Looking for a new replacement computer - Input requested

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by OKBucks, Aug 16, 2011.

  1. OKBucks macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2011
    Location:
    OK, USA
    #1
    I just joined the forum and I’m looking to replace my old computer. I’ve always used PC’s, never really used a Mac before other than just messing around for 10-15 minutes. I currently have an eMachines Athlon 64 3500+, 2.0Ghz, 4G RAM, XP OS. I’d say it’s about 10 years old.

    My typical computer use is email, web browsing, video and photo editing (home stuff) and Word and Excel docs, nothing too intensive. Gaming is almost nil on my part. I have many old VHS tapes I want to get on DVD (BD eventually), I back up some of my purchased DVD’s as well as download videos from time to time to play around with when I have the spare time. I have a Canapus capture unit, ADVC110 with a firewire connection. I use a few different programs to get these things done, not as competent with them as I could be, but enough to get out of them what I need.

    Some freeware/shareware;
    DVD Shrink
    DVDFab Decrypter
    VobBlanker
    Virtualdub
    Format converters
    And I also use PowerDirector when building my final version. Most used software for what I’m doing.

    I THINK I’d like to move to an iMac over a new PC, but I want an all in one either way. I’m concerned with using a Mac for the tasks I typically do, whether the Mac is better or not, I still need to be able to accomplish what I want.
    - Is there freeware/shareware out there for a Mac that is equivalent to what I’m using for a PC?
    - What would be equivalent to PowerDirector in ability and cost for a Mac?
    - Would the Canapus be compatible with the Mac or would that even be an issue since it is external? This unit is several years old.
    - How well do external BD burners work with a Mac?
    - I can get a copy of Office for Mac through my work, any issues with using this software on a Mac?
    - How functional are the programs that allow using Windows on a Mac? Cost?
    - What’s an SSD? As in ‘Are you replacing the HDD with a SSD?’
    - Is Apple Care a good investment/insurance? Worth it since the Macs are supposed to be problem free for the most part?

    Obviously, I’m down to either the 21.5” or the 27” iMac. I know little about processors and specs even though I read performance reports, I still don’t really know what they’re telling me – (old dog, new tricks). Would performance be an issue for me based on what I’ve stated above in comparing the 2011 21.5” to the 2010 27”?

    I found a thread with a link to a 2010 27”, Quad Core Intel Core i7 2.93 GHz, 4 GB RAM, 2 TB HD, Radeon HD 5750 video, just over $1400, free shipping. Then there is the 2011 21.5”, 2.7GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5, 4GB RAM, 1TB HD, Radeon HD 6770M video and a Thunderbolt port for $1500.

    Cost is doable for either one, same for space, that is not an issue. I’m not one to need the latest and greatest, I’m just unsure how much of a difference there is in performance of these 2 machines, I haven’t been following processor progression, is the i5 older than the i7 or vice versa? I would plan on upgrading the RAM to at least 8G on either machine, how hard is this to do and what type of memory would I need to buy?

    I appreciate any input, this feels like a different world to some degree.
    Thanks.

    Drew
     
  2. r0k macrumors 68040

    r0k

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2008
    Location:
    Detroit
    #2
    I don't recognize all the programs on your list but I can mention that I use handbrake for backing up my dvd collection. You mention a firewire capture device. Does the manufacturer offer OS X support for that device? For me that would be a show stopper if I had to replace an expensive device to move to Mac. From Canapus' web site, it appears to work with OS X:

    So the next issue is making sure you can get freeware or buy shareware to replace all your apps. The last thing I want to suggest is that you run windows on your Mac just to hold on to some bit of software. I know people do it but I made a "clean break" when I switched and I'm happy I did.

