Long term value of the 2011 iMac

Discussion in 'iMac' started by aComicBookFan, Feb 28, 2012.

  1. aComicBookFan macrumors member

    Feb 26, 2012
    I own a PPC G5 machine that I bought in April 2005 and I am planning to replace it in the next month or two, There is nothing technically wrong with it and it runs strong but it is a machine that is trapped in time as one forum member called it. Updates to software made for a PowerPC are far and few in between. If a hardware component dies then is it even worth repairing a computer that is only worth $100?*

    At first I thought that I would replace this machine with a Mac Mini Server. It got a high Geekbench score and for $950-ish (new) it seemed like a good deal. Then I asked for some feedback on this machine in the Mini forum and I am wondering if I would be as satisfied with a Mini of any kind. It seems that there are too many compromises. I can have a strong CPU at the expense of a weak GPU. Heat dissipation is an issue. Memory upgrades are limited to 16MB. All these things may not be issues today but what about tomorrow? Will applications grow over time and no longer "fit" within the confines of the Mini design? I don't want to find myself chasing after new hardware in four years.*

    I initially discounted the iMac line because the benchmark scores were lower for the price of the machine. Granted, you are getting a wicked awesome display, a CD/DVD drive, a keyboard, etc which all adds to the cost but I also see that I am getting more memory slots and a better GPU. I am beginning to learn that benchmark scores don't tell the full story. Now I am wondering how well an iMac would stand the test of time and suit my needs.

    1) I seriously intend to keep this machine for seven years or more. When the time is right I will upgrade the memory. Will the new iMacs operate for that long or were they designed to fail early since we cycle through "disposable technology" more nowadays (i.e. like cellphones).

    2) My primary applications are web surfing, iTunes, ripping DVDs, and Collectorz Comic Collector (huge database). Occasionally I do some light word processing and spreadsheet work. I would like to get into some simple video editing like cropping the beginning and ends where I am fumbling with the camera.*Going to an Intel platform will no doubt open up new applications that I never would have considered on the PPC machine but I can't even imagine what those apps would be.

    3) I am not a gamer at all like I used to be in the 80s and 90s. Nowadays I like puzzle and retro games. My iPad is more than enough for me when I get the urge to play Bejeweled.

    4) I usally buy something mid-level because that is where the best value is usally found. If I were to get an iMac then I would get the 2.7GHz i5 with a 21.5" display. Am I missing out on something by not going one step up?

    5) Lastly, I have $300 in Amazon gift certificates that were given to me a gifts over time and I intend to use them for whatever I ultimately upgrade to.

    I know that was a long e-mail and I want to thank you for taking the time to read it :)

    Your comments and feedback would be greatly appreciated.


    -- Boris
  2. Macman45 macrumors G5


    Jul 29, 2011
    Somewhere Back In The Long Ago
    An imac will suit your needs perfectly, and I agree about the mini...by the time you add it all in, you don't save that much.

    You might want to add another 4GB of Ram, but don't buy it from Apple, it's a simple DIY job, and will not void your warranty.

    I have a 27" top spec. with 16GB Ram, and it's my workhorse and has never missed a beat.

    A smaller screen would suffice for you, but I get the impression you want the 27" It's awesome to have the real-estate and the high resolution too.
  3. alksion macrumors 68000


    Sep 10, 2010
    Los Angeles County
    If your willing to wait two months, then I would certainly do so. By then, new iMacs will be out and you will theoretically get one more year out of your iMac.

    But again, if you need it now, then of course get it now. But if not, wait just two months and you'll have the latest and greatest to bost about.
  4. Michael383 macrumors 6502a

    Mar 17, 2011
    Since you're using a PPC G5 machine I'd wait until the 2012 iMacs are released.
  5. leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008
    First, I would not count on *any* computer living for 7 years, its a very long time. You have your warranty period, which is 3 years with Apple Care. After that you are either lucky or unlucky. However, the probability that your HDD will fail is very high, as they simply have a limited life span.

