iMac 27 spec for editing?

radam87

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Original poster
Mar 13, 2017
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I am a hobbiest editor (Photoshop/Lightroom/FCPX etc) looking to buy a 27 iMac.

I plan on getting the i5 with 512 SSD and basic GPU (2gb M380?).

I could, at a stretch, fork out for the i7 and 4gb M395 at a cost of around +£700.

Is it worth maxing out the processor and or GPU for my uses?
 

Strider64

macrumors 6502a
Dec 1, 2015
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Suburb of Detroit
From my personal point of view I think the i5 and basic GPU would be sufficient for you. Though I should say I never been a high spec guy even when I was on the Windows side building my own computers (10+ years building, 30 years a Windows user). I have my own local server running, Photoshop, and Indesign open right now and I haven't noticed any slow downs. Though if you do a lot of video editing or software apps that tasks the cpu and/or gpu then you might consider looking at the higher specs. Just my .02 cents
 
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Miguel Cunha

macrumors 6502
Sep 14, 2012
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Braga, Portugal
Hi,

From my experience, you will need:
  • 4 core i7 - Hyper-threading is key
  • 16 GB RAM - less
  • The 395 2GB GPU will suffice.
  • 256 GB SSD will suffice as well - system, apps and documents.
  • External 7200 RPM HDD - media drive, exclusive for you media files and projects. You can throw documents as well.
I always have a policy (back in the day) to have a media drive. Very good for speed, maintenance and safety.
This way of you need to format, reset, upgrade, update your applications, you don't have to worry about your media.
Very useful when your system becomes unstable and starts to crash very often.
When you reinstall the software you just have to point to the media drive and you're up and running.
 
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radam87

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Mar 13, 2017
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Would the prospect of editing 4K have any impact on the processor or GpU chosen?
 

Miguel Cunha

macrumors 6502
Sep 14, 2012
337
82
Braga, Portugal
Indeed, as you will have more pixels and larger files to process.

You will need a more powerful GPU just to play and to code/decode.
This added to complexity of your projects - number of layers, visual effects, length and complexity of these - will determine your setup.

If you think in going for 4K, you going for 4x more pixels.

You will need larger and speedier media drives as the files will be larger - let's not forget that the HEVC (and its promised lower bandwidth requirements)is yet to be implemented in camera recording, only AVC/H264.

On the other hand the compressed a file is more processing power you need to work with it. Intel already announced processors with built in HEVC decoding.

More pixels, mean a more powerful GPU (with more processors and memory) to render them, times the simultaneous channels, times the simultaneous VFX at a given time.

You can think of a 4K system as 4x power hungry as HD.

It all comes down to what you want to do and what you're willing to invest.
 
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nambuccaheadsau

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Oct 19, 2007
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I do some editing, not a lot, and some graphics design, and for mine I went for the i7 and Flash Storage linked with the 4GB gfx card and am very happy. radam87 some of the additional cost can be offset somewhat when it comes time to sell the iMac as also on the second hand market higher specs = higher dollar.
 
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cynics

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Jan 8, 2012
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I've use those programs plus much less optimized programs on lower specs than you are considering at a hobbyist level without a problem.
 
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Lunder89

macrumors 6502
Oct 16, 2014
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Denmark
I do edit 4K video, and I do it on my MacBook Pro 15", which only has the Intel Iris Pro graphics by the way, and it handles it fine. My iMac with the AMD Radeon R9 M390 doesn't handle it without a little lagging. It has very little to with the graphics card, the only thing it can do while editing, is act as an extra processor, by using OpenCL.

The most important thing is the Intel i7 processor.

Maxing out graphics will get you nowhere. The M380 will do fine. If budget is a concern, then going for a 256 GB SSD for internal storage and then an external harddrive 7200RPM (As already suggested by Miguel Cunha) for your media.
If 256 GB SSD internal is too little for your needs go for the 512 GB SSD of course.