    You also mention BD. I'm not sure Apple is going to support any soft of optical media going forward. The optical drive has been dropped from the Macbook Air and now the Mac Mini and OS X Lion is only available as a download or on usb key. I have no interest in BD as it is a way to chew through 30 gig of storage for 1 gig of information (at standard definition). And if you are starting from VHS or DVD, you do NOT want to bother with anything higher than standard definition encoding. When I rip DVDs they come over at 480p or 720p and that is fine for my purposes.

    I buy AppleCare on most of my Apple gear. It depends on my funds at the time. It's not necessary but not a waste either.

    You mention SSD. This gets a little touchy because the latest iMac models have some "extra" cable and require Apple brand drives. If you want SSD, you are gonna pay. Even if you want a larger HDD, you are gonna pay. When I heard about the proprietary HDD requirement in the new iMacs, I kinda lost interest and I tend to focus more on the Mac Mini with a good external monitor especially since it has HDMI and Thunderbolt/Display Port outputs and the SATA hard drives are standard models and easily user replaceable. The same is true for RAM in the Mini. It is easily user replaceable.

    SSD tends to be outrageously expensive. A lot of users are going to a 2 drive solution with a 64 GB SSD for the OS and applications and a 1TB HDD for data. I put SSD drives in 3 of our older Mac Minis and they are now the fastest machines in the house. SSD makes a huge difference. In my Macbook, I made a compromise and installed a Seagate Momentus XT "hybrid" 500 GB HDD / 4 GB SSD. It's a lot faster than the 5400 RPM drive I took out but not as fast as a pure SSD would be. At only $30 more than a HDD that size, it's a good compromise for me.

    You can run Windows on a Mac if you buy a copy and purchase Parallels or Vmware. I don't mention boot camp (which is free) because it requires you to choose Windows or OS X at boot time and you can't easily jump back and forth without rebooting. You probably already know Windows is not cheap and Parallels or VMware cost under $100.
     
  3. cz9h3d macrumors member

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2009
    #3
    You sound like a PC power user, and I would caution you somewhat on the switch. Macs work great, as long as you accept doing things their way. If you desire to have full control and want to understand the details, it can get frustrating sometimes.

    i use to be a DVD Shrink and Decrypter user. Handbrake is the closest freeware on OSX. If you want to reauthor DVDs, then you'll have to purchase commercial software. I recognize many of the video titles you mention, but have no idea what you would replace them with on Mac - I believe they truly are hobbiest-level software that doesn't easily translate to the Mac world. Of course the intent is video on the Mac just works - use iMovie, or maybe the new Final Cut X, and you don't need to dink around with all those separate and complicated software titles. If this meets your needs, it will be easier. If you like working in the details, it may be frustrating.

    The latest Mac Office is pretty good. However I live in Office for Windows, and the Mac is close, but not exactly the same. If I used it more I'd likely get more use to it.

    You can totally boot Windows using the included bootcamp (you need to supply a windows copy). Parallels or Fusion are 2 alternatives that allow you to run Windows within OSX. I have no issues with Parallels 6 ($50 or so) but If you want to run all your PC video programs and interface, I think that's asking for trouble (I'd just boot into Windows only).

    I bought AppleCare for my iMac, as it's somewhat reasonable. For my MacBook Pro I just used my Amex for an extra year of warranty.

    I don't want to scare you off - I don't regret switching. But it will be different and a little harder based on your current PC power user status, in my opinion.
     
  4. OKBucks thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2011
    Location:
    OK, USA
    #4
    Thanks for the input so far. As r0k stated the Canapus looks compatible and I've been able to find some equivalents to DVD Shrink and DVDFab for Mac, as mentioned, Handbrake is one of them. The DVDFab site offers something for a Mac now as well, no idea on actual functionality of it though.

    Isn't Final Cut a bit on the high side ($$$)?

    My post may have read as a details guy, but I'd prefer to get things done as easy and less labor intensive as possible, with an end result I like.

    In the long run, better with a Mac or a PC? I can learn different processes and can understand that would be needed.

    Any thoughts on 2010 27”, Quad Core Intel Core i7 2.93 GHz vs the 2011 21.5”, 2.7GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5?

