iMac to MBPr upgrade-downgrade or about equal?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by porthole2, Mar 10, 2014.

  1. porthole2 macrumors member

    Feb 26, 2014
    In a bit of a quandary over my new iMac (new on 02/28/14)
    I have a new 27" iMac, 3.5 ghz i7, 16GB, 3TB Fusion and the 4GB video card.

    I still need need to use a laptop - occasionally. My laptop use dropped maybe 50-70% with my iPad use, but, I still need it. Current laptop is a Win 7 Pro Sony Vaio. While waiting for my iMac, I upgraded the HDD to a SSD and bumped the memory up to 8GB. Really impressed with the SSD improvement in boot up speed and general use.

    Something I did not consider before ordering the iMac is a) replacing the drive for whatever reason, b) leaving it behind when we camp. Too big to take along. And I wasn't worried about by old HP desktop getting ripped.

    I am under the 2 week return window for a few more days so I am considering return-exhange for a laptop.

    That said, I cannot find what the real differences are as far as performance goes between the high end iMac and the high end 15"Mac Pro (MBPr ?).

    I am just getting into video and FCP X on the iMac (main reason for switching from Windows to the Mac OS).
    I plan on keeping the following items I got with the desktop:
    USB keyboard (need the number pad)
    Magic mouse
    4TB Lacie TB external drive.
    USB Super drive

    Had I given it more thought when I ordered the iMac I probably would have gone right to the 1TB SSD and supplemented my storage with an external drive, especially since I have 7-8 drives in the 1 TB to 4TB range.

    Not knowing the real differences, is there a real world performance difference between the desktop and laptop? Video and photo edit would probably be the top of the power programs along with Quicken and Quickbooks under Windows. Everything I use I would assume are not real heavy on the CPU drain. Basing that on my current desktop is a XP Pro, 6 year old unit.

    I will be needing to use bootcamp and Parallels with Win 7 Pro on the partition.

    I would consider getting a refurb TB 27" display, or some other comparable desk display.

    Trade an:
    3.5 ghz quad core, i7, boost to 3.9 ghz
    16GB ram
    3TB Fusion HD
    NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M - 4GB GDDR5

    for a:

    15"MacBook Pro Retina
    2.6 ghz quad core i7, boost to 3.8 ghz
    16GB ram
    1TB SSD drive
    NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M - 2GB GDDR5

    Pricing is almost the same, if you take the Hard drive storage out of the equation.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. porthole2 thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 26, 2014
    Any opinions of using a laptop for a desktop replacement?
  3. keysofanxiety macrumors G3


    Nov 23, 2011
    Hi, believe it or not but the Retina MacBook Pro is actually more powerful. Intel make exclusive chips for the 15" models that can't be found with other OEMs. Let's start with the processor, which is slightly more powerful in the rMBP:

    2.6GHz i7 for rMBP:

    3.5GHz i7 in iMac:

    RAM is identical, so no worries there.

    With regards to the 1TB PCIe SSD compared to the Fusion Drive, you'll see some insane performance. The PCIe SSDs work with parallel chips, which basically means that the higher the storage on the rMBPs, the quicker the speed. You'll be getting real world performance of around 1GB/s, both read and write. That's providing you get the 1TB option, of course. So the rMBP is the better option there as well.

    Graphics card naturally isn't as powerful.

    I hope this answers your query -- you'll be seeing as good, if not better performance, with the Mac notebook you have in mind. In regards to if it's good for you or easier to have a laptop over a desktop, that's completely your discretion and yours to answer.

    Let me know if I may clarify any points for you.
  4. porthole2 thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 26, 2014
    Does the graphic card make that much of a difference?

    I had just found some articles explaining how the "slower" chip actually outperformed the "faster chip", along with some other key differences, mainly the rMBP chip costing twice as much and not being replaceable as the iMac chip is.

    That and until an hour or so ago I did not know there was a difference in drives (aside from the obvious all solid state vs. hybrid). If I read correctly, the iMac has a sata based drive and the rMBP has the PCI based, which could be up to 10 times faster ???

    Some posts I have read still list the iMac as overall being a better performer. But, it seems many of those posts may reference slightly older machines. I'm not sure, but I think the either the iMac or rMBP may both be different with 2014 models, compared with something as recent as November-December 2013.

    rMBP's have Thunderbolt 2 and the iMac is Thunderbolt?
  5. keysofanxiety, Mar 11, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2014

    keysofanxiety macrumors G3


    Nov 23, 2011
    Hi porthole, (may I call you Duane? Addressing you as 'porthole' feels somewhat rude)

    You're right that the rMBP chip is soldered to the Logic Board. However the performance from it, especially considering it's a mobile chip, is absolutely amazing. Besides, Apple don't allow you to crack open an iMac under warranty, so AppleCare would be a better option in the event that anything goes wrong. And if you ever did want to replace your CPU, you'd definitely be maxing out the RAM/hard-drive speeds way before you hit that threshold. So upgradability for the CPU shouldn't be a huge concern.

