Many iMac Questions....

Discussion in 'iMac' started by jman995x, Nov 27, 2011.

  1. jman995x, Nov 27, 2011
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2011

    jman995x macrumors regular

    Sep 8, 2007
    My MBP is about 6 years old and seems to rainbow pinwheel more and more frequently (reminding me of my PC/Spinning Hourglass days and the reason i switched to Mac in the first place).
    I recently did a complete wipe of the drive and reinstall of the OS and apps...yet it still seems to get confused and need time to think (2.33GHz IC2D, 3GB 667Mhz DDR2 SDRAM, 500GB Seagate HDD with ~200GB Free).

    So, I've decided that it will be relegated to just surfing on the couch and that I'll get a new iMac.

    However, I would like the forum's opinion(s) on my iMac options, given my intended use(s).

    I'm thinking of getting a 27", 3.4Ghz, 8GB RAM, SSD + HDD(?).

    Here's what I currently use my MBP (and will use my future iMac) for:

    • I DO NOT game....EVER. Just not my thing. So, all of the RAM, GPU/Graphics Cards, etc. associated with gaming is of no use to me,....However...
    • I have a lot of multi-media files (1M+ pictures....240,000 songs....1,000's of movie clips, etc., etc.).
    • I like to dabble with (and would like to do more with) iMovie, FCP, Aperture, Lightroom 3, Flash, etc....(which I know are processor intensive).
    • I tend to surf the net a lot and can have 50 tabs open at a time in a browser.
    • I utilize "Spaces" and will almost always have multiple things open in each space.

    I'll number my questions/situations/dilemmas so that posters can reply to a specific item:

    1. I'm leaning towards getting a 256GB SSD for my boot drive and all of my apps. From what I understand, this is a good idea for a number of moving parts...faster read/write/access boot times....etc., etc. Am I correct in my understanding that this would be the better drive to have (vs. a HDD) as my boot drive? Do the benefits listed above warrant the ~$500 price tag?
    2. Should I spend the money to get a large (internal, obviously) HDD for storage? I have many external HDD's (1x750GB, 1x1TB, 2x2TB), so storage is not an issue. I was wondering if I should just get a small internal HDD, sell most/all of my current external HDD's, and get an external 2TB Thunderbolt drive that I can do a RAID set up on (to house all of my non-app things like photos, music, etc.)....thus the iMac would house the OS and the apps on the SSD, and everything else would be stored on/sourced from the external (Thunderbolt) drive. Thoughts?
    3. Is it true that Apple is starting to design iMacs so that you have to use their HDD's specifically (re: upgrading in the future)? If not, and I decide to get a small internal HDD, how hard will it be for me to swap the drive to a bigger one should I ever decide to sell my iMac?
    4. Do you think given my non-gaming (yet video/photo editing uses) that I'd need more than 8GB of RAM? Either way, should I just get the bare minimum from Apple and do aftermarket RAM? If so, whom do you recommend I buy it from?
    5. Is a Quad-core chip the highest thing available for the iMac (currently)? If not, would I have a need for a 6-core or 12-core since I don't game?
    6. I'm assuming that since I don't game and don't do Desktop Publishing/Graphics for a living, that I should stay with an iMac and not look into building a Mac Pro, correct?
    7. I've seen some companies on the web/ebay that will custom build an iMac with the buyer's specifications? Is there any benefit/detriment to doing this? Obviously, when you buy New from Apple your machine is...well...New, from Apple (w/ a warranty). The custom-build companies tend to be a little less expensive and also offer a 1 year warranty. Has anybody bought a custom Mac from a non-Apple company?

    Any feedback/education would be greatly appreciated.


  2. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    While you may be able to change your internal hard drive, it voids the warranty. From the booklet that comes with your iMac:
  3. Kenjhee, Nov 27, 2011
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2011

    Kenjhee macrumors regular

    Jan 30, 2011
    Wow, good luck on your project.

    I'm no Mac expert, but I know you should order just the minimum RAM (4G) from Apple, and add/replace with aftermarket sticks (I got my 27" with just 4G, and added another 8 from Crucial). I don't think it matters what brand as any of the major labels are pretty much the same in quality. Sorry, don't know if you'd need more than 12G for your situation. I'm also a non-and-never-will-be a gamer or graphical anything, and never come close to needing the 12 I have installed.

    As far as your HD situation, I think definitely go with the SSD for the OS and apps. It's more of a question whether you have your storage inboard or go to that RAID setup you described. The standard setup is to order the second, physical HD for file storage, which is what I did. But your scheme sounds interesting, and would accomodate unlimited storage size, I too wonder if there's a reason not to do it.
  4. Abazigal macrumors G3


    Jul 18, 2011
    1) Yes and no. SSD definitely helps in a laptop, since you will probably be moving/knocking it around a lot, and the lack of moving parts would ensure the HD lasts longer, in addition to being lighter, faster and consuming less power. So yes, it would be superior in every aspect except for price (which is often the biggest argument against using one).

    Note that Apple charges an arm and a leg for installing one. If you have the time, you are better off shopping around for your own SSD (can probably get one for US$350-400? and installing it yourself (or have a hardware shop do it for you).

