Mac longevity - best value for money?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Macsyr, Dec 29, 2014.

  1. Macsyr macrumors newbie

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    #1
    So, once again I have reached that stage where I have to throw out a Mac I am completely happy with, because the system cannot upgrade beyond Lion, and soon I'm sure Lion will stop receiving updates. Of course when that happens the security drops off, and numerous essential applications and browser plugins stop working.

    I am now shopping for a new desktop Mac, and it's longevity is my number 1 priority. I could pay a bit more (up to maybe one and a half thousand £ if necessary), but I only want to spend the extra money if it's likely to add more years to the computer's life span. Otherwise I'll be content with a low end Mac Mini.

    So what should I be looking at? The computer's year of release? It's processor type/speed? It's potential memory? And is buying a more expensive model usually a good bet in terms of longevity? How about a custom upgrade of the spec (e.g. Faster processor speed?)

    I know that nobody can say for sure how long a Mac will last, but any tips would be a much appreciated. Thanks in advance for any answers!
     
  2. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

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    #2
    If your metric is dollars per year, and you are after longevity, then that 2014 Mac mini is certainly your best bet. You can of course also be done in by a computer you cannot get repaired because it is too old, so software security alone isn't necessarily the issue.

    A couple of alternative approaches that may apply:
    • Security issues usually center around the browser so you might be able to be safe longer by using an alternative to Safari that continues to be updated or (radical thought) run a Windows virtual machine with Internet Explorer because Microsoft supports their software for longer than Apple does.
    • Buy a new (or recent used or refurbished) computer each year and sell your old one. Some people claim that this is less expensive than running the computer into the ground (zero resale value).
     
  3. robgendreau macrumors 68030

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    #3
    This is sorta like asking which tools in your garage will last the longest; it's impossible to answer without knowing what you intend to do with them.

    If you just need a text processor, you could still be running on Power PCs.

    If you need to edit 4k video, nMP or 5k iMac.

    Or maybe even a PC. There's really no way to tell given the lack of info you're provided, so maybe some hints about what you've been using a Mac for up to now so that we could at least make an educated guess about the future.
     
  4. Macsyr thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #4
    Great advice Talmy, thanks a lot! Please forgive my ignorance, but is only the highest spec Mac Mini released in 2014? Or are all of the ones which are currently available?

    If I hold onto my current computer, Firefox might continue to get support and updates, but I'm not sure it'd be able to keep running content such as flash, silverlight, internet banking etc.

    Your idea of using a program like Crossover to support Internet Explorer has some appeal. If I don't put any sensitive information within the Windows environment, I'd expect that I'd be relatively safe since it couldn't spread to Mac OS. Though I'm not sure I'd feel quite so safe using internet banking, or any websites which hold sensitive information about me really. I guess I'm a little paranoid like that, which is part of the reason I prefer Macs to PCs.
     
  5. Macsyr, Dec 29, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2014

    Macsyr thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #5
    I simply want to delay the day that Apple stop releasing updates for my machine, for as long as possible. I'll keep using it even after it cannot upgrade to the latest OS, but once Apple stop releasing updates for the OS it's stuck on, everyone else stops releasing updates for their apps too, and it starts becoming very difficult to do normal things and use normal websites, not to mention the reduced security.

    If it helps, I use a computer for web browsing including secure logins such as internet banking, watching videos on DVD and online, and simple graphics editors and text editors. Nothing fancier than that really. So unless it became so slow that it took minutes to even open a basic application, it's just the eventual end of updates I'm concerned about.
     
  6. Yebubbleman macrumors 68030

    Yebubbleman

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    #6
    Mac minis, MacBook Airs, and 13" MacBook Pros (as well as the plastic MacBooks that they are the modern-day successor to) tend to last 3-5 years on average. 21.5" iMacs tend to last 4-6 years on average (more if RAM is maxed out and if storage is upgraded at the time of purchase). 27" iMacs and 15" MacBook Pros tend to last 5-7 years on average (more if RAM is maxed out and if storage is upgraded at the time of purchase). Mac Pros tend to last 6-9 years, though that is highly dependent on the generation and the idiosyncrasies that may or may not be attributed to said generation.

