Just cannot decide between 21.5" and 27"

Discussion in 'iMac' started by hi99s, Jun 9, 2011.

  1. hi99s macrumors newbie

    Jun 9, 2011
    First of all, apologies for duplicating what is probably getting increasingly annoying for regular forum-goers to see but please bear with me.

    I'm a long-suffering PC user who's finally decided it's time for a change and will definitely be buying an iMac. I've bored of noisy towers, messy cables, ugly monitors and atrocious operating systems.

    I have some serious "keeping me awake at night" issues in terms of choosing which iMac to go for.

    I will be a 'general purpose' user, so my needs are very.... general. One day I'll only be interested in games, the next day I'll only need to surf a few sites and check my mail. The next day I might feel like dabbing in a bit of my creative side. I don't have a digital camera and I'm not an enthusiast - photography isn't even a hobby of mine - yet. I do plan on trying it out sometime though.

    Note: I've seen both in an Apple store so I've had an impression of their look and feel - but a five minute test drive didn't feel definitive in making a decision.

    The 27" options looks stunning, but I'm unsure if I need that much horsepower. I do have a large back catalogue of PC games that the 6970m could take advantage of. I found the native resolution of the 27" a bit overbearing though. All desktop elements (icons, menus, text etc) were quite small and just using OSX in general I found it a bit of a strain on my eyes. There's always lower resolutions but I hate the reduced image clarity of non-native resolutions.

    The 21.5" option is much, much easier on my eyes. The native resolution is closer to what I'm used to (1920x1200 at home, 1680x1050 at work). OSX was a pleasure to use on this size since my hand didn't have to do multiple sweeps of the mouse/trackpad just to reach the other side of the screen. Gaming performance will of course be lower since there's a substantial difference in performance between the 6770m and 6790m.

    What if I decided I wanted to start photography as a hobby. Would the resolution of the 21.5" limit my ability to work effectively in Photoshop?

    If I went for the 1 or 2TB HDD and 256GBSSD, how would this work when installing additional software? Would all apps install by default install to the SSD or do you normally get a choice of where to install software? I'd rather keep it 'PC-like', with OSX and core apps on the SSD and space-hogging software (games for example) and data on the HDD.

    Gaming won't be my priority. I honestly find casual games like Bejeweled 3 more entertaining than leading titles these days. Not sure if it's because I'm getting older or because I don't have the patience for them any longer. I'll no doubt get the urge to dig out an old or new favourite to play now and again though. Am I seriously hampering myself with the 6770m? Diablo III is probably the only future Mac/PC game I'm interested in as all the rest will no doubt be multi-platform (can't think of many PC-exclusives on the horizon I'm keen on) and I have a PS3 for those if I was interested. I do have a copy of the Witcher 2 that I'd love to run on an iMac though, but I wouldn't opt for the 27" just to be able to do this.

    I don't really think the cons of the 27" outweigh the pros to buy one just to play a few games, but are there any other factors I should consider which would make the 27" an overall better purchase than the 21.5"? (I'd go for the top spec 21.5" with an i7, 8GB RAM and SSD, not baseline if that helps).

    Thanks for reading.
  2. Horlics macrumors newbie

    Jun 4, 2011

    1. If you are a general purpose user then great, because both are general purpose machines

    2. If you found the pixels per inch a strain for a few minutes it's going to hurt after a few hours. Many people find 130 PPI ish (i forget what it is exactly) a strain and you'll see lots of messages in here asking how to up the whole system's font size, etc. Many people struggle with it.

    3. The resolution of the 21.5 will be fine for Photoshop.

    4. You get the choice of where to install software so can choose any drive in the system.

    5. Good job gaming won't be your priority, these aren't gaming powerhouses. If you're happy with taking the resolution down in order to keep framerates up, then either of these will be ok. They do fine for most people, but a serious gamer would look elsewhere.

    6. No other factors. You sound like a general purpose user and these are both good general purpose machines. You've worked out already that the res is too small for you on the 27"
  3. hi99s thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 9, 2011
    Thanks for the reply.

    Yep, you're right - seems I'd already made my mind up in a way but it's reassuring to have confirmed by another human being what I probably subconsciously already knew :)

    I think I may just treat myself to an iPad with the money I'll 'save' by opting for the smaller iMac.
  4. Scarpad macrumors 68000


    Jan 13, 2005
    I Just bought a 21.5 with the 1tb drive option yesterday. The 27" is very nice but too large for my work area. If I was going to use it as a TV in my Living room I would've gotten the 27"
  5. trudderham macrumors newbie

    May 19, 2011
    I have the new 27-inch iMac and got used to it surprisingly fast – it doesn't even feel large anymore. I sit right in front of it and don't have any issues with strain. My 20-inch iMac at work feels tiny.

    That said, there is usually a lot of empty screen estate when doing regular things like browsing or viewing images. But it really comes into it's own when I'm animating/editing film or playing games, and so far, not one title has slowed down when running at the native res.
  6. Sodner macrumors 68020


    Jan 12, 2011
    Pittsburgh, PA
    I feel your pain.

