MacBook on Dying Breath, Advice on my Upgrade Plan

Discussion in 'iMac' started by pmartin89, Jan 15, 2015.

  1. pmartin89 macrumors newbie

    Sep 24, 2012
    Hey, all. New poster here.
    I could really use some advice regarding my plan to get a new Mac.

    I have a unibody 13" MacBook from October 2008, before Apple redubbed them "MacBook Pro" in July of 2009. Ever since the "Retina" displays were implemented in iPhones, I had been anxiously awaiting their implementation into iMacs. Figured by the time that happened I would be due for an upgrade.

    Several years later, and my waiting (sort of) paid off. I was excited when the Retina iMacs got announced, but also sort of let down by the internals.
    There was a ton of concern circulating regarding how powerful the Retina iMacs are and how much room there is for improvement before they're finally the machines a Retina iMac "should" be.
    It seems that once they came out, reviews of the machines weren't as bad as expected, but I'm still really concerned about the life of one of them.

    I typically get a new computer with the goal of making it last me 5 years. I'm concerned that the Retina iMac in its current form won't get me that. However, I really desperately need to replace my MacBook. My current MacBook has difficulty running, and I desperately need to clean it up, and combine data from mine and my fiancee's MacBook to one shared desktop.

    That's when I landed on the idea of getting a sort of "loner" computer to use for a year or two. Buy a Mac, do all my organizing so it's exactly what I want it to be, use it until the Retina iMacs get a solid upgrade, and sell it for a Retina. I have a 27" HDTV/monitor, keyboard, and a mouse, so a Mac Mini seemed like a perfect fit. However, the 2014 Mac Mini has been getting completely panned. For just a few hundred more, I could get a 21" iMac that is FAR better... But a few hundred dollars more means I'm spending $1500-1700 for a computer that I'm only planning on using for 1 or 2 years *tops*. Seems like a waste of money when I could spend $1000-1200 on a Mac Mini that basically does what I want it to do.
    I would also have to take resale value into consideration.

    The computer will mainly be used for Lightroom, Photoshop, Illustrator, and your average internet browsing and streaming. Though, I'd like to be able to play some computer games. (I have a PS4 so it would mostly be random Indie stuff. No Triple-A, graphically-intensive games).

    I need a new computer. I wanted a Retina iMac but would rather wait 1 or 2 years until they upgrade them a little more.
    I need a loner computer for: Lightroom, Photoshop, Illustrator, general browsing, and non-graphically-intensive gaming.
    Mac Mini or iMac?

    Thanks in advance for any advice you're able to give!
  2. cloudsup macrumors newbie

    Jan 15, 2015
    I love my iMac and really have no experience with the Mac Mini, but based on its specs and what you want to use it for, it might be a more financially sound way to go. I don't see the point of dropping $1500+ on a computer only to get rid of it a year or two later. Sure, you'll be able to sell it, but you won't get back what you paid. In the refurb store all the Mac Minis are like $500-600 cheaper than the 21.5" iMacs. That's a pretty hefty price difference.

    Then again, money may not be a big issue for you. I'm all about saving money so my immediate instinct is to go for the cheapest option if it's only a temporary thing. If money is no issue, I'd say go for the iMac.
  3. UniDoubleU macrumors regular


    Aug 14, 2014
    I have the Unibody Macbook from 2008 also, hence my username hehe. I assume it's got C2D & 9400m yes? It hasn't feel fast on the machine since Snow Leopard. While it does sound like you mostly use your Macbook basically as a desktop machine, if you do still need portability then I recommend rMBPs, those has been pretty solid and should last the years. You'll feel a huge upgrade in power. The iMac 5K is the fastest computer of it's kind right now, and is significantly much much more powerful than the Unibody Macbook. With your usage it'll be plenty fast for years to come, plus the awesome display of course. How long until what it "should" be? Well, for gamers who wants to play hi-res stuff all in ultra then 3-4 years is a realistic estimate. For everyone else the debut model would last at least that long. And for those in need of totally recording studio silent machine would probably need to wait for the iMac redesign.
  4. Natzoo macrumors 65816


    Sep 16, 2014
    Not sure where i am
    Hi, i have a late 2013 15' retina with dual graphics and it works great, i download a lot of things on my laptop such as games, applications, and a possible virus. But my computer hasn't slowed but if you do get a mac or any computer be careful what you download because it may be a potential slowdown to your laptop. My friend has a mac book air (don't know year) and after he downloaded some app from the internet his safari and googlechrome would just open tabs about ads. Tell me how it goes, and the retina macs live up to their role, if so get the 15' model
  5. yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Apr 23, 2011
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    IMO you'll be better served with a Mac Mini.

