Need help configuring new iMac + home setup

Discussion in 'iMac' started by DrMotownMac, Sep 4, 2016.

  1. DrMotownMac macrumors 6502

    DrMotownMac

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2008
    Location:
    Michigan
    #1
    Okay, in a nutshell, here's the deal. I currently have an early-2008 24 inch iMac which is really on its last legs. I see the rainbow wheel of death FREQUENTLY and the system is almost unusable. I believe it's related to hard drive problems, but rather than pour time and money into this system, I want to upgrade ASAP. Now, as most of you know, the MacRumors Buyer's Guide is currently advising AGAINST purchasing iMacs right now (along with pretty much every other system) because of expectations around what's coming out this fall. Meanwhile, I also own a mid-2013 MacBook Air which is in excellent condition, but with a 512 GB SSD and a 13 inch screen, it's just not enough for me. I have lately begun doing telemedicine consults online, and I need a teleconferencing window open at the same time as a window for Pages, Numbers, and Google Chrome. I want to be able to clearly see and work in all four windows at once, and I don't have room on my desk for four separate monitors or systems. SO, I'm now looking at a 27 inch iMac. Furthermore, since I'm going to use this as my primary home computer base system, I'd really like to spec it out to make it as fast and BIG (storage-wise) as possible. Looking at the current choices and specs, my thoughts were the following:

    27 inch iMac with 4.0 GHz i7 processor, 32 GB of RAM, 3 TB Fusion Drive, higher end video card, WIRED Apple keyboard with numeric keypad and Magic Trackpad 2.

    The guy at the local Apple Store saw me setting up specs on a system there, and he said, "Excuse me, sir? If you don't mind me asking (I sort of did, but I was polite), what applications do you run on your Mac at home?" When I told him I was NOT an animator for Pixar or a CAD/CAM engineer/draftsman/architect, he told me I only needed the i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM (which I could always upgrade later) and the lower end video card. So, he then suggested I just buy one right there in the store rather than "special order" it. Regardless, I wasn't going to buy it now because of the whole Buyer's Guide thing I mentioned above...wait until later in the fall, right?

    So, my questions are:

    1. Do I really need the jacked up processor/memory/video card, or is this just me wanting the best for the sake of having the best?

    2. For storage, someone else told me to skip the Fusion drive and go for the 1 TB SSD drive, and then buy an external storage system. But then, do I get a Time Capsule, a simple 4 TB or 6 TB external hard drive, or do I go for a Drobo or Synology NAS system? I don't know anything about these NAS systems...like, do I buy the drives and the box at the same time? How big and how many drives? This thing needs to be PLUGGED into my wireless router (currently an Airport Extreme), but then can it feed data to my iMac and the other devices on my home wi-fi network (laptops, iPhones, iPads, Apple TVs, etc.)? And then, which company and which model do I get??? UGH!! Too many choices and way too hard to decide?

    By the way, I should mention I currently have about 1 TB worth of data (photos, music, videos) between my different devices and in the cloud right now. I just need to consolidate everything and make it avaiable in a central repository for access for my whole family.

    Sorry for the long post, but I really need some help here because I suddenly feel like a complete dummy with respect to these choices. Strangely, from the time I bought my first Mac (Mac Plus in 1987) until my most recent MacBook Air in 2013, I never had a problem deciding what to get. But now, the iMac just doesn't seem to come configured the way I want (3 TB SSD drive, please). So, I primarily need help with the storage issue. Thanks in advance for any help you can offer!
     
  2. Trebuin macrumors 65816

    Trebuin

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2008
    Location:
    Central Cali
    #2
    27 inch iMac with 4.0 GHz i7 processor, 32 GB of RAM, 3 TB Fusion Drive, higher end video card, WIRED Apple keyboard with numeric keypad and Magic Trackpad 2.
    1. Do I really need the jacked up processor/memory/video card, or is this just me wanting the best for the sake of having the best?
    -Processor will help with encoding or compressing files. It helps games and that's about where it ends. i3 is the absolute min I would recommend to anyone, but they have the i5, go with that.
    -Memory, go min and buy upgrades elsewhere to avoid the apple tax. I would recommend 8GB or 16 if you use parallels, buy 8 and upgrade the other 8.
    -Video Cards are mostly for Gaming. The only other application would be for CAD operations. You can save here as well, probably get a mid-grade would be fine as a just in case.