    I had a 2009 21" with the Core2Duo chip-set that I wanted to hand down to my family and get myself one of the new 2011 Sandy Bridge iMacs. I went to the Apple store several times to look at the 21" and 27" side by side to try and help me decide which to get. In the end I went with the 21" because I thought that for my casual use, I simply did not need the extra screen real-estate as I don't need multiple apps open side by side very often. And secondly, the 27" would just over power my work area and not "fit in" properly.

    Even though that 27" was tempting, I just felt I didn't need it. Funny thing was with the configurations I was comparing, the price difference was only $200. So when I got the 21" I spent the $200 on 16GB of memory from OWC. :)
  7. rumplestiltskin macrumors regular

    Apr 12, 2006
    I'm on my third 27" unit (not because of QC issues - Core2Duo, 1st gen Core i7, 3rd gen Core i7). All have been flawless. The first two were refurbs and were perfect. I wouldn't go back to a smaller screen on an iMac. If they made a 30" iMac, I'd buy that.

    The additional real estate (compared to the 21.5") is staggering. The price delta isn't much. You'll be looking at this screen for two-three years, right? Don't cheap out (unless there really is a "no room on the desk" issue).
  8. drpotter2807 macrumors newbie

    Apr 10, 2011
    I just got my first 27 Inch iMac yesterday. I got the 27 because I plan to use it MOSTLY for photography and that was important to me. But its big... its huge. And yes I can see where the screen resolution might cause some strain and the continuous scrolling of the mouse to move across might become tiresome. For me, I am willing to deal with that because the 27 size is a priority for me.

    For you, sounds like the 21 is your comfortable spot... and it is for SO MANY. Don't let anyone push you into a 27 if you deep down prefer the 21. Especially if you get it spec'd out like you plan... that will help with some of the " I wish I would have gotten that" syndrome that some ppl deal with.

    To me.. to get the 27 inch (when you really prefer the 21 inch) is silly, especially just bc some ppl on a forum told you you needed to. Reading your post I was wondering why you were even asking, because its CLEAR that the 21 inch is where your heart is. Don't let those of us who think the 27 is the only way to go, push you into something you don't want. I HAVE heard of several ppl who got the 27 inch and just felt it was TOO BIG and exchanged it for the 21. It does happen, despite what you may read on this forum. Most of us HERE are of the "go big or go Home... over obsessive camp anyway.." me included. But its not the best option for everybody!

    Use the money and get the iPad. The ipad 2 was my first Apple purchase and I LOVE IT!!! I would recommend the trackpad if you go the ipad route. Then browsing on your iMac is VERY similar to browsing on your ipad. I felt like it helped cover the large expanse of screen better as well.

    As a fellow PC user... it will take some time to get adjusted, but so far it definitely seems worth it! If I can just get the single click instead of a double click into my damn head I'll be golden!
  9. DJJAZZYJET macrumors 6502

    Jun 4, 2011
    Think realistically

    the cheapest imac will be able to run EVERYTHING decently, all the horsepower does is increase the speed a little, you sound like you would prefer a 21.5 inch screen which is still a big screen and it can run casual games flawlessly. You wont need higher than the cheapest base level imac, which is capable of running what the bigger imacs can but just not as fast. If you feel you want more graphics just to future proof yourself, go for the higher end imac.
  10. Pipper99 macrumors 68020


    Aug 14, 2010
    Fort Worth, TX
    I'm 50, and I have to wear progressive lenses; however, I recently bought the 27" iMac, and I love it. Eye strain hasn't been a problem for me. I love the extra screen real estate with the ability to have more windows open without overlap. Photography is a hobby of mine, and viewing and tweaking my photos in Lightroom is great on this big screen. If I need a bigger font while reading web pages, pinch to zoom works nicely. I've adjusted my trackpad speed so that I don't have to swipe mulitple times to move the pointer from one side to the other.

    All that said, if eye strain is a serious issue for you, the 21" is a great machine, and it sounds like that's the way that you really want to go. Putting the cost difference toward an iPad would be nice: I love my iPad, and I wouldn't want to be without it.
  11. phlydude macrumors regular


    Jun 21, 2010
    Newark, DE
    I went with the mantra of "Go big or go home"...I'm pleased with my 27" purchase!:D
  12. Paulywauly macrumors 6502a


    Sep 26, 2009
    Durham, UK
    The 27s are great, but they make the 21.5s look deceptivly small instore. Try finding a 21.5 without a 27 next to it.

    I was worried when i bought mine, but once i'd got it home it seemed much bigger than it did before i bought it
  13. panzer06 macrumors 68030


    Sep 23, 2006
    If I'm used to using 2 24" iMacs @ 1920*1200 would the 21.5" look small even though actual screen real estate is close?

  14. Paulywauly macrumors 6502a


    Sep 26, 2009
    Durham, UK
    My best friend owns a 24 and i'm always tinkering with it so i can speak from experience. There is a difference but its slight. The 21.5 inch has a much better quality screen over the 24s though and the true widescreen aspect ratio more than makes up for it
  15. coolspot18 macrumors 65816

    Aug 16, 2010
    I ended up getting a 27", only because I plan on using it with VMs and Remote Desktop, therefore lots of big windows.

