I would pay extra for with the i7?
    * I also hear stories about the fan being really loud in the i7? What's this about exactly?

    And please, I know that macs are not gaming computers, I get that.. I use Apple for all my work, the gaming is extra, but it is one of the reason why I am contemplating upgrading to i7.

    Any help or tips is greatly appreciated! I am afraid my geek-girl factor is not high enough for me to answer my own questions :p

    Thank you!
  2. steve123 macrumors 6502

    Aug 26, 2007
    Well, there is the iMac Pro now and I would recommend taking a close look at it.

    But overall, if you can, wait until Intel fixes Meltdown and Spectre hardware. It will probably be a year to wait but worth it. Purchasing a lobotomized computer these days is not something I can recommend to anyone.
  3. Adamster thread starter macrumors newbie


    Mar 13, 2018

    The iMac Pro is twice the money, and for me the extra 240 euro is already an issue, so the Pro is not an option.

    What do you mean with the Intel Meltdown and Spectre hardware?
  4. steve123 macrumors 6502

    Aug 26, 2007
    The underlying hardware problem that Meltdown and Spectre exploited needs to be fixed. Since it is a hardware problem, Intel needs to fix it at the hardware level. That's probably going to take a year or more. Hopefully, they will get their act together and get something out sooner. But, then its gotta intersect with the product roadmap ... so, probably will take a while.

    There have been some deep discounts on the iMac Pro ... I've seen some reports here on Mac Rumours that as much as $1000 discount. Not sure if anyone outside the US is offering these deals.
  5. chscag macrumors 68040


    Feb 17, 2008
    Fort Worth, Texas
    Right there is reason enough to spend the extra cash on an i7. Yes, that particular iMac can be expensive adding an i7 CPU but it will be well worth your time and effort if you do a lot of video editing. The best machine would be an iMac Pro but if that's way past your budget, then go with the i7 and the best graphics card. You can add memory yourself later on.
  6. MRrainer macrumors 65816

    Aug 8, 2008
    Zurich, Switzerland
    OP is not going to spend the money on an iMac Pro, however hard you're trying to sell it.
    Also, forget about Meltdown and Spectre. Apple more or less fixed those in software, like everybody else and it's good enough for now.

    As for the original question: it's very difficult to predict if a computer that is "OK" now, is still "OK-ish" in five years.
    It could be that all that Machine-Learning stuff keeps creeping back on-premise (except Apple, almost everybody else does it in the cloud right now) and then even the current high-end GPUs available for the iMac Pro would barely begin to be adequate. Or it could be something else that sucks up CPU cycles like a camel in the desert.

    I have a 2012 i7 Mini that is still good enough for what I do.
    But then, I (obviously) don't run a 5k display on it, nor anything else that requires lot's of CPU power (except the occasional VMWare VM and the software the prepares my tax-filings here - it's a nightmare).

    The current Kaby Lake iMacs fully support external GPUs. So, I would actually spend as little as possible on the GPU and upgrade it later with an external one. I'm sure there will be plenty of options in a year or two.

    AFAIK, the i7 has hyperthreading as well as some other internal stuff that makes it better for certain tasks than the i5.

    Buying 3d-party RAM should not be a problem.
    Don't forget about about Apple Care. Repairs are costly on this thing.

    In summary, I'd probably ditch the i7 and go for all SSD and save-up to buy AC before one year ;-)
    SSD-only will make the iMac feel faster more than an i7+Fusion Drive.
    --- Post Merged, Mar 13, 2018 ---
    Also: Kaby Lake does not support Win7 anymore. You will need to run Windows 10.
    No idea about transcoding. For that, you will need as much CPU as possible, granted.
    Only you can decide if your time is more valuable than the money it costs to purchase the upgraded iMac ...
  7. kschendel macrumors 65816

    Dec 9, 2014
    The i7 runs hotter than the i5, so if you run long CPU bound jobs (where "long" is probably more than a couple minutes, judging by the experiences posted here) you'll hear the fans spin up. If the fan noise bothers you, you might be better off with the i5 and some extra patience. If getting work done fastest is paramount, go for the fastest i7 you can afford. I don't know that I can easily quantify the difference because it depends a good bit on the workload; e.g. the i7 has extra threads available via hyperthreading, but if the software isn't written to take advantage, it won't make that much of a difference. Also, if you drive the CPU hard enough long enough, it may go into thermal throttling to the point where the hotter CPU is actually slower in the end. It's hard to say for sure. (It's not like running a DEC KA10 in the "good old days" without VM or cache, and all you had to do was count cycles to know exactly how fast something would run.)

