Opinion guide for 2011 iMacs

Discussion in 'iMac' started by patp77, May 11, 2011.

  1. patp77, May 11, 2011
    Last edited: May 20, 2011

    patp77 macrumors member

    Jul 11, 2007
    Seeing as though many people seem to be asking the question, I thought I'd provide my opinion on value of each option available when purchasing a 2011 iMac. To determine performance boost, I used either Geekbench or Barefeats score comparisons

    My answer (open to comments/feedback/criticism):

    Things that apply to all models:
    • Don't buy the RAM upgrade, buy your RAM separately for cheaper
    • Choose between Magic Mouse or Trackpad according to your tastes
      I have both and use the Trackpad 90% of the time but my coworker prefers the Mouse​
      This post discusses pros and cons of each​
    • Choose between wireless keyboard w/o numpad or wired keyboard w/numpad
      I have used both and will probably switch back to wired as I want the numpad back and hate having to replace batteries​
    • SSD: Removed this section. You can see IAMTHEDUDEMAN's response in thread. I think his opinion is more insightful than mine. My opinion is this: On their own, probably not a good idea due to limited space but the 256GB might be enough for some. With a second larger drive, definitely makes the system boot faster, applications launch faster and any file related activity faster. Don't expect your gaming performance to improve much (which is what I do).

    For the base 21" model, you get:
    • 2.5GHz Quad-Core i5
    • 4GB RAM
    • 500GB HD
    • RADEON 6750M w/512MB VRAM

    For the high-end 21" model, you pay $300 more (25% price increase) and you get:
    • 2.7GHz Quad-Core i5 instead of 2.5GHz (roughly 10% performance boost)
    • 1TB instead of 500GB HD (capacity to store more videos, pictures, music but negligible impact on performance)
    • RADEON 6770M instead of RADEON 6750M (roughly 15% performance boost)
    • Option to buy 2.8GHz Quad-Core i7 for $200 (13% price increase and roughly 40% performance boost) *See IAMTHEDUDEMAN's information as I had extrapolated data but that was incorrect of me to do so -- If he can provide clear information as to what I should provide here, I will make the adjustments. At the very least, you can read his info to get a better feel for the value of this option.

    For the base 27" model, you pay $200 more (13% price increase) and you get:
    • 27" instead of 21" screen
    • Native resolution capable of 2560 X 1440 instead of 1920 X 1080
    • 2 Thunderbolt ports instead of 1
    • No upgrade options for CPU

    For the high-end 27" model, you pay $300 more (17% price increase) and you get:
    • 3.1GHz Quad-Core i5 instead of 2.7GHz (roughly 10% performance boost)
    • RADEON 6970M w/1GB VRAM instead of RADEON 6770M w/512MB VRAM (roughly 75% performance boost)
    • Option to buy 3.4GHz Quad-Core i7 for $200 (10% price increase for roughly 40% performance boost)
    • Option to upgrade video card from 1GB VRAM to 2GB VRAM for $100 (5% price increase for no real performance gain yet but potential future-proofing)


    I used the two benchmarks mentioned above. I won't pretend to think that this is across the board as it obviously depends on what you are doing. For those who can't take the time to click on the links above, here's a quick rundown of the benchmarks used:

    For CPU benchmarks, I mostly used Barefeats but also compared Geekbench scores.

    For the video benchmark, I used the following benchmarks from Barefeats only: (mostly looking at LuxMark GPU but comparing to the other 2)

    • LuxMark GPU only test
    • Portal First Slice 'High'
    • OpenGL
  2. RSNL macrumors regular

    Dec 28, 2007
  3. rum00 macrumors newbie

    May 12, 2011
    thank you for this. it helps a lot.

    So, do you think if I buy the 27" imac with these upgrades
    - 3.4GHz Quad-Core i7
    - 2TB serial ATA drive
    - RADEON 6970M w/1GB VRAM

    worth for me as a design student? especially for rendering stuff?
  4. stevenlcs macrumors newbie

    Oct 26, 2010
    Hmm, how about being more reliable, thus less failure rate, quieter as well as lower temperature?
  5. Georgio macrumors 6502


    Apr 30, 2008
    Essex, UK
    We have tested 3 different SSD's at work in our laptops as an alternative to HD's; our reps tend to drop and trash their machines on a regular basis.
    The longest lasting SSD drive performed for 3 weeks before errors started appearing.
    It appears that the constant reading and rewriting does cause issues with data integrity as all the units we tested failed needing a complete wipe and re-install of windows on a weekly basis.
    Needless to say we're not going to bother with this technology until they do become more reliable.

