iMac configuration help

Discussion in 'iMac' started by willia75, Jan 27, 2012.

  1. willia75 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2012
    #1
    I'm looking to order a new 27" iMac to replace my windows PC. I currently have a 2011 MacBook Air 13", but I do a considerable amount of work on this machine and could really use a larger screen. I could use some advice on configuring the iMac. I primarily use the computer for coding and running a variety of mathematical software, Sage and Maple in particular. I'd also use Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Xcode (trying to develop an iOS app), and TexShop. I don't plan to use the iMac to watch movies or play games. My questions are:

    1. Would I really notice a difference in the processors with what I'm doing? If I hope to use this computer for a few years, would I regret getting the base 27" model out of pure stinginess?

    2. I'm in love with the SSD in the Air, and believe I'd configure the iMac with one. I have an external drive and wouldn't need much storage on the iMac. Is it worth having the 1TB SATA/SSD combo installed in the iMac? Would this help to increase the longevity of the SSD? I'm not entirely sure how the two drives appear in the Mac; can I assign a default drive for programs and files (i.e., install apps on the SSD, but save documents on the SATA)? I'm not picky about the setup, I'm just wondering how well coordinated the two drives are out of the box.

    3. Is there any reason I should to upgrade the graphics to the 2GB option?

    I realize the iMac is due for an upgrade in a few months, but my vision is blurry from staring at the 13" screen all day. I also wouldn't mind a bump in speed when compiling code, and Photoshop isn't exactly lightening fast on the Air, so using an external monitor isn't solving all my problems.

    Thanks in advance for any tips/advice! :)
     
  2. mobilehaathi macrumors G3

    mobilehaathi

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Location:
    The Anthropocene
    #2
    1) Probably not unless you are running exceptionally long computations.

    2) I'd totally go for the SSD with the HDD as a data drive. If you're reading/writing to disk regularly with Sage, keep an 'active data' directory on the SSD to take advantage of the speed.

    3) Probably not, unless you're going to start going heavy into OpenCL.
     
  3. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2009
    Location:
    Oregon
    #3
    If your mathematical models are complex you would notice the difference there. You will also notice the difference in Photoshop. Dreamweaver is light, so not for it. Same thing tends to apply for programming which tends to be disk intensive.

    What's particularly important is to have lots of RAM. Lion will use all that you can throw at it. It will keep closed applications in RAM for quick opening, and its actually designed so that you really shouldn't be closing apps at all -- let the OS manage them. If you do so, the advantage of an SSD drive for program launching goes away. I've got upwards of 20 apps running at the same time on my iMac. It's very responsive.

    Internal hard drives are noticeably faster than external drives so I'd try to keep as much internal as possible. I don't feel that SSD are as beneficial in a desktop system, which aren't moved around (the real benefit of an SSD is durability) and can easily be left running all the time (sleep when not in use). You can configure the system with the User home folder on either the same or different drive as the system (which can be installed on either drive). You can use aliases/shortcuts to put folders on either drive and make them appear to be on the same drive. You actually will get the most benefit by having small files on the SSD because that is where the performance benefit is greatest, so I'd make sure the programming and website project files are on the SSD.

    None at all.
     
  4. willia75 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2012
    #4
    Thanks for your quick help!

    I'd absolutely upgrade the RAM, but on my own, since I could get 16GB for under $100.

    I'm still torn on the processor, but I'm a bit of a spec junkie and will probably go all in for the i7. Many of the programs I write in Sage can take hours (once, it took 3 days) to give a result. I can easily see myself waiting and thinking "if only I'd spent a little more, I'd be done by now..."

    I was pretty sure the graphics wouldn't be an issue. Even the app I'm writing isn't very visually intensive (also math related) so it just doesn't seem worth it.

    I'm eligible for the education pricing, so it's only an extra $90 to get a SATA in addition to the SSD. You're right, it would be much more responsive than an external (especially mine, which works over wifi). I just wasn't sure how the computer managed the drives, so I really appreciate your advice.
     
  5. mobilehaathi macrumors G3

    mobilehaathi

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Location:
    The Anthropocene
    #5
    If you have the $$ for the spec bump on the proc, then go for it. Those long calculations will finish faster. On the other hand, if your programs are "embarrassingly parallel," you could get a drastic improvement in computation time (with minimal effort) by simply chopping your programs up into chunks and running them simultaneously.

     

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