New 27" iMac for Graphic Designer, help please.

Discussion in 'iMac' started by candyman, Feb 19, 2014.

  1. candyman macrumors regular

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    #1
    So, I am replacing the trusty old 24" 3.06GHz iMac (early 2009) model. As a professional Graphic Designer, I use Photoshop & Illustrator religiously. I am readying the purchase of the new 27" iMac having 3 choices to make, but can really only afford upgrades to two of them. I am trying to stay under $2,500 ship & tax.

    First off, a dedicated internal SSD drive is out of the budget for the space I need. I will be going with the 1TB Fusion drive. This was upgrade #1 and the easiest no-brainer. The next two, not so clear.

    CPU. Is there really a need for the i7 3.5GHz over the i5 3.4GHz for graphics and photo work? I do a lot of web and print work and some large print format designs (vehicle design wraps, etc.) from time-to-time as well.

    Graphics card. 775M with 2GB or 780M with 4GB? This is the upgrade I am leaning most towards along with the Fusion Drive. I have seen many posts and links online about the differences between the two, but they mostly focus on gaming or 3D animation or video, none of which I do.

    I would love to hear the input and opinions on the benefits or lack thereof with the upgrades for the work that I do.

    I do also think about future proofing. As I have gotten nice long 5 year run out of my current machine, I'm looking to do the same with this and wonder how much more demanding and larger files will get over the next few years.
     
  2. yjchua95 macrumors 604

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    #2
    If the apps you use don't make use of multithreading, there isn't any point to go for the i7. The i7 will only shine in multithreaded apps and show about a 30-40% improvement.

    A better GPU will speed up your rendering times. Since the GPU isn't upgradeable, go for the GTX780M if you can afford it. But the 775M is no slouch either.
     
  3. Susansmac macrumors newbie

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    Feb 19, 2014
    #3
    How to tell what apps use multithreading?

    How do we tell which apps use multithreading. I too use photoshop, does this use multithreading?
     
  4. Macman45 macrumors demi-god

    Macman45

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    #4
    Only a handful of apps really take advantage of the I7. I have two..X-Plane and Logic...OP: you would benefit way more from the 4GB GPU, and I'd really try and find the money for an SSD ...I have the 3 TB Fusion drive as the larger SSD option wasn't available to me when I bought this iMac....for design work IFAD beg borrow or steal ( joking) to get hold of the 768 SSD option.

    The Fusion unit works fine, but I could really do with the speed of that SSD.

    My upgrade is very much on bold due to financial circumstances, but if you can, get it, then you'll be fit from it no end.
     
  5. minimalism macrumors member

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    #5
    Upgrade your RAM when possible. You can avail external HD for other storage space.
     
  6. Georgio macrumors 6502

    Georgio

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    #6
    Go with the i5 and 2GB GPU, stick with the 8GB RAM but budget for another 8GB as 16GB is ideal for what you're doing.
    1TB fusion drive is good as long as you also budget for at least 3-4TB fast external storage.
    Personally I would go for the 3TB fusion with a 2TB external purely for back up.
    SSD's are the future no doubt but they're still silly money and the fusion drive is a good compromise between performance/cost.
     
  7. candyman thread starter macrumors regular

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    #7
    The RAM will be a for sure upgrade to 16GB from a third party retailer.

    I currently have a 512GB Time Capsule and was also contemplating upgrading it as well to the 2TB model. Or would I be better to just keep the old unit to use as my router and just add a new larger external HD?

    I think the 780M graphics card is a go and I'll stick with the i5 over the i7.
     
  8. fig macrumors 6502a

    fig

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    #8
    More than likely none of those upgrades are going to do a make a huge difference for the type of work you're doing, RAM is going to be the biggest upgrade you can make for helping with manipulating big files in Photoshop as it doesn't take much advantage of the GPU. For general use pretty much any modern Mac is capable of running Illustrator and PS pretty smoothly.

    I'm personally not a fan of the Time Capsule as you've got issues if either the router or drive goes out, it's also kinda expensive for what it is. I'd just as soon add an external.
     
