Need advice - Buy monitor, Mini, or iMac?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Branson.Davis, Jan 5, 2010.

  1. Branson.Davis macrumors newbie

    Jan 5, 2010
    Hey all.

    I am in need of some assistance. I am kind of in a pickle here. I don't know what the best option for me is. Maybe you can help curb my decision.

    Here's my situation.

    I am using my beloved 2.33ghz Macbook pro, 15'', matte display with 2 gb of ram and 120gb hdd. I love this thing to death. I traded an iMac (2.4ghz 2008 model) for this thing due to job reason. I needed to be mobile. Sorry to say, the job fell through. I have been using the MacBook Pro since as my main computer. Now, as I said above. I do love this MacBook Pro quite a bit. Took a lot for me to get it. But, sadly, I feel she's getting a little dated.

    So I was thinking about upgrading and possibly selling the MBP. (oh no!) -
    But I am in a pickle because I am unsure of what to do.

    One of the reasons I am thinking about upgrading is because I have recently been having neck and back issues from staring down at the screen all hunched over like. I need something more eye level, but I don't want to buy a stand because I would rather have screen real estate over a stand, if that makes sense.

    Here are my options.

    • Save money and buy a Cinema Display or monitor with a comparable panel inside. - Also purchase an arch stand, much like the Twelve South BookArc, and use the MBP like a mini-esque type of configuration.

    • Buy a Mac Mini - 2.66 or 2.53 and a comparable / older gen Cinema display. And sell the Macbook pro.

    •*Buy a 21.5'' iMac with the Ati Card. And sell the MacBook Pro.

    I have some concerns about the Mini and the iMac with the 9400 graphics chip. That's why I opted for the iMac with the Radeon. The Macbook pro has a Radeon X1600, 256meg, card in it. The Mini and the lower end iMac 21.5, have the Nvidia 9400m. I am concerned if I were to go with the cheaper iMac I would not be upgrading too much from the Macbook pro, so I almost feel it might be a loss, with a very minuscule / slight performance change.. I feel the same with the Mini.

    I was just wondering, how do these 9400m's compare to my old X1600 chip. Would I actually see some performance gain? Or are these 9400's pretty comparable to the X1600 that I have now? -

    My main use for the Macbook Pro right now is graphics design and video editing. I do webdeveloping, but that's part of the whole graphics deal. I have noticed that the Macbook pro has been chugging a bit on extremely large files, so I was wondering if I would notice a difference. I also play World of Warcraft in my spare time on the MacBook Pro. I don't know if that makes any difference. I play it in "windowed" mode with the settings around high to mid - depending on setting of course.

    Do you have any recommendations for what I might want to do, or what might be the best choice? I feel the higher end 21.5 iMac is the best choice of all, but I am not sure, it's an awful lot of money for me right now due to being unemployed, but I plan to make it back up with selling the MacBook Pro and some other studio equipment.

    Edit: I forgot to mention the 2.4ghz 20'' iMac that I had was running the Radeon HD 2600 PRO, 256, gfx card. I was wondering how much of a performance boost this 9400 has over that as well. Since I am trying to narrow down some options.

    So what do you say?

  2. Jedi macrumors regular


    Apr 28, 2008
    I have a Mac Mini ( hooked to an XBR2 ) and I too wanted an iMac 21.5" , but with all the scruff about them , I am not sure what to do.

    My options are:

    A Mac Book Pro ;

    A (new) Mac Mini + Display , (need help , I have NO idea what would be the best HD display for the money , HP-2009m maybe ??? ) ;

    Or wait until people start reporting that they have good iMac`s.

    I was going to get an iMac 21.5 until I started reading all the bad press :confused: .

    A Mac Mini would mean a wire mess , a MBP would mean no wires and portability ( don`t need it ) and a good iMac would be just right !

    Gary 
  3. Badger^2 macrumors 68000


    Oct 29, 2009
    Why not just upgrade what you have?

    $50 will move you to 3 gigs ram: World Computing/5300DDR2S2GB/

    $100 will move you to a 500 gig, 7200 rpm drive :

    Adding those would make a lot of difference to your current setup.

    And the 9400M isnt the dog everyone makes it out to be.

    Can you define "extremely large"?


    Just going by numbers, it looks like the 9400M is faster than the X1600

    in Quake 4 17" MBP C2D 2.33 X1600 gets 30 FPS @ 1200 X 800


    in Quake 4 13" MBP C2D 2.53 9400M gets 36 FPS @ 1200 X 800

    And the 9400 is Open CL ready, which Im sure makes it a lot faster than the X1600 at many things they dont test...
  4. Branson.Davis thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 5, 2010
    I did consider upgrading the ram and hard drive, but I really don't know if it's worth it in the long run. Since this machine is kind of getting up there in age. At least it seems like it.

