PC user needing first Mac advise.

Discussion in 'iMac' started by PaulyB80, Feb 19, 2015.

  1. PaulyB80 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2015
    #1
    Hi!

    I'm in need of a new desktop and finding building a new Windows PC to be too overwhelming in terms of options. And I'm pretty sick of Windows anyway!

    So, I'm thinking of investing in an iMac that I can rely on for the next few years but need some configuration advice.

    I'm happy with the 21.5 screen, after that I'm not sure. My main use will be:

    - Photoshop Creative Suite
    - Unity, for indie game development (likely only 2D, nothing particularly graphically demanding)
    - Light gaming. Likely only indies as i mainly game on console.
    - Writing

    I'm thinking I would probably be fine with the 2.7GHz i5 and iris pro graphics to help keep the base cost down so I can upgrade to 16gb memory and 256gb flash storage? I can then get external storage as required further down the line.

    I'm on a budget, looking to keep this under £1500 (I have access to an employee discount of 6%) but don't want to be kicking myself that I didn't save for a few more months and get better specs.

    Thanks!
     
  2. ApfelKuchen macrumors 68030

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    #2
    Basically, I think you have the right approach. IF you are a professional user of Adobe Creative Suite (and use it heavily), you may want to consider an i7. While I do use Creative Suite (specifically Indesign) professionally, I'm not a heavy user. My (27") iMac with i5 and 16 GB has been a delight.

    For the same money, I'd recommend the 1TB Fusion Drive over the 256 GB Flash. I have a 3TB Fusion in mine. While Fusion is somewhat slower than Flash (roughly 20% slower), what you get is a full 1TB/3TB of storage running (effectively) at around 80% the speed of Flash, vs. 256GB of storage running at the full speed of Flash and everything else (external HDD) running at the speed of a conventional HDD. So long as you don't need more than 1TB/3TB, you won't have to worry about transferring data files between external HDD and Flash in order to benefit from Flash.

    You're new to Mac, so you've probably missed all the debates over Fusion. My best, over-simplified explanation is that Fusion manages Flash storage (128GB) similarly to the way RAM is managed - the code and data that is actively needed is automatically moved to faster memory. It doesn't waste expensive Flash by storing the entire OS or entire apps in Flash, since most of that code is rarely if ever needed.

    The bump-up in specs you could reasonably expect to see over the next few months is probably not be worth the wait. Your budget isn't likely to allow for Retina, should they introduce that to the 21.5" iMacs (and there have been no rumors I've seen to that effect). That's the one thing I'd consider to be worth waiting for.
     
  3. PaulyB80 thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Feb 19, 2015
    #3
    Thank you for your thoughts.

    I'm not a professional user of Adobe Creative Suite, in fact I'm getting by right now on an i3 laptop with 6gb of memory. I'll mainly be using Photoshop and Illustrator for asset creation and, in the future, Dreamweaver.

    I've noticed the, umm, passionate debates regarding Fusion vs SSD! I think what you suggest may well make sense for me, 1TB will be plenty and saves me buying external storage.

    Retina isn't a necessity for me either, and if no huge jump in other specs in anticipated later in the year I'm more reassured about taking the plunge now. I don't see my usage changing so if it works for me now, all is good.

    My main concern really is if the Iris Pro is sufficient for Unity / indie game level graphics. If that's not an issue then I'm ready to add to Apple's big ol' plie of cash :)
     
  4. BrettApple macrumors 65816

    BrettApple

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    Apr 3, 2010
    Location:
    Heart of the midwest
    #4
    The Iris Pro should be just fine on the 21.5" iMac. I have the Iris 5100 in my MacBook Pro 13" and it runs a higher res screen playing games just fine. Not high end, but things like Portal 2, Burnout Paradise, COD4, TF2, etc run perfectly fine. They ran on my old 9400m though, but I don't have any modern games to test it with. It'll do 4k too, so thats good to have in mind.

    I'm not a passionate fusion vs SSD guy, but I would go with the SSD myself. I service about 40 macs where I work. And having to dig into the iMacs to replace hard drives isn't the most fun thing in the world when they die. I've been changing everything I get in to SSDs where needed in hopes not to have to get to them the rest of their lifespan here.