    Given this, I'd say that, while the Mac minis are ordinarily a great machine for one's basic uses and over a long haul, the newer machines are not going to get you the best longevity for the buck given the lack of expandability in these new models (as well as the lack of a quad-core option). Given this, I might instead opt for a beefed up version of the mid-range iMac (2.7GHz Core i5; Intel Iris Pro; up the RAM to 16GB; and either go for the 1TB Fusion or some form of SSD) as that will assuredly last longer. Similarly, if you're really looking to shoot for longevity, any 27" iMac will last longer by virtue of having four user-replacable RAM slots that can support up to 32GB (where the rest of the non-Mac-Pro Macs go no higher than 16GB).
     
  7. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

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    #7
    Unfortunately, the highest spec mini is a 2012 quad core, however in terms of support, the 2014 will get hardware support for longer and possibly software support (updates) for longer, but that is hard to predict.
     
  8. spatlese44 macrumors 6502

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    #8
    Depends how you define "last". For many tasks, my 2007 MB is doing just fine. Lack of AirPlay mirror is a minor issue and then there's Swift which needs Yosemite, so I'm finally coming to what I call the end. In terms of the OP's question, buying the base Mini and upgrading in a few years would be the cheapest. There's going to be an interesting used market for them in a few years. At $200 to $300 it's going to have useful purpose even after mainstream support starts to fall off. If you really do plan on hanging on to it, I'd go 2014 mid Mini with an SSD.
     
  9. Yebubbleman, Dec 29, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2014

    Yebubbleman macrumors 68030

    Yebubbleman

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    #9
    2014 mini will be a bad deal as the RAM isn't upgradable, and that tends to be what Apple uses to cut off system requirements (at least it was for the majority of OS X's existence). I agree that an SSD is a good idea and coupled with 16GB of RAM, that could be a good machine. But maximized longevity it does not have. The lowest end Mac mini, is definitely a machine that should be avoided regardless; I don't know why Apple insists on slapping that low-end MacBook Air CPU in the low-end 21.5" iMacs and low-end Mac minis and calling it a bargain, because it couldn't be further from what it actually is.

    Again, the OP is looking for a machine that will last the longest before it gets kicked out of the minimum system requirements for a new OS (and thusly, updates to basic crap like iTunes, Safari, Flash, and basic security updates). If that's of the utmost importance, then a 27" iMac will trump any other iMac as well as any Mac mini, MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, by virtue of being able to have 32GB of RAM alone.
     
  10. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

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    #10
    IMHO the desktop Macs (including the minis) will run until a repair costs more than they are worth or is unobtainable (because of age). The portables show wear. I've never replaced one for any reason other than wanting increased performance or a better display. RAM has never been an issue. I've bought 16 Macs in the past 11 years for my family. The oldest (a 17" G5 iMac) is actually still in use.

    Yes, but not recently. Minimum RAM moved to 2GB with Lion, 3 years ago. Cutoff now seems to be more based on processor and graphics. Frankly, with Yosemite the cutoff for full features seems to be Bluetooth 4.0. If the RAM is maxed out at purchase it will never become an issue.
     
  11. Yebubbleman macrumors 68030

    Yebubbleman

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    #11
    You're missing the original point of the OP's post. His/her current computer is running fine, it just can't run something that requires a newer OS than what he/she is running now. They're looking for something that will last the longest before not meeting the minimum system requirements of a future version of OS X. Not for something that will run the longest. If we were talking about that, then we'd be having a whole 'nother discussion entirely.

    I have no doubt that an iMac G5 can still be running (though, that's still impressive considering the logic board issues that they had), but at best, you're running a nearly 8 year old OS that (more terrifyingly) hasn't received security updates in at least three years. Again, the OP wants to avoid that inevitability for themselves as long as possible.

    Lion upped the RAM requirement from 1GB (which it was with Snow Leopard) to 2GB. Mountain Lion's (and Mavericks' and Yosemite's) requirements were solely about whether or not a Lion-compatible system had 64-Bit EFI as Mountain Lion was the first OS X release that didn't have the 32-Bit version of the Mach kernel in tow (Lion had both, but defaulted to the 64-bit one on compatible systems, and Snow Leopard had both but defaulted to the 32-bit one on most systems, where Leopard only had the 32-bit one).

