Is a 2011 model too old?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by climbingcog, May 12, 2017.

  1. climbingcog macrumors newbie

    climbingcog

    Joined:
    May 12, 2017
    #1
    I am buying in the UK and previously had a Mac laptop at one point many years ago - it worked great for basic movie editing. I am looking to get a desktop computer to replace my laptop (as I now have an iPad for out and about) and there is potential I will get back into light video editing in my new youth work job, and so I'm thinking of getting an iMac. Looking around at second hand options (since my budget is tight), there are a number of 2011 iMac's available, with a range of specs. I've found one with a quad core i7, 16GB, 27", 1TB HD.

    But I am needing some advice on whether a 2011 version is going to be bad decision or not. Am I going to have to replace this in a few years?

    I suspect it will be powerful enough for what I want to do (unless you think otherwise) - the videos would be 5 minutes long max.
     
  2. elf69 macrumors 65816

    elf69

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    Jun 2, 2016
    Location:
    Cornwall UK
    #2
    I use a 2007 core2duo for web design, not as heavy as what you want but gives you idea.

    I still run el capitan but you should be able run sierra on that.

    I want one like your looking at but not got the money.
     
  3. keysofanxiety macrumors 604

    keysofanxiety

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2011
    #3
    I'd recommend against the 2011 iMacs for a number of reasons.

    The dGPU failure rate is quite high on them as those batches of AMD cards were pretty flaky, though they were much worse on the laptops. They have USB 2 rather than USB 3. Also they're soon to be EOL so parts won't be available from Apple; this means that if something goes wrong, Apple wouldn't even touch it.

    Almost any 2012 model would be much better because you could plug in an SSD through USB 3 and boot through that, which would substantially increase performance. Alternatively you can pick up a 2012 Mac Mini and run through an external monitor if you're looking for more screen real estate.

    Overall any 2011 Mac is a bad choice in 2017 IMHO, especially if you're looking for longevity. I'd even recommend against the 2011 13"s, simply because you can pick up the 2012 13"s for around the same price due to market saturation. 2012 onwards tend to be a pretty solid shout if you can get one for a reasonable price.
     
  4. climbingcog thread starter macrumors newbie

    climbingcog

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    May 12, 2017
    #4
    So a Mac could last 10+ years?
    Thanks that's really helpful to know!
    --- Post Merged, May 12, 2017 ---
    Good to know they can last a long time for the lower end work, like what I have in mind!
     
  5. keysofanxiety macrumors 604

    keysofanxiety

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2011
    #5
    A Mac could last 10 years or 10 days, regardless of whether it's 5 years old or 5 days old! It's almost impossible to guarantee system longevity because that's the nature of the beast with hardware and computers in general; all you can really do is try to avoid known problems to give yourself the best possible chance. Based on previous failure rates I can only advise that 2011 wasn't the most reliable of years for Macs. :)
     
  6. Stefan johansson macrumors 6502a

    Stefan johansson

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    Apr 13, 2017
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    Sweden
    #6
    Any computer can last for 10 years or more,if you don't need to use up to date software. I still got my old Sinclair machine from 1977 still running,but of course,for what I use computers for today,it's slow,obsolete and completely useless.
     
  7. vkd macrumors 6502

    vkd

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    Sep 10, 2012
    #7
    I have a 2011 iMac with Core i5 2.7GHz processor, bought it 2nd hand on Ebay in 2012 and it is fantastic. Still running 10.9 Mavericks too. It does absolutely everything I want to do with a computer and has never had any problems. I have put an SSD in to make a Fusion drive and upgraded RAM to 16GB though, which you can do with this model; unfortunately all subsequent models (2012 onwards) are much more difficult to upgrade anything, what with the screens being glued on.

    Another benefit of the 2011 iMac is that it has infra-red port behind the Apple logo, so you can use an Apple Remote to control sound and vision from a distance (watching video on the couch etc.), something that sadly bit the dust in 2012.
     
  8. Fishrrman macrumors G3

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    Feb 20, 2009
    #8
    I would not buy a Mac today that was made before 2012.

    Reason: The 2012's have USB3 -- absolutely essential speed if you're looking "to the future"...
     
  9. LorenK macrumors 6502

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    Dec 26, 2007
    Location:
    Illinois
    #9
    This is going to date me, but the computer can basically last forever, it's the O/S that is the issue. I have electronics, not tubes, but transistors, resistors, etc. that are over 40 years old, and they all still work. Computers have gone to circuit boards, an advance from my old electronics, but there is nothing inherent in them that will cause them to stop working.

    My 6116 from the early 90's boots and will operate in its antiquated way. My iMac from the early aughts will also boot and your can do things with it still. My 2008 3,1 is still going strong. I bought at the end of last year a 5,1, not because my 3,1 didn't work, but because the O/S is EODing the older Mac Pros, and the 5,1 seems to be configured in a way to give it at least five more years.

