Is now the WRONG time to buy an iMac?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by psyqd, Nov 3, 2010.

  1. psyqd macrumors newbie

    Jun 13, 2007

    I desperately need a new computer. My old iMac (a G4 stuck at Tiger) is slowly being made killed off by Apple. It's stuck with iTunes 9, so it won't sync at all with my iPhone 4 or iPad. I've been considering getting a new iMac, but now I'm worried that it's about to get a major upgrade. In addition, I'm about to start a bunch of Computer Science classes in the spring, so a modern computer is paramount.

    The current iMac form factor is starting to show its age. Each shape had a lifespan of about three years (colors for 3.5, iLamp for 2.5, white for 3); the aluminum model is a little over three years old now.

    The big thing Apple likes to do with the iMac is make it thinner and have a smaller chin. The biggest roadblocks to this trend are the hard drive and optical drive. Do you think they're going to "MacBook Airize" the iMac and replace it with an SSD drive soon? I know the 27" model has an option for one, but it's not placed directly on the motherboard like the MBA (not to mention I have a tightish budget). I'd hate to buy an iMac just to have it become obsolete in January, but I kind of need it now. What do you think I should do?

  2. EricNau Moderator emeritus


    Apr 27, 2005
    San Francisco, CA
    Have you seen the MacRumors' Buyer's Guide?

    It's always hard to know what Apple is planning for the near future. I usually ask myself "what current technology could be added to this product, at this time?"

    There's not a lot of room for improvement, right now. The design of the current iMac is essentially the same as the iMac G5, with only differences in thickness and materials... but what else can be done?

    Apple clearly likes Glass and Aluminum right now; I don't think that will be changing anytime soon. I suppose they could make the iMac thinner, but I suspect they're approaching the minimum thickness allowed by optical and hard disk drives, so even these changes would be marginal. Solid-state drives in the capacities required for desktops are still very pricy; it'll be awhile yet before we see flash storage in the lower-end iMac.

    Hope this helps your decision.
  3. sagnier macrumors regular

    Sep 19, 2007
    any imac you buy now is not going to be obsolete in january, even if they revise them. personally, id be more annoyed about not being able to sync.
  4. r0k macrumors 68040


    Mar 3, 2008
    I don't understand why you're stuck at Tiger on a G4 iMac. I pried apart my G4 Mac Mini and added RAM (from Crucial) so I could get it to Leopard. Could adding RAM and going to Leopard save you some money and buy you some time?

    BTW, I don't know if Apple currently sells Leopard retail but I'm sure you could order it and in the worst case pick up a Leopard DVD somebody is reselling on ebay. Just make sure it's a retail Leopard DVD and not a DVD that came with a particular Mac.

    As for timing, there really is a wrong time to buy Apple gear. It is right before new gear comes out if you want the latest stuff. I picked up a white Macbook about a week and a half before the upgrade cycle. I wound up paying restocking because restocking cost less than adding the extra RAM (even from Crucial) that came with the newer Penryn Macbook. I still have it today. I will be window shopping for a new Macbook pro during the coming year but I will be very careful to avoid jumping a few days before a refresh. As for iMac, I think you're safe wrt aluminum and glass, but let's say for a moment they shrink the newer model and take out the optical drive. Wouldn't you want to grab one before they took out the optical drive anyway?
  5. 0007776 Suspended


    Jul 11, 2006
    You answered your own question. You said you need it now so buy it now. If that isn't true and you don't really need it then go ahead and wait as long as you can since there will always be something new coming.
  6. John T macrumors 68020

    John T

    Mar 18, 2006
    Absolutely! :)

    With respect to the OP, I can rarely understand the logic in posts such as this. Why are so many people so insecure and unable to make decisions on their own? As mrkramer says, if you want a new machine and can afford it, get one. If you don't really want/need one - don't! It's as simple as that. After all is said and done, eventually, everything becomes out of date. ;)
  7. urkel macrumors 68030

    Nov 3, 2008
    What a condescending perspective. Most people have lives that revolve around more important things than the latest tech news and view computers as a "Tool" to be replaced every 3 years rather than some sort of personality trait. So when they need help with something that is out of their field they go to the nearest "expert". Sometimes thats a family member, sometimes that's (groan) internet message board users who tend to have a better perspective on the market than they do.