    But for the average user, the 21.5" is more than enough.

    However, it's too bad there is no 24" model anymore, that would be a nice sweet spot?
  16. TheUndertow macrumors 6502

    Feb 20, 2011
    I wonder...it sounds great but is it "too big" to be the small model and for the size conscious? 21 AND 24" would probably be too "close" to have as the only options, as would 24" and 27".

    If they move up to 30" for the next rev, I might see 21"/24-25"/30" but maybe I'm dreaming.

    With Thunderbolt, I'd like to see ACD's that are the same size as the iMacs where I might not have said that before, from a product placement standpoint.
  17. patashnik Guest

    If there is one thing that I've learnt, it's that "you'll get used to anything". I returned the 27" and got the 21.5" iMac. Reasons:
    - It really was too big. This is a personal thing, and in my case, I wasn't about to strain my eyes based upon others decisions.
    - The difference in processor and video card means very little to me. Sure, I wouldn't mind having an i7 when photoshopping, but I just didn't want to pay 2x to shave some seconds here and there.
    - I don't do video or encoding. Ever. If I were spending time waiting for intensive editing jobs I might have made a different choice.
    - I have a PS3 for games, and for StarCraft 2 and Call of Duty, the cheapest iMac works fine.
    - I have money in the bank to buy a MacBook Air when the next refresh comes up.
  18. dmidesign macrumors newbie

    Jun 9, 2011

    Hi my advise/opinion and current experience with apple and the new imac 27" is dont buy one and if you have one don't turn it on because it will get contaminated if you use it, make sure you have apple care because you will need that to cover the 8 or 9 new screens you will probably need over the 3 year course, or sell it as quick as possible and cut your loses.

    It seems that dust inside the LCD and on the backlights is a widespread problem. From the thousands of posts on Apple Support and the numerous forums YouTube videos, this is a design defect!

    There seems to be no solution as apple where unwilling to help and blamed the grey smudge marks on environmental issues and my fault because i use my mac in my house, When i asked if i paid for a new screen would it be fixed or will it happen again, Apples response was we can't guarantee it won't. The only solution i am now left with, is to follow this link below and pry open the LCD and directly clean the insides and backlights. http://forums.macrumors.com/showthre...1#post11976152

    I will be opening my LCD and wiping away the dust that has leaked inside the sealed LCD display
    I will video document my repair and see apple in the small claims court

    Will keep you posted
  19. nightfly13 macrumors 6502a


    Jul 17, 2008
    Ranchi, India
    You get used to 27" really quickly - and appreciate it

    I've been using a 30" (and some smaller flanking screens) for years and love the resolution. There's no substitute for 3-4 million pixels on the screen. Spaces is pretty nice, but it's always either-or. The 27" is a great value, and I plan to buy one shortly (waiting for the Back to School promo).
  20. wangkom macrumors member

    Oct 24, 2007
    I just couldn't imagine going back to anything smaller than 27". With the high resolution, I can have a browser and a work document side by side (or netflix and work).

    Once you get used to that, you won't be able to stand any lower resolution.
  21. Mr Rogers macrumors regular

    Oct 24, 2003
    Hong Kong
    Get the 27in

    For what its worth, I've been using the 27in iMac now for two weeks, the 21.5in now seems small and the screen nowhere as good as on this beast.

    There are good bargains currently for the high end BTO 2010 model with a i7 2.93Ghz Quad Core.

    Even though I have the high end BTO 2011 model, new Thunderbolt connections don't allow for using this as a monitor as well as great computer - whilst I've upgraded to 2G VRAM - its still no gaming machine - hence getting Xbox 360 Kinect that I for one would love to couple with latest iMac.

    Moral of the tale, i'm getting a refurbished 2010 i7 as a monitor and games player for the Xbox to keep my four year old daughter happy - by the way, she now dislikes the 21.5in iMac.

    Probably by Xmas, I'll have three of these puppies, a top end 2010, top end 2011 and if the i5 27in 2011 becomes available second hand or as a Mac refurbish job, I'll get one of these for the UK - they are that good.
  22. smirk macrumors 6502a


    Jul 18, 2002
    Orange County, CA
    What ever happened to the long-rumored resolution independence in OS X? If Lion finally delivers it then those small icons on the 27" screen will be a thing of the past, as you could scale the UI larger as needed.
  23. sth macrumors 6502a

    Aug 9, 2006
    The old world
    If money is not the limiting factor: Go for the 27"!

    The pixel density is about equal between the two models (102dpi vs. 108dpi).
  24. SpaceMagic macrumors 68000


    Oct 26, 2003
    Cardiff, Wales
    If money is no object, always go for the bigger. If money is a factor, then consider your needs.

    See my review in my sig for my reasons going for 21.5" model.
  25. Michael383 macrumors 6502a

    Mar 17, 2011

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