Please help me down Apple's slippery slope

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by ToomeyND, Feb 6, 2013.

  1. ToomeyND macrumors 6502

    Sep 14, 2011
    Alright, I've scoured these boards for weeks trying to figure out the best configuration for me. Every time I do, if I spend enough time, I end up spending multiple thousands of dollars and getting things I don't really want! I know that sometimes I get caught up in higher specs, but I really want this computer to last.

    I currently own a mid 2007 20" iMac 2.4 C2D with 4 GB ram and 320 gig hdd. It's getting to the point where trying to copy a cell in excel results in a beachball for 15 seconds.

    This is the year that I am upgrading, and I'm willing to drop up to $3,000 for the perfect system. My number 1 goal is to get a computer that will last me for the next 6 years as this one has. But I don't want to spend $3k just because I can.

    I run a lot of office (word, excel, powerpoint), handbrake fairly often, and internet stuff. I don't really do photo editing, although these boards inspire me every once in a while. I do work at my computer for a full day's work, so I'd like to have a screen that is better (sharper) than my current iMac's. I don't care about color reproduction, but that seems to go hand-in-hand with high resolution screens. I also watch movies and tv shows on it.

    I'm not overly concerned about mobility as I have survived with this desktop for quite a while. I have an iPad if I go the desktop route again. But I do appreciate the benefit of not having to go into my office anytime my wife asks me about something on the computer.

    Here's my problem: None of the Apple computers offer everything!

    Mini with external display: Slower CPU, only 1 Thunderbolt, so limited to 1 high res monitor. Only the Dell U2713 has USB 3.0 right now. Thunderbolt display would have to wait until the refresh to get USB 3.0. USB 3.0 is a big one to me for future proofing. Except the TBD is also $300 more than the comparable Dell. I do like how easy it is to swap out the SSD and RAM. That's a big plus for cost savings, but again at the expense of the slower CPU.

    iMac: If you want a machine that will last, you basically have to get the most expensive 27" with 1 gb video card. You also have to upgrade to a fusion or ssd through Apple which is crazy expensive. I know that the screen can be removed, but I'm the kind of guy that ends up with extra screws after taking something apart, and I don't want to immediately destroy the computer that I want to last me a while. On top of all that, it's going to cost about $2,500 minimum such a setup. Pro's are that you get a VERY fast CPU and plenty of current I/O.

    macbook pro 15: Smaller screen. The high-res is pretty nice, and what I would want to spring for if I went this route. Perhaps with an external monitor. But it is a bigger computer, and being bigger, I may not want to move it around. If that's the cast, I may as well go for a desktop option. Pro's are that it's easy to upgrade. If I get a fast macbook pro, it will end up costing similar to a retina which already has higher RAM and SSD, but this wouldn't have those perks.

    Retina 15: Expensive with a monitor that I would not need. I know you can't upgrade these, but I don't really see it as much of a problem because it is essentially what I would have upgraded the cMBP to in the first place.

    macbook pro 13: underpowered vs the 15. dual core instead of quad. I may not use the cpu that much, but 5-6 years from now, who knows.

    macbook pro retina: same as the cMBP 13 with a touch of being expensive.

    Macbook air: A very intriguing option, but has a slower CPU like the MBP 13. With 8 gig of RAM and 256 HDD, it gets up to the MBP cost range as well.

    I feel like I'm going crazy trying to figure out which route to take. I was planning on the mini for a long time. Then I thought, well the iMac has all the I/O built in plus really fast processors, so that would be nice, but it just pushed my cost up $800 (including upgrades for each machine, aftermarket for the mini). Then I consider the notebooks, but every time I do, I eventually find myself looking at the 15 rMBP 2.6 which will set me back around $2,500 without a nice big monitor.

    In a perfect world, what I would love would be a 13" air or MBP that has the power of the 15" 2.6 quad, and then slap the TBD on there for a real screen when I'm at my desk.

    At this point I'm open to any and all advice. Thanks for reading my entire rant!
  2. cperry2 macrumors regular

    Jul 23, 2011
    Sounds like having a notebook isn't critical.

    Either 1) get the high-end 27" iMac with a 1tb fusion drive


    2) wait a little bit to see what Tim Cook meant when he said there would be something "really great" for pro users this year

    If you're really ready to shoot now, I can only see one truly reasonable option. Remember you'll have a 128gb ssd in there and you can still upgrade the ram up to 32gb quite easily. It's a six-year machine.
  3. thasan macrumors 6502a

    Oct 19, 2007
    5-6 years??? thats a bit too long! mate ur graphics card will be the main problem in 3-4 years time i guess, not cpu...unless u wanna run really big simulations for work.
  4. SILen(e, Feb 6, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2013

    SILen(e macrumors regular

    Oct 6, 2012
    Notebooks in general: You don't need mobility, so why pay for added mobility if you don't need it?
    Retina-MBP15: Although a great device, the GPU performance is a bit lacking - if you don't need it right now, you should wait for the 2013 refresh.

    iMac: Nice but expensive
    Mac Pro: Refresh incoming

    Mac Mini: Yep!

