Refurbished Older iMac - worth it?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by ozone, May 1, 2018.

  1. ozone macrumors 6502


    Feb 18, 2004
    Ontario, Canada
    I having some problems with my MBPro 13 at work: it's a few years old, and after the High Sierra update last year, it's really struggling to connect regularly with my monitor via any connection (displayport, hdmi). I don't know if the connections are getting loose because of the constant plug/unplug, or if the OS update is messing things up.

    Regardless, my needs at work are changing a bit, and I thought I might go back to a full desktop. I'd love an expandable mini-tower Mac... but since that's probably never happening again... I guess it's iMac for now.

    I wandered into a local chain store that sells factory refurbished and liquidated items, and they had a late 2012 iMac for Cdn $749, or about $600 US. 27", 2560X1440, 16GB ram, 3TB Fusion drive, 3.4GHz, core i7 (I assume quad core). I can get an aftermarket warranty with them.

    I was hoping for a 5K screen, but this would be at work, and so I probably won't be doing much photo editing there (and honestly, I'm working on a pre-4K Apple 27" monitor at home anyways).

    Is the refurbished 27" iMac worth it? It's 5 year old technology at this point, and I'm not sure how many more OS updates it will work with. But how would it perform in terms of general speed and performance compared to current iMacs, etc.? It seems like a "good deal" for that price given that I prefer Mac OS and the stability it offers. Or should I just save my budget for a more current iMac?
  2. hobowankenobi macrumors 6502a

    Aug 27, 2015
    on the land line mr. smith.
    Tuff call. Two biggest worries if it were me:

    1. As you mentioned, how long will it support new OS updates? My guess is one or most.

    2. Fusion drive is too old be reliable....and the slowest part of the machine. I would only consider if if I was going to replace the HD with SSD, or at least a new HD. You can also pitch the optical drive and install more internal storage while you are in there.​

    The hardest part to predict is how long it will be useful. Assuming no hardware failures, it could chug along for 3-6 years, depending on OS and related software compatibility. If you did get 4+ years out of it, it would likely be worth nearly $0.

    OTOH, a brand new (or nearly new) Mac is more likely to last at least 5 years, and possibly close to 10. If you ran it for 5 years or so, it could still be worth roughly 50% of the purchase cost.

    So, it depends on: do you want to pay now or later? A new(er) machine would likely be a bit cheaper per year in total cost of ownership, even if you don't factor in lower odds of a hardware failure, not to mention the enjoyment/productivity of a newer/faster machine. But a big bill up front.
  3. vertical smile macrumors 68040

    vertical smile

    Sep 23, 2014
    That sounds like a pretty close match to my Late 2012 iMac.

    Back in 2012, I got a maxed out BTO 27" iMac, except I have the 1TB Fusion, and I upgraded the RAM myself.

    Other than the HDD on the Fusion Drive breaking while under the Apple Care warranty I purchased, it has been a decent machine. I wished I would have just purchased a larger SSD, if I could do it over.

    It is still a very fast a capable machine, although I am still on MacOS 10.11, and I have no plans on updating.

    If someone offered me $600 for mine, I would laugh in their face, as I think it is worth a lot more than that. I think that is a really good price for what you are getting, assuming it is in good shape.

    Btw, Apple had a repair program for the 3TB Fusion Drives from that year, maybe it still qualifies.
  4. Glmnet1 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2017
    What do you use it for at work? If a modern computer could save you just a bit of time here and there it'll be well worth it.

    You'll pay more but it should be more reliable and the 5k display is amazing.

    Because of the HDD in the fusion, if you do buy it consider that you'll have to replace it