  9. Larry-K macrumors 68000

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    Jun 28, 2011
    #9
    We've got around a dozen late-model 27" iMacs running Design Apps in the office, i5s, i7's, several clock speeds, 8-16 gigs of RAM, and I occasionally have to use them. For our purposes, there's not a dimes worth of difference between them.
     
  10. klukkluk macrumors newbie

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    Jan 11, 2013
    #10
    Don't forget to visit the Refurbished Store.
    You can easily save $300-$400.
    I bought 2013 iMac with i7 - 16GB ram (important for your kind of work) - 1TB Fusion and GTX 77M 2GB.
    $350 cheaper than new. Same warranty.

    In your case RAM is your biggest friend.
     
  11. thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

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    #11
    It's likely to be the same for the OP. If he works with large files, a lot of history states, etc. ram can be a big help. It stops helping when nothing is written to scratch disks with the average workload. It can be updated after purchase though if the initial amount is insufficient. GPUs and i5 vs i7 aren't going to make much of a difference in terms of how long he keeps it for the work being done. Their impact isn't significant enough. Adobe mainly likes to use OpenGL for drawing things to the screen and OpenCL for some filters. I suspect part of the problem with implementing such things is the amount of difference. I mean they actually have to write these functions more than once to provide the same results so that the program knows to use OpenCL only where supported. Not every machine currently supported by CS6 and creative cloud support OpenCL, even on Macs.
     
  12. chevalier433 macrumors 6502a

    chevalier433

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    #12
    If you are a pro go with the top i7,780m,256 ssd for apps and rendering, thunderbolt external drive for media and 32gb of aftermarket ram.
     
  13. xraydoc macrumors demi-god

    xraydoc

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    #13
    If you're not playing games and you're using only Photoshop and Illustrator, the upgraded GPU isn't going to do anything for you. Unless you're playing 3D games or using graphics rendering apps that make use of the GPU (3D animation, video editing), the standard GPU on the 27" will be just fine for what you're doing.

    Personally I'd go with the i7, extra RAM and the 3TB fusion drive (or 1TB fusion if you don't need more space than that). Budget some money for a reasonable Time Machine drive, too. Something that has around 1.5x-2x the amount of space you're using on your Mac's other drive(s).
     
  14. joema2 macrumors 65816

    joema2

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    #14
    This is a good question. Virtually all major apps are multithreaded. The question is how well do they distribute work over the pool of worker threads. That is highly variable -- even within a single app.

    You can see in Activity Monitor when Photoshop CC just starts, it has 30+ threads. Doing basic actions like Shake Reduction sharpening, and it jumps to 60+ threads -- for that one app. OS X may have 800 or more threads. But -- just having the threads doesn't mean performance will scale with increasing core count.

    Most of the threads in an app or the whole system are not in a runnable state. At any one instant, they are waiting on I/O, on a system call, or a signal from another thread.

    All the runnable threads are funneled down to run on the available cores. In limited cases, hyperthreaded i7 CPUs can run two threads on single core, but the typical benefit is much less than 2x per core. More typical best-case improvement is 10% to 20%, but that may be worthwhile the low additional cost.

    You are currently limited to four core CPUs on the iMac, the question is hyperthreaded (i7) or not (i5). In general I'd suggest prioritizing other areas like SSD, RAM or Fusion Drive.
     
  15. joema2 macrumors 65816

    joema2

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    #15
    Photoshop CC has been re-written to use OpenCL and leverages the GPU. The question is to what extent, and for what functions.

    As you stated the choice is not between no GPU and a GPU, it's the incremental performance benefit between two GPUs. That incremental difference only applies to the GPU-intensive portion of the overall workload. E.g, if the GPU was 2x faster but the app's GPU-intensive portion is 10% of the execution path, the improvement is only 20%. The OP mentioned the GTX-775M vs 780M. There is much less than 2x performance difference between those. In actuality, I doubt there would be a dramatic observable difference for most Photoshop tasks. It might not even be noticeable.