    Second, from your stated usage profile, you should be perfectly happy with MacMini. It is more than powerful enough for the tasks you describe.

    Third, I believe that your approach is ultimately flawed. After four years, *any* computer is outdated. A entry-level machine in four years will be significantly faster than a top machine you can buy now. This is the way the industry works.

    Thus, my advice: get a MacMini; sell it when its warranty runs out and get a new one.
  6. DavoteK, Feb 29, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2012

    DavoteK macrumors 6502

    Jan 5, 2012
    Bump that spec and screen size up as much as possible, irrespective of if you buy now or play the waiting game (seems everyone has insider info about a new line of Macs in the next month or two).

    If you want longevity, best to take the pain now, financially, and then it will still be usable in say 5 or 6 years time, if you're lucky enough to have it last past the warranty that long.

    Either way, waiting or buying now, the iMac (Mid 2011 version I'm going off) is a superb purchase. Best computer I have ever owned.
  7. madrag macrumors 6502

    Nov 2, 2007
    I'm exactly in the same situation as the OP, and believe me that there are many macs arround with seven (or even more, a lot more)!

    I understand where the OP is going with the seven years, that's how long the PM G5 has "lived" and the next computer must live for the same amount of time.

    I am waiting for the iMac, and I suggest the iMac over the mini, as I believe it will last longer and has more expandability. I also believe the iMac can live and work for the next seven years, but I prefer to wait for the 2012 version which will most definitely be better than the 2011 version.
  8. leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008
    I know, we have enough of old and still functional macs in the department. Still, my point that buying a computer for 7 years is just wrong, because there is no guarantee at all that it will last that long (and repair costs of Macs are usually very high) + even after few years the machine will be seriously outclassed by new models. Especially if its a machine you rely on every day. This is simply an unrealistic expectation.
  9. James Craner macrumors 68000

    James Craner

    Sep 13, 2002
    Bristol, UK
    If I wanted a computer to last a long time, the ideal choice would be a Mac Pro as the display is external and could be replaced if it fails outside warranty. The Memory, Hard Disk and graphics card can also he replaced if they fail as well. My Current Mac Pro is 5 1/2 years old and still going strong, although I have had to replace two hard disks since it was new, due to failure. One graphics card failed during the warranty period as well, but that was replaced by Apple.

    However I suspect the current Mac Pro's are probably more than you need, and outside your current budget.

    The Mac Mini is possibly your best bet, as the display is external, so if the display fails you can always replace it. The two risks with the iMac are if the display fails then you lose the lot, unless you get it repaired. The other issue with the iMac is the hard disk has a special sensor on it, which means that if it fails, you have to get it replaced by Apple (well probably a non issue as replacing the hard disk on an iMac is not for the feint hearted anyway).

    The hard disk is going to be your main risk of failure, some research done by Google a few years ago on 100,000 hards disks at their server farms suggested that the risk of a disk failure within 5 years was about 30%. While SSD drives are still pretty new, I suspect due to the fact that they don't have any moving parts, they are less likely to fail.
  10. aComicBookFan thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 26, 2012
    Wow, these are very interesting replies!! I'm glad I posted my question to the iMac forum. :)

    I don't know how much I should use a warranty period to indicate a possible useful product life. If my car has a warranty period of 5 years then should I assume it will start falling apart after that time span? Back in the 80s and 90s a lot of electronics had warranty periods of 90 days. I remember buying my first Sound Blaster card (the original!) and it had a warranty of 90 days but it ened up working for five years before it became obsolete (I replaced it with a Pro Audio Spectrum). It never broke.

    Maybe I have been extremely lucky with the life of my HDD. It has worked flawlessly and I would guess that Apple picked a good unit to put in. Then again, it's only 80 GB and maybe the design of a 80 GB drive has less contraints than a 1 TB drive. My screen has no dead pixels or areas. The only thing that has died is my keyboard but that's my own fault. I cleaned it with Windex and somehow I must have had some of it flow inside to contacts. Now they are all corroded. I'm using the virtual keyboard on the display now.