    2) Never done this before. Really don't know which would be better.

    3) No idea.

    4) Ram helps if you often work with several windows/programs open at the same time; you will encounter much less lag when switching between them. Seeing that you like to surf with so many windows open...

    5) More cores presumably help with stuff like video editing as well (to my limited knowledge). However, I personally feel quad-core is already quite sufficient.

    6) Again, it depends, though I think a mac pro is pretty overkill as is.
  5. dakhein macrumors member

    Aug 24, 2011
    NorCal, USA
    1. Yes, but whether the extra money is worth it is judgment call. Since I have one I know what I'd be missing so for me it is worth it as long as you can afford it.

    2. I would get your BTO iMac with SSD+HDD because externals add cable clutter, noise (most likely), and power supply bricks. Plus you should have some kind of backup solution so why have two externals. New Thunderbolt drives are hella expensive.

    3. Yes. Other posts in forums explain what they did and it is recommended you go to an Apple certified thingy to get it done to avoid voiding your warranty

    4. I cannot say from xp but there are plenty of outlets mentioned in the forums to get ram from. I personally have bought from Crucial and never had a problem so I stick with them. 12 GB is common from what I've read users getting. I have 8 GB and everything seems fine (ordered 4GB, refurb model came with 8GB)

    5. 3.4 Quad i7 is tops at least for 2011. Six plus core is Mac Pro territory. Someone else will have to chime in on the software you use to comment whether they can use more than 4 cores.

    6. Yes.
  6. Ca$hflow macrumors 6502


    Jan 7, 2010
    London, ON
    If you are really running +50 tabs in your brewer then you better max out your ram, however I'm sure your exaggerating.:eek:
  7. jman995x thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 8, 2007
    Unfortuntely, no. :(
    It usually starts off with reading the daily news, then I get sucked into political sites, fitness sites and funny video / picture sites. I'll open a link in a new tab and will keep reading whatever I'm currently reading. Of course, when I close that first tab and start reading the second tab, there is invariably another link that I open in a new tab, and the cycle snowballs. If I were to bookmark the links instead of open them, then I tend to forget about them and wind up with hundreds of bookmarks that I never wind up reading.
  8. jman995x thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 8, 2007
    That makes sense, plus I was just on the Apple site playing around with the "Configure your Mac" page and it is only an extra $100.00 for a 1TB drive installed, so it'd be stupid not to get that put in at the factory.

    Yeah, the Thunderbolt external drives are really expensive.
    Also, I noticed that the current LaCie Thunderbolt drives ONLY have Thunderbolt ports? Why would they do that? I would think that if they put 1xUSB2.0 and 1xFW400 that they'd attract a lot more sales because people could hook the drive up to multiple Macs they currently have. If they don't currently have a Thundebolt Mac, they can still buy/use the drive until they get a Thunderbolt Mac. But, with only the Thunderbolt port at the moment, a lot less people are going to even think about purchasing it. Doesn't make sense to me from a capitalistic/business standpoint.
    Just like the iPhone being locked to AT&T. How many people not on AT&T would have bought that phone sooner if they were able to use it on their network when the iPhone was first introduced?


    Will SSD drives last exponentially longer than HDD's given the no-moving-parts factor?

    What are the weaknesses of SSD's (aside from the current high prices and low storage capacities)?

    Are there larger SSD's that Apple will be offering in the near-term (i.e.: I'd hate to buy a 256 SSD in December, only to have them introduce a 512 SSD in January)?
  9. sentros, Nov 27, 2011
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2011

    sentros macrumors member

    Oct 29, 2009
    1. Indeed you get faster boot time and applications launch faster. It also consumes less energy, but that shouldn't make a difference in a desktop PC. The thing is though, that the switch from HDD to SSD is one of the biggest performance boosts you can get now days. You can hardly notice the difference in a few hundred megahertz on the CPU clock but I guarantee it's like day and night with SSD vs HDD. It's true that the drive costs a fortune when bought from Apple but it really is a hassle to change it yourself. Having done that to my late 2009 iMac I can tell you it's not a walk in the park. If you feel adventurous (like I did) I say go for it. But if you got that money just let Apple take care of it or pay someone qualified to swap it in.

    IIRC however if you don't buy the HDD+SSD combo from Apple, you can't later decide to put them both in without getting rid of the DVD drive. It was missing a cable or something for the 3rd drive. Back when I bought my iMac there wasn't an option the have 3 drives in it so I had to remove my optical drive.

    2. My personal experience with external HDDs connected to my iMac is that you might get into situations where the external HDD has stopped spinning, and when you want to say save a file, the whole computer freezes while showing you the finder box to the path where you want to save, while the external HDD is starting to spin up again. In other words you might experience freezing when wanting to save files if your HDD has spun down. Obviously you could change the setting so that it never spins down but it'll wear your drive out.

    If you however decide to use external drives steer away from USB connected ones and preferably firewire too. The iMacs have USB 2.0 and their practical max speed is only around ~40MB/s where as Firewire 800 is ~70 MB/s and SATA II (used by internal drives) ~260MB/s and finally thunderbolt ~800MB/s. Now HDD speeds peak around 120-150 MB/s so SATA II is by no means too slow it only becomes a problem with faster SSD drives.