    The practical issue for any computer is the operating system, and whether it can continue to communicate with a world where everything is being updated in a way that your old computer can no longer communicate with the world. That doesn't mean it can't continue to function for your personal use, to type up letters on your outdated version of Word for Mac, or play music through that iTunes program you downloaded twenty years ago. It just means you may not be able to access the internet or have limited functionality, because Safari from 1995 can't read HTML5 and no one is updating a version of Safari to work on your computer.

    I personally like keeping the old Apple computers around, modern antiques.
     
  10. kschendel macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2014
    #10
    A better older-machine buy would be a 2009-2012 Mac Pro, the tower version. You can upgrade those in various ways including inexpensive USB3 cards, updated GPU's, CPU's, SSD, and lots of memory, all very easily. However that may or may not be the right answer for you, depending on how eager you are to upgrade things yourself, plus you need to factor in a monitor and keyboard. If you go iMac I agree with the others that I would stick to 2012 or later. There's nothing wrong with the older iMacs, and indeed I have an early 2009, but I wouldn't pay (much) money for one. Lack of USB3 is a major issue.
     
  11. ApolloBoy macrumors 6502

    ApolloBoy

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    Apr 16, 2015
    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    #11
    The 2012 cMBP that I bought two years ago was the first computer I ever owned with USB 3, it's like one of those things that make you wonder how you ever did without it. I wouldn't really buy an older Mac because of that either, but at least with the 2011 models you can get a Thunderbolt to USB 3 adapter.
     
  12. theluggage macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2011
    #12
    Yes. Or next month if the logic board fails and a replacement is either unavailable or would cost more than you spent on the Mac in the first place.

    Question is, are you the sort of person that would hunt down parts on eBay and replace them yourself? If so, the older 2011 Macs with the magnetically-attached screens are probably easier to work on than the newer ones where the display is held on with adhesive tape... 2012 was when the "rot" started to set in with regard to repairability.

    It's also likely that Apple will stop supporting it with new OS releases soon - but the current version will still be good (& get security updates) for a few years.

    Almost certainly - a brand new Mac is only going to be ~50% faster in terms of raw power. Nice if you can afford it, but not essential.

    Big limitation is lack of USB 3 - but it has a Thunderbolt socket if you need fast I/O.

    I'd also cost in a couple hundred quid to add an SSD - see note about getting hands dirty above - or look for one with an SSD or Fusion drive. That's what has given the biggest performance boost in recent years.

    Ultimately it comes down to personal economics and attitude: it's one thing to be the existing, one-careful-owner of a 2011 machine that still does the job you bought it for. Its another thing to fork out money for one without really knowing its history, and without the benefit of already having enjoyed 6 years of use out of it...

    I think it comes down to price: personally, I wouldn't spend more than I could afford to waste.

    Pro tip: save your money until there is more than "potential" - and if its a job, your employer should be paying for the equipment.
     
  13. jasnw macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2013
    Location:
    Seattle Area (NOT! Microsoft)
    #13
    I've got a 27" 2011 iMac that I expect to use for at least the next 3 years. I bumped the memory to 20 GB just after I purchased it (new), replaced the internal 1 TB spinner with a 256 GB SSD and a 3 TB spinnner about a year ago, recently had to replace the AMD graphics card (yeah, they are crappy), and get around the USB 2 issue by using a USB 3 hub plugged into one of the Thunderbolt ports (not full USB 3 speed, but faster than USB 2). So, I think you can make a 2011 system work IF you trust whomever you're buying from and don't mind a few upgrades.
     
  14. theluggage macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2011
    #14
    Yes, but "should I keep using the 2011 Mac that I've had from new & upgraded over the years" and "should I pay £££ for a 2011 Mac of uncertain provenance + several must-have upgrades" are very different economic propositions.

    You already have the machine, the purchase price you paid six years ago is well and truly a "sunk cost" and you've pretty much had your money's worth out of it. Even if you're, say, debating spending £200 on a new SSD, the basic computer is essentially paid for, so it's like spending £200 for (hopefully) another 3 years' happy computing.

    c.f. £500 for a second-hand iMac, £200 for a SSD, £80 for TB-to-USB 3, £50 (say) for RAM all at once -> over £800 on a machine that - if nothing else - will probably lose software support sometime in the next 3 years.

    Never say never, but I don't think I'd pay more than £500 for any old computer - and looking on eBay that looks borderline for a decent 2011 iMac.

    Trouble is - the advice to the original poster should be "get a Mac Mini or MacBook Air as an 'as new' Apple refurb" - but sadly Apple are doing a bang-up job of "pulling up the ladder" by letting these crucial entry-level products get woefully out-of-date while releasing "replacements" at far higher price points. Classic 'never looking beyond this quarter' thinking.

    HINT: You can edit 5-minute videos on a cheap generic PC with a copy of Premiere Elements. Its not like the current iMovie is as simple and powerful as it used to be.
     
  15. T'hain Esh Kelch macrumors 68040

    T'hain Esh Kelch

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    Denmark
    #15
    The dGPU problem is a sole reason enough to say don't get a 2011 iMac. They are extremely error prone.
     