    As you stated extra RAM a larger Fusion Drive (assuming that might be needed over the machine's life) would provide more noticeable benefits. Also budgeting for Time Machine or some other backup is vital.
     
  16. fig macrumors 6502a

    fig

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    #16
    I've done a bit of research on this in the past and the answer is not much. Photoshop uses the GPU on a handful of filters but not any that apply to the majority of operations that a typical user is going to be utilizing on an everyday basis.

    So I totally agree that the video card likely won't make much difference.
     
  17. candyman thread starter macrumors regular

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    #17
    Yes, I do work with a lot of large files, plenty of history and many open files/windows/tabs at the same time in each app.

    Do you believe the 780M would be something I will miss 3-4 years down the road with only having 2GB RAM instead of 4GB & the possibility of the demands from the graphics apps growing substantially greater? Or at that point, I would be looking for a replacement machine anyway so it the extra cost now worth it?

    If I could get away with the stock setup from Apple (only upgrading to the Fusion HD), I would upgrade the RAM to at least 16GB and put the savings from not upgrading the Processor & Graphics Card into the external HD & and/or router.
     
  18. thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

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    #18
    Ram helps with that more than anything. It hasn't even changed that dramatically since the PowerPC days in some aspects. More people work with 16 bpc today due to the capability of modern digital cameras, but a lot of it hasn't changed that much. Before you relied on scratch disks quite a bit. Now you can handle much of it with ram. In my opinion the best upgrade is just to see how much it takes before you no longer make much use of scratch disks. If you're buying third party ram, which I suggest, make sure to test it. Also note that some brands receive more complaints than others on sites like newegg.

    As for the gpu, it's all relative to what you're doing. Also benchmarks are misleading without context. Look at the bottom one in this link. It makes the imac look like a piece of junk if you're just looking at bar graphs. It's more likely that NVidia's drivers weren't well tuned for that test, but I could find benchmarks with results that are even more extreme the other way. Here's one with some photoshop benchmarks. The difference isn't that great between them. You can see the mini ran iris blur very slow, but that's because at the time of the test, the HD 4000 wouldn't run OpenCL tests. That filter is very slow on the cpu, yet all of the gpus were close enough. That covered both the 2011 and 2012 imacs, which were different gpu generations. The scaling really isn't there, but having an OpenCL capable gpu will help when you use those things. I don't consider it essential, because most people lose very little of their overall working time to filters. Here are some video apps where the imac did stand out. Illustrator doesn't have any gpu acceleration beyond OpenGL drawing. Photoshop has a few things, but even then even iris pro should last for a while. 2GB of vram should also be fully supported for a long time. They currently recommend 1GB. It'll probably be 2 recommended in a couple years. It doesn't increase that fast though. Again this is just my opinion, but I don't think gpu upgrades are an efficient purchase there. Even Adobe is just using them because they are better suited for the work than the cpus.
     
  19. joema2, Feb 21, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2014

    joema2 macrumors 65816

    joema2

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    #19
    You phrased the issue well. Nobody can know the future but for most current Photoshop work I doubt you'd notice the difference between 775M and 780M. My wife has a 2012 iMac 27 with 1GB 675MX, and on Lightroom I can't tell the difference (owing to GPU) between that and my 2013 iMac 27 with 4GB 780M. Both have 3TB FD but mine is definitely faster on cached reads due to the higher-speed PCIe interface -- it is noticeable on import and preview generation.

    16GB RAM will definitely make a difference. Re external HDD, this encompasses a range of devices. On the low end it includes USB 2.0 bus-powered 5400 rpm drives. It includes USB 3.0 7200 rpm bus-powered drives. It includes USB 3 and Thunderbolt 7200 rpm AC-powered drives. It includes RAID arrays.

    The performance difference between a USB 2 bus-powered drive and the fastest USB 3 7200 rpm bus-powered drive (Hitachi Touro Mobile Pro) is huge. AC-powered drives are faster still.