    I suggest the mid-range configuration (2.6GHz i5, 8GB RAM, Iris 5100) but suggest BTO-ing it with a 1TB SSD or 256GB SSD, depending on whether you need pure speed + reliability, or a large storage with some SSD performance.
  6. pmartin89 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 24, 2012
    Money is a bit of an issue. I'd rather spend as little as possible for a temporary machine, but I also don't want to be frustrated with a Mac Mini if I can't even efficiently run Photoshop. A couple hundred bucks is worth avoiding frustration.

    Yup! That sounds about right. I'm looking at getting a desktop, otherwise I'd hope on a Retina MBP in a heartbeat. I don't really need to spend the extra money on compactness or portability, though. My current MacBook has been sitting plugged into my 27" monitor for probably a year now. No need to move it, really. I don't bring it anywhere.
    I'm just heard some troubling things about the current 5Ks. Yes they are great now, but I'm uncertain whether they'll become less relevant faster than iMacs normally would. What I'm worried about is whether the current 5Ks will last 3-4 years, while the 5Ks that come out in a couple years may last 5-6.
    I also generally try to avoid buying the first of anything. When new technology comes out, the second iteration is usually the best. They've been able to work out all the kinks.

    That's what I was leaning towards until I read the tons and tons of negative reviews about the current Mac Minis. People seemed pretty pissed that Apple dropped the quad-core support in them. They made it seem like they couldn't even run Photoshop and Lightroom simultaneously without slow-down. Seems like an exaggeration to me, but I'm still a little apprehensive.
    I was definitely going to consider upping the HD to the Fusion drive. Only thing I was unsure about was the Processor speed and RAM.
    I'm not too knowledgeable on processors, so I don't know what a 2.6 vs 2.8 GHz difference would be.
    Currently I'm running with 4 GB of RAM and it seems to be getting the job done all right. I'm a little hesitant about only going with 8, but if I'm planning on replacing this in a couple years, 8 GB will probably be fine...?
  7. yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Apr 23, 2011
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    8GB will be fine for the foreseeable future.

    A lot of people couldn't calm their titties when the quad core option vanished.

    However, I can say that for Photoshop and Lightroom work, a dual core i5 will run it pretty smoothly.

    Stick with the 2.6GHz variant. Even the 3.0GHz i7 dual core is barely faster than it.

    4GB is crippling yourself, but then, the only 4GB variant is the one that uses the MacBook Air's logic board - the 1.4GHz variant.
  8. andy9l macrumors 68000

    Aug 31, 2009
    England, UK
    MacBook on Dying Breath, Advice on my Upgrade Plan

    Sounds like a smart move to get the Mini for this 'unknown' period. It's 'only' £729 with a fusion drive, or the dollar equivalent, which is considerably cheaper than a worthwhile 5K iMac (i7/M295X/SSD, etc.).

    It makes less sense, however, if your HDTV is really 27" and 1920x1080. That's a low resolution to be working on, on a screen of that size.

    Assuming you've got a decent monitor, you could buy the Mac Mini and spend the first few months merging and organising files. By that time we'll be expecting the next 5K iMac in the fall, and you'll be all set to move on. You can use the Mini for a number of things at that point.

    I'd say definitely go for the Fusion Drive, as it'll keep your browsing and general usage sessions much faster. I'd personally recommend the 2.6 i5 with the Fusion Drive upgrade. Normally I'd avoid all spinning drives because of the immense bottleneck, but in this case it doesn't make sense to spend that much on storage.

    The Mini would also give you the chance to try a fixed desktop machine over your existing laptop.

    On the other hand, I can't imagine the 5K iMac not surviving 5 years for the tasks you do. Problem is, you either bet on an underpowered M290X, or a very very hot M295X. The GPU is the let down in the 5K iMac - the rest is fantastic.

