iMac versus Henge Docked new MBP

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by sdmoore, Mar 18, 2011.

  1. sdmoore macrumors newbie

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    #1
    My DELL desktop crashed about a month ago. :D I am delighted to finally be free of it and have a great excuse to go all-Mac in our household. Because I have always had a desktop computer (since my very first IBM 8088!), I am hesitant to make the leap to go all laptop, though I am considering this route. I am relying solely on an iTouch and an old MBP (2006!) right now.

    My options, as I see them, are either a new MBP 13" (or 15") that I would Henge Dock and use with my Dell monitor and keyboard/mouse, OR simply get a 27" refurb iMac. My hesitation to go 13" MBP is the lack of graphics. While I do play games, mostly casual games and adventure, my DH might want to play something that isn't quite so easy to please graphic-wise, thus the pull toward an iMac (refurb, i5 quad core, 27"). For the same price I could bump up to the brand new 15" MBP with better graphics, but docking and undocking would be frequent--hate to scratch up the case and all that.

    Thunderbolt is a want, but since there isn't much out there yet that takes advantage of the tech, I wonder how much I will kick myself if I buy an iMac refurb. I could wait for the iMac update but I'm growing a little more worried that my old MBP might go at anytime. Any thoughts on what you all are seeing for Thunderbolt as related to someone who is not into pimping out their computer and doing all kinds of tweaks to gain more power and speed?
    And do you think there would be a peripheral of some sort down the road put out so those with machines that don't have Thunderbolt could join the party?

    Last of all, the wait. Someone mentioned that not waiting for the upgraded iMacs was like throwing away $500. I agree that buying a refurb now will cause me to miss out on the Sandy Bridge and thunderbolt, but my biggest concern is price and the longevity of the machines specs. If I get a higher-end refurb iMac, won't that be pretty comparable to the pricing of a mid-range "new" iMac?

    Of course, if I go with the 15" MBP, I won't need to worry about that. So, you see, back and forth I go. I hate making these types of agonizing decisions.
     
  2. Makosuke macrumors 603

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    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    #2
    Based on what you're describing as use case, you've already broken down your options pretty clearly: Get a 15" and dock it, get a high-end refurb 27" iMac, or wait for a Sandy Bridge iMac refresh.

    It so happens that I have a 17" SandyBridge MBP (2.2GHz), and have a previous-gen top-of-the-line i7 iMac, and the new MBP replaced a 2006 MBP (which still worked fine--just not enough RAM and the battery was shot) so I've essentially got two of the three systems you're considering, as well as the one you're currently using.

    To start with your questions, it's very unlikely that there will be Thunderbolt add-ons for older computers--you'd essentially need a new motherboard for that in a laptop, the iMac doesn't have any such expansion available, either, and even in desktop towers apparently the throughput and bus style is such (it's essentially an external extension of the PCIe bus, if I understand correctly) that add-on PCIe cards aren't expected. If you aren't doing anything pro-grade, however, I SERIOUSLY doubt you're going to get much use out of Thunderbolt--it has incredible data throughput, but for most everyday use the ~50MB/s of USB2 or ~100MB/s of Firewire 800 are going to handle anything you're likely to be doing. I could of course be wrong--there could be some killer peripheral down the line that I'm not envisioning--but my guess is that you'll never actually use it unless you get into performance computing or serious video editing.

    And as far as gaming performance goes, a higher-end iMac should be much faster than even a current gen MBP. The fancier iMacs use a desktop-grade GPU, giving them a major advantage. Here's a specific benchmark showing the difference in various games: http://www.barefeats.com/mbps03.html

    Third, it's worth noting that the Sandy Bridge CPUs and architecture aren't just a minor step up from the confusingly-same-named i3, i5, and i7 chips--they are a LOT faster per clock. For example, the current 4-core i7 2.2GHz MacBook Pro scores a hair over 10,000 on Geekbench. The current-generation iMac with a 4-core i7 at 2.93GHz scores a little over 9100. Which is to say that despite a 25% decrease in clock speed, the laptop is 10% faster. Based on my experience with mine, it also runs shockingly cool--it's WAY cooler than the Core Duo MBP that it replaced. I would take that to mean that if they can get a desktop-grade processor into the next iMac update, it's going to be more than just a speed bump--probably a 30% speed boost.

    Finally, one thing that might affect your decision: If you're ever planning on doing things in which color reproduction is important (photo adjustment, for example), the iMac is going to be the better option--it has a VERY nice color-accurate IPS screen (that's why I bought mine, in fact), while the MBPs all still use non-IPS panels so far as I know, and unless you bought an expensive monitor with your Dell your existing monitor is probably not IPS, either. The MBPs still have very nice screens, just not as color accurate as an IPS panel. If you're just doing general computing/gaming, however, it's unlikely you'll ever notice the difference.


