i7 or Fusion Drive or 16G Ram? 21 vs 27?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by MOeOthman, Feb 18, 2014.

  1. MOeOthman macrumors newbie

    Feb 18, 2014
    I'm planning on purchasing a 21 inch imac 2.9 GHZ (OR a 27 inch 3.2 GHZ, ill get to that in the end)

    I'm trying to find out whether i should upgrade to an i7 processor, Fusion Drive, or the 16G Ram on the 21 inch.

    I basically do video editing ( i make videos for youtube for a living), so ill be doing video editing stuff, i also plan on playing some video games on my mac like league of legends on it.

    Is it neccesary for me to upgrade to any of the 3 upgrades stated above? If so, which one? and why not the others? Which is most important to have?

    As for the 27 inch, the reason why i'm looking into that one now instead is because someone told me it's better to get the 27 inch imac for now, and just upgrade the ram from a cheaper 3rd party anytime you need it because it can be personally upgraded but the 21 inch cant. So if i feel that i dont need the extra ram, i dont need to waste money on buying it, but if i go for the 21 inch, im forced to upgrade the RAM because i cant see the future.

    I REALLY need someone to give me a full detailed, best response i can receive possible, ive been stuck in this dilemma for about 3 weeks lol, im getting really anxious. I dont wanna go overboard and spend a ton of money on extra ram, or a fusion drive or processor if i dont need it. I'm a college student so my budget isnt endless.

    Thank You.
  2. yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Apr 23, 2011
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    If you do video editing, you'll see a 20-30% performance improvement with an i7 in general (even the 3.4GHz i5 is no match for the 3.1GHz i7) because the i7 has 8 threads (the i5 only has 4).

    Here's the comparison between the 3.2GHz i5 (base 27") vs the 3.1GHz i7 (high end CTO 21.5"): http://www.cpu-world.com/Compare/601/Intel_Core_i5_i5-4570S_vs_Intel_Core_i7_i7-4770S.html

    As shown there, the 3.1GHz i7 is 25% faster than the 3.2GHz i5 in multithreaded tasks (video editing and rendering is usually multithreaded). The i7 is also 28% faster in memory-intensive tasks.

    Never go for a traditional HDD. If you buy an iMac with a HDD, it's like buying a Lamborghini and only driving it around the parking lot stuck in first gear.

    If you're on a budget, go for a Fusion drive. It can provide a somewhat-SSD-like performance without the cost of one. Personally I went for a 256GB SSD + external storage on my 21.5" iMac because a pure SSD setup is faster than the Fusion (SSD: 750/650 MB/s read/writes compared to Fusion 550/350 MB/s read/writes). Besides, in my opinion, the SSD is more reliable, as the Fusion has a HDD section and so is about as likely to break down as an ordinary HDD. If the HDD breaks down in a Fusion, the entire drive is toast because Fusion can't just operate off the SSD sector.

    For gaming, the GT750M in the 21.5" should be okay, since Apple only uses the GDDR5 variant of the card. According to NotebookCheck, the GDDR5 variant of the GT750M outperforms the GTX660M (which itself is a pretty decent card too).

    If you buy the 27", go with the lowest RAM. Apple charges daft prices for RAM upgrades. If you buy the 21.5" iMac, I suggest you max out the RAM straight away as it's almost impossible to open up the 21.5" iMac. Meanwhile, the 27" has user-replaceable RAM.
  3. Zellio macrumors 65816


    Feb 7, 2012
  4. MartinAppleGuy macrumors 68020


    Sep 27, 2013
    What a load of rubbish. My iMac has a 1Tb HDD and it boots in 30 seconds (and you only reboot once in a blue moon), and applications launch in an instance even after a fresh boot. Plus, with App Caching, it makes launch apps just as fast as an iMac with an SSD (well, App Cache would make launch times the same if an app has been opened once before, and RAM is hundreds of times faster than an SSD anyway). So a Fusion Drive is only getting you a slightly faster boot time for which you only do once every 3 months.

    I think there is a lot of confusion with HDD's in iMac's, now that the Fusion Drives and SSD's are common, people remember their old iMac's being slow with their HDD's. The current iMac's certainly are no slouch with a HDD.
  5. joema2 macrumors 65816


    Sep 3, 2013
    ???? yjchua95 gave good, balanced, comprehensive, well-thought-out advice.

    And he is correct. I do regular professional video editing on a 2013 iMac 27 with 3TB FD and often work on a 2011 iMac 27 with 2TB HDD. The 2013 is noticeably faster on disk-related actions.

    The OP emphasized video editing. That generally means lots of file copying (I/O bound), and lots of transcoding (CPU bound).

    As yjchua95 mentioned, an i7 CPU is theoretically faster on certain multi-threaded apps, and generally video rendering and transcoding is a multi-threaded, CPU-bound process. However the difference between i5 and i7 may not be huge, so personally I'd be OK with the top-end i5.

    Since the OP mentioned Youtube, he'll probably be doing single-pass H.264 encoding. That is the exact method that's accelerated by the Haswell CPU's Quick Sync feature. In some cases it is 5x faster than other CPUs at that task. This of course depends on software -- FCP X and Handbrake use it, as do other utilities, but you must check to be sure.