    The stuff you're doing doesn't really require enormous amounts of computing power (with the exception of Handbrake) and a Mac Mini can drive one Thunderbolt Display (or - iirc - any DisplayPort-Display) @2560x1440, a second TB-Display at 2560x1440 via daisychaining or possibly a second Display at 1920x1080 via HDMI (not sure about that).

    The Mac Mini got 4 USB 3 ports, that should be enough for a while.

    If you are able to wait - the 2013 refresh of the Mac Mini should feature the Haswell CPU with an improved GPU.

    And please remember that buying a more expensive computer to use it longer often works out worse than buying a cheaper computer and replacing it with another cheap computer when the first one has become to slow.
  5. hkim1983 macrumors 6502

    Feb 5, 2009
    Mmm, I think the best overall cost option is to get the quad-core mini and then update in 3-4 years if your CPU/GPU isn't up to the task anymore, assuming that handbrake takes advantage of the 4 cores (I don't know, I don't use it). In 3-4 years time, you would probably only have to update the mini itself too, since you can recycle the monitor/accessories because they generally have a longer useful life.

    Trying to make a computer last 5-6 years without serious diminishing returns (unless you are the most basic of users, which you are not) isn't a good idea, IMO.
  6. throAU, Feb 6, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2013

    throAU macrumors 601


    Feb 13, 2012
    Perth, Western Australia
    Having been in the game for 20+ years now, my suggestion is this:

    Don't do that.

    Cut your 3k amount in half
    Buy machines every 3 years

    Spending big to try and push a machine past 3-5 years is false economy and does not work well. Hardware also often fails within 5 years (you may be lucky, maybe not), and warranty runs out at 3...

    If you cut the budget in half (and this applies to PCs just as much as Macs)...

    You'll get 80-90% of the performance for 50% of the price, and if you get apple care can be under warranty for the entire ownership period.

    New advancements such as new USB standards, thunderbolt improvements, display improvements, faster hard drive speeds, etc will all be available to you every 3 years rather than every 6.

    Upgrading every 3 years gets you a significant performance improvement, and you'll spend more time having a snappy computer than running a dog for the last 2 years of it's life. A dog that may break at any time.

    You can't "future proof" computers (and those who try and sell you one that is "future proof" are likely just up-selling to pad their profits). So don't spend extra time and extra money to try. Buy slightly above what you need today, don't try and predict/chase the future. For all we know - in 6 years time the traditional desktop/laptop could be completely dead :)

    Obviously if you need a high end machine you need to buy one. But expecting any computer to last 6 years and be better than something released 3 years later at ~half the price is an unrealistic expectation.


    also, depending on where you live - some countries (like Australia) allow you to depreciate/salary sacrifice a computer (pre-tax) every 3 years. No idea if that is applicable in the US or where you live, but it may be worth talking to your accountant.

    In your situation, i'd buy the base model 15" MBP classic with high-res screen option and stick 16GB in it yourself.

    This is basically what I have done with my 2011, and will be keeping it likely until 2014-2015...
  7. eXan, Feb 6, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2013

    eXan macrumors 601


    Jan 10, 2005
    Desktop is the best bet, especially with no concrete need for a notebook. They are better equipped $ for $, don't have a battery that you will need to replace in a few years and are stationary (obviously) which reduces the risk of physical damage.

    No need to go for the top spec either. Just don't get the low-end model. One of my friends still has his 2007 base 24" iMac with 10.5 and my other friend is still on his top 2007 20" model with 10.8. They both are a bit slow for intensive stuff like mass RAW processing and gaming, but not as bad as a 2007 notebook would have been. Nevertheless, they both do work perfectly for most of the other stuff people do on computers.

    I can't say much about a Mini option as I have little experience with them. iMac seems more solid, every time I hear "Apple desktop" its iMac that comes to mind. Less clutter, better looks, higher specs, fitting display, etc... less stuff to worry about, really.

    While I do have a mini in my living room (base 2010 model running 10.6) it just does what its supposed to do - play music and movies without a hitch, just as well as when it was new. I heard my father speak very good about his own top spec (server) 2011 core i7 mini, he says its even faster in CPU tasks that comparable iMacs of the year, but I don't know for how long he will be keeping it.

    TL;DR: buy an mid-top iMac and don't worry about it so much.

    edit:just to clarify, by top spec I don't mean CTO upgrades, as 99% of the time they are a waste of money.
  8. cperry2 macrumors regular

    Jul 23, 2011
    Ok, well, it's a six year machine if you plan to run it into the ground. But the 27" I suggested covers all the bases (ssd, ram upgradability) and has the gpu you want.