    I do agree that after some period of time a computer starts becoming irrelevant and a warranty period could indicate that span of usefullness. New applications come around that require more horsepower, screen resolution, and storage. Sometimes it's just a shift to a new platform. My current G5 is a prime example of being irrelevant. There's not much new that it can do.

    If Apple shifts to new processor platform then it's just a matter of time before all the Intel based machines become like my G5.

    If Apple sticks with the Intel platform then I just need enough headroom to survive.

    Mac Pros are out of my budget right now and they seem excessive. Then again, I thought the same about an iMac just a little while ago.

    I understand that Apple may have a refresh in the spring or summer. Waiting is OK by me. It gives me more time to save up. ;) Still, I wish like everyone that we knew what was coming down the pipe.

    -- Boris
  11. tuccillo macrumors member

    Feb 8, 2012
    The comment about SSDs perhaps being more reliable than HDD is interesting. I am planning on ordering an iMac for my wife. She doesn't need a lot of disk space and might be interested in an SSD only. Anyone have any data on SSD vs. HDD reliability? Thanks so much.

  12. junkster macrumors regular

    Nov 6, 2006
    With the needs you list, you shouldn't be looking at benchmark scores of any kind. An iMac from 5 years ago would suit you perfectly. Anything you buy right now is going to be speedy to the point of irrelevancy :)

    That said, there are some more important factors to consider: heat and power consumption. The cutting edge blazing fast machines tend to run hot and you have to put up with all subsequent fan noise. It's not uncommon for someone to go with a lower specced machine (which will still be faster than anything you need), just so it's quieter.
  13. aComicBookFan thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 26, 2012
    I have had my fair share of crashed HDs and lost data over the past 25 years. Even if drives don't crash then sectors can get corrupted. If sectors don't get corrupted then the software will do something screwy and corrupt the data itself. Power outages interrupt data transfers and clear caches. Software crashes in the middle of writing a stream of data will result in lost information whatever it may be. The only thing that can protect anyone in this case is a system of back ups. In some cases, there should be multiple levels of backups.

    The only "critical" data I have is my collection of family photos and videos. I keep that data on an external USB drive. That drive is backed up onto multiple CDs where each CD is an album or two. Even then, if I lose the USB drive and the CDs then I will still have the memories and stories to tell like we did in the good ol' days.

    Real critical data is stored in one place... my head. :)

    What I never did very well is back up my operating system. When my drives would crash or get infected with a virus in the 80s and 90s. I had to reinstall everything from scratch. Memories of shoving floppies into drive still cause pain and distress! I would like to have a system where all I need to do is pop in a CD or DVD and my base system is restored in one click. But, that's a different topic for another thread.

    So the question in relation to this thread topic is how reliable are the drives in the iMac? Can I expect 7 years of service from them like my 80 GB drive in my PPC? What make/model drives are in the iMac today?

    -- Boris
  14. farmermac macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2009

    With ccc backup clones it is a few clicks and your system is fully backed up. Os and all. Just need a USB drive. No more reinstalling os ever.
  15. James Craner macrumors 68000

    James Craner

    Sep 13, 2002
    Bristol, UK
    Apple uses industry standard hard drives in all their Macs, there is nothing special about them at all. You can find the same Hard Disk in any PC, so the reliability is the same. For the iMac Apple spec's an extra temperature sensor on the drive, which means you need to get it replaced at an authorised repair centre (or someone that can source the special drives). Unfortunately there is no way to know how long the drive may last, statistically the drive has a 30% chance of failing in 5 years. As the drive gets older it is more likely to fail. Some Hard Disks can last 10 years +, but I think most people would not rely on a drive that is more than 5 years old.
  16. leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008
    SSDs have no moving parts, but with them its usually the controller which goes out first :( Better models should live around 5-7 years at least though.
  17. aComicBookFan thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 26, 2012
    One drawback of SSDs is that each individual storage cell in the drive has a limited number of times it can be written and overwritten. There are algorithms in the drive to ensure that all cells are equally exercised. At some point all the cells will be over exercised and they will fatigue and fail. That could take a long time to achieve though. Unfortunately, I don't remember all the science behind it.