  6. ugru macrumors 6502


    Sep 8, 2002
    Caput Mundi
    A gamer would never use an Apple mouse for gaming, so definitely get the trackpad and buy a multiple-button wired gaming mouse...
  7. patp77 thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 11, 2007
    I was mostly treating performance benefits for each option. The things you mention have no bearing on performance therefore I excluded those points. That does not mean that those looking to purchase iMacs shouldn't consider the points you present but I omitted these across the board and not just for SSD. In fairness, I did place that information in the intro section that described other components but my intention with the SSD portion was simply to clarify my position on performance impact. I find it difficult to justify a recommendation for SSDs when paying roughly $2 per GB as compared to $0.05 per GB for the typical hard drive (unless you value boot-up time, application launching, or game map loading).

    You are right that they run quieter and operate at lower temperatures but I don't think we have sufficient data yet to make any claims on reliability and failure rate. In theory, that should be the case since they don't have any moving parts but I'll reserve judgment until I see more data.
  8. patp77 thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 11, 2007
    Good point.. not sure why I even said that. :) I imagine it's still a matter of preference but I use the trackpad 90% of the time.
  9. kfscoll macrumors 65816


    Nov 3, 2009
    A gamer (in the truest sense) would never use an Apple computer for gaming. Don't get me wrong, I love my Macs, but for high-end gaming, a PC is the way to go.
  10. Entourage12 macrumors member

    Feb 21, 2008
    Do you have any benchmarks to support this 75% performance boost?

  11. patp77 thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 11, 2007

    I used the two benchmarks mentioned above. I won't pretend to think that this is across the board as it obviously depends on what you are doing but you do make me realize that I should at least mention which benchmark each result was obtained from.

    For the video benchmark, I used Barefeats:

    LuxMark GPU only test = 1946 for 6770m and 3274 for 6970m (85% gain)
    Portal First Slice 'High' = 115FPS for 6770m and 223FPS for 6970m (93% gain but uses CPU)
    OpenGL = 176FPS for 6770m and 305FPS for 6970m (73% gain but uses CPU)
  12. dr Dunkel macrumors regular

    Nov 3, 2008
    The 27" with 6970 will manage to run most current games on high settings fairly well in 1920x1080 resolution, but the mouse is rubbish :D
  13. Entourage12 macrumors member

    Feb 21, 2008
    Oops sorry should've read the first post a bit better!
    Hopefully Barefeats posts their other tests soon so we can get a better grasp on the differences.
  14. Eduardo1971 macrumors 65816


    Jun 16, 2006
    Lost Angeles, Ca. usa
    Wow. This post and thread are very informative!

    Keep up the good work.:)
  15. patp77 thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 11, 2007
    Glad it was helpful! ;)
  16. penduboy macrumors member

    May 9, 2011
  17. kikuchiyo macrumors member

    Jun 5, 2005
    Atlanta, GA
    If you were to ask me, a real gamer plays on a console. Which is to say, your opinion (and mine) aren't a big deal.

    Anyway, can you add the SSD to the more expensive 21" machine?
  18. Icaras macrumors 603


    Mar 18, 2008
    California, United States
    All of you people claiming to know this so called, "true" definition of a gamer, trying to make it some elitist club with x,y, and z prerequisites just crack me up. :rolleyes:

    A bunch of poppycock if I ever heard it. :)
  19. kfscoll macrumors 65816


    Nov 3, 2009
    I didn't intend for it to sound like an "elitist" club...god knows there are plenty of "true gamers" out there living in their parents' basement without a pot of their own to pi$$ in. You're reading too much into my statements. I based my comments mainly on the experiences I've had with the folks over on the EVGA forums. It's safe to say those folks are computer enthusiasts as much as they are gamers, and one things for sure -- they're trying to attain as much hardware performance at a given price point as they can through mods, tweaks, overclocking, you name it. If tweaking your hardware and customizing your system to get that last 1-2% higher frame rate is your thing, the Mac isn't your platform.