    I agree if he can afford it and his files will fit, then SSD is the best. It is by far the fastest also the most reliable. If he needs the additional space, then FD. It retains near-SSD speed for certain modes (slower for others) but is much larger. As yjchua95 said, I would recommend against getting an HDD-only model. They work fine, but I use HDD, FD, and SSD Macs for video editing on a regular basis, and I'd personally only get FD or SSD.
  6. magbarn macrumors 68000

    Oct 25, 2008
    Since the OP is going to do much more than just boot up his iMac and run safari, he WILL notice a speed difference between a pure ssd vs a fusion setup let alone a rickety old plain hard drive. Video editing eats GBs for breakfast so app caching is irrelevant for the op's purposes.
  7. Lucianrider macrumors member

    Jan 1, 2012
    St. Lucia, West Indies
    I would highly recommend the Fusion drive 3TB as it gives plenty of storage space and has more than fast enough read/write. I can't imagine going back to a pure HD only.

    What I did was to partition the 3TB hard drive in half and use the non Fusion partition for all my data. That way if the Fusion side of the SSD crashes I won't loose the data stored on the Fusion side of the HD. This gets around the argument that having two storage mediums making up the Fusion drive is half as reliable as a pure HD or SSD.

    Obviously you should still have a Time Machine backup.

    If you want to Bootcamp however you won't be able to create a third partition...
  8. AppleFan360 macrumors 68020

    Jan 26, 2008
    If you will be doing video editing, getting all three upgrades on the 21.5" iMac would be your best bet.

    On the other hand, use your student discount and get a 27" iMac with a 1TB Fusion, and i7 processor. Then you can upgrade the RAM yourself whenever you wish. Those two upgrades alone coupled with the bigger 27" screen will yield you some great performance and video quality.

    Having a pure SSD is great but don't believe the reliability claim. SSD's do have a limited life span just like regular HDD. The Fusion drive will give you SSD like speeds with lots of space at a much lower price. Also consider getting an external Thunderbolt or USB 3 drive for more capacity when editing videos. All which can be done later.
  9. MartinAppleGuy macrumors 68020


    Sep 27, 2013
    Sorry, I agree that the OP should get a FD or SSD for super fast I/O for exporting and importing. All I was saying was that people say the HDD's are super slow, with over a minutes start ups... and all that is just rubbish.
  10. yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Apr 23, 2011
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    The PCIe SSDs used by Apple are MLC-based. So they'll last for about 6-7 years under heavy usage, which is far more than the computer itself may last.
  11. Perilla macrumors newbie

    Feb 5, 2014
    I tend to agree with the other posters here. All 3 are great upgrades, and leaving out one will create a bottleneck in your workflow.

    If you are going to edit on this thing for the next few years, the 16GB RAM upgrade is absolutely essential. Upgrading the RAM will be VERY difficult as a DIY job unless you get a professional to do it because on the 21.5" it is located behind the logic board, meaning that you would have to remove most of the iMac's components before you can upgrade the RAM. iFixit shows how difficult it would be for you: http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/iMac+Intel+21.5-Inch+EMC+2638+Teardown/17829

    I think the SSD portion of the Fusion GREATLY increases overall performance of the computer, and you will enjoy your experience more with your editing program. The differences in editing from SSD and HDD are stunning. I recommend checking out this video comparing the two from Dave Dougdale as it's fairly non-technical but shows real-world comparisons: http://www.learningdslrvideo.com/ssd-for-video-editing

    The i7, as others have noted, provides a huge performance upgrade with multi-threading. CPU is still the biggest component in video editing, so I consider this upgrade essential if you are serious about video editing.

    Each upgrade is equally important, and leaving one out may negate the performance increases of your upgrades by creating a bottleneck.
  12. PicnicTutorials macrumors 6502a


    Dec 29, 2013
    are you financing it? If so just top out everything. It makes little difference in the final payment. That's always my feeling lol. I don't like regrets. So in order to prevent regrets I always buy the best and worry about the consequences later. But like I said if financing your really only talking about a $10 difference in order to get exactly what you want.Look in my sig to see what I got. Very happy with my setup. if you think I'm dumb and don't agree then if you get one thing get ssd drive. Youtube fusion vs ssd to see the speed dif .
  13. yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Apr 23, 2011
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    I have the same iMac as yours, but with 32GB RAM instead.

    I went for SSD for pure speed and reliability. As the SSD is based on the Samsung XP941, it utilizes MLC NAND and so will last for at least 6-7 years under heavy usage.

    Either way, it'll outlive the computer itself.
  14. LastZion macrumors 6502a

    Apr 13, 2006
    I am coming from (still use) my MBP i7, 8gig, 512g Flash

    I ordered 3.2 i5, 8 gig, 1g (7200) 27"
    - I was shocked how slow this was in comparison to my MBP, which I guess looking at the specs I shouldn't be.

    I just ordered a 3.2, 16 gig, 1g (fusion).
    - I am hoping that this makes a difference.

    My question is whether the "slowness" i am experiencing is coming from "going back" to non flash based hard drive, or if it is the processor...

    In the end it was a $340 difference... do you guys think worth the upgrade?
  15. Ak907Freerider macrumors 6502

    Apr 19, 2012
    I think the fusion will be close to your mb pro. I've used both the 2013 MacBook Air and the new mb pro with a 256 ssd. And my 2013 fusion iMac performs the same as those if not better due to the bigger video card (780m) and faster processor. I use it mostly for video editing so a small ssd was out of the question. And $1000 is a lot to pay for a 1tb ssd. I've noticed as I work in Final Cut Pro my projects move to the ssd and I fly along.
  16. LastZion macrumors 6502a

    Apr 13, 2006
    Thanks for the info. Unlike my MBPs that I replace almost annually, I want this computer to last so hopefully this is enough upgrade for a while. I don't do anything crazy processor intensive.

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