    If I were in your shoes, I'd probably buy a refurb iMac right now. The MBP would be fine as well, but between the massive screen and the extra graphics performance, and because you already have an older MBP, I'm guessing you'll get more use out of the desktop. As for wait or buy now, it is 100% on how badly you need two computers--if you really need them right now, the current iMac models will serve you well. If you're willing to wait a few months, then you should get quite a bit more bang for your buck on a new Sandy Bridge iMac.
     
  3. sdmoore thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #3
    imac vs mbp

    Thanks so much for your taking the time to give your thoughts on the matter. It helps to know that you have almost the identical systems that I'm either considering or own. I'm still undecided but your view on Thunderbolt does ease my mind.
     
  4. gdeputy macrumors 6502a

    gdeputy

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    New York
    #4
    FWIW the replier is wrong, the iMac does NOT use desktop GPU. It uses a Mobility Radeon 5850 which is similarly clocked to a desktop 5750. The good news is that mobility chip overclocks well on windows, bringing speed closer to a 5770.
     
  5. Staindsoul macrumors 6502

    Staindsoul

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    #5
    i have a henge dock, never use it. imac better
     
  6. chaoticbear macrumors 6502

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    Jul 25, 2007
    #6
    I don't really have anything at stake in this argument, but Apple seems to say otherwise.

     
  7. Makosuke macrumors 603

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    #7
    I didn't think it was an argument, and this thread seems to have conclusive evidence that the GPU in the current-model iMacs is indeed a Mobility 5850. Which isn't a desktop GPU, meaning I was wrong.

    That said, my point is exactly the same--the real-world benchmark at BareFeats shows that the iMac is between 20% and 100% faster than the MBP on my lap, which is all that really counts in this case. If gaming performance is important, the iMac is going to be much faster than the MBP in most cases.

    (Also, for reference, the only side-by-side benchmark I could find, PassMark, showed the Mobility 5850 as scoring a 974 and the desktop 5750 a 1482. Which is to say that while it's not as fast as a decent gaming-grade desktop GPU, it's not entirely unreasonable to say that it's "desktop grade," in the most general sense, at least when compared to the GPUs in an inch-thick MBP, which has substantially stricter design criteria.)
     
  8. chaoticbear macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2007
    #8
    Huh. I don't keep up with any of the iMac goings-on, so didn't realize that they have a history of obfuscating model numbers on video cards.
     
  9. sdmoore thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #9
    IG vs card

    I appreciate the input. A graphics card (iMac) versus the integrated graphics on the lower end MBP equals better gaming on an iMac, right? My concern for graphics is only for the occasional time when hubby might download a game that needs to flex some graphics muscle.

    I'm really leaning toward the iMac at this point. It's just a matter of price point and timing, what with the new release of iMac pending. I realize that there is no perfect time to buy an iMac as something better is always down the road, but I'm down to one (old) computer and that doesn't make me comfortable.
     
  10. Makosuke macrumors 603

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    #10
    Depends on the model; the 13" MBP only has integrated graphics (though not horribly anemic by that standard), while even the low end 15" has both integrated and dedicated graphics chips; it switches to the dedicated either when you tell it to or when you're doing something graphic-intensive.

    That said, the benchmark I linked above was comparing the iMac's dedicated GPU to the high-end MBP's dedicated GPU--neither of them integrated, and the MBP's is actually fairly beefy for a thin laptop. The iMac is STILL substantially faster, more or less because they can afford to dissipate more heat in the much larger box, and power efficiency isn't an issue apart from the all-in-one heat restriction.

    Which is to say that even a MBP with dedicated graphics and a gig of VRAM has quite a bit less grunt than a high-end current iMac, and any new iMac would almost certainly be even better. The higher-end MBPs aren't anemic by any means--quite nice, actually--but they're not in the same league as the iMac if you're really interested in gaming. And on that count, it does sound like an iMac is what you want.
     
  11. sdmoore thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #11
    i did it. Went for the iMac 27" refurb. Coming from a 2006 MBP I'll probably feel like I'm on a really fast roller coaster:eek:. Thanks for helping me sort through this!
     
  12. Makosuke macrumors 603

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    #12
    Probably a good call--will definitely be night-and-day faster, and the screen is gorgeous. I assume you saw the front-page stories rumoring a Sandy Bridge refresh in 4-6 weeks, which won't make it any less good of a computer, and it's here now, which is worth a lot.

    I will, however, recommend what I always do after buying a Mac: Do NOT pay any attention whatsoever to Apple product announcements for the next 6 months. If you do, you're pretty much guaranteed to see something new announced that will make you question whether you should have waited or not, instead of just enjoying your computer.
     

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