    You are right about the iMac having a SATA drive. SATA supports a maximum 6Gb/s speed (gigabit, not gigabytes), which roughly translates to about 600MB/s. This means that unless you have two SATA SSDs running in a RAID formation, you're not going to get rMBP performance as you can't break 600MB/s.

    The PCIe SSD is extremely quick -- even the MacBook Air's read/write speeds, a consumer notebook, outperforms almost any computer you'll find that has an SSD. Even if you were to build a desktop and shove an SSD in there, you'll be hard-pressed to get those sort of benchmark speeds.

    With regards to the '10 times faster', that's not entirely true when comparing SATA SSDs to PCIe SSDs. The 10 times faster is in reference to Apple's Fusion Drive. The Fusion drive is a 128GB SSD and a 3TB HDD which are fused in the software to be one volume. Although this does allow for excellent performance and are miles ahead of hybrid drives, it's nowhere near the sorts of speed you should expect from a dedicated SSD.

    A more accurate representation of SATA vs PCIe SSDs would be about twice as fast, rather than 10 times. Just to say that if you've ever used an SSD, you'll appreciate how blistering that is.

    Some people do list the iMac as a better performer. More than likely that's because of the graphics card, and Apple are beginning to utilise OpalGL in their operating system (using GPU to do CPU tasks, I believe). This is one of the reasons why Apple concentrated more on GPU power with their new Mac Pro, rather than raw CPU power. However I'd argue that the sheer speed of the SSD will completely negate any GPU advantage that the iMac may have. Of course, that's simply my opinion as I haven't any sources to back this up. Nonetheless, the Retina MacBook Pro has a better CPU and considerably faster storage, so I'd certainly argue my point.

    Finally, you're right that rMBPs have Thunderbolt 2, whilst iMacs have standard Thunderbolt 1. Not a huge issue unless you need to use Thunderbolt devices with over 10GB/s bandwidth.

    Apologies for the essay -- just making sure I addressed all your questions. ;)
  6. BayouTiger macrumors 6502


    Jul 24, 2008
    New Orleans
    It's not always so cut and dried though. My 2011 iMac 3.4/16/256ssd should not be faster than my 2012 rmbp according to Geekbench, Cinebench, and other benchmarks, but it is when I am doing real work. I take work home all the time because the Retinabook (2.6/8/512) was far more sluggish with apps like Autocad LT.

    More reason I bought a nMP for home and am taking my iMac to the office and will be replacing the 15" retina with a 13". I can live with less HP in the field as long as I have better power at my desk. After carrying a 17" for years, it's amazing that the 15" seems heavy now. I used a 13" MBA for awhile and was completely spoiled!
  7. porthole2 thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 26, 2014
    Either name is fine for me, the first is a boating nickname. May sound odd, but was the name of our 1st, 2nd & 3rd boats.

    Doing well, thanks for the input.

    UK I presume?

    I am not concerned really with upgrading the chip, just something I found while trying to decide if I want to exchange my iMac for the rMBP (1st post). That and as with many laptops, upgrading is limited anyway. Apple would be at the top of the list.

    Apple Care is a pretty much a given for me, even at twice the cost of the plan over the desktop. And as to cost, the rMBP works out to $230 US more then the desk top - without the 27" monitor.

    e),f),g),h), Although my iMac certainly appears fast, especially compared to a 6 years old Win XP desktop, I have not done any real world testing to see just how fast. Doesn't matter, either way the iMac is night and day difference from what I am use to.
    My laptop - I just replaced the HDD with a 500GB SSD. All I can say is wow! With a clean Win 7 Pro install I went from a 6-8 minute boot up to just under 30 seconds.

    So all in all the rMBP looks to be a very viable desktop replacement.

    The TB2 is not a necessity, but it is future proofing the rMBP - technology.

    And as a side to wide world of windows, my laptop gave me 7-8 blue screen shut downs tonight, along with a few screen lockups requiring a re-boot.
  8. SaSaSushi, Mar 11, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2014

    SaSaSushi macrumors 68040


    Aug 8, 2007
    Takamatsu, Japan
    Actually, they're pretty much on par with each other. See this comparison. The desktop CPU in the iMac also supports F16C instructions. The rMBP CPU has far less power consumption, of course, not such a big deal for an iMac.

    No worries, unless he wants to add RAM in later, which he can only do on the iMac (up to 32GB). ;)

    I'd like to have an rMBP, but I'd never give up my iMac for one. But that's just me. :p

    It all depends on your personal needs.
  9. keysofanxiety macrumors G3


    Nov 23, 2011
    True, but the rMBP still has the slightly better processor in terms of what it benchmarks at (see):

    2.6GHz i7 for rMBP:

    3.5GHz i7 in iMac:
  10. SaSaSushi macrumors 68040


    Aug 8, 2007
    Takamatsu, Japan
    Well, a very slight edge. ;) It is nothing you would notice in actual usage.