    2. For storage, someone else told me to skip the Fusion drive and go for the 1 TB SSD drive, and then buy an external storage system. But then, do I get a Time Capsule, a simple 4 TB or 6 TB external hard drive, or do I go for a Drobo or Synology NAS system? I don't know anything about these NAS systems...like, do I buy the drives and the box at the same time? How big and how many drives? This thing needs to be PLUGGED into my wireless router (currently an Airport Extreme), but then can it feed data to my iMac and the other devices on my home wi-fi network (laptops, iPhones, iPads, Apple TVs, etc.)? And then, which company and which model do I get??? UGH!! Too many choices and way too hard to decide?

    The hard drive would benefit your system. I always recommend a backup of some sort. SSD may be overkill, but the Fusion drive has been crippled. This is where I would recommend waiting to see what apple changes. I would only recommend 500GB SSD as opposed to 1TB and add an external later if needed. The fusion is a normal hard drive with a large cache and with the shrinking of it, you may not see the benefits. I recommend to everyone an affordable SSD. I would keep pictures and videos on an external drive attached to the computer, then mirror them to another backup. Also, in the event your home were to burn down, use something like crashplan to back it up off-site.

    Basically, focus on your hard drive decision. You can go cheap elsewhere.
     
  3. tillsbury macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2007
    #3
    No, you don't *need* the jacked-up version. It's entirely personal choice. I would perhaps suggest that it wouldn't be a bad idea if you intend to run this computer for eight years too, though. He was probably keen for you to buy the one on the shelf rather than a custom configured version.

    For external drives, consider a Thunderbolt 2 drive enclosure (you'll see some on the Apple store, and others all over the internet). NAS systems are all very nice, but they are utterly dog slow compared with a locally attached hard drive. I use an 8Tb NAS but only as a Time Machine backup device and to share data. I use a 4Tb locally attached Raid system for slow storage, and the 1Tb SSD internally for fast storage.

    Remember that you can always make data that's on your local (internal or TB attached) drives available to your family anyway, you don't need a NAS for that.

    For specs, buy what you fancy. The lower spec will do, depending upon your budget. The higher spec will be better, but cost more.
     
  4. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2009
    Location:
    Boston
    #4
    For web conferencing, absolutely not, you can get buy with something much less

    Fusion drives are nice and they serve a purpose, but if you can swing for a SSD, that would be ideal. What is your storage needs, i.e., you mention a 512GB SSD in your laptop now, how much space are you using on that 512GB SSD?
     
  5. Fishrrman macrumors G5

    Fishrrman

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #5
    My advice is to buy what you want, not what the guy in the Apple Store suggests.
    If you buy a "build-to-order", try to add features that will extend the computer's longevity.

    If you absolutely need to BUY IT RIGHT NOW, by all means buy now.
    But do so with the full knowledge that new iMacs will be announced soon that will probably represent a significant "advance in technology" from what you're buying today.

    I would actually prefer a 3tb fusion drive setup over a 1tb SSD.
    You get 3x the storage space, and you'll still have a Mac that boots and runs quickly.

    I have no problems whatsoever with having two drives (128gb SSD + 3tb HDD) inside the iMac.
    More value for your $$$.

    Again, if you can't wait, buy now.
    But -- if you CAN hold out a couple more months, "the waiting" may prove to be worthwhile...
     
  6. DrMotownMac thread starter macrumors 6502

    DrMotownMac

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2008
    Location:
    Michigan
    #6
    I'm currently using about 430 GB of the 512, and that's only because the large majority of my photos and videos are on an old 1 TB Western Digital MyBook external drive (which is also slow, btw -- I bought it around 2009). I DEFINITELY need more than 1 TB of storage for everything I have. The question is whether I really need that 3 TB fusion drive or should I spring for the 1 TB SSD and get a NAS in addition to it?

    I'm definitely not getting what the Apple Store guy suggests just because he suggested it. My question was more whether or not he knew what he was talking about or is he just a blowhard with more opinions than brains.

    I totally agree with you there, which is why I fully intend to wait until October/November (or whenever) for that next generation iMac. I'm just trying to prepare, and basing some of my decisions on what they have currently, thinking they will come out with faster and better versions of what they currently offer. I REALLY hope they offer a larger SSD drive as an option...seems like they've been stuck at the 1TB limit for quite some time, which is odd since SSD does seem to be the way of the future.

    So, you think even running Photos, iTunes, iMovie and the like will not slow down considerably on a Fusion drive vs. a pure SSD? I'm worried because I have close to 2 TB worth of photo/video/music data right now, and my old iMac slows down to a CRAWL when using those applications. It drives me NUTS when I see the spinning rainbow wheel! It's strange, because about half the people I ask tell me to go for the 1 TB SSD and get a NAS, and the other half tell me to get the 3 TB fusion drive. I just don't know which way to go!