    I'm in a somewhat similar situation to you after returning my 5K iMac. I'm back on a 2009 MacBook Pro for the most part (also 2010 27" iMac in the house) and it's incredibly painful. At the same time, I returned my 5K iMac for a reason and I don't want to give in! An interim machine is a nice idea - but I don't have any extensive file organising to do, making it hard to justify. The rest of my work is mainly coding/development so fairly lightweight. Photoshop gets by...just about.
  9. pmartin89 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 24, 2012
    Oh, no. I definitely wasn't suggesting 4 GB was okay. I was just saying that it's barely getting by right now, so I'm concerned that bumping up to only 8 GB will be enough. Eventually, I was planning on running Parallels, so 16 GB would be ideal for that... I'm just unsure if I'll be doing so with this Mac or if I can hold off for a year and just use Boot Camp instead.

    Thanks for the advice on how well the dual-core will run!

    I admit, the low resolution of my monitor is less than ideal, but spending the extra money on a temporary set-up seems a bit unnecessary. The goal is to spend as little as possible to hold me over and organize everything so I can make an easy switch to the Retina iMac in either Fall or next year, while not severely hindering my ability to get actual work done.
    (Note: The only reason I'm using this 27" HDTV is because it used to be my room TV in college, and I now just use it for my primary monitor while my MacBook sits closed in front of it).

    I was actually considering the alternate uses for a Mac Mini as well.
    Wasn't sure if I wanted to sell it, and put that money toward the Retina iMac, or hold onto it and use it as a media center for my TV. (Mostly for any sorts of files I have on my computer that can't be streamed off another device).

    The complaints you mentioned are the very reason I'm concerned about the 5K. If I'm dropping that much money on a beefed-up 5K iMac, I really don't want to have an reservations or concerns about performance issues, however slight they may be.

    The tasks I mentioned are only what I need to be doing now on my temporary machine.
    My actual long-term machine (what the 5K will be) will likely need to be used for everything mentioned above, plus SolidWorks, AutoCAD (both of which I'll be using Parallels for), Rhino, and potentially some gaming. It would be nice to have the option to play some PC-only games, without the limitation of hardware.

    Considering how (relatively) cheap the Mac Minis are, it may be worth it just to be rid of the frustration. Not sure if you plan on unifying your existing iMac and MBP data, but it would help with that too. I definitely understand the pain of working on a 6-year-old machine.

    Thanks for your advice!! My fiancee is pretty indifferent so it's nice to be able to actually get some feedback haha.
  10. andy9l macrumors 68000

    Aug 31, 2009
    England, UK

    Your screen isn't a problem, as such, it's just the temptation you'll have to buy a better one. When you spend £730 on a Mac Mini and £400 on a screen, you may as well have got the 21" iMac! Apple cleverly price things to up-sell.

    My recommendation would be to get this temporary Mac Mini and use it with your existing screen. Get the 2.6 i5, Fusion Drive and stick to 8GB RAM. Reason being is that if you start ramping up the upgrades you're actually just spending money on something you don't *really* want. You'll then be put off changing to a 5K iMac when the time comes, because the Mac Mini will "do for now"!

    Yeah the AMD GPUs have not been widely welcomed to these machines. Lots of criticism across forums and reviews. The final nail in the coffin for me has been the recent release of 5K iMacs on the refurb store - absolutely none of them include the M295X. All seems very convenient.

    As for myself, I'll get by! The 2010 iMac I've got was top of the range (non-BTO) when I got it, and I've replaced the HDD with a SSD so it's actually pretty quick at most of my tasks. I do miss the 5K iMac, but ultimately I'm glad I sent it back. I did get some use out of it - I used the beastly processor to convert all my films to 1080p MP4!
  11. pmartin89 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 24, 2012
    That's a good point. I don't want to get too attached to a machine I'm not planning on keeping. Plus it'll help keep the price down if the Fusion Drive is the only upgrade I'm making.

    Glad you were able to enjoy it for a little at least! I imagine having to revert back to the non-5K must have been a tough decision, but it'll be worth it in the end for sure.