    I suppose you should also consider the base 27" model with fusion drive.
  9. designs216 macrumors 65816


    Oct 26, 2009
    Down the rabbit hole
    This is what I did a few months back. I swapped the slow 5400 for a SSD and put in 16GB RAM myself from after market vendors. Apple charges a pretty penny for CTO upgrades. I also purchased mine from the Refurb store. Compare prices you see there to Amazon and B&H as these two don't charge tax in many states.
  10. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Dec 17, 2009
    I've recommended this path to many people many times especially those who do not need a super high end computer.

    Here's why: Say you buy a the quad mini for $800 and maybe a nice Dell 27" for $700. Throw in another $200 for more RAM and an SSD. You then keep the additional $1300 remaining in your bank account. Every two years you sell your Mini for even half the cost you paid for it ($400), and you do the upgrade again (so you have $1300 in the bank + $400 for the sale of your mini - $800 for the next "high end Mini" - $200 again for SSD & RAM = $700 remaining) and then two years later you do it all again. In 6 years from now you are only running a 2 year old Mini which will be probably 2x as fast as a high end iMac today and you will even be ahead $100.

    The other advantage is flexibility. If you decide you no longer want a desktop (since the world is going more and more mobile) you aren't left with a $3000 "mistake".... Just my .02 worth.

    Now if you are a gamer or need the extra CPU that an iMac can give you then by all means go that route.
  11. ToomeyND thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 14, 2011
    Thanks to everyone here. First for reading my long post, but then for offering such great advice.

    You've talked me down from being a spec whore for no reason. :)

    I think I'll probably go the mid-level mini w/ monitor route. Where I started this whole mess before I got carried away.

    These boards really impress me with the amount of expertise, reason, and patience that you all show. Thank you.
  12. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Dec 17, 2009
    Hehe, it's hard not being a Spec whore on these forums. I have had to talk myself out of a new Mac Pro several times. I don't "need it". I just "want it"..... Frankly the new Mini's are CPU beasts for their size and unless you need a better GPU (gaming or otherwise) there really is no need to spend more and for the price you can upgrade multiple times and not feel bad about it.
  13. dapetrun, Feb 7, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2013
  14. glenthompson macrumors 68000


    Apr 27, 2011
    You could daisy chain 2 thunderbolt displays off a Mac Mini. Expensive option but lots of screen real estate.
  15. ToomeyND, Feb 8, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2013

    ToomeyND thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 14, 2011
    I don't think I want to spring for the TBD. If I got the Dell U2713hm, I think I'll be stuck with one monitor. That said, I've never had a 27" monitor before, and I imagine it will be enough real-estate for me for a while!

    Edit: After some research, it seems you have to spring for $180 more and the U2713H if you want to daisy-chain 2 monitors.
  16. paulrbeers, Feb 8, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2013

    paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Dec 17, 2009
    Just FYI: Thunderbolt is only Displayport 1.1 and daisy chaining requires Displayport 1.24 support, so I do not believe Daisy Chaining will work off of a thunderbolt port.... Not sure anyone has truly tried it, but I don't think it will work.

    EDIT: If someone gets it to work, that would be awesome though. I would love to have two monitors off of my Mini's without being tied to Thunderbolt displays.
  17. ToomeyND thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 14, 2011
    Ugh, that is even more depressing. So now Thunderbolt and Displayport are diverging in their functions? How is thunderbolt NOT the most advanced displayport connection?!?!?
  18. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Dec 17, 2009
    I believe it's a technical limitation because Displayport 1.2 requires twice the bandwidth (which is why they can do two monitors) which that bandwidth just isn't there on copper, but someone else can chime in who knows more on this than I do.
  19. ToomeyND thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 14, 2011
    You know much better than I would, but how on earth is the bandwidth the limiting factor on the Thunderbolt connection? That just sounds so silly!

    I do know that Thunderbolt is comparable to a Displayport and a USB 3.0 in one cable, but something just doesn't add up. Especially when you can daisy two thunderbolts, or a thunderbolt and a mDP if you have a thunderbolt external between them.
  20. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Dec 17, 2009
    Here's some background....

    So basically Thunderbolt carries two 1.1a dsiplayport signals. I suppose an update could carry one 1.24 displayport signal instead of two 1.1a, but I guess that's not how Intel initially designed it and I'm not sure if displayport 1.24 was out when Thunderbolt (lightpeak) was thought up. 1.2 wasn't even released until almost 2010, so I'm guessing Thunderbolt was well on its way to being released before 1.24 was ever ratified (wikipedia doesn't specify when each incremental release occurred) and frankly there isn't enough bandwidth to include 2 1.2 displayport signals so if daisy chaining came about later then including 2 1.1a due to bandwidth makes sense.
  21. Abazigal macrumors G3


    Jul 18, 2011
    May be too late, but you will likely want a 23" monitor at most, at 1920x1080 resolution. As for mac mini, maybe go with the entry level quad-core option (because only that has the fusion drive option).

    I have a 27" imac, and the main issue I have is that the fonts default to a comically small size.

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