    Is there any way to take that 128 gb SSD out and replace it with a 1 TB SSD? Or, to buy the 1 TB SSD drive, and then add a 3TB internal HDD to the iMac after the fact? Anyone have any experience doing that?

    Again, I totally agree on that point. I intend to hold out until the new model comes out. Just trying to prepare for the purchase, and I'm considering getting that NAS sooner rather than later, just so I can set it up and learn to use it.

    Thanks to both of you for your input!! :)
     
  7. roadkill401 macrumors 6502

    roadkill401

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2015
    #7
    The question 1. can be answered in two ways. The CPU side of things, you will not likely see any difference between an i5 and the i7. The graphics side of things is slightly different in I would not suggest getting the bottom entry level card, but the top end is just a waste. Look for a mid level M390 or consider the M395 with 2gb ram. The reason to upgrade the video is that is where the computer generally lets you down in the future. It is not that you need the fastest card for what you are doing now, but future graphic requirements seem to strip ability faster than the speed of your CPU. You might be needing that GPU power in 3-4 years where the computer otherwise would meet your needs perfectly fine.

    Storage. I would suggest getting a 512ssd as for most functions it is plenty large enough. Now there will be those who go on about how thier iTunes music library is 700+gb in size and when they put their photo's on thier iMac they really need 3tb of drive space. But the hard reality is iTunes and Photo's DO NOT require really fast drive access. They just require space.

    The key to your question is in the bold underlined bit of your quote: You need something availible to access for the whole family. So I am to take that means multiple devices and not just your iMac.

    That means NAS. I have several Synology nas devices and know all about them, but Qnap and Drobo and many other brands are just as capable. My Synology has the ability to store all my music and run an iTunes server that my mac and other itunes devices can see. I have a share for all my photo's that works with my wifes iPhone and my Android phone for all the family photo's. Also it runs my time machine for my iMac and the Mac Mini for the family. take a look at https://www.synology.com/en-global/solution/Apple

    A nas you will buy the device and then what sized hard drives you want to put inside of it. That way you decide how large, how expandable and how much fault tolerance you want. There are lots of computer stores and dealers who specialise in getting these implemented in your home if you don't feel comfortable doing it yourself.
     
  8. tillsbury macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2007
    #8
    But do look into the speed you want. The above message says "that means NAS". This is not quite true.

    I used to store music/videos etc on a NAS where everyone could get to it. However, maintenance of that was a bit of a pain because of the very slow nature of NAS storage (compared with fast locally attached drives). I now have shared data on a locally attached volume (RAID but spinning hard drives), and others access it all the time, including Apple TVs and other devices. As far as they are concerned it makes no difference whether it is on a standalone NAS device or attached to my computer -- they are both "network attached" as far as other devices are concerned. I can manage it extremely easily because for me it's local storage.

    NAS is for slow storage only.
     
  9. Floris macrumors 68020

    Floris

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2007
    Location:
    Netherlands
    #9
    Mine's ready for replacement too, but I won't get one until Apple does their annual iMac update. Which is hopefully November at most.
     
  10. roadkill401 macrumors 6502

    roadkill401

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2015
    #10
    The side that NAS is slow is total BS! The speed can be limited by your ability to setup a proper LAN inside your house but that is under your own control and nothing to do with a NAS. In my neighbourhood, there are too many people who don't understand wireless and as such they have the scatter blast effect. (ie there are over 21 different wireless networks all competing for the whopping 3 channels to broadcast over and wireless as a result is slow). I combatted this by installing in proper CAT6 wire into the house and get great performance off my gigabit ethernet. My Synology DS412+ has dual network plugs that I bind together to get really fast speed even if accessed by multiple devices at once.

    You go with local attached storage, and only the local computer gets any speed. Everyone else accessing the share gets really slow speeds especially if the iMac is using wireless as it can't handle multicast network access. And your iMac needs to be left turned on to have remote shares available. Open it up to remote hacking if you want remote WAN access like being able to see your photos or files from your cell phone while out of the house. There are lots that you do loose in function.
     
  11. T'hain Esh Kelch macrumors 601

    T'hain Esh Kelch

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2001
    Location:
    Denmark
    #11
    The Apple guy was totally right. You don't need anything else but the lowest end 27" iMac for what you describe in the OP.