    And it should be understandable that buying an Apple product is frustrating because Apple doesn't adjust their product pricing at the end of a cycle so their secrecy can make it very easy to buy a "previous gen" device for the exact same price as the new one that may or may not be out in 2 weeks. So if we're talking insecurity then I rank "People Bashers" much higher than "Cautious Consumers".

    That said, I'd check out Apple's refurb store. They have severe discounts on systems with full warranties if you need one right now because if updates do show up then at least you didnt pay full price.
  8. thuff59 macrumors member


    Jul 6, 2009
    I just ordered a refurbished 27" iMac from the Apple store, comes with a 1 year warranty. Sold my MacBook Pro and used the money to buy the iMac, needed a larger screen.
  9. redkamel macrumors 6502

    Aug 29, 2006
    OP, sounds like you need a new computer. No major changes in the pipe; at the least, cosmetics (who cares) and at the most, light peak (years to fully implement).

    Obviously not, if they are on a message board asking for buying advice. If its a tool and you need it, buy it. Who cares whats coming out? The problem is when you don't really need it.
  10. emotion macrumors 68040


    Mar 29, 2004
    Manchester, UK
    Intel Sandy Bridge is coming early in the new year.

    If you can hold 3-4 months I would at this stage.

    If you need now then the current machines, as they are Nehalem i5/i7 are still very nice machines.
  11. psyqd thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 13, 2007
    Thanks for all your responses!

    EricNau: That's a good way of looking at the issue. Still, I'm worried about the way they were able to fit SSD's into the new MBA and still keep it relatively cheap. I know the 256GB model starts at $1599, but that's only $600 more than the base model and has a bigger screen. I guess I'm worried that Apple figured out a cheap way to make SSD and they're going to stick it into everything soon.

    sagnier: "Obsolete" was a bad word to use. I guess what I meant was "really outdated". I just feel like Apple is going to put SSD into everything pretty soon. This seems likely if you consider the whole schtick of Back to the Mac (instant on, auto-save, iPad-like...). It would really suck to have to wait for HD operations twice as long as machines built a year from now. I actually wrote a letter of rage to Steve Jobs about not being able to sync. It was seven paragraphs long. I guess I'm glad I never sent it! :eek:

    r0k: Leopard also had a 867MHz requirement, but my iMac only has 700MHz. I know there was something like XPostFacto for Leopard, but I didn't want to lose Classic mode. I'm not sure how I feel about optical drives. I don't think I need them, but then of course I will!

    mrkramer: I guess "now" was a bad word to use here too! I could easily postpone to January, and could probably work around it for a few months afterward if there was something worthwhile to wait for.

    John T: :p

    urkel: I have to agree with you there! ;) And you're right about buying Apple products. The fact that I'm still using a computer built in 2002 is indicative of how permanent this decision is for me. And thanks for that link! I've never really looked there before. There are some great deals!

    thuff59: That's good to know. I've always been leery of refurbs; glad to hear your experience.

    redkamel: Heh, yeah, I know I need to get one eventually. :rolleyes: It's really too bad; this iMac is still holding up strong. Apple's really the one artificially making it obsolete. (Not that I blame them, lol)

    emotion: Interesting. I had no idea Intel was about to release a new chip. Can you tell me what are the practical implications of SB over Nehalem? Also, how long does it generally take for new chips to make their way into the iMac?
  12. EricNau Moderator emeritus


    Apr 27, 2005
    San Francisco, CA
    I agree: SSD is coming, but it's not right around the corner either. Flash storage is the one thing Apple can't "figure out a cheap way" to manufacture. After all, they buy it just like any other company (and they buy a lot!). Also, desktops will likely the last to receive SSDs; remember, the MacBooks, MacBook Pros, and Mac minis don't have it either.