    On balance though, I'm guessing you would be happier with the i7 if the potential fan noise doesn't drive you crazy. I don't know the return policy where you are, but find out, and beat up the machine hard as soon as you get it. You'll know right off if the fans will be an issue. (Also, not everyone with an i7 has reported annoying fan noise, so it might be a matter of some luck of the build.)

    You'll probably want more than 8 Gb memory but if cash flow is an issue, it's easy to add memory to the 27 inch iMac yourself later.
  8. paulryp macrumors regular

    Sep 22, 2016
    can you suck it up and finance the i7 with SSD. It should keep you good for afew years especially now you can bolt on an eGPU down the line. The i7 is very noisy under load not really an issue when wearing headphone. and an SSD is a necessity, but its difficult to put windows on an external so you'll have to steal some of the SSD for that. Ive got a 512 ssd and its fine but you have to archive off everything that isn't current. And 16-24 GIGs Ram is the sweet spot. Very expensive thought. Might be worth going PC if you can. Im trapped on mac due to work.
  9. Glmnet1 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2017
    +1 if you wait for Meltdown and Spectre to be fixed on new CPUs you'll wait a while. Even the new 8th gen, which is not even yet in the iMac, is affected. And going with AMD on a Windows machine won't help much for those and they have their own share of security issues. There's a software fix already on macOS so no need to worry about that.

    Also, I think the first thing to upgrade on the iMac is to get an SSD. It might not affect your gaming performance but it will ensure a smooth overall experience for a long time on your mac.

    For gaming, as you said the best upgrade would be the GPU. The i7 not so much. You will see a difference for some games but nothing that would justify going over your budget.

    For video it might make a bigger difference, especially since it's your job so if you save time regularly with the i7 it will be "paid for" in no time.

    RAM can be added later on so not a priority.

    Did you check the refurbished store? You might find a good deal there.
  10. T'hain Esh Kelch macrumors 603

    T'hain Esh Kelch

    Aug 5, 2001
    For your needs, I would wait to see what Apple announces at WWDC. An updated Mac Pro would be your best bet. Upgradeable (external) GPU, more flexibility, own choice of display.
  11. Glmnet1 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2017
    And possibly new iMac with 6 core CPU. Yes if you can wait, it's only in 3 months.
  12. paulryp macrumors regular

    Sep 22, 2016
    Personally i don't think we will see a iMac spec bump at WWDC. Probably a mini and pro as they've just bumped iMacs.
  13. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    If you are going to be doing 4k video and lots of gaming, then the i7 is probably the way to go.

    The i7 iMacs are reported to "run noisier" (i.e., fan ramps up more often).
    But... perhaps that's "the price of power", at least for now.
  14. Frisco macrumors 68020

    Sep 24, 2002
    How fast does the Spectre melt? I knew we should have stuck with PowerPC.
  15. steve123 macrumors 6502

    Aug 26, 2007
  16. csurfr macrumors 68020

    Dec 7, 2016
    Seattle, WA
    Personally I’d recommend getting an i7, with 256gb of flash storage (will be quicker than the fusion drive and you can add external storage if you wish, or maybe you have some already?), upgrade the video a bit if you’d like to play a few games, and skip any and all Apple ram upgrades.

    Not sure if you’re in the UK or somewhere else in the Eurozone, but Amazon ships to the UK if not other places as well, and 32gb of Crucial ram can be had for right around 300.00us.

    I have the base model 2017 5k iMac, with the Radeon 570 4gb... if you want I’d be happy to load the Mac version of Cities on it and give you an idea of how it performs with the i5 Processor.
  17. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    When you said you were a documentary film maker, is this how you make your living or is this a hobby. If this is a business you might be able to claim the computer as a business expense or as capital equipment. this would reduce the effective cost. But then you said you play gams using Windows and boot camp. So maybe this is computer is not business related.

    For video editing what you need is very fast storage. And quite a lot of it. And of course this footage was expensive to shoot and can't be replaced. So you need a very god backup system. Look for a large Thunderbolt SSD to hold the video files and then a couple hard disks for redundant backup and absolutely add a cloud backup service to the mix.

    The very fast storage goes a long way for editing. The nest think to spend money on is RAM. You 8GB is not enough.

    If money is an issue, keep your current iMac and do two upgrades (1) max out the RAM. You can put 32GB in. and (2) buy a 1TB Solid State Drive and connects to the iMac using Thunderbolt. Install Mac OS X, you software and all the video files on the SSD. Use the current internal drive for small document files, emails, web browser cashes and stuff like that.

