iMac + rMBP vs external monitor with rMBP

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by -Ryan-, Jun 6, 2017.

  1. -Ryan- macrumors 68000

    Jan 28, 2009
    I have had a similar setup for the past 10 years, always using a 15" MacBook Pro. My current system is a maxed out mid-2014 15" rMBP. I've come to the realisation over the past few months that this system just doesn't fit with my needs anymore. I find myself spending much more time seated at a desk than I have in the past. I use this system professionally - I am a lawyer so not a "heavy" user - and often find myself having quite a few word documents open at once, quite a few finder documents open, as well as various other applications. My biggest issue at present is the inability to have several word documents open side-by-side to work from and the difficulty in having to repeatedly switch between these. It's quite cumbersome.

    I feel like either a 27" iMac or an external monitor setup would solve this issue.

    What potentially puts me off the iMac is I am wondering how well Macs interact with one another - i.e. how well does the iCloud document/desktop sharing work? Is it seamless?

    If I go for an external monitor setup I will have to factor in a Magic Keyboard/Mouse. If I do go the route of an external monitor I would need something that is high quality with a high PPI. I will sit and look at this screen for 50+ hours per week and I'm used to the retina display on my rMBP.

    My budget is around £2,000.

    Any advice would be very much appreciated, particularly from those who have 2 Macs and work between them.
  2. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    Your 2014 15" MBP is more than powerful enough for what you are doing, and should be capable of running a "4k" UHD display. Budget: £500-£1000. Maybe look for something a bit bigger than the usual 27".

    To toy with 4k I got a Dell S2817Q "4k UHD" 28" display which was about £420 - its a "budget" 4k display: so rather plasticky, no height/swivel adjustment, fiddly controls, fiddly cable connections and the colour isn't up to scratch for serious photo/video work, but for text editing it is nice and sharp & you can fit as much text on your screen as your eyesight will stand. (I'm planning on using it as a "second screen" if I later get a better display or iMac).

    Tip: Grab a "wired keyboard with number pad" while there are still some in the shops! Apple have just discontinued them.

    On the other hand, the display on the 27" iMac is a thing of beauty, better than 4k, that makes the iMac pretty good value, and it will take up less desk space than a laptop and monitor.

    As for syncing files - One reason I stuck with a laptop+screen is that I had a bunch of fiddly web development stuff and virtual machines that you couldn't just "sync", but you're just dealing with documents and there are many tools for syncing those between two machines (of which iCloud is only one).

    I've started using something called "Syncthing" which was slightly harder than average to set up but, once installed on both machines, sits in the background and, whenever they're both on my home network, quietly does a 3-way sync of selected folders between both Macs and my file server.

    Only question is whether you have any software that is only licensed for one machine - App store software is OK on all your Macs, but others might not be (e.g. Office) - you might need to fork out for a second/multi-machine license.

    So, you pays your money and takes your choice - but bear in mind that if you get a display now, and go for an iMac later, you can use the display as a second screen for your iMac.
  3. -Ryan- thread starter macrumors 68000

    Jan 28, 2009
    Thanks for your advice. I have gone ahead and purchased a 27" iMac base model, with 256GB SSD, AppleCare and have purchased an additional 16GB of RAM which hopefully should arrive from Crucial shortly. For the lifetime of this machine I don't anticipate myself needing more than 256GB of storage, but if I do I'll purchase a Thunderbolt drive.

    I haven't set it up yet, but have purchased the 200GB iCloud option (up from 50GB that I had been using previously), and intend to use iCloud drive to sync all my work-related files between both computers. Hopefully that should iron out most of the issues I have anticipated.

    I am unsure whether my licence for Office 2016 continues across two computers. They're both mine and they'll both be used exclusively by me, but if I have to buy another licence that's no big deal.

    I looked into buying an external display, but I'd be spending £200 on keyboard + mouse alone, plus at least another £600+ for a monitor. I took a look at the monitor you suggested, but I didn't like the look of it. I'm a sucker for premium products. I felt that the amount I'd spend on getting an external monitor setup just wouldn't be justified.

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