    Extremely large files would be about 25 - 80 meg some times more. Usually consist eps and Ai files and psds. I know part of it could be due to ram being used up, but I also worry that if I upgrade to the maximum supported 3 gig, if it won't be enough as time goes on.

    I also use final cut pro with motion and adobe after effects. It's taking quite a long while for it to render samples and I just don't know if this machine will be able to handle it much longer. I might be totally off here.
  5. Badger^2 macrumors 68000


    Oct 29, 2009
    25-80 megs is really nothing. I might consider 300-500-800 meg files "extremely large".

    I would say for $150 its a no brainer -- you might end up with a really nice increase in performance for very little money. Perhaps make your MBP useful for another year or so.

    Even if you just do the drive itself that would give you a really good kick.

    I really dont see you getting/seeing a huge increase in day to day operations if you were to get a mini, the specs are just too close. mini only goes to 4 gigs ram, unless you spend $450 for 8 gigs. Again, the future will make the 9400M faster because of Open CL (and whatever else Apple comes out with in the future)

    Moving to the iMac, with its 3.06 C2D and faster 7200 RPM drive (plus the ability to move to 8 gigs of ram for $100) would be a much better move for the long run.

    If you were to sell your MBP, I wouldnt expect to get much more than $800, maybe slightly more.
  6. XxEjGxX macrumors regular

    Dec 18, 2009
    don't waste your money, upgrading ram will probably make you last a few more years [​IMG]
  7. miles01110 macrumors Core


    Jul 24, 2006
    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    I'm with the people who suggest a RAM upgrade. Also; are you using CS3 or CS4? CS3 is not UB and I have memories of it being very slow. CS4 is much better.

    If you spring for a new machine, definitely get the iMac.
  8. thejadedmonkey macrumors 604


    May 28, 2005
    I agree with getting more RAM. I have the low end brethren to your MBP, and last night I was installing Windows XP while playing World of Warcraft in Windowed mode. It wasn't the best, but it was capable.

    Your machine is not in any way slow. I'd consider upgrading the RAM, and picking up a very cheep mouse-keyboard-monitor setup. Logitech makes a nice $50 Wireless mouse/keyboard combo, and any old monitor will work - the monitor in the MBP isn't an IPS screen (not sure what that stands for, but it's not IPS) which means it can't be 100% accurate anyway, so any decent Dell monitor will work.

    If you need the apple keyboard and mouse, and cinema display, because otherwise you don't like the looks, then just get a new iMac, and when you spend $1500 on a $900 machine, just remind yourself vanity knows no price. ;)
  9. opeter macrumors 65816


    Aug 5, 2007
    Slovenia, EU
    CS3 is universal binary. It was the first version of Adobe applications made for intel too.
  10. talmy macrumors 601


    Oct 26, 2009
    Lowest cost solution with good ergonomics to save your back, neck, and wrists: buy a monitor (Dell to save money), keyboard and mouse and run your MacBook Pro like a Mac Mini. With a high quality 24" IPS monitor, this will run under $700 if you keep out of the Apple store.

    Otherwise get an iMac from the Refurb store. $1000 for the new 21.5", and it will easily outrun your MacBook Pro. Refurb 24" models are also a possibility.
  11. Branson.Davis thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 5, 2010
    Thank you for all of the replies.

    I am using CS4 and I do a bit of work in Final Cut studio 2 as well as after effects. She does stutter quite a bit. That's why I was unsure if 1 gig of ram would help out enough or not. I have quite a bit of money tied up in software and I was just trying to see if it's worth the newer hardware in the long run or not.

    I am still mulling over the decision. I have ruled out the mini because buying the monitor would just put me right up to the iMac price.

    Thank you again!
  12. quadG5guy macrumors member

    Jan 26, 2010
    Richmond, VA
    Upgrade it to 4 GB of RAM (yes, it can only "use" 3.2 or something like that, but put the full 4 GB in, it's cheap these days)

    Upgrade that wimpy slow 120 GB drive to a 500 GB or 640 GB drive.

    Those two things alone will make your notebook MUCH more snappy. How do I know? Because I have the exact same late 2006 MBP, and recently did those same two upgrades! :D Particularly if you're using large heavy apps like CS4 and Final Cut, doubling the RAM to 4 GB and giving it a much faster hard drive you will feel like you just bought a new machine! The performance difference is not subtle!

    The hard drive is the biggest bottleneck in any PC, so upgrading that ancient 120 GB model to a big fast new model will give a very noticeable boost in overall system performance.