Having 16 GB RAM might not be a bad idea either.
 
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radam87

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Mar 13, 2017
17
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I do edit 4K video, and I do it on my MacBook Pro 15", which only has the Intel Iris Pro graphics by the way, and it handles it fine. My iMac with the AMD Radeon R9 M390 doesn't handle it without a little lagging. It has very little to with the graphics card, the only thing it can do while editing, is act as an extra processor, by using OpenCL.

The most important thing is the Intel i7 processor.

Maxing out graphics will get you nowhere. The M380 will do fine. If budget is a concern, then going for a 256 GB SSD for internal storage and then an external harddrive 7200RPM (As already suggested by Miguel Cunha) for your media.
If 256 GB SSD internal is too little for your needs go for the 512 GB SSD of course.

Having 16 GB RAM might not be a bad idea either.
Which MBP do you have?
 

Miguel Cunha

macrumors 6502
Sep 14, 2012
337
82
Braga, Portugal
It has very little to with the graphics card, the only thing it can do while editing, is act as an extra processor, by using OpenCL. (...) Maxing out graphics will get you nowhere. The M380 will do fine.
I beg to differ. A GPU is very important for video editing as it is for for games.
There are a lot of moving pixels, which demand very complex renderings and transcoding.

And as you mentioned, GPUs can also act as CPU, offloading some heavy lifting from the main processor.
That's why the professionals (there are several threads going on about the upcoming Mac Pro) are demanding nVidia GPUs, not only with large amount of memory, but also high number of cores, which have the CUDA technology, supported by the majority of video applications (from video editing, to visual effects).
The most important thing is the Intel i7 processor.
Indeed. The brain is the brain and there's nothing you can do without a good one.
Having 16 GB RAM might not be a bad idea either.
I would start with 16 GB. It'll be very useful and not as much as one might think.
Also, It means 2 x 8GB modules, instead of the 2 x 4 GB of the default configuration.
Since you can access the RAM, you can, if needed, upgrade your memory to 32 GB.

All these things will make your system last longer.
In the end, as I said, it all depends on what you want to do and what it demands.
 

Lunder89

macrumors 6502
Oct 16, 2014
393
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Denmark
I beg to differ. A GPU is very important for video editing as it is for for games.
There are a lot of moving pixels, which demand very complex renderings and transcoding.
That all depends on what you do, and what software you use. The CPU is the brain of the operation, and the graphics card help where the software allows it to.
Can it speed it up, yes. But from an AMD R9 M380 to M395, that will give very little extra performance, and not worth the price.

If you edit 4K, the graphics card obviously need to be able to handle the playback. I think a 5K iMac can do that just fine.


Sure there are some scenarios where a Mac Pro and its more powerful graphics are needed, but I don't think the thread-starter needs that. And since things are on a budget, why advice for the most expensive graphics theres is, when it will help so little in real world Work...
[doublepost=1492075810][/doublepost]
Which MBP do you have?
It is my Work computer, and is currently at Work. Where I am not...;)
I think it is the Medio 2014 MacBook Pro 15" (The last model before the introduction of the force touch trackpad)

Intel Core i7
16GB Ram
256 GB SSD
Intel Iris Pro Graphics
 
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radam87

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Mar 13, 2017
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One huge issue I currently have is that I filmed some 4K go pro footage in Iceland that my 2010 mbp cannot play. Would I need a top end processor and gpu? Or would the baselines suffice.
 

joema2

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Sep 3, 2013
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One huge issue I currently have is that I filmed some 4K go pro footage in Iceland that my 2010 mbp cannot play. Would I need a top end processor and gpu? Or would the baselines suffice.
H264 4k can be difficult to edit, even on a top-spec 2015 iMac 27. On older machines your best option is use proxy, which FCPX has long had and was recently added to Premiere. This greatly improves editing performance but requires time and space to generate the proxy files. Using proxy you can easily edit (at least on FCPX) 4k on a MacBook Air which doesn't even have a discrete GPU. See the documentation for FCPX or Premiere proxy functionality.
 