    As I said, it's definitely not a case of one being better than the other. It's about being better for the needs of the one buying it. If you absolutely need portability with power, the rMBP is a no-brainer. Let's not forget the beautiful retina display.

    However, if you don't need portability, prefer the larger screen, better performance for gaming and/or need more than 16GB of RAM then you're going to want an iMac.

    To each their own is what I always say. :)
  11. porthole2 thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 26, 2014
    So, I looked up F16c instructions and don't understand any of what I saw. So not sure not having that ability would affect me.

    (I am new to the Mac world)
    My guess that the highest load programs I would use under Mavericks is FCP X and related add ons down the road and photo editing..
    I'm not a gamer, although I suppose with the right game I could be. But the reality is I just don't have time to play games.

    Under the Windows environment the heaviest programs would probably be Quickbooks and Quicken and several office program all open at the same time.

    How memory hungry are apps under the Mac environment? Would 16GB suffice for using FCP X?

    I would plan on a monitor add on, even considering maybe one of the refurbed 27" models. I was going to buy the belkin TB dock and the docking add ons with the stand alone 27" would negate that extra expense of the belkin unit.
  12. TallGuyGT macrumors regular


    Aug 8, 2011
    The benefit to going with the MBP is that you can always get a 27" Thunderbolt display later. Works very well as a docking station and the enormous screen is great to work on.
  13. porthole2 thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 26, 2014

    I am leaning towards that option.
    In fact I am leaving in a few minutes to got to an Apple store and see if I like the rMBP. Every laptop I have had has had a number keypad .............
  14. SaSaSushi macrumors 68040


    Aug 8, 2007
    Takamatsu, Japan
    The benefit of the iMac is that it's lower-priced than the top end rMBP and comes with the display built in. ;)

    You don't have to pay another $999 on top.
  15. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    Most of the concerns about which chip costs more or which is slightly faster are trivial. Even in the case of the imac, do you really care that the cpus are upgradable? People mention this, yet there isn't a huge performance delta between the least and most expensive cpu choices in that line. The differences are hyperthreading enabled or disabled and a minor amount of clock speed. It's hard to see a case where buying the cheaper option initially then buying after market later makes any sense. The 780m is much faster than the 750m. Seeing as you went for the 780m, I have to assume you were planning on putting it to work. The thunderbolt display has the advantage that you can plug the rest of your gear into it. It acts as a hub. Otherwise there are better displays for the money.
  16. Robster3 macrumors 68000

    Dec 13, 2012
    I wouldn't buy another iMac, just sold my late 09 27" and have been using a 15 MBPr for nearly a year. I like retina. We still have one 21" iMac my son uses.
    I have just ordered a TBD arriving tomorrow which i will use for video/photos and a hub, if i like it i should be set.
  17. porthole2 thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 26, 2014
    The display as a hub is a plus. But, I just realized tonight the 3 USB ports are 2.0.
  18. porthole2 thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 26, 2014
    So I did it.
    Apple store sure makes it easy when you have one close by (<13 miles).
    Adding the monitor at the same time also includes it in the Apple Care policy.

    Brought my TB drive with TM backups. Little hiccup there. The restore point was not the latest "back up now" that I did right before turning off the iMac.

    And contrary to the Geek scratch that, Genius Bar, my Bootcamp was not replicated. That caused a bit of a challenge. On the iMac I set the partition at 500GB (3TB Fusion).
    On the rMBP I set it at 200GB.
    Using WinCLone as recommended on this site I spent several hours following all the their directions on resizing everything. Took multiple attempts before I was back to square one.

    Still waiting for the final restore to finish.

    Question, are the PC's and MB's at eh store somehow set to run in a special mode?

    While at the store before exchanging The help was showing me how little memory was being used and how "efficient" the units were using the 16GB of ram.

    On average, of each unit I looked at, 2-3 GB's used of the 16 installed.
    Checked the iMac as soon as I got home it averaged 12-14 of 16.

    Same result with the rMBP once I played around for a bit.
    Only way I could come up with 2-3 was with a reboot.
  19. talmy macrumors 601


    Oct 26, 2009
    The OS is designed to use as much of your RAM as possible. It does this by keeping apps you quit in RAM in case you start them again and by using excess RAM as a disk cache for increased performance.

    Conversely, Macs will run fine with far less RAM than people here claim, especially those with SSDs or Fusion drives which get less benefit from the disk caching.

    The Macs in the store are configured to reboot with a clean install after a few minutes of non-use so each potential customer sees a clean machine. They won't have the time to make use of all the RAM which is why you were seeing 2-3 GB used.

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