Powermac vs. iMac for Design....


macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 12, 2005
Los Angeles, CA
So I'm trying to decide between a lower-end Powermac G5 and a higher-end iMac G5. Also: I'm a graphic designer who dabbles in all different kinds of media (lots of Flash, some rendering, web design, music and video editing, etc etc etc).
So what should I do? I was decided on the iMac 20" with standard 512 RAM from Apple, and then another 1 gig stick from a 3rd party company, and possibly a second. I've read a few threads on here where people recommended getting a Powermac instead, with a 20" monitor, possibly from Dell. I'm uncertain as to which would be a better choice for me.
Also: I'm looking to spend as little as possible...with the iMac, in the education store, I would be spending $1699+$100 for a 1 gig stick of memory. So that's about $1800, give or take.
For the Powermac, I would probably end up getting something from the refurb store on Apple's site, and I found a single 1.8 processor with 160 gigs of harddrive space and 512 MB of RAM. On the other hand, for 100 dollars more, I could get a dual 1.8 processor from the refurb store with an 80 gig harddrive and 256 MB RAM. I think the video card on the dual processor G5 if half the one on the single processor G5 (64 compared to 128). To get a widescreen 20" flat panel Dell monitor, however, would tack on another $525 to the total, making these Powermacs $1925 and $2025 respectively...a bit more than the iMac G5.
Suggestions? Anyone have one of these machines and find they are just super for graphic design and other digital media? Or the opposite? Do any of these systems just solidly suck at what I need it for? Or do you know about a cheaper way to get something like this? I keep a close eye on trading posts (like the marketplace forum on macrumors!) and ebay, but I'm not even certain which of these I want yet, so I've been hesistant to post anything on them.
Any advice/tips/rants welcome and appreciated!
Thanks in advance!



macrumors regular
Feb 25, 2004
Whilst not really touching on the specific +ves and -ves of either in terms of value for money.

I would reccomend the powermac every time. I do similar work to you, a lot of high res graphic design work. I switched from an imac to a powermac. I found that the extra grunt makes doing a lot of work less hassle. And also the scope for handling larger projects that you may not be expecting is very handy.

You mention the video and rendering, these are the magic words to emphasise that you need a powermac. Rendering any animation scenes will be less of a hassle etc...

You will also get the metal cased monster that puts you in the elite, amongst your other design friends slogging it out with thier pc's. (imacs dont count, sorry)


macrumors 6502a
Feb 27, 2005
Northern California
If you get a dual processor go for the PowerMac. If you just going to get the single processor 1.8, then save your money and get a iMac. The expandability isn't worth the price, as the speed will be very similar.


macrumors 6502
EDIT: I hadn't noticed the price guide; my original comments are irrelevant.

I second the PM suggestion; the only reason to go iM over PM is, well, if you can't afford the latter.

Tiger leverages the more powerful videocard that you can now have. It puts that extra RAM (>2GB) that you can now have to good use.

The iMac has all sorts of troubling heat issues re: its hard drive. It's very pleasing to the eye, and has a simpleness of setup that is very attractive, but at the end of the day the PM is a better bet for actually getting things done.

My suggestion, get a 2x2.0 PM, keep the RAM stock, add two 1GB sticks off of some other site, some like crucial, I like OWC. Get a great video card (the X850 is a BTO option and is currently the best to use; its drivers are far better designed than the Nvidia ones) and you can do this all for $2700 or so. Then get whatever monitor you can afford...

If you are budget constrained to $1800-2000, get a 20" iMac and 2 sticks of 1GB RAM for it (OtherWorldComputing sells them inexpensively). You should be fine. If you can squeeze it in, add a firewire external HD, and put on it any and all critical data (all projects etc). The idea is that the heat issues w/ the iMac are not going to cause your computer to crash, but may, in the long term, lessen the life of the internal HD. By having a large disk cache (ie lots of RAM) and having the most frequently used files on that external HD, you lessen the load on the internal, prolonging its life. By putting your critical data on the external, you lessen the hassle and threat implied by an internal HD failure.



macrumors 68030
Apr 16, 2005
Mt. Prospect, Illinois
unless you have a spare monitor, don't get the powermac g5, because once you buy it, you will have already met your 1800 dollar limit you mentioned..The 20 inch iMac g5 should feed your needs, with plenty of ram, it will last you a while..It all really depends on your budget, because the power mac g5 is upgradeable, you will be spending over 2000 dollars on the computer..Go with the Imac...


macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 12, 2005
Los Angeles, CA
Thanks to everyone who responded!
I have to be honest, though, I'm still a little uncertain about what to get. Like I said before, I was pretty sure that I would be investing in an iMac, but thinking about it, I'm thinking that perhaps it may be smarter to make a chunky initial investment for, say, a 2 ghz dual G5, and then add on the other components I'll need as I go along. I saw a refurbished dual 2 ghz PM today for about $1650, and a new one is $1800. The only difference, I THINK, is that the new one has a better video card and a faster Superdrive (though I may be wrong on this..there could be more differences). That's a $150 difference...that could really almost be made up by reselling the free iPod Mini they are giving away, right?
My main concern with the iMac now is all of the little problems I keep hearing about. True, it probably doesn't happen to most people who get them, but I'm really looking for a machine that is rock-solid, won't give me any trouble and that I will be able to use for quite a while. The PM even LOOKS rock-solid, it's a Mac, so it automatically gives far less trouble than what I'm used to, and it seems like it has enough PCI slots and room for RAM that I can keep plugging in new adendums anytime I need some new functionality out of it.
I'm a little frightened of anything going wrong with the iMac because I'm...sniffle...a recovering PC user.
Does anyone have any further comments on this? I really am still open to almost any possibility, as long as it's within my price range, I'm just leaning toward that PM at the moment....

Thanks again!



macrumors 603
Jul 3, 2004
Mac since 7.5
I manage a prepress department at a commercial printer, and we just added 4 iMac G5's to our mix. We don't do any video or web stuff here, so it's all InDesign, Quark, Illustrator, Photoshop and Acrobat. The iMac is perfect for us. Most of the machines we have in the department (23 Macs total) are 1.25GHz G4 Power Macs we bought for cheap when the G5 was intro'd, with 21 and 22 inch CRT's. As these older computers are replaced, we'll move to iMacs to save space. I was worried that the widescreen format of the 20" iMac might not be well suited for the windows and tool palettes we needed to have on screen, but that has turned out to be irrelevant.
Your mileage may vary. ;)