    Magnetic media has it's own drawbacks too. How long will the surface hold the magnetic charge? Will heads slap the surface? Etc.

    -=- Boris
  18. Spike88 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 25, 2010
    Since your existing computer system is still working and future iMac is expected in May / June (estimated), I would "hold off" any immediate purchase. Wait for the new iMacs to come out and risk takers post their results. re: Wait for others to test new design first. If NO major issues and all looks great (from early testers), then one can decide. Decide to continue "as is" or buy new 2012 iMac. Thus, one could be buying in July 2012. If my system worked today, I'd be waiting for next iMac release. Then, I'd decide to buy - at that point in future time.

    As stated by a few folks, having any computer last 7 years is really stretching it. On average, machines last 3-5 years - before they become bogged out. Or, lack mandatory features that one needs. Or, get passed to their kids (who use as a thin client system to surf the web / access their social networks). Perhaps buying for a lifespan of 4-5 years is more realistic??? By then (in 3-4 years), USB 3, more affordable SSD, faster CPUs, cooler insides, better video cards, external attachments will be available. And, much more affordable (compared to today). Very hard to buy today with full 7 years lifespan in mind…

    Good luck…
  19. leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008
    The problems you describe are not really that important. It will take many years until that problem becomes crucial. What is important: never trust a storage media, always have a backup or five, store your data redundantly, and you should be fine.
  20. aComicBookFan thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 26, 2012
    You say that it will take years before the problem becomes crucial. I agree. The question is how many years? 5? 15? 50? I think my SD camera card may last a very long time because I don't cycle all that much data through it. A SSD may last less because I would be cycling gigs and gigs of data on it daily.

    Regarding trusting storage devices: I would extend your thought and say that I wouldn't trust a *single* storage system but I would trust at least two separate systems in parallel (i.e. multiple HDs, HD + optical, HD + cloud + SDD, etc).

    -- Boris
  21. leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008
    Even with high throughput, we are talking about more than 5-7 years until the overwrite limit of an MLC flash cells is reached (provided the controller does it jobs right). This is very long. Most HDD will have long dies before that.

    Well, that is what I said: store your data redundantly
  22. toddybody Guest


    May 13, 2010
    On Mars, thinking about my father...
    Youre not a gamer(or user of graphical intensive applications): no need for a desktop class GPU, or the ability to upgrade your GPU in the near future.

    Dont need a server class CPU(or dual CPUs): No need for the Pro...and the iMac is the next best thing.

    By the time you add on a 1440p monitor...the Mac Mini loses its value appeal.

    iMac FTW

    Upgradeable Drives and RAM...current specs should keep you content for years to come.
  23. mr.steevo macrumors 65816


    Jul 21, 2004
    You said you were considering the $950 Mac mini prior to the iMac. Have you considered the $999 iMac in the refurb section?


    This iMac has a Geekbench score of 7257 while the mini has a score of 8611. The iMac also has less hard drive space but it is a complete computer out of the box. Having said that for what you describe doing with a computer I would think the entry level mini would be enough computer for you. Sell it after a couple of years and getting a new entry level mini.

    Use the $300 Amazon gift cards for something else and get a refurb from the Apple store.
  24. aComicBookFan thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 26, 2012
    My problem with purchasing from the Apple Store is that I will get hit with a massive chunk of sales tax. I can avoid it by buying through Amazon.

    -=- Boris
  25. harcosparky macrumors 68020

    Jan 14, 2008
    My 4+ year old iMac is still going strong.

    When the Apple care on that expired I bought a 17" MBP.

    10 months in I realized I was no longer a laptop person.

    I just sold the MBP and bought a 27" two weeks ago.

    My old iMac is still going strong, but I gave it to my son and he won't give it back.

    So now we have a 4 year old 24" iMac and a brand new 27" iMac.

    I too considered a Mac Mini and 27" display ...... but for what I do that would probably have been a mistake.

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