iMac Upgrade Advice

Discussion in 'iMac' started by MacMandy, Feb 16, 2014.

  1. MacMandy macrumors 6502


    Nov 13, 2006
    Manchester, UK
    Hi everyone, I currently have the mid 2011 base 21" model iMac that I'll be passing on to my son for his birthday, and I'd like some advice about which new model iMac to get considering my uses. I've been very happy with it, and along with my iPad Air, it has been a great combo.

    Lately, I have struggled with speed (video encoding) and space (having to use an external 3TB drive). The new base model has an integrated graphics card, and although I only play a few games, this seems like a backward step to me. Although it's running the latest OSX, it does seem to take longer to boot and ages to switch users.

    The majority of my usage is video encoding, streaming to Apple TV, email, photos, surfing and a few games.

    Can anyone tell me their thoughts on the improvement from my current model to the new base 21" or maybe the lower 27" model. Money is a factor, and I don't want to spend more than I need to.

    I'd really appreciate any advice.


    Oooppppss, I should have mentioned that I threw in an extra 4GB RAM in about a year ago, so it's running on 8GB ;)
  2. BESLC macrumors regular

    Apr 20, 2010
    What are the specs on your current iMac?

    An option to consider given budget considerations ,would be a refurb. The refurbs give you the same warranty as new, with decent savings. This could give you a lot more machine than than new. The refurb store updates frequently, so if you don't see exactly what you want,keep checking back.

    As for your questions, I think you can get by with a base processor. Ram, you may want at least 8GB. The new fusion drive is fast and provides pretty cost effective storage. On the graphics side, the onboard graphics will be better preforming than what you are currently running since you are talking between 1 and 2GB of ram vs 256 or 512 MB. To get the 780M with 4GB, you need to move to a higher end 27".

    One thing to consider, if you are not planning on upgrading again for a few years would be to invest in a system that will address current and future needs.My current system is certainly more than I need at the moment, but so was my older iMac which started to become dated tech wise. So it might be penny wise if you need a new system, to invest in the most you can justify. My bias is a 27", it gives you ram upgrade flexibility the 21 doesn't.
  3. MacMandy thread starter macrumors 6502


    Nov 13, 2006
    Manchester, UK
    Thanks for your response. Current iMac specs are 2.5 ghz i5, 8gb RAM, 500GB HD, 21" screen and AMD Radeon HD 6750M graphics processor with 512MB of GDDR5 memory. Are you saying that the new base with onboard Iris graphics will be better graphics?

    I was also contemplating the 3GB fusion drive to help with storage and speed, but it's an extra £300. I also noted that my current iMac has a 7200 HD, but the new 21" is just 5400 which seems odd.

    All things are pointing to the lower 27" model and add the fusion drive, but it's more than I want to spend :eek:
  4. MacGizmo macrumors 65816


    Apr 27, 2003
    There's really no way around spending more money to get what you want. Otherwise, you should start warming up to the idea of running a slower setup.

    FWIW, don't waste your money on the Fusion Drive upgrade. It does little-to-nothing for your as far as speed. Trust me, I have two iMacs (one with Fusion, one with pure SSD) and they don't even compare. Either spend the extra money on the pure SSD drive, or stick with the stock 1TB hard drive.

    As far as which model, my rule is always buy more than you think you need because you always grow into it.
  5. MacMandy thread starter macrumors 6502


    Nov 13, 2006
    Manchester, UK
    Wow. That's interesting about the Fusion drive. I can see from Apple's page that they've increased the performance of both the fusion and SSD in the latest model.

    My concern is the Iris onboard graphics in the new base 21". Is this not a step back from my 512mb discrete graphics in my current model?
  6. BESLC macrumors regular

    Apr 20, 2010
    I disagree that there is no performance difference between a standard 7200rpm HD and a fusion drive. My older iMac has a 7200rpm drive ,my new one has the fusion. Having the SSD drive coupled with a 7200 rpm drive ,I find is much faster than my standard drive. I do not have the specs on drive speeds,I am sure they are available in this forum,and should provide documentation that there is a difference.