    These two upgrades together cost less than $200 so it's very worthwhile if it gets you another year of use from this machine. I have no plans to replace my late 2006 MBP, at least until the Core i5 models come out. The Late 2006 MBP scores a 3200 on the GeekBench benchmark, while the very newest unibody MBP scores a 3800. That's such a tiny speed difference for being 3+ years apart. But it makes sense - they're both Core 2 Duo based. Same architecture, similar speed.
  13. XxEjGxX macrumors regular

    Dec 18, 2009
    once you have all the peripherals bought for your mini, you basically have an underpowered similarly priced iMac in my eyes [​IMG] for that i say get the imac
  14. Branson.Davis thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 5, 2010
    Wow, nice quadG5guy. That does sound pretty good.

    I am at another crossroad now though! hahaha. I was just offered a trade for an iMac 21.5 with the nvidia 9400m. I don't know if I should take it.

    Everyone says to upgrade my ram and hard drive, but I still need to purchase a display and then a stand.. So I would be looking at over 560 or so, if I took the 560 + the 800 or so I could get out of this machine I'd have 1360 that's almost enough to buy the higher end 21.5 :eek:
  15. quadG5guy macrumors member

    Jan 26, 2010
    Richmond, VA
    Unfortunately, the lowly 9400m is about the same speed as the old ATI X1600 in my 2006 MBP. Really, go google some benchmarks. There's no appreciable difference in performance between these two GPU's.
  16. Branson.Davis thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 5, 2010
    Thanks for the reply. That's about what I thought. That's why I was going to shoot for the Radeon 4670 model 21.5'' if I were to get the iMac. Just seems to make more sense to me, better gpu all around and double storage + ram. I am still considering just upgrading though. Tough decision.
  17. eron macrumors 6502

    Dec 2, 2008
    Get a monitor.

    SIPS: Either 22" from Dell or 24" HP LP2475w, or a Dell equal.

    I got my refurbished one for around AUD600.

    That way, you still have your mobility, but have a great display at the right height and multiple inputs + usb hub.
  18. Branson.Davis thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 5, 2010
    That would be really nice but that is around $530 US. I can't spend that much in just the monitor as of right now, that would set me back around 900 after all of the upgrades, hard drive, ram, horizontal stand, monitor + shipping for all of it. That's why I have been having a hard time deciding whether or not it'd be better to just sell and purchase a new iMac. More than likey I would purchase a refurb unit.

    I was also thinking about the longevity of the upgrades to the macbook pro and os x. Since the new machine are 100% 64bit compatible and are running 64bit kernels and 64bit apps are on the way. I just wonder how much of a performance hit this would be to the MBP in the longrun.

    I have been thinking more about just upgrading and getting a monitor but I am also trying to make it a sensible purchase because I don't want to end up spending half of the value of a new machine if I don't have to, because if I could sell the MBP then I'd end up with the same amount for a newer machine.

    I just need something because my back is killing me.
  19. Badger^2 macrumors 68000


    Oct 29, 2009
    I still vote for the extra ram and 500 gig 7200 rpm drive.

    quadG5guy already said it gave him a big ass boost, not sure what more you need to hear...

    then save more pennies over the course of the next year or so and then drop it on a shiny and new i5 MBP.
  20. Branson.Davis thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 5, 2010
    I was just saying that everyone forgot that I needed something at eye level since right now the macbook pro is hurting my back and neck being hunched over for extended periods of time. So buying a new MacBook Pro later on wouldn't help me any. That's why I was asking if it'd be better to just buy an iMac after selling the MacBook Pro, or buying a monitor and upgrading.

    The only thing is the monitor would be expensive and then it makes me wonder if it's worth just buying a new iMac instead.
  21. Branson.Davis thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 5, 2010
    I took everyone's advice and purchased an extra 2 gig of ram and a 7200 rpm hdd. Now I just need to find me that monitor :D Can't wait until they get here.
  22. Branson.Davis thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 5, 2010
    Received the hard drive and ram today! Got everything installed and all the files are back. (hooray time machine!) Everything is super snappy, I am actually really surprised. Like, WOAH! I haven't cracked open any big files or anything yet, but I do notice a very large speed increase.

    I have a 20'' cinema display on the way too! Should be here Monday. I think I got a pretty good deal on it. 225 for the cinema display, shipped.

    Thanks again for all of the help everyone. I hope to put this puppy to good use. Hopefully my baby (mbp) will be able to pull through for me.
  23. student_trap macrumors 68000


    Mar 14, 2005
    'Ol Smokey, UK
    You made the right move, both the imac and mini were not significant enough upgrades for what you wanted.

    FYI, the 9400 is roughly equivalent to the X1600 in terms of performance

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