    With my MBP I have 256GB PCIe SSD like the iMac, and I use two 4TB USB 3.0 drives for storing my media and Time Machine. They get just as fast of read/write speed as they would if they were internal, so I don't see any issue using them vs having a fusion drive. Works fine for Aperture and FCP even.

    Plus I can expand easily. Our media guy at the office has a new Mac Pro with 256GB but he has a nice Thunderbolt RAID 5 array to work off of. And it's plenty quick. I think it has 6 drives in it.

    So, I'd grab the mid tier with 256GB SSD and call it a day. 8GB RAM is fine for now, but 16GB won't hurt if you have the extra cash. I went with 8GB only because it was $200 off at the time and it was at a local store vs custom order from Apple.

    That all being said, there's nothing wrong with the fusion drive as it stands. It's got speed and space. Just not fun to service years down the road. From a techs perspective :)
     
  5. PaulyB80 thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Feb 19, 2015
    #5
    Thanks for your comments Brett. I'm probably still swayed towards the fusion as I'm not requiring the best in either speed or storage at this time so the fusion is looking like a good middle ground. Though I'll offer my condolences now to the poor techy who ends up putting in an SSD for me a few years down the line!
     
  6. Thunderbird macrumors 6502a

    Thunderbird

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2005
    #6
    I am in a similar boat and had a similar question, except about the iMac display:

    1. Does the latest iMac do spanning? I would like to hook another monitor up to it and span the display image across both.

    2. Does the regular (non-retina) iMac have 1 to 1 pixel mapping? I would like to run windows on Bootcamp and connect an external blu-ray drive, and am hoping the 1080p signal from the drive does not get upscaled/downscaled or otherwise converted by the iMac.
     
  7. ToroidalZeus, Mar 5, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2015

    ToroidalZeus macrumors 68020

    ToroidalZeus

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    Dec 8, 2009
    #7
    If you want a low cost computer get used off eBay or craigslist.

    If you want a brand new model than check out the Apple refurb store; they are 100% factory brand new condition.

    I would personally advise getting the 27" model first and foremost. Trust me it's the biggest and best upgrade. The 1440p resolution is also great for 1080p photo or video work.

    Personally I think the fashion drive is meh. The thing is to upgrade to standard sata off the self SSDs you need to purchase the fusion (and not SSD only) model. So for this reason I would advise getting it. In terms of performance I would recommend SSD only and (external) HDD.

    Also ApfelKuchen explanation is lousy. With Fusion you either get SSD speed or HDD speed depending on where the data is located. Unless the data is 80% on SSD and 20% on the HDD, this speed comparison holds no water. Most importantly you WANT files such as the OS and applications to be on the SSD because it greatly speeds up boot times, installation times and application times / general OS usability & smoothness.
     
  8. cynics macrumors G4

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    Jan 8, 2012
    #8
    For your usage the Fusion seems more then adequate. Apples SSD price is a bit extreme for people that don't really need it anyway. In your case Apple is charging $500 dollars + the 1tb HDD (the 0 dollar option) its replacing for 512gb?! LOL

    A lot of people around here take their usage and requirements and just assume everyone else needs them.

    For me less then 1tb is just ridiculous. I have more then that in movies alone, never mind tv shows, music, games etc. However I know not everyone is the same. So just base your decision on storage requirements, speed, and price.
     
  9. andy9l macrumors 68000

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    Aug 31, 2009
    Location:
    England, UK
    #9

    I know I've pointed this out before, but this way of thinking is so dated. Why would you opt-in to store media on a single desktop computer AND vastly decrease the performance of said $3,000 machine in doing so.

    The proper solution - network attached storage.

    All your devices, all the time, everywhere vs. some of your devices, when your iMac is on and awake, whilst you're in your house. Hopefully an obvious choice.

    Plus, across a local network, NAS is so very close to the speed of a fusion drive for media.

    Maybe I'm missing something.
     
  10. joema2 macrumors 65816

    joema2

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2013
    #10
    Using Blackmagic disk test, my 3TB Fusion Drive does about 690 MB/sec on reads.

    Blackmagic shows about 105 MB/sec on reads from a network-connected Fusion Drive drive over gigabit ethernet.