    I would recommend a 1TB SSD over the Fusion drive if you really want to spend money, but everything else is a complete waste of money for your needs, and likely the 3TB Fusion drive will suit your speed needs just fine.

    I do recommend waiting until the update though, simply to get the newest stuff in the machine.
     
  12. Flynnstone macrumors 65816

    Flynnstone

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2003
    Location:
    Cold beer land
    #12
    I just bought a new 27" iMac. Similar issues to you.
    Processor. I bought the 4G i7. Essentially I wan't the higher clock rate. I have some programs I run where I can see the processing wait. Sounds like money is not a big issue. If you do video work, like iMovie etc then go for the higher processor. It gives more for the unknown future.
    Memory: I bought the base 8G at Apple & ordered another 16G from OWC. I run Parallels etc.
    HD space: 3T Fusion wasn't big enough for me. I bought the 512G SSD and bought a 4T USB 3 external. If Apple had a 6T Fusion drive option, I probably would have bought that. A 3T Fusion is probably enough for you. Since you have your data separated already, I like your idea of a 1G SSD with a 3T+ external. I wouldn't recommend a NAS for "near" computer big storage. A hard drive plugged into a Airport extreme or a Time Capsule is effectively a NAS. Good for backup. (And don't forget an off site backup drive).
    Fastest is a Thunderbolt attached drive. Cost more $$$. Can me moved out of the vicinity of the iMac (quieter near the iMac). Next for speed is USB 3. Cost is less. But harder to get distance from iMac.
     
  13. DrMotownMac thread starter macrumors 6502

    DrMotownMac

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2008
    Location:
    Michigan
    #13
    Great insight! Thanks so much! I just bought a Lacie 4TB Rugged Raid Thunderbolt drive yesterday, for consolidation of my media and data, preparation for migration to new iMac (when it comes out and I buy it), and I'm starting to get it ready. I'm leaning toward the 3 TB Fusion, then using the Lacie as local backup/Time Machine. You have all been very helpful. I may skip the i7 processor, but I will get at least 16 GB OF RAM. But let's see what Apple offers with the new iMac. Hopefully it will be more than the usual incremental updates.

    Thanks again!
     
  14. danielwsmithee macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2005
    #14
    This is all great advice I'm in a very similar boat. Just waiting for the next release. I've decided to go with a 512GB internal SSD, then use the $$$ difference to pay for an OWC Thunderbay 4 mini that I can load up with 4 SATA SSDs at much cheaper price points than Apple's flash options. The 512 option seems to be the sweet spot for price/storage right now. Hopefully that changes with an update to 1TB.

    I simply don't want an unreliable spinning disk in my iMac anymore. I've opened my 2009 iMac 3 times now to replace bad hard drives. In the mean time my flash only MBA has been rock solid, and that is after accidentally dumping 12 ounces of water right on the keyboard.

    I also use a Synology NAS for TimeMachine backups etc great product, but won't touch a Thunderbolt raid for performance. My whole house is wired gigabit Ethernet. 1360 MB/s on the OWC Thunderbay vs 110 MB/s on the NAS, it doesn't matter for TimeMachine though. CloudStation is awesome too if you have a good internet connection.
     
  15. tillsbury macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2007
    #15
    Indeed. Assuming wired gigabit ethernet, it's still pretty optimistic to be getting 110Mb/s on a NAS, and that's only under very special circumstances. For maintaining and mucking about in large directories of large files, a NAS is really slow compared with local TB storage.

    Having said that, you can usually map a pair of 5GHz wifi channels to get something pretty close to wired gig E anyway. The machines I do use wifi on are reporting actual tx rates of 975 Mbps so not a lot of difference if well organised.
     
  16. geekiemac macrumors regular

    geekiemac

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2016
    Location:
    Switzerland
    #16
    That's basically the configuration I got a few months ago to replace my ageing 24" iMac (late 2007). With the exception of the 3 TB Fusion Drive (I got 2 TB) and the trackpad (I prefer the mouse).
    I bought the standard 8 GB RAM, but upgraded the RAM to 24 GB by myself.

    I'm very happy with this new configuration. The system is blazing fast. OS X El Capitan works like a charm. I'm planning to get Lightroom CC next year when I renew my photography gear,. For my modest needs (amateur photographer), this iMac is a perfect choice.

    Additional storage needs as well as TM backup are covered by our family NAS.

    Like you, I'm planning to keep this iMac for as long as possible. So I'd say, go with the best configuration you can afford. Else, if you can wait a couple weeks more, Apple should have something for you this evening... (or not) (we never know) ;)
     

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