    Tom's Hardware did a lengthy review on the new fusion drives. His assessment was it was much faster than a standard HD. A good read if you want a more detailed tech opinion from a respected source.
  7. Bear macrumors G3

    Jul 23, 2002
    Sol III - Terra
    Get an i7 processor and depending on what program(s) you are using for encoding, more memory could be good.
  8. Queen of Spades macrumors 68030

    Queen of Spades

    May 9, 2008
    The Iron Throne
    He wasn't saying there's no performance difference between a fusion and a HDD, he was saying the difference between fusion and SSD is so noticeable, paying extra for the fusion drive is dumb. Either spend to get the speed of an SSD, or stick with the HDD and save money.
  9. joema2 macrumors 68000


    Sep 3, 2013
    Since you need 3TB internal, you'll need an iMac 27, preferably with Fusion Drive. It is much faster than your current HDD.

    For video encoding, the 2013 iMacs have Haswell CPUs which have 3rd-generation Quick Sync, an on-chip hardware transcoder. It only works for single-pass H.264 and MPEG-2 but those are very common formats. If your needs are met by that, it can be 5x faster at encoding than CPUs w/o Quick Sync. Your 2011 iMac has a Sandy Bridge CPU, in theory they have 1st generation Quick Sync but I'm not sure how well it works or what software took advantage of that.

    FCP X and Handbrake use QuickSync for certain export options. Article:

    Ideally you want 16GB RAM, but I guess you could get 8GB and upgrade it later.

    Unfortunately the base iMac 27 has a 1GB GT-755M, which isn't particularly fast. OTOH video transcoding is typically CPU limited and not accelerated by the GPU.

    I have a maxed out 2013 iMac 27, and do video editing and transcoding regularly. It is very fast.

    It would help if you specified exactly what video software you use, your workflow, and what portion of that seems slow now.
  10. tom vilsack macrumors 68000

    tom vilsack

    Nov 20, 2010
    ladner cdn
    For your needs: will explain

    -Base 27" with 256 ssd and applecare=$2168 us

    -27" over 21" for the 755m video and even more important (easy to upgrade your ram)
    -Get with base 8 gig's of ram and upgrade as needed (not having to tear open the 21" compared to simple door on 27" makes the 27" a no brainer)
    -now the storage is a bit more difficult as once you make your decision your pretty well stuck (unless you don't mind having to tear the Imac open) so I would personally go with what I believe all computers will have in the future (and what future buyers will expect when buying either new or used...think resale value) and that is SSD! Once you've tried a computer with one,you will never go back! Never! Add to fact your trying to keep costs down and already have a 3tb external drive,the 256g ssd should be perfect.
    -finally always get applecare (the added protection of 3 years is worth the added $169 us)

    goodluck in your choice:
  11. MacMandy thread starter macrumors 6502


    Nov 13, 2006
    Manchester, UK

    I mainly use handbrake to convert mkv and other formats to iTunes mp4 for my Apple TV. I suppose this is where I'd really like to see some speed improvement.

    I plan on getting 8GB and adding another 8GB myself, which does mean I'd have to get the 27" to upgrade the RAM myself.

    90% of the time, my iMac is streaming films and music to Apple TV or iOS devices around the home while encoding videos for iTunes. Apart from casual gaming, the rest of its use is just surfing, emails and a bit of photo editing. My current iMac is ok for the latter three tasks.

    I'm getting differences in views on the fusion drive. I really would need 3TB internally. I have an external drive, but it's noisy and slow and I don't want to spend more on an external thunderbolt drive for now, and besides, I'd like just the one simple iMac all-in-one with no externals to make it look all messy :rolleyes:
  12. ioannis2005gr macrumors 6502


    Aug 10, 2013
    Good choice, it will cover his needs, I guess...
  13. yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Apr 23, 2011
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    Handbrake is multithreaded, which means it'll take advantage of hyper threading (which is only available in the i7).

    In multithreaded apps, there's a 25-30% increase in performance in an i7 compared to an i5, because the i7 has 8 threads (while the i5 only has 4).

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