    Also, remember that Apple wasn't able to increase the iPhone 4's SSD capacity over the 3GS (with a year between each model).

    New designs and bigger screens might be right around the corner (though I doubt it), but it's going to be awhile before we see SSD included in standard iMacs. If that's your largest concern, and you need a new computer now, I don't think you need to worry too much about pulling the trigger. :)

    And for what it's worth, if I had the need for an iMac, I wouldn't hesitate. The current machines are quite amazing. ...It feels like just yesterday I bought my first Mac: an iMac G5. :eek:
  13. luis.s macrumors newbie

    Jan 21, 2010
    New Zealand
    I think that any of the current iMacs will be such a big difference that it wont matter if they are slightly upgraded in a few months anyway :p

    According to the buyer's guide ( it's half way through its average upgrade cycle at the moment. So it's unlikely it'll be upgraded in the next 100 days, and when it is I can't see it being a huge upgrade, more likely it will just be a refinement. But hey, it's Apple; anything could happen.

    In the end, the current iMac is an amazing product which I'm sure you'll be really happy with. I held out for ages on buying a MacBook Pro at the end of last year/beginning of this year, because I knew an update was due, and ended up buying it about 2 weeks before the update, even though I knew it was coming (the free iPod education deal, and the free printer deal both expired the day after I bought it, hence that being my deadline for buying). I'm typing this on that MacBook Pro right now, and I'm still really happy with it.

    So my advice: if you buy an iMac right now, you'll be really happy with it, and it'll be a huge jump from your current machine. If you are happy to wait a few months, and buy the day the next model comes out, you'll get an even better machine, but it's unlikely it'll be revolutionarily (is that even a word?) better. Personally, if I was in your situation, I'd buy now and get the next three or four months on a drastically faster machine rather than wait. If you're happy enough with what you've got, wait and buy on the next update, in confidence that it's the newest thing out there (for 6 months anyway :p)
  14. emotion macrumors 68040


    Mar 29, 2004
    Manchester, UK
    I agree.
  15. g0doyers macrumors newbie

    Nov 5, 2010
    Never fails for me. If I were to wait 3 or 4 months. Something new will come out in 6.
  16. psyqd, Nov 5, 2010
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2010

    psyqd thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 13, 2007
    EricNau: Yeah, you make some good points. Never considered the iPhone part. Heh, you're probably right. Apple is putting a lot of emphasis on their laptops now; the desktops are kind of being cast aside.


    Actually, there were some specific things about SB that I wanted to ask you about. I noticed that quad-cores are essentially standard, so I guess the new revision will be i5/i7 only. But a quick search yielded a discussion about the chip. The two big parts about SB are the new design and built-in graphics.

    Nehalem was based upon an old design they've been using for years. SB has been completely redesigned, for better or worse. I'm worried that the first SBs will have the same problems as the first Pentium 4s (specifically, melting motherboards, which mine did :eek:). At the same time, it could lead to a lot of optimizations.

    Also, the integrated graphics bothers me. They get respectable clock speeds, but wouldn't that make the dedicated graphics cards in the current iMacs redundant? I can't see Apple taking parts out, but then what's the point of two graphics processors?

    luis.s: Haha, touché! :rolleyes: Still, don't forget the Megahertz Myth (be sure to read the whole story)! Yeah, I know you're right. The Buyer's Guide says to wait until March/April, which I don't think I can do. Especially because I'm supposed to be program Game Boys in Linux.

    g0doyers: Heh, that's true. And in the meantime, you're trying to survive with your old machine as long as possible. Same thing happened with my iPhone 3G. The screen broke and slowly became unusable, but I just knew they'd come out with a new iPhone sooner or later!

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