iMac 5K - one upgrade option - which? new at programming

Discussion in 'iMac' started by imaginaryfriend, Oct 18, 2014.

  1. imaginaryfriend, Oct 18, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2014

    imaginaryfriend macrumors member

    Apr 10, 2010
    hey all,

    i'm fortunate to have 2500 dollars to spend on a retina iMac from my employer. we get an education discount.

    i have the ability to upgrade one item... and i'm wondering what i should do.

    my main use will be running/compiling programs that deal with large text-based datasets (i'm learning/new at this...), as well as using this machine for novice photography needs (family photos) and general computing. i've been struggling over two things...

    1) 256 ssd + external hdd (wd my book duo) or the fusion drive? i've never dealt with having an external hard drive -- is it inconvenient? slower than accessing internal hdd?

    2) one upgrade -- i7, 512 SSD, mx295?

    any thoughts...? have a 256 SSD with the mx295 ordered... keep going back and forth.
  2. DerekS macrumors 6502

    Jun 25, 2007
    Programmer here - if you can only do one upgrade, do the SSD - biggest you can afford.

    When you boot it, you _will_ know where the extra money went!
  3. imaginaryfriend thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 10, 2010
    im hoping 256 is enough... anyone out there feel this would be an issue? i will offset all media to an external hdd... is it inconvenient to have an external for this purpose? I've always had large hdds that could hold everything.
  4. pasadena macrumors 6502a


    Sep 12, 2012
    Depends on what kind of dev you're doing. I do a lot of web development (as a hobby, not a pro !! Important !!) and not a lot of design (I suck at Photoshop, bad). 256Gb is enough for me, having all my media files and archives on an external storage (NAS).

    So if I could do only one upgrade, I would choose the GPU over CPU and bigger disk. If you need space, go with an external drive or the base fusion one.

    What I would *really* do, though, is try and save up some more money to get both CPU and GPU upgrades.
  5. imaginaryfriend thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 10, 2010
    thanks everyone...after way too much thought... i'm going with the upgrade of the CPU/GPU and sticking with the fusion, with the option to upgrade the fusion drive in the future when i'm feeling adventurous.

    my hope is that the 128 GB cache of SSD will serve my purposes well and not degrade too much over time...
  6. T5BRICK macrumors G3


    Aug 3, 2006
    This is exactly what I'd do in your situation. I think you will benefit from the extra GPU horsepower. Just make sure you are ok with a 256GB internal drive. I've kept my media libraries on an external drive and it was a little slow, but nothing unbearable.
  7. Wahlstrm macrumors 6502a


    Dec 4, 2013
    SD-cards are coming up in size and down in price if you just want media storage. I Use a 64GB SD card in my MacBook Air to store random stuff that don't´t need super speedy access times.

    Think you can buy 512GB SD cards now..
    Their not as fast as your PCI-e SSD but they are really small and easy to cary and swap between computers :)

    ..and to answer your first question: Get the GPU. I think that resolution needs it to work ok.
  8. leenak macrumors 68020

    Mar 10, 2011
    If you are doing data science type stuff, i'd forget the gPU upgrade and focus on cpu and SSD but I see you made the cpu/gpu choice. I don't think the fusion drive is bad and it will hold a lot of data, it is definitely a better choice than a hdd.
  9. imaginaryfriend thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 10, 2010
    thanks all.

    most of the data crunching is done on servers by our supercomputing center. I'll occasionally need to hold large, 50-100 GB files and transfer them back and forth and do smaller scale crunching once in a while. this is why I went with the fusion. 256 would require an external hard drive, then another on top of that to back up (was looking at the wd my duo)... but thats getting too beyond the price point I'm comfortable with.

    I think my worry is pushing the pixels, so that's why I went with the GPU over the CPU. not sure if this was the right decision though... the i7 is a pretty substantial boost, right?
  10. leenak macrumors 68020

    Mar 10, 2011
    Oh if you aren't doing any data crunching on your system, then that is different. I think both the GPU and CPU are good upgrades and I'm not sure which one I'd choose over the other if I only had one choice. It sounds like your needs the i5 will be fine if you are choosing the GPU upgrade.

    Do you expect you will need to run any virtualization software at all? I'm in grad school and a lot of my fellow students have systems that are quite... not up to par and for one of our classes with virtualization, some of them couldn't get their system to run programs fast enough virtually so they kept getting erroneous numbers for some of the assignments. I don't think the i5 would have trouble with it, especially now but in a couple years is where it may show its age.
  11. cnstoll macrumors 6502

    Aug 29, 2010
    I suppose I'd go with the GPU upgrade, since that's likely to be the weakest part of the machine initially, at least given the shear number of pixels it has to drive.

    I would also recommend sticking with flash storage. With TB2 and USB3 it's so easy and cost effective to add more storage externally, and having more internal storage isn't worth the performance hit and the longevity hit to having a spinning disk inside the iMac. Flash all the way.
  12. imaginaryfriend, Oct 19, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2014

    imaginaryfriend thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 10, 2010
    ok ok. this is the third time i've switched the order ha... people on this forum seem to be pro-flash and anti-fusion... there must be something to it. final choice (i think) - 256 flash and the GPU. 512 would make me so much more comfortable... but i'm at my max $$$.

    with that said...

    what kind of external hdd solution are people using?

    i was thinking of going with the wd my duo to have a discrete backup and extra storage. thunderbolt is too expensive.

    also - is there any difference in read/write speed when comparing internal HDD and external USB 3.0 hdd? any lag when accessing files?
  13. Starfia macrumors 6502


    Apr 11, 2011
    Hi – I do lots of programming, photo editing, digital painting, audio editing with lots of tracks and effects, demanding 3D stuff in Blender, Motion, and Final Cut Pro. Here's my take:

    I'm using a 27" late-2013 iMac.

    The Fusion Drive is great. It's completely seamless and feels like an SSD – transfer speeds, even of large video files from an external HDD, are consistently so fast that I never even think about them. (I did suffer from one horrible audio issue with Fusion Drives specifically, which was resolved in Mavericks updates last year – that's the only downside I'm aware of.)

    I used my "one upgrade" on 16GB of RAM, which I recommend. On any Macs, the only performance hits I ever really "feel" are when the system has to start shuffling in-use memory around when opening a new application or a large file.

    The truly demanding stuff like Motion and Final Cut run more beautifully and smoothly than anything I've ever seen before, and I've used them for years. It's not like every single complex frame always renders in real time (though they often do), but it makes such a small difference to me that I feel like I'd be spoiling myself if I spent more for such a marginal performance increase beyond this. And for music, even my 2011 entry-level Mac mini could take just about anything I could throw at it and process it in Logic in real-time.

    So, if I were in your position, and was only focused on programming and photo manipulation, I wouldn't even begin to worry about whether the entry-level Retina iMac would do the job for you. I'd go for the Fusion Drive and 16GB of memory, but even the latter feels like it would be a luxury – it might serve you well in years to come, though.

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