  16. jasnw macrumors 6502

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    Nov 15, 2013
    Location:
    Seattle Area (NOT! Microsoft)
    #16
    You are absolutely correct. I was answering the question "is a 2011 iMac too old" from the technical point of view. Whether or not it makes financial sense depends on other factors, as you point out. As you also point out, the preferred answer would be to buy a new Mini and configure/upgrade as needed. However, our Masters at Apple have seen to it that there is no such option at present.
     
  17. Soondae macrumors member

    Soondae

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    May 22, 2012
    Location:
    Hua Hin, Thailand
    #17
    I have a late 2012 iMac with Fusion drive that I bought from the Apple Refurbish site in 2013. I regret not buying the 2013 model for two reasons:
    1) 2012 models are USB 2.0, not USB 3.0 as many here have stated.
    2) 2012 models are 11n wifi, not 11ac (this really bothers me)

    However I did save $800 as the new 27" model with Fusion drive would have ran me $2555 and I paid $1700 for the refurb 2012.
     
  18. throAU, May 14, 2017
    Last edited: May 14, 2017

    throAU macrumors 601

    throAU

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    Feb 13, 2012
    Location:
    Perth, Western Australia
    #18
    Spending significant money on a 5-6+ year old computer is IMHO a fools errand.

    Yes, the hardware is still powerful. But they're well out of warranty and especially with the discrete GPU models, due for hardware failure of various types.

    Hard disk drives have a failure rate that goes up significantly at year 4 and beyond.
    The GPUs have a known issue.

    Its up to you whether or not you want to risk it, but just know that expecting the hardware to be failure free for any significant period of time is a risk. I would not be spending any more money than you can afford to throw away, should the device have something like a GPU or logic board failure within 6-12 months; because that's a risk you face.

    If you're willing to take that risk, go for it; but if throwing this money at the machine and having it fail will hurt you financially, then look at something closer to 1-2 years old, ideally with warranty coverage. IMHO the money people are asking for secondhand Mac hardware is crazy, but...

    --- Post Merged, May 14, 2017 ---
    The caveat to that being that computer components can just randomly fail without warning, without having necessarily been exposed to abuse or poor treatment. Same goes for brand new or under-warranty hardware, but at least you're covered in that instance, and the rates are much lower for the first 3 years (which is why Apple will offer applecare for that long - they're not stupid and have run the numbers, 3 years is where various failure rates blow out significantly). I'd also argue that modern hardware is a lot more fragile than the stuff from the 70s, 80s and 90s. Physical limits are being pushed harder.

    You literally have no way of knowing whether or not this machine will fail on day 1 or 10 years from now; however law of averages says that there are several components that are out of warranty and on the increasing likelihood of the MTBF curve at this point.
     
  19. iMacC2D macrumors 6502a

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    Jun 24, 2010
    #19
    If anyone did want to purchase a 2011 iMac, I would advise looking for a lower end model with AMD Radeon 6770M 512MB graphics. These lower end cards had a significantly lower TDP (35w to 6970M's 95w) and as a result, weren't anywhere near as prone to malfunctioning as the Radeon HD 6970M 1GB/2GB.
     
  20. throAU macrumors 601

    throAU

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    Perth, Western Australia
    #20
    They're still higher spec than the HD6750M that failed in my Macbook Pro about 12 months ago...
     
  21. Mac-lover3 macrumors 6502

    Mac-lover3

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    Dec 2, 2014
    Location:
    Belgium
    #21
    I have MacBook Air 2011 (4GB RAM, 1,6GHz i5, running macOS Sierra ) while I still use this as my main computer (I'm a student) it's running on it's last legs. Battery is dead after 1200+ cycles, it's not so snappy anymore. Safari, iTunes, Mail, Word, Pages, Keynote etc work quite well there is often some delay that's quite annoying. When using iMovie it's still very usable but damn it stutters quite a lot with medium to long projects. I'm planning to buy another computer for next year when I go to uni.
     
  22. applepuree macrumors 6502

    applepuree

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    Aug 15, 2014
    #22
    I would avoid a 2011 due to EOL as well. Take a look at a newer reconditioned unit from Apple's website if cost is an issue.
     
  23. ExcelTronic macrumors newbie

    ExcelTronic

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    Dec 31, 2015
    Location:
    Chicago
    #23
    As everyone has stated, avoid the 2011 Macs. The dGPU isn't worth the risk if you plan on having your personal files on it. As for me, I bought a 17" 2010 MacBook Pro in 2014, and I use it more than any computer in my house. It's old, but I definitely got my $950 worth from it. These machines last a very very long time. So I would aim for 2013 and up.
     
  24. throAU macrumors 601

    throAU

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    Feb 13, 2012
    Location:
    Perth, Western Australia
    #24
    If you do insist on going for a mac that old, i'd suggest an Air or a 13" MBP.

    The discrete GPU in the machines of that vintage is SLOW these days anyway. Integrated is "good enough" for most non-gaming use and doesn't have the same failure rate.

    You ARE still subject to battery and storage failure or wear/tear though.
     
  25. ApolloBoy macrumors 6502

    ApolloBoy

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    Apr 16, 2015
    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    #25
    You sure about that? The only Mac that didn't get USB 3 ports in 2012 was the Mac Pro.
     

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