    Thanks to yours and other replies, I'm feeling WAY more confident about my plan than I was before. Not second-guessing my decision anymore. I'll probably get the Mac Mini in the next few weeks. :D
  12. Yebubbleman macrumors 68030


    May 20, 2010
    Los Angeles, CA
    Sharing machines between people, while certainly better for a desktop than any other type of computer, is still a pain. That said, I do think the current retina iMacs will last a long while. It probably won't be the smoothest ride give that it's the first iMac with retina (and iMacs tend to host more issues). You may also find that software, even software that was previously optimized for the 15" retina MacBook Pros need further optimization for the iMac's display. As for the specs, aside from the imminent release of Broadwell chips that would go in such a machine, the graphics and CPU should provide enough power to really last.
  13. masotime macrumors 68020


    Jun 24, 2012
    San Jose, CA
    Just buy a retina Macbook Pro and sell it when you feel ready for a Retina iMac.....
  14. roadkill401 macrumors 6502


    Jan 11, 2015
    I fail to see the logic that you have. You are convinced that the new iMac isn't enough of an improvement to make it a longer term computer, yet feel that buying a stripped down mini is going to fill the needs for the next few years.

    I personally cannot see any reason why I would want one of the current mini's that apple is selling especially to run photoshop. I bought one of the 2012 i5 mini's last summer and it did just get by with Lightroom 4, it was a bit of a dog when it came to Photoshop CS6. I will admit that I had it originally with 4gb of ram, but did get it up to the full 16 and that made it only just usable.

    You are looking to get a new 2014 mini that has ZERO if not negative performance advances over the base model of mini from 2012, to stop gap your needs. Thinking that in 2-3 years when apple makes over the riMac to something much better, that you will sell the mini without loosing your shirt in the process.

    I don't see that happening.

    I will be upfront and say that I just purchased a refurb i7 riMac and plan for that 5-6+ years of ownership. I broke it down to YES, I could save $600 by purchasing a 2013 iMac 27" and upgrade the memory myself, but loose the 512ssd for a fusion drive and settle for the lesser screen. I don't do much video editing, but that which I do is only 1080 and not 4k. I don't need faster video thankyou. I do want it to look good on screen and not tire my eyes. A 1080 IPS monitor is great and I have 2, but the retina display simply looks sharper.
    I know that faster processors will be coming out in 2-3 years time. But I can also look back to the intel 2600K that I had 3 years ago and it is just as capable now as it was then. The newer 4790K processor is about 20% faster and I think it will give ample performance for my needs easily for the next 6+ years to come. Given I am not planning on upgrading my photo kit or CS6 so what will really be changing.

    I look at the current mini and it is far slower than really my old AMD X4 machine that I traded in 4 or so years ago to move up to Sandy Bridge. I guess it all just comes down to time you are willing to wait for your apps to run. But to load a crippled CPU with a top end SSD and memory in the thoughts it would fill my needs and retain some value is a fools goal. Spend the money and buy a refurb 21" 2013 i5 imac and that at least has a bit of speed inside it.
  15. pmartin89 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 24, 2012
    Yeah. I just don't see the point in having a bunch of MacBooks around the house. Both mine and my fiancee's MacBooks are running pretty slowly. They aren't easy to use. The hope with this is to at least clean off my fiancee's MacBook to speed that up so she can use that when she needs to.

    I generally just try to avoid buying in on the first iteration of any new hardware. Like you said, it may not be incredibly smooth because it's a brand new product. I'm not claiming the 5K is a bad machine at all, just that it'll take a tiny bit more to justify the hefty investment.
    I don't have thousands of dollars to throw around, so I'd like to wait a bit and make sure I'm 100% happy spending that kind of money.

    Spending that much money for a temporary machine is a little ridiculous. I also have absolutely no need for a laptop. It will sit closed and plugged into a monitor. It's a waste of money.

    I never said it wasn't enough of an improvement. Considering how terribly my MacBook runs nowadays, *anything* is an improvement.
    I'm not planning on getting a Mac Mini to use for years, like I've been discussing with others, the Mac Mini is ideally *very* temporary. Like I said in my post, 1-2 years. But ideally it'll only be 1 year. Not sure where you got 2-3 years from.

    See, that's the only concern I have. How well will Photoshop, Lightroom, etc. run? Some say it'll be fine, others say otherwise. I don't really know how to test this.

    Similarly, some (like yourself) say the riMac is fine. Others complain about lag and other speed delays. andy9l returned for the very reason I am concerned about. I have no doubt that the riMac is great *right now*, but I'm just unsure if I'll be annoyed by the lag (that will only get worse with time).

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