    The increase of minimum system requirements has maintained since Mountain Lion, but make no mistake, it won't stay that way forever. It will be likely that, beyond architectural changes in some of the newer systems, Apple will resume upping the minimum RAM requirement as (a) they haven't stopped doing so with iOS (which had its minimum RAM requirement upped in iOS 7 to 512MB and will probably get upped again in iOS 9 to 1GB), (b) the features that will inevitably come down the pipeline will demand faster and more capable hardware, and [c) this isn't the first time that Apple has had a lull in the advancement of the minimum system requirements of OS X; 10.0 through 10.2 largely had the same minimum system requirements. They only started upping each year with 10.3.

    It's never a dumb idea to get the maximum amount of RAM, especially in machines like the new 2014 Mac mini, the retina MacBook Pros, and the MacBook Airs where the RAM is soldered onto the logic board (and therefore must be pre-configured with the maximum supported RAM). The same applies to the 21.5" iMacs now as well, despite the RAM sticks still being removable (but still not user-servicable) in the two higher-end models.

    That being said, any Mac that can run with 32GB of RAM stands a much better chance of weathering future OS X updates than any Mac with less than that.
     
  12. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

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    #12
    I understand the OP. Read a bit further -- I've never had to replace a computer because of insufficient RAM. The OP needs to replace his computer because it won't run an OS beyond Lion, not because of insufficient RAM. Minimum RAM requirements doubled 3 years ago, as you and I know, and looking back prior to that it was doubling ever OS release back to Panther in 2003. That's a doubling every two years. That this doubling seems to have at least paused can be credited to stagnating processor advances (we've gone to 64-bit, but is there any demand at all for 128-bit?) and software advances (features being added at slower rates and mostly cosmetic these days). Even if the advancing resumes, it would be 6 years before RAM would be a limitation if you order with 16GB. But more likely than not it will be some other issue that does you in -- consider all the rumors about a switch to ARM processors. Purchasers of the last PowerPC Macs in 2006 were orphaned by Snow Leopard in 2009. And there could be other factors -- as I've mentioned, Mavericks isn't fully functional with Macs not having Bluetooth 4 (aka BluetoothLE) something that most of my Macs in the house, which all run Mavericks, doesn't have. It's pretty safe to say that Macs without Retina Displays won't be supported in a few years -- already there are complaints about system text quality in Mavericks on older displays.

    So basically, you can put in or order with all the RAM you can and you will probably still find yourself out of support before you are out of RAM.
     
  13. grandM macrumors 6502a

    grandM

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    #13
    Considering your needs and use I wonder why you need to upgrade the OS. Security is pretty fine on unix and why would essential apps stop working if you do not upgrade them...
     
  14. Yebubbleman macrumors 68030

    Yebubbleman

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    #14
    If Apple had designed the first wave of Intel Macs the way they're designing the current one, then if you didn't buy more than the minimum (256MB in some Macs, 512MB in others), then you wouldn't be able to run Snow Leopard or Lion. My point is that the ability to have the maximum amount of RAM WILL and HAS determined whether or not a machine can run an OS. You can't run Lion on a Late 2006 MacBook if that MacBook isn't running the maximum amount of RAM, for instance.

    64-Bit is far from the only advance that has been made in processor technology. Just because 128-bit isn't even worth bringing up, doesn't mean that Apple can't/won't, one day in the not-too-distant future, require a processor feature featured in Sandy Bridge, let's say, that wasn't present in Arandale/Clarkdale. Also, at one new major release a year, you can hardly say that the software is stagnating.

    The fact of the matter is that neither you nor I can predict what will cause the minimum system requirements for the next version of OS X to change as they have often changed for reasons that are not immediately apparent and when you least expect it.

    Given that, by definition, a machine that allows for the best of everything (especially expansion of things like RAM) will survive the longest before being disallowed to upgrade to the next major release of OS X.

    Sort of irrelevant, given that the original question isn't "how long will I get?" but rather "what will get me the longest amount of time?".

    If you believe these rumors, I have an island to sell you at a killer price. ARM has been and continues to be a poor candidate for OS X. It is perfect for iOS as things stand today, but it will never be able to outpace x86 in the ways that x86 outpaced PowerPC, because unlike PowerPC in 2005, x86 isn't about to hit a wall in its roadmap.

    There's nothing about the technology behind OS X that will one day mandate that OS X will only work on retina displays, just as there was never anything in any recent release to ban the use of a CRT monitor. And Apple would be insanely stupid to make such a requirement. By the time that the non-retina versions of the 15" MacBook Pro and 27" iMac are not supported, they will be unsupported for several other reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with the display. That's not how Apple limits minimum system requirements. Odds are that said Macs will be limited due to maximum RAM capacity long before they are limited due to not having a retina display. While I do believe that architectural changes will be more of a factor than RAM when the minimum system requirements next change, to say that not ordering the maximum amount of RAM when you buy a machine you cannot update the RAM in yourself isn't necessary is doing all parties involved a disservice.