    Say what you will, but I think it's a pretty generally accepted fact that Mac OS X isn't the computer gaming platform of choice. Sure, you can game on a Mac, but it's less than ideal. Even amongst Mac gamers, most would recommend using Boot Camp to run games in Windows. From the word go gaming on a Mac is a compromise...and that's fine...it just is what it is.
  20. patp77 thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 11, 2007
    Discussion seems to be getting a bit sidetracked.. this thread wasn't meant as a discussion on what constitutes a gamer but more of a discussion on which iMac upgrades are worthwhile. :)
  21. iamthedudeman, May 15, 2011
    Last edited: May 15, 2011

    iamthedudeman macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2007
    Your buyers guide is more a opinion guide than a buyers guide. You shouldn't add your opinions to a buyers guide. Just colt hard facts and numbers to back those numbers up so people can make a informed decision. Saying a SSD is just good for boot ups is just bad advice, period. Try owning one first before you come to a conclusion or talk to someone who does.

    A SSD is very reliable more so than a HD, and there is history to back this up. A good SSD with TRIM and a good conroller with good wear leveling will not slow down much or if at all.

    A SSD it is the single most important upgrade you can do. Just look at the New Mac book pro's. A entry level 13's with a SSD upgrade is faster overall than a core i7 with a HD 15 inch.


    Just like a 2011 imac entry level 27" 2.7 with SSD would be overall faster than a 2011 3.4 i7 imac.

    I agree that you should not include the SSD's into the discussion, since they are not available yet for the 2011 imacs, but it should be noted that a SSD is not as trivial as you make it out to be. For a buyer for a 2011 imac it is a serious choice vs a CPU.

    13% price increase and roughly 17% performance boost

    How did you come up with this? There is no 2.8 bench marks on barefeats for this processor the i7 2600s.

    I came to a very different conclusion than yourself. It seemed you used just the geekbench for the 2.8 i7 vs the 2.7 i5.

    The average top three 64 bit scores for the i5 2.7 is 8650. The average top three 64 bit scores for the i7 2.8 is 11400. That is roughly over %30 difference between the two.

    For comparison the difference between the average top three scores for the i7 3.4 is 12500 vs 11400 for comparison. That is less than a 10 percent difference between the two for geekbench.

    I don't consider geekbench which is a synthetic benchmark really reliable. Realworld tests between the two are even less than that.

    Here is a passmark comparison.

  22. kfscoll macrumors 65816


    Nov 3, 2009
    Agreed. Geekbench is nowhere near a comprehensive enough benchmark to accurately predict performance differences among processors -- much less differently-configured computers. And SSDs make a HUGE difference in day-to-day use.
  23. iamthedudeman, May 15, 2011
    Last edited: May 15, 2011

    iamthedudeman macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2007
    Geekbench is good for basic overall system performance but for strickly CPU not so good.
  24. iamthedudeman macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2007
  25. patp77 thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 11, 2007

    Sorry for providing this information. I thought I was at least starting a decent discussion on options but I somehow insulted you in doing so. Next time, you do all the leg work so I can criticize what you're doing instead.

    Or better yet, I'll do what you should have done here and offer suggestions to improve the information provided rather than attack someone for taking time to offer some help to others looking to purchase a new iMac. As I mentioned in the post, I am open to comments / feedback / criticism. I never said I was open to attacks. :)

    SSD: I stated that it was my opinion. I even stated that I omitted it from the performance comparison section of the guide because of a lack of information and that I was strictly offering my opinion. I even asked others to provide feedback, comments, and criticisms on the information provided. Somehow, you overlooked this part and decided to attack and state your opinion as fact. As for your article, I assume you didn't read the part that says, "The storage device did not affect the results in tests that rely solely on the graphics processor or CPU. Those results were the same for both laptops." So everything I said was true. It doesn't impact application performance. It only impacts disk performance such as boot up, application launching and file handling (in other words, disk-dependent tasks).

    Also, why would you say, "Try owning one first..." when you have no idea if I do or not? It's ok to disagree on things or want clarification on why someone feels a certain way about a product but it's generally not ok to attack people for disagreeing on things. You could simply ask, "Have you owned one? Why do you think that they only..?".

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