    How are you getting 690 MB/sec over a LAN?
     
  11. andy9l, Mar 6, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2015

    andy9l macrumors 68000

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    #11
    PC user needing first Mac advise.

    Because you're not reading media from your HDD. Presumably you have very little data, so most stuff fits on your SSD.

    If you have, say, 2TB of data, your fusion drive will constantly be swapping data between the drives. At this point, your bottleneck is the 180MB/s HDD. Over a 1.3Gb wireless connection, you get 160MB/s.

    I should have caveated my post with the requirement for a LOT more than 120GB of data.

    I'd also add that a benchmark is completely irrelevant in this case.
     
  12. jpine macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2007
    #12
    If you can swing it, you might consider the 27" model. For me, the old American muscle car axiom hold true:"There's no replacement for displacement." Then again, your eyes may be a wee bit younger than my 55 year-old.

    BTW, does anyone know offhand if the 21" model can run an external monitor? I know the 27" model can.

    JP
     
  13. andy9l macrumors 68000

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    #13
  14. yjchua95 macrumors 604

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    Location:
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    #14
    You don't need 16GB of RAM.

    What you need is a 1TB Fusion Drive or a 256GB SSD.

    Given your needs, the 2.7/8/1TB Fusion Drive/Iris Pro will suit you.

    Myself, I have a 3.1GHz i7/16/256 SSD/750M 21.5", but then, that's because I edit videos on it all the time, as well as running VMs. This one would be totally overkill for you.
     
  15. joema2 macrumors 65816

    joema2

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    #15
    OK I used DiskTester (http://diglloydtools.com/disktester.html) to fill up my 3TB Fusion Drive to over 2TB in use.

    I then ran multiple tests, including BlackMagic, QuickBench and importing a large FCP X video project. As you can see from the attached graphs the read performance was over 550 MB/sec with the FD at 67% full on BlackMagic and QuickBench.

    On the FCP X import, the hit ratio on the SSD was almost 100% and the combined read/write rate was over 400 MB/sec. See attached iStat Menu graph which breaks out SSD vs HDD portion of Fusion Drive. It would have been even higher but at that point the process was CPU bound.

    What's the source of your 160 MB/sec from a LAN? Did you actually measure that? I have gigabit ethernet and the highest I have seen on I/O tests is about 107 MB/sec, which is slower than some bus-powered USB 3 portable hard drives.
     

    Attached Files:

  16. andy9l macrumors 68000

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    England, UK
    #16
    Yep, your last screenshot captures it. You're not reading from your HDD.

    Again, a benchmark cannot test this. We are talking about media storage/archiving. I stress that speed is irrelevant - I was just commenting on it.
     
  17. Cape Dave macrumors 68000

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    #17
    Get the SSD. Fusion sucks. You will be very happy.
     
  18. N2bnfunn macrumors member

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    #18
    Hello and welcome to mac, just remember once you go MAC you never go back.

    I agree Fusion sucks the SSD is the way to go.
     
  19. joema2 macrumors 65816

    joema2

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    #19
    That was not a benchmark -- it was a real-world FCP X job. It was reading and writing to Fusion Drive at over 400 MB/sec combined rate -- *despite* the 3TB Fusion Drive being over 2/3 full.

    The benchmarks were roughly consistent with this, which shows their value in this situation.

    I'm not against NAS totally but I don't see how you can disparage directly attached storage and claim it vastly hurts performance.

    The directly attached storage a typical video or photographic editor uses is vastly faster than NAS. I have three different RAID arrays and the slowest one is about 3x faster than my gigabit ethernet.

    If you don't need that performance, then yes -- use whatever is cheapest and most convenient.

    However people need to understand that a $69 HGST Touro S USB drive is faster than any NAS I have ever tested: http://www.amazon.com/HGST-7200RPM-High-Performance-Portable-0S03729/dp/B00IVFDQ48

    How can so many people advocate SSD over Fusion Drive (which is still very fast) and not caution against NAS performance limits, which is much slower than Fusion Drive, and even slower than a cheap USB portable HDD?
     
  20. andy9l macrumors 68000

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    #20
    I think we are having very different conversations now. I am talking around the topic of media - specifically 'movies, tv shows, music'.

