IMac or Macbook Pro for graphics/film editing and creation?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Rachelv, Apr 29, 2016.

  1. Rachelv, Apr 29, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2016

    Rachelv macrumors newbie

    Apr 29, 2016
    Hi I've been a PC user all my life (though I did a design diploma eons ago and my college only had Macs so I do have a bit of experience with them and they are the choice of all my friends who are now designers!) .. Not really a techie but read up a few online articles so I know just a need some advice.. Here goes:

    I am considering buying a Mac for my family as my teenage daughter is into creating digital artwork and would be going to college to study art or film/music production - all of which would probably be best done on Macs. And my younger daughter looks set to follow suit... So I am willing to part with about £1.5k for a Mac but I want something future proof..

    So I've been looking at the Macs on the Apple shop. I've narrowed down my choices to either iMac or Macbook Pro. I was initially drawn more to a desktop computer as they usually are more powerful than laptops with the processors, but here it seems the Macbook Pros have just as good specs as the iMac, with the added bonus of being more portable although the computer would probably not be lugged around much...

    Ideally I want an i7 quad core, 16 gb ram at least, and pcie flash drive if price permits (if not fusion is maybe fine)... I have an external hdd already so I can use that to add storage...

    The iMac does have a more beautiful and larger screen suitable for gaming (though my kids ever seem to play minecraft, roblox and terraria so I don't think the graphics in the screen needs to be very souped up although they might get into more graphics intensive gaming in future who knows...

    I am thinking of buying refurb too, as they are cheaper, but what are the cons of that? And should I wait till Apple releases a newer version of iMac/Macbook Pro this year or the next before buying? And which would suit us better - iMac or Macbook Pro?

    Thanks in advance for any advice! I'd really appreciate it.
  2. mossy, Apr 29, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2016

    mossy macrumors regular


    Sep 11, 2013
    If you need portability then get the MacBook Pro. If not I would advise to get an iMac.

    As you mentioned that the machine might be used for film editing - the act of editing film on a computer and the software used is very dependent on graphics processor power. Now, that does not mean that a base model iMac would not hold its own in all fairness like.

    The refurbished models could be a good way to go also. They are usually models sent back for a variety of reasons but are fixed up grand again. Main thing to watch with the refurbished models (and with all the Mac's in general) is the colour output on the screen might be after shifting. It is usually a certain colour cast such as Magenta or Yellow. Very subtle - but the more you use the machine the more you will see it. So make sure you are happy with it (after the initial delight of buying a new computer). You have ten days to send it back - no questions asked.

    Big screens are fantastic also as you have a lot more space to work in general.
    I would get one with an i7 if possible. Im not to sure if you will be able to get an SSD for the price you mentioned. I would advise not to buy the extra RAM from Apple. It is a total rip off. Just take whatever RAM comes with it as standard, and you can buy it from third part later (such as I have always done this and never had a problem).

    As for future proofing - Hard drives can be replaced later on (2 or 3 years down the line. Again SSD's from Crucial and others are very reasonable) | RAM can be upgraded/replaced | The processor cannot. So i5 or i7 is a big choice | the Graphics Card cannot be replaced later on so this is also a big deal.

    All in all if it is a machine for learning (in all fairness a base model can be used as a production machine in most situations) - I reckon a base model iMac will be absolutely fantastic. You can't go wrong with whatever choice you make to be honest. They are great to work on and no trouble with Anti-Virus software and all that other maintenance you have to do with Windows machines.
  3. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    I think the iMac, specifically the 5k, offers more storage, horse power, and a superior display over the MBP. The MBP is no slouch but I think if you're looking for something to edit film, I think a 27" display exceeds that of a 15" display.

    If you need portability then, yes, by all means the MBP is a better solution.
  4. Rachelv thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 29, 2016
    Thanks for the replies so far. I have narrowed down my choices to 2 machines in the refurb store and coincidentially they sell for the same price of £1699. Which in your opinion would be better? The iMac has a faster processor (though boh are i7) from what I can see. Bigger screen too. The RAM can be upgraded on my own (which would add about £30 to £50 to the price I guess)... The Macbook Pro has a decent amount of pcie flash memory compared to the iMac's 1TB fusion drive, and from what I've seen online on graphics card comparisons, the iMac here seems to have the better performing graphics card but the card is about 3 years old now so may not be as well supported - though I admit I am just going by the comparison sites' words, I have no idea it this is true.

    Would appreciate your opinions on this.. And quite frankly £1699 is probably the most I can spend on a desktop now.. I could wait I suppose... For a few more months, if a better deal crops up. What do you think?