    3. From what I remember when toying around with my iMac the HDD was custom in the sense that it had a non-standard connector. There was a wire that had something to do with sensing the temperature and so if you changed a drive there without that wire you'd run into the problem of having your HDD fan blasting at full speed 24/7 because it couldn't sense the temperature.
    I thought this was kind of related.

    4. 8GB of ram will probably be sufficient. And hey you can always add some more. It's super easy to do. Just pop open the tray at the bottom of you iMac and slide them in. I would buy the bare minimum since it's so easy to install yourself. Where you should buy them depends on where you live. I've seen a lot of Americans discuss so there might be something there if you are from that part of the globe.

    5. There are two kinds of quad-core CPUs available for the iMac. The i5 and the i7. The difference between these two is that the i7 has a feature called hyperthreading. What it does is every single CPU core shows up as 2 logical cores. That means that your computer can now process 8 threads simultaneously instead of just 4.

    The programs that run on your computer are split up into multiple threads that the CPU processes. Some applications are written to support more threads than others and some are optimized to get more out of multi-threading. You will see compression or encoding programs benefit from this feature a lot where as games do not. I would imagine your iMovie and Aperture will benefit from multiple cores where as Lightroom will not (quick google results). It is really application specific.

    The core i-series has another feature called turbo boost (I know horrible name) which will dynamically overclock one of the cores if it detects that a mostly single threaded process is asking for a lot of resources. So that means it's very versatile.

    Edit: Just to clarify both the i5 and i7 have 4 physical cores.

    6. I wouldn't recommend the Mac Pro for you. If you were a hard core movie editor the maybe, but given your needs I can hardly see the point.

    7. I have no first or second hand experience, sorry.
  10. jman995x thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 8, 2007
    Thank you Sentros, et al.

    Keep the feedback coming...I'm really starting to narrow down which direction I'm going to go...this is very helpful.

  11. talmy macrumors 601


    Oct 26, 2009
    I'll throw in my 2 cents. I also don't play any games. The hardest things I use my iMac for are video and photo editing (iMovie not FCP yet, and Aperture + Photoshop) and some engineering use. I went for the biggest processor and haven't regretted it. It makes a big difference. I also have 8GB of RAM and normally am using 5-6. I launch apps and don't shut them off when done, so having an SSD wouldn't make that much difference. Command-Tab shows 18 applications at this moment! 1TB internal drive, 1/3 full, plus over 4 TB data on a server. With a hard drive, you will get much better performance with a 1TB drive containing 400 GB than an 500 GB drive containing the same 400 GB.

    So I'd suggest the quad-core i7, 3rd party upgrade to 8GB (might go for more later!), 1TB or 2TB HD even if you don't plan on using but a small portion of it.
  12. Kenjhee macrumors regular

    Jan 30, 2011
    Actually there's a known service life limitation with current solid state memory technology. Something about eventually losing write capability. But I figure that by the time they develop the next generation of durable flash memory, it'll be time to upgrade the old imac anyways.
  13. sentros macrumors member

    Oct 29, 2009
    You can't really trust the way the operating system lists used RAM. This is because it will not always free up memory if it's not being used. In some cases it will free up the previously used memory only after you have another application asking for it. Lion handles running and closed processes very weirdly. You can read more about it here.
  14. Abazigal macrumors G3


    Jul 18, 2011
    Unless you are running a server, I think you will likely end up replacing your computer long before the read/write cycle limit becomes an issue. :p
  15. talmy macrumors 601


    Oct 26, 2009
    I'd say it does it very smartly. :) Applications that you think are running might have been silently shut down (only to resume on demand) if they aren't being used, in order to save processor and memory resources. Closed programs in memory can stick around if the memory isn't needed saving reloading time if later wanted. It basically is making the best use of the available resources. I've seen people complain about high memory usage, especially in Lion, however that is a good thing. Why have memory if it doesn't get used?
  16. colonelbutt macrumors regular


    Nov 14, 2007
    that is true and why I would never use a SSD machine. The write safety of a hard disk is much better. They say that SSDs are safer now as there is some redundant storage inside (e.g. a 256gb SSD is actually 300gb and as cells die they are replaced).

    and its true that many people won't notice.

    but for those that are editing 1000s of photos all the time or installing and uninstalling frequently it would worry me, particularly how much more expensive they are over HDs

    The SSD vs HD argument is very bitter and has been going on for years.

    Those gamers with alot of money buy SSDs as boot and application disks, but have everything else on HDs.
    I think thats a good policy, but I don't play games enough to care.

    This is an interesting comparison. It alleges that SSDs have a mean failure time of 228 years, so not bad then:

    Characteristic Hard Disk Drive (HDD) Solid State Drive (SSD)

    MTBF 171 years
    No finite number of writes

    MTBF 228 years.
    Or about 40 years of non-stop writing due to write cycle limits
  17. sentros macrumors member

    Oct 29, 2009
    Indeed, I never debated if it was a good thing or not. I'm just pointing out that you can't use those memory usage numbers as a reliable source of statistics.

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