    Your internal drive should be sized to avoid using a slow external drive for routine items. If a 1TB Fusion Drive is sufficient for the next three years, get that. If not consider the 3TB Fusion Drive. Obviously SSD is best but you already said it was out of your price range.

    Hard drive performance is generally better if not used to near full capacity. So think in terms of 70% of the drive size as an approx upper limit for best performance. Viewed this way a 1TB drive is 700GB and a 3TB drive is 2.1TB

    As you already said, you'll need to budget external drives for backup.
     
  20. Truthfulie macrumors regular

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    Dec 18, 2013
    #20
    I think you should stick with i5 with 775M unless you do some sort of rendering/encoding on the side from time to time, but do upgrade the RAM to at least 16GB and SSD option for sure. You can go for Fusion, but I've noticed the 128 GB SSD used for Fusion is way too slow in comparison to 250 GB SSD option. Get 250GB and invest in external HDD, internal HDDs are pain to replace if it dies.
     
  21. joema2 macrumors 65816

    joema2

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    #21
    The OP was very clear. He needs at least 1TB and cannot afford 1TB SSD. Why recommend SSD ("for sure") when in his very first post he said it's not an option for him?

    Given the remaining alternative of smaller SSD plus slow external drives or Fusion Drive, it seems FD is best. I have a 2013 MacBook Air with 512GB SSD and a 2013 iMac with 3TB FD. Fusion Drive is not "way too slow". It is generally much faster than a HDD or using a slow external drive because your internal storage is too small.

    If you can afford it and it fits your space requirements, SSD is best. The OP was very clear that wasn't an option for him, so I'd definitely suggest 1TB or 3TB FD.
     
  22. candyman, Feb 22, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2014

    candyman thread starter macrumors regular

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    #22
    Thanks for all the feedback. I think I'm going the route of the i5 with the 775M card and 1TB fusion. This will leave me a little extra money to upgrade to 16GB RAM (2 x 8GB), a 2TB external HD and new wi-fi router.

    This now is my next research project. I thought about just getting the 2TB Time Capsule to replace my old, but at $280, I think I can get two separate boxes for a little less.

    Although it is little a more expensive external, what are your thoughts on OWC? It seems they are pretty well regarded when it comes to Mac compatibility.

    2TB OWC Mercury Elite Pro Mini USB 3.0

    Here are a select few other drives I've taken a liking to.

    2TB WD My Passport Ultra USB 3.0

    2TB WD My Passport for Mac USB 3.0

    2TB WD My Book USB 3.0

    Not even sure where to begin on the wi-fi router. I've had this Time Capsule (512GB) for over 5 years now so I'm not even sure what to look for!

    *EDIT: Well, after doing a bit of research, it seems this is the router ASUS RT-AC66U to go with (or the Airport Extreme) if I go with the third party external HD. Asus is $30 cheaper, so even with the external HD, I would still come in similar to the price of the 2TB Time Capsule setup.
     
  23. candyman thread starter macrumors regular

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    #23
    Okay,

    All ordered! 27" i5 with the 1TB Fusion drive. 16GB kit from Crucial. Airport Extreme (like the "it just works" aspect, plus we have a complete Apple household). 2TB WD My Passport external HD.

    Separated the router and HD units (Time Capsule) in the event one or the other mechanisms would go out and the fact if I need to take my work with me, I can pop my external HD in a case to plug into another machine.

    Next up is trying to recoup a few dollars prepping my 24" iMac 3.06 for sale with 512GB Time Capsule! Thanks for all the help and insight everyone. I'm sure I will be very happy with the new setup. We'll do it again in about 4 years! :)
     
  24. Susansmac macrumors newbie

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    Feb 19, 2014
    #24
    Let us know how it goes. I'm a graphic designer looking to buy the same set up. Not sure about the fusion and would love to hear your perspective on it.
     
  25. fig macrumors 6502a

    fig

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    #25
    I've got a Fusion in my Mini and I'm a fan (and a designer), all my design apps are on the SSD portion and access is lighting quick.
     

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