    I am absolutely not talking about running a FCP project over NAS.

    The speed is irrelevant for the media we are discussing. My minor point about speed was simply; for archived media content, the fusion drive will be limited to the slow reads of the HDD. With decent network storage, and for the content type we are discussing, the performance difference is negligible. The benefits of NAS hugely outweigh the slightly faster speed of a SATA-attached spinning drive - again, for the content we are discussing.
     
  21. Cape Dave macrumors 68000

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    Northeast
    #21
    My computer boots faster than some light bulbs that I have. SSD is the only intelligent choice in 2015.

    The "Fusion" BS is just marketing crap to get the price down, not a better computing experience.
     
  22. cynics macrumors G4

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    Jan 8, 2012
    #22
    You are, you took what worked for you and applied it to me and the rest of the world (that is actually the dated way of thinking). As a gov contractor I can't use outside storage. Thats why I said it works for me not everyone.

    I notice as people quote you further down you start changing the usage of the NAS or at least better defining it. Thats because you are basing everything you say around your usage.

    The OP is on a 1500 dollar budget for a lower tier iMac and he has limited knowledge.

    Your solution is to exceed his budget for speed he obviously doesn't need. And then setup a NAS further exceeding his budget and likely exceeding his knowledge?
     
  23. andy9l macrumors 68000

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    #23
    Point taken about applying one use case to a majority. That said, the macro-trend towards the use of network attached storage strongly supports my case. I agree it's not perfect for those on a budget.

    I absolutely have not changed the usage of the NAS. I was, or we were, discussing *specifically* 'TV shows, movies, music' (from your own post). Someone else went off on a very wild tangent and started testing their fusion drive - or at least the SSD portion - with FCP and benchmark tools. Highly irrelevant.

    I'm not making direct recommendations for the OP. I'm simply pointing out that a 3TB internal drive is a very dated way to store - and let me be explicit once more - TV shows, movies or music. I'm sure the OP is smart enough to decide what's right for them, given the information they see here. NAS could be a solution to a bigger media sharing problem for them. I'm simply pointing out the benefits and the most ideal solution.
     
  24. joema2 macrumors 65816

    joema2

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    #24
    The OP never mentioned A/V media, he's using Photoshop and doing light gaming. He's the one we're trying to help.

    That was me and it was necessary because of your statement that using Fusion Drive vs NAS would "vastly decrease the performance" of the OP's $3,000 machine.

    Instead of making a knee-jerk incorrect statement, I spent about 2 hours testing it in various scenarios to obtain a balanced, comprehensive result. There is absolutely no basis that using Fusion Drive would vastly decrease performance vs using NAS. The OP is doing Photoshop and maybe Adobe CS. The I/O pattern associated with those tasks typically has high locality of reference. Cache-based systems like Fusion Drive are generally very effective in those cases: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locality_of_reference

    The entire NAS thing is out of left field and has nothing whatsoever to do with the OP's needs or requirements. The OP mentioned nothing about media sharing, present or future.

    I appreciate you may feel strongly about advocating NAS, however the overall goal here was to help the OP. He had a very fixed budget, a simple scenario, and there was nothing stated that indicated he could afford a NAS or it would better fit his needs.
     
  25. andy9l, Mar 8, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2015

    andy9l macrumors 68000

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    #25
    Indeed he didn't. But I replied to a comment from cynics, you can see the quote there. The OP had already made a decision by this point.

    Factually correct. SSD vs. Fusion drive. SSD wins on performance. NAS for media storage - once again, the thing I was picking out of cynics's post - is absolutely the way forward.

    I think we are all aware that for I/O intensive purposes, NAS is not going to match up to an internal drive. One final, final time - this was not what my comment was about. This has been clear in every post I've made.

    Once again, this was not a recommendation to the OP who had already made up their mind. This was a comment on cynics's post - others with the same question are likely to read this.

    We are all agreed on the benefits and disadvantages of both. At no point were we in disagreement. Perhaps I should have been more explicit, but I feel as though you keep forking towards I/O intensive benchmarks and speed tests - not media storage.

    A Fusion drive is a good solution for those on a tight budget. It has little else going for it.
     

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