    Refurbished 15.4-inch MacBook Pro 2.5GHz quad-core Intel i7 with Retina display
    Originally released May 2015
    15.4-inch (diagonal) Retina display; 2880x1800 resolution at 220 pixels per inch

    16GB of 1600MHz DDR3L onboard memory

    512GB PCIe-based flash storage 1

    720p FaceTime HD Camera

    Intel Iris Pro Graphics and AMD Radeon R9 M370X

    2) Refurbished 27-inch iMac 4.0GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7 with Retina display
    Originally released October 2014
    27-inch (diagonal) Retina display with IPS technology; 5120‑by‑2880 resolution

    8GB memory

    1TB Fusion drive1

    AMD Radeon R9 M290X graphics processor with 2GB of GDDR5 memory

    Built-in FaceTime HD camera
  5. johannnn macrumors 65816


    Nov 20, 2009
    Tough choice, I really like that 16GB ram + 512GB SSD, but at the same time the 27" retina is beautiful.
  6. T'hain Esh Kelch macrumors 601

    T'hain Esh Kelch

    Aug 5, 2001
  7. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    A laptop is not the answer for family computer, its just too much a of a personal, carry where you want machine to make it a great family computing solution.

    I would always recommend a desktop for this use case, its in one place and that in itself makes it an easier thing to share, a big screen and a less than private location makes them far less likely to be considered a personal item, its also easier to keep an eye on your kids computing habits.

    Other than that both computers will do everything you want without breaking sweat so buy what you wish.
  8. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    My kids use laptops for their work, and we share that way. They rarely use my iMac.

    I think for the OP, the iMac is a nice choice but I think for family computing, the laptop can be just as effective.
  9. Rachelv thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 29, 2016
    Just want to say thank you to everyone. I really do appreciate all the responses so far and although I seem stuck now as to whether to buy one of the refurb models or to buy a new machine which is £200 more expensive but is from the Apple Education website which I heard comes with 3 year warranty instead of the 1 year.. I don't know.

    Keep the responses coming if there are any more. It certainly isn't a decision I'm rushing into now. The more opinions and information I read, the more it will help... For the kind of money I'm spending, I want to make a good decision :)
  10. srminton macrumors regular


    Sep 5, 2008
    I definitely recommend going refurb. I've always bought my Macs and iPads from the Apple UK refurb store, with zero problems. You get a great deal, with the same warranty as a new Mac, so if you do happen to get a lemon then you'll be covered. I can't really think of a good reason NOT to use the refurb store, to be honest, except if you want a new model which just isn't available there yet (it usually takes at least 6 months, before a new Mac or iPad model shows up as a refurb). My 2012 MBPr from the refurb store is still going strong.

    As to which computer to get - if you will rarely if ever need to take it out of the house, I would probably go with the iMac. A big screen is really nice for desktop computing. About a year after I got my laptop, I bought a big external monitor, because I just missed having a nice big screen. You could get a nice 4K screen nowadays to go with the MBP, which gives you the best of both worlds, but that also adds to the cost quite considerably.
  11. kiwipeso1 Suspended


    Sep 17, 2001
    Wellington, New Zealand
    iMac 27" i7 is the best for artwork and film/video production on the 5k screen. The iMac can be upgraded yourself to 64GB ram (apple charges way too much and will only do 32GB max) by just the ram flap on the back.

    I'd suggest the either the 3TB fusion, or the max SSD drive if you can afford it, then add additional storage via thunderbolt HDD (which operate at the speed of most SSDs)

    If you can wait a month or two, Apple will announce new models in June (should be in shops by July at latest)
    The new models will have thunderbolt3/USB-C .

    If you have younger kids who only play minecraft, get a 13" macbook air i7.
    They won't need a retina screen to play virtual lego, and the longer battery life will be better suited.
  12. sartrekid macrumors 6502a

    Oct 30, 2014

    The 2015 iMac screen is better than the 2014 model, which is why I made the choice a few months ago to go with the 2015 model instead because color accuracy is quite significant to me.
  13. Santabean2000 macrumors 68000


    Nov 20, 2007
    It really is that simple.
  14. darkanddivine macrumors member

    Jan 13, 2007
    Hi Rachel.

    I note that you are in the UK. My experience with the refurb store products here wasn't all that great to be honest. I should point out that the customer service I got was superb and all problems were rectified, but the actual machines I saw (2 of them) had issues. From my experience, and others I've heard about, there is an element of luck involved and I think that should be noted. Despite my experience I would still try a refurb on certain occasions.

