iMac Base (21.5") + MacBook Air or iMac Ultimate (27")

Discussion in 'iMac' started by rupnok, Jun 7, 2011.

  1. rupnok macrumors member

    Jul 22, 2002
    Hey all,

    I have decided to buy an iMac rather than a MacBook Pro, as my main machine (upgrading for a 2009 mac mini). I am a hobbyist/amateur photographer, and am mainly interested in Aperture 3 for RAW photo file management and post-processing. I will likely also be doing some DVD ripping & Handbrake encoding, as well as H.264 video editing (footage from a Canon T2i), however mainly the iMac will be used for Aperture 3.

    My dilemma:
    (1) Buy a base 21.5" iMac with 2.5GHz i5 and a base 11.6" MacBook Air (upon SB refresh) - $2100 (w/ edu discount + presumed iPod promo)
    (2) Buy an ultimate 27" iMac with 3.4GHZ i7 - $2100 (w/ edu discount + presumed iPod promo)

    I do live in grad school housing, so space is at a premium, and the 21.5" is a better fit on my desk than a 27". I have an iPad 1 - so the MBA would be a luxury. I do travel often, so I am thinking the MacBook Air would come in handy on many flights I take, and as a repository for my RAW photos while on trips. I can then export the entire library to the iMac for post-processing.

    So what should I do, go for the luxury of the MBA as a nice secondary machine, or go big with the i7 27" iMac, with the massively improved graphics card and i7 for extra boost? Will likely trick out either machine with 12-16GB RAM. I almost thought about the iMac 21.5 with the i7, but people are tending to pan that as a really poor value...
  2. GrantMeThePower macrumors regular

    Apr 12, 2011
    The only thought i had was that if you have an iPad, and you're planning on doing all your editing on the iMac anyway, why do you need the macbook air? Is there something wrong with the 21.5" iMac + current iPad and pocket some money? The 27" is certainly nice for a photographer if you want the extra landscape, but it isn't necessary by any means.
  3. rupnok thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 22, 2002
    That's a great point. Perhaps the real question is - should I spring for the 21.5 2.8Ghz i7? Is it that terrible a value compared to the top-of-the-line 27 3.4 i7?
  4. JamDonut macrumors member

    May 23, 2011
    England, UK
    for aperture and a bit of encoding, i think you can consider all the iMac range, the i5s will handle both tasks more than efficiently enough, it sounds like you are just going for spec because it's better? you could save a lot of cash? i can still encode a 40 min video using .264 HD in 20 mins on a C2D lol, if having the best is important feel free to ignore my post :D

    also no it's really not that terrible a value to answer your question, for a lot of people deciding on which to get, it really does come down to the size and sounds like you would be more than ok with a 21.5, it's still a great machine :)
  5. MoreAwesomeDanU macrumors regular


    Dec 4, 2010
    if you are planning to travel a lot and gonna do photography, then the air does indeed come in handy. You can store/edit/backup your pictures on the go.

    If you are not that hardcore, then stick with the 27" imac. 21 -> 27 = huge difference just in the screen size.
  6. Dkrogh macrumors member

    Jan 4, 2009
    I have been thinking about this same thing but will probably be going for the 27 inch i5 with a 13 air once they are updated. I use macs for video, photos, and audio projects and will enjoy the processing power of the iMac over my current 09 Mini and 06 MacBook.
  7. Sirmausalot macrumors 6502a


    Sep 1, 2007
    For what you describe, you must get the i7. It has 4 more 'virtual cores' which are essential in speeding up encoding tasks as well as working with H264 video natively -- which is hugely processor intensive. Go for the most powerful quad core i7 you can afford. CS5.5 and Final Cut Pro X and their suite mates will take advantage of the increased power of the i7 over the i5. It's significant for the type of work you describe. H264 that the DSLRs spit out needs a lot of crunching to edit and re-encode.
  8. Blazer5913 macrumors 6502

    Jan 20, 2004
    I was in a similar type of dilemma as you a few days ago. My setup was a 13" Macbook Air (rev B, latest, with upgraded 4gb RAM) and an iPad 1. I never really traveled "that" much so mostly the Air, as nice and portable as it was, simply stayed on my lap on the couch or plugged in on my desk. I got a fantastic deal on a 27" i5 a few days ago and I haven't used my Air once since. Literally. I found a whole new love/use of my iPad as the couch "consumption" device I bought it as, and the iMac is such a powerhouse machine, coupled with a GORGEOUS and ENORMOUS 27" display. I couldn't be happier. My Air is on craigslist now. You won't regret the 27" display one bit, and honestly, it may seem big now, but after a week, it will seem normal and you may regret you didn't get the bigger one. I say i7 for you, especially for your intensive processing tasks. Do it!
  9. rupnok thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 22, 2002
    I went over to the Apple store this evening to play around with the iMacs, and also the MacBook Air. Some quick observations:

    - The 27 is massive, and causes me neck strain. The screen real estate is amazing for Aperture, iMove, FCP, but in day-to-day use (iTunes, Browsing) felt like massive overkill. The size of the menu bars, iTunes text, and web pages were all too small. I am sure I could "get used" to it, but truthfully, being as space constrained as I am, I am pretty down on the 27".

    - The Macbook Air's SSD provided a really nice "real world" performance boost. Things felt much "zippier" and loading the moderately sized Aperture library on the Air was a breeze. No lag between images either.

    So I am left with two ideas:
    (1) Buy a base 21.5 iMac 2.5GHz i5 and up to 2TB WD Black Caviar HD and add a 120GB Intel 510 SSD (local Bay Area AASP quoted $70 for labor)
    (2) Buy a BTO 21.5 iMac 2.8Ghz i7 with 2TB

    The i7 is still 10% more than the Base+HDD+SSD.

    Given the dual desire for Aperture easy-of-management and some encoding, I am torn between tricking out the Base iMac 21.5, or buying the BTO iMac 21.5, and putting in an SSD in a few months, after I save up...

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