radam87

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Mar 13, 2017
17
2
H264 4k can be difficult to edit, even on a top-spec 2015 iMac 27. On older machines your best option is use proxy, which FCPX has long had and was recently added to Premiere. This greatly improves editing performance but requires time and space to generate the proxy files. Using proxy you can easily edit (at least on FCPX) 4k on a MacBook Air which doesn't even have a discrete GPU. See the documentation for FCPX or Premiere proxy functionality.
H264 4k can be difficult to edit, even on a top-spec 2015 iMac 27. On older machines your best option is use proxy, which FCPX has long had and was recently added to Premiere. This greatly improves editing performance but requires time and space to generate the proxy files. Using proxy you can easily edit (at least on FCPX) 4k on a MacBook Air which doesn't even have a discrete GPU. See the documentation for FCPX or Premiere proxy functionality.

I'm using GoPro Studio at the moment - I'm guessing that doesn't have proxy as I can't edit 4K let alone preview it.
 

joema2

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Sep 3, 2013
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I'm using GoPro Studio at the moment - I'm guessing that doesn't have proxy as I can't edit 4K let alone preview it.
I don't think that has built-in proxy support, nor does iMovie. FCPX and Premiere Pro do. Premiere is subscription only at about $19 per month or $49 per month for the entire Adobe suite: https://creative.adobe.com/plans

FCPX is a one-time payment of $299 or all Apple Pro Apps for $199 if you qualify for the educational discount: https://www.apple.com/us-hed/shop/product/BMGE2Z/A/pro-apps-bundle-for-education

I'd suggest (ideally) the i7 and M395, or wait and evaluate the iMac update due in a few months. Even with the i7 if you edit a lot of H264 4k content you'll still need to transcode to proxy files for decent performance. With FCPX (and now Premiere) that is a built-in feature, so you don't need to externally transcode using some utility and worry about linking up the files. If you are willing to use proxy, even a MacBook Air can deliver good 4k editing performance. So the computer editing performance is highly dependent on software used, whether it has proxy support and whether you use that feature.

The Apple refurbished site sometimes has some modest deals. I wouldn't get a 21.5" iMac, only 27", and don't get a regular hard drive or 1TB Fusion Drive, get 2TB Fusion Drive or above. https://www.apple.com/shop/browse/home/specialdeals/mac
 

cynics

macrumors G4
Jan 8, 2012
11,313
1,696
One huge issue I currently have is that I filmed some 4K go pro footage in Iceland that my 2010 mbp cannot play. Would I need a top end processor and gpu? Or would the baselines suffice.
A dedicated GPU makes a world of difference, however it's specs won't matter much in real world use as long as its new'ish.

CPU vs GPU when video editing comes down to your specific projects.

Benchmarks look like this...

IMG_0389.JPG

Reality resembles this...

IMG_0390.JPG

I pulled those from here but you can google search and find it explained dozens times. Anyway the reason is because the less your project leans on the GPU the less it helps...kind of goes without saying right?

What you can notice in both though is a dedicated GPU helps tremendously vs just CPU (CPU only time is at the top of each).

Your 2010 mbp even if it's top spec won't be able to handle 4K. You'd be better off using an iPad Air 2 or better (seriously). Yes, the baseline 5k iMac will "suffice" however depending on your projects (and patience) you may want to upgrade the CPU and/or GPU.

Personally if I were you buying a new iMac I would want fast storage, CPU, GPU in that order unless I knew for some reason I would be using benchmark levels of GPU effects then I might switching CPU and GPU.

Unless money isn't a factor I would seriously consider what you'll be doing and the level you'll be working at. For example I typically use Resolve and Gimp in Linux (in place of FCPX/Premiere and Photoshop) and find my biggest bottleneck to be the creativity between my ears, a 4000 dollar Mac can't fix that.