    Onto your main point: there are a few things I'd say about your choices (I use macs for design.) I've used 21" 24" and 27" screens over the years, and all are suitable for visual work. Therefore the 27" screen is a bit of a bonus. Personally, I couldn't ever see working on a small 15" screen for long periods. For extended working on design/video/photos, a lot of users prefer a bigger monitor and a proper keyboard to avoid hunching over a laptop. You could buy the Macbook, and add a desktop keyboard, mouse and a bigger screen. But if you chose Apple products to go with it, current prices are £899 for a display, £80 for keyboard and £65 for mouse (although you don't have to have the Apple versions of these.) So you can have the best of both worlds but it does come at a price, and one that will blow your budget almost twice over. So for me the iMac is a bit of a no-brainer, but that's just my take.

    Your original post mentions the Fusion Drive. Personally, I have found them to be very good. There are occasions where it slows, presumably when accessing files off the HDD but these are rare. If you work on a file the Fusion moves it to the SSD so short term you get the benefit of a small SSD and then it goes onto the HDD for long term storage. As long as you have a decent external backup you'll be fine. There is no such thing as a future proof computer, there is always an upgrade round the corner. But you are speccing up a Mac to such a high level that I think you'll be pleasantly surprised how far they go. My first Mac went for 7 years, and my current one is into its 3rd, and I tend to go mid-range. Just ignore everything Apple for about a year after you've purchased and you'll be fine. Buyers remorse tends to go quiet in that time :D

    Final thought, you could get the base 27" iMac for £1529, with the only change to the spec being to add the Fusion Drive, which comes in at a lower price point than you have already mentioned.

    Hope this ramble is of some assistance!
  15. kingtj macrumors 68020

    Oct 23, 2003
    Brunswick, MD
    I can't speak for if things are different in the U.K. -- but I've bought several refurbished Apple products in the USA over the years and had great luck with all of them. (The key is, though... only buy it from Apple's own refurbished web site. If you buy an Apple refurbished product sold anyplace else, including something off a shelf in a retail Apple store -- your results may vary. The items shipped from the refurbished web site are actually completely overhauled at one of Apple's central repair facilities, where they even do things like replacing a top or bottom cover of a case if the original looks too scratched up.)

    As for your other considerations? If portability isn't much of a concern, I'd definitely look at one of the 5K resolution display iMacs. The truth is, there just aren't many 5K displays out on the market right now, and the few choices that exist aren't cheap. (Far more common are the 4K displays.) The fact you can buy a 27" iMac with a 5K display justifies the price of the machine right there. (Most 5K displays cost as much or more than a refurbished iMac with one built into it!)

    With the iMac, you can buy it with as little RAM as possible and upgrade it yourself, saving some more money. Unfortunately that's not an option with a Macbook Pro where the RAM comes soldered in. In any case, I always advise putting as much RAM in a given Mac as you can afford to buy it with or add to it. Even if you say, "The apps I use won't take advantage of it." -- OS X itself will intelligently use whatever it sees available for things like disk caching to improve performance.
  16. aZZaneko macrumors newbie


    Jul 21, 2012
    As darkanddivine mentioned already, a laptop alone doesn't make a great working station. It's not ergonomic at all and 15 inches are not enough for comfortable editing / design work. I always try to put work off till I have the opportunity to hook my MBP15 to a proper display personally.

    I do love the portability though. Since I do most of my work from my home office now, I planned to go for an iMac/MacPro for my next machine. 98% of the time it would be a much better solution than having a laptop plugged all the time. The problem is with the remaining 2%. I had to travel to another city for few weeks and get work done there recently. Right now I have to move between different parts of the house to get work done every day due to renovation going on. There were times I was sick and stayed in bed and couple times my cats got sick and I had to watch them 24/7. Those things don't happen every day but I know I'd absolutely hate it not to have a portable machine at those moments.

    Having an iMac/MacPro station and a light rMB would be a best solution, I feel. But that would cost more than my kidney. Apple stuff is ridiculously expensive where I live. So MBP15 + external monitor is a 'best of both worlds on a budget' for me.

    I'm a single user of this computer though. It's my individual machine that I carry with me wherever and whenever I please. If I was looking for a station for whole family, I'd still go iMac most likely. It could get awkward with several people trying to take the machine with them and then having to plug and unplug it all the time. Having one dedicated place for it would make it feel more like a family computer. Also you can get more bang for the buck with an iMac compared to an MPB + external screen combo. If portability is not a must, there's no need to pay extra for it.

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