    You asked "i5 vs. i7" can a better question is how to upgrade so as to get the best result for the least cost. Getting a lot more RAM and a much faster disk will be more noticeable then a slightly faster GPU.

    For games it is a different story. What matters there is the GPU.
  18. shaunp macrumors 68000

    Nov 5, 2010
    You are buying a non-upgradable computer (at least in terms of CPU and Graphics) and you are planning to keep it for 5 years, so I would say save and spend the bit extra on the i7 and get the best GPU too. There won't be much more than 20% in it in terms of performance, little gains in performance here and there will save you time in the long-run and it will help a little with the resale value when you decide to upgrade in future. Personally I've only ever regretted buying the cheaper model as I almost always manage to max out what I have at some point.

    Upgrading the RAM with 3rd party RAM is also a good idea. You don't have to max this out, but I would probably add another 8GB to the base RAM and that will last you a while.
  19. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California

    In general I agree but in this specific case let's not forget the OP is a "documentary film maker". This is a very specific use case for a computer. The extra RAM will allow Mac OS to buffer video files in RAM.

    I'd also suggest moving to Final Cut Pro from Adobe if performance is an issue. But editors like what they are used to. FCP will take full advantage of a recent GPU so a lot of the heavy lifting of transcoding might not need a fast CPU. But this is FCP, not adobe.

    I'm doing OK on an even older iMac. Adding the external SSD was a huge upgrade.

    One more idea: If there is an Apple store nearby bring some video files and try editing on a few different iMacs they have. See if there is a big difference between them
  20. techwhiz macrumors 6502a

    Feb 22, 2010
    Northern Ca.
    If you are buying a machine that you plan to keep for an extended period, buy a machine with the best CPU available in that machine. Make sure the RAM can be upgraded or upgrade to the max at purchase. To save some coin, you might want to look at refurbished. A refurbished Mac bears no difference from new. It gets a new serial number and skin. It has the same warranty and you can purchase the same AppleCare as a new machine.
  21. Steve the Developer macrumors newbie

    Nov 19, 2017
    One of the biggest improvements since 2012 is the Wide Gamut support in recent iMacs. The vivid colors are gorgeous.

    GPUs in standard iMacs are now about 4X faster than what you had in a 2012 iMac. iMac Pro is probably 8X faster.

    For the apps you want to use and for video transcoding ==> You WANT an i7 !!!

    If you mostly web surfed, emailed, and use typical office apps, then an i5 would be fine.

    But you need the extra horsepower.
  22. MagicWok macrumors 6502a

    Mar 2, 2006
    The Core i5 CPUs in the iMacs don't support hyper-threading despite it not being clear in the Apple specs page.

    So for your needs, video editing and processing etc I would strongly recommend the i7 over the i5, especially for the 5 year life span you're intended too. 4 cores 8 threads vs 4 cores 4 threads will definitely help.
  23. Mr. Heckles macrumors 6502

    Mr. Heckles

    Mar 20, 2018
    I was always told by friends if you do any video editing, you want an i7.
  24. sunvizon macrumors newbie

    Mar 27, 2018
    I prefer 7, but nevertheless it is my personal opinion. In general, apple is the best on the market for me at the moment, our software works great on it, so it's useful for me to work :)
  25. Adamster thread starter macrumors newbie


    Mar 13, 2018
    Hi everyone! I forgot about this thread after someone kept pushing me to go for an iMac Pro :p
    But I just saw that there were a lot more replies now! Thank you all so much!

    Still haven't bought a new iMac yet, I am waiting until Monday to see what the Apple Event will bring us.

    After that, I think I might go for the i7. Just in case the video-editing workflow changes in the next few years and Adobe decides to focus more on i7 machines.
    It was asked by someone if I do documentary film for work, to which the answer is: yes.

    I am a producer and an occasional director, not an editor, but there are moments when I am switching around an edit for someone, or do some pre-montages myself. The hardcore editing is usually done by specialized editors we work with, but I do want to be prepared for the future in case I ever take on more editing projects.

    People in mac stores also usually advise me to buy a 'future-proof' computer, which often leads to them advising the i7.
    I don't really mind loud fans as I usually have music on anyways.
    Also, the RAM is was naturally considering updating through 3rd party hardware.

    But first I wait what the WWDC event will bring us!
    Thanks for everything!

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27 March 13, 2018