    Thanks.
     
  5. txhockey9404 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2008
    #5
    Since you will be doing a large amount of video encoding, I would say go with an i7. The biggest difference between an i5 and an i7 is that i7s have a technology called hyper threading. It basically makes the 4 core processor appear to the operating system as an 8 core processor. This allows the OS to send more threads to each core, making the processor more efficient overall, and thus faster. Without hyper threading, CPU clock cycles tend to go unused, therefore slowing the process down. Since video conversion is one of the most CPU-intensive tasks, I would say go with any 4 core i7 iMac and you will be happier. The 3 or 4 minute speed up on a 30 minute encode will make a world of difference in the long run.

    The only issue on 2010 vs 2011 models is that the 2011 uses a new chip architecture code named Sandy Bridge, which is much, much faster (even with the same ghz rating, since it basically means nothing nowadays). It also has Thunderbolt instead of Mini Displayport so that is also a major plus. So, I think, if your budget allows it, that the best compromise would be a custom ordered 2011 21.5" i7 iMac. If you still have money left over, get the SSD. If not, later on you can likely add an external one via Thunderbolt.
     
  6. shyam09 macrumors 68000

    shyam09

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2010
    #6
    http://www.primatelabs.ca/blog/2011/05/imac-benchmarks-mid-2011/
    ^ = benchmarks...
     
  7. njsa04playa macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2010
    Location:
    new joisey
    #7
    i think that computer would be perfect for your needs, and one reason for the mac is that everything just works and something that would take you 1 hr on the PC can be done in 45 minutes on a mac due to the intuitiveness of this OS
     
  8. OKBucks thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2011
    Location:
    OK, USA
    #8
    I do have a budget so the custom 21.5" may be out of reach as $1500 is just about my limit on the computer, since I'm going to need some things to go with it (software, externals, RAM, etc). The 27" is looking better....

    How hard is it to add RAM? What's a good brand name to buy?

    I'm still a little concerned about the BD, as some of my newer video is HiDef and don't want to degrade it when transferring to disc.
     
  9. njsa04playa macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2010
    Location:
    new joisey
    #9
    OWC for ram is the way to go, and getting refurbished is always better
     
  10. OKBucks thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2011
    Location:
    OK, USA
    #10
    It looks like the iMac has 2x2 GB of RAM. Can I install 2x4GB and also use the 2x2 GB, for a total of 12 GB? (I believe there are 4 memory slots).

    How much work is it to transfer pics, videos, docs, etc from my PC to an iMac? Just use an external HD for the swap?

    Thanks.
     
  11. shyam09 macrumors 68000

    shyam09

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2010
    #11
    http://support.apple.com/kb/ht4255
    yep, an external HD is fine
     
  12. OKBucks thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2011
    Location:
    OK, USA
    #12
    Thanks for the link and the info shyam.

    I'm leaning toward a Mac, but I'm hoping I don't buy it and say, "I really like it but it would be nice if I could....." or "it would be nice if it had...."

    These statements, I think, would be made when comparing what I could do with my older PC in comparison, if I ran across something to make me say it.

    Not sure I'll know that until I have one and start using it.
     
  13. njsa04playa macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2010
    Location:
    new joisey
    #13
    there will be nothing you wont be able to do on a mac that you can on a pc, if you got any problems just ask here
     
  14. OKBucks thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2011
    Location:
    OK, USA
    #14
    Whatever issues or concerns I may have with an Apple, I'm going to have to work out. I went with the 2010 27" i7 from Cost Central that was pointed out in an other thread (1 TB HDD).

    I ordered it yesterday morning for $1403 with around 1200 in stock (per the website). This morning it is a special order with a 2-3 week wait for delivery, and the price is now $1552. WTH? I'm glad I didn't drag my feet too long.

    Thanks for everyone's input, I appreciate the information.

    Drew
     

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