    We got side-tracked talking about RAM. My point is that if we're talking about maximizing longevity in a Mac purchase from a given crop of Macs, we need to analyze all possible elements given that no one yet knows the minimum system requirements for OS X 10.11. RAM is only one of those elements. Given this, let's look at the 2014 mini:

    It's limited to dual-core processors, limited to Iris graphics. I'm not saying that you couldn't take the high-end model, stash an SSD, max out the RAM, slap in an i7 over the stock i5 and not be ready to roll for many years. I'm saying that it has just as much of a likelihood of being let out of any major OS upgrade than the 13" MacBook Pros and any of the MacBook Airs do. The 21.5" iMac has less of a likelihood than these machines and the 15" MacBook Pros and 27" iMacs have even less than the 21.5" iMac. The Mac Pro wins this game hands down, but it always does.

    So, given this, in order of what will last longer before being let out of an OS update, by definition of every possible thing that COULD (and I say "COULD" and not "WILL") be a limiting factor:

    1. Mac Pro
    2. 27" iMac
    3. 15" MacBook Pro/21.5" iMac (Middle and high-end models only)
    4. 13" (Retina) MacBook Pro/MacBook Air/Mac mini (Middle and High-end Models only)
    5. Mac mini/21.5" iMac (Low-end models only)

    While, I agree that architectural differences will more likely dictate any future cutoff than any differences within the current crop, you don't know that and neither do I, and more importantly, the OP's original question wasn't what will last the longest, but rather, what has THE BEST CHANCE of lasting the longest.
     
  15. gooser macrumors 6502

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    #15
    if security is your only concern and you're otherwise satisfied with your mac why not consider keeping your mac for non internet stuff and getting a chromebook or a chromebox to use with it for those sensitive (internet) tasks. it's a route i will eventually take when firefox and tenfourfox leaves my obsolete machines behind. very cost effective.
     
  16. Macsonic macrumors 65816

    Macsonic

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    #16
    Hi Macsyr. I am assuming from your post you have a 1,1 Mac Pro desktop since it's only Lion that it supports. You can actually install Yosemite on a 2006/2007 Mac Pro with a fix. Just read this Macrumors thread here http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1740775

    You can also install Mountain Lion on a 1,1 Mac Pro http://9to5mac.com/2012/07/23/mountain-lion-installed-on-a-macpro11-heres-how-to-do-it/

    http://lowendmac.com/2014/modernizing-the-mac-pro-11-and-21/
     
  17. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

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    #17
    Yes indeed! And I won't argue against maximizing the RAM in an attempt to get the longest service life, however it won't necessarily be the critical item for supporting the latest OS. I've got a couple of Macs with 8GB of RAM that aren't fully supported by the latest OS (no support for Continuity) and I also am locked out of AirPlay on most of my Macs as well. Of course running with limited features still gives the security updates the OP wants. But you can't run Lion on the first iMacs or minis even though they support 2GB of RAM.

    But aren't you basing this solely on the maximum RAM capacity? If you look at the models that are supported by Yosemite the order is:

    1. iMac and MacBook Pro (mid 2007 or newer)
    2. Mac Pro (early 2008 or newer)
    3. MacBook Air (late 2008 or newer)
    4. Mac mini (early 2009 or newer)
     
  18. Fishrrman macrumors G3

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    #18
    OP wrote above:
    [[ I only want to spend the extra money if it's likely to add more years to the computer's life span. Otherwise I'll be content with a low end Mac Mini. ]]

    IF you decide to go with one of the new Minis, and IF you want "the most for your money" (that is, the best balance of power and "longevity"), then DON'T buy the "low-end" Mini. It will will succumb to obsolescence far too soon because it can't be upgraded (the internal drive CAN be replaced, but with some toil).

    Instead, I would suggest you get the "mid-range" Mini. It has:
    1. FAR faster CPU
    2. 8gb of RAM instead of 4 (DO NOT buy ANY Mac today with less than 8gb of RAM)
    3. Better graphics (IRIS).
    4. Option of getting a fusion drive (which I would recommend as having the best bang for the buck over time.

    This is the Mini that will last the longest and give you "the mostest"...
     
  19. spatlese44 macrumors 6502

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    #19
    8GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM - 2X4GB
    16GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM - 2X8GB [Add $200.00]
    32GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM - 4X8GB [Add $600.00]

    Looks like going from 8 to 32 GB on an iMac costs more than the base Mini. How does that make financial sense when trying to avoid replacing a machine?

    I'm not a big fan of replacing computers that are meeting the needs of it's user, but flipping the base model seems to make sense here. In two or three years it might make more sense to load up a machine and try to take it 6 - 8 years. SSDs of reasonable size should be more accessible. I'm just not feeling it right now. There's too many things about the current lineup that say outdated soon, which might say buy a cheap interim machine and wait.

    If you simply don't like dealing with switching machines, I'd think the 5k iMac has the longest OS life of anything out there.
     
  20. Macsyr thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #20
    Thank you so much for all your answers. I never really expected this question to have a straightforward answer, so it's really helpful to see all the various information and arguments laid out like this. I can see now how the spec of a mid-high range iMac will probably mean better longevity than a mid-high range mini, but wow, that improved spec doesn't come cheap!

    In answer to the question about my current mac, I have one still at home stuck on Lion, and one at work I recently had to ditch because it got stuck on Snow Leopard (luckily someone passed me on their slightly less obsolete mac, which means I only need one new machine for now). But both of my old machines are in fact low end Mac Minis, which I'll definitely be sure never to buy again after the advice some of you have given!

    Thanks for the tip about how some Macs cannot have the memory upgraded later. I honestly didn't know that, and had been counting on waiting a few years then maybe buying cheap extra memory from Crucial. But I'm surprised to hear that storage space might be an issue. I had assumed that a 256MB SSD drive would be more than enough to handle OS updates for the foreseeable future (this would suit me well, as I'd appreciate the extra speed and can just put my seldom used files on an external hard drive). But if not, surely a 1TB fusion drive would be enough? And is it not possible to get a new drive installed at a later date if it becomes absolutely necessary?

    Finally, thank you to the person who suggested a Chromebook. I would have never thought of this solution! But now I'm avidly researching whether or not such a machine might be able to meet all my online needs. It's certainly a vastly cheaper option!
     
  21. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

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    #21
    It really isn't as far as OS upgrades are concerned. The overwhelming amount of disk space is used by applications and data and that's all dependent on the owner's use of the system. Yosemite only takes 8GB of storage, and Snow Leopard 5 years ago took 5, so it's small and slow growing. I've found that my storage needs for data (mostly) and apps seems to double every three years or so, but I've gone to using a separate server computer to drastically reduce the amount of storage I need on a system. And with a desktop system it's pretty easy and inexpensive to just add an external drive or two.
     
  22. Macsyr thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #22
    If you don't mind, I do have one more question. When looking at the processor of a Mac in relation to how many OS updates it's likely to handle, what aspect is most important to look at? Is it the processor type (duel core vs quad core etc), or whether it is an i5, i7 or whatever (not even sure what that means tbh)? Does the actual speed of the processor count for anything when considering this type of longevity? So would paying extra to customise it to a faster speed be a worthwhile investment?
     
  23. thejadedmonkey macrumors 604

    thejadedmonkey

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    #23
    Its neither the speed, nor the cores. Really its the instruction set, which you can tell by which "generation" i5 or i7 a CPU is. For example, some of the older core i5's can't run all of the features of windows 8 pro, where as newer - but slower - core i3's can.

    Right now I think were at the 4th Gen, and each year seems to bring a new generation. Really, you just want to avoid the first and second generation 'core' CPUs.
     
  24. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

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    #24
    I don't think there is a single Mac model for which an upgraded processor has made the difference between an OS upgrade and no OS upgrade.

    In general a processor upgrade is the poorest investment because it will only give a speed improvement and that improvement is less than the added cost (for instance, a 10% cost increase might give only a 5% performance increase).
     
  25. kaldezar macrumors regular

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    #25
    Only if you buy RAM from Apple!

    If you like most sensible people upgraded the RAM via OCR, Crucial or many other reputable memory vendors you would pay a fraction of Apple's quoted price ( how Apple has the chutzpah to rip off it's customers is another story) and have a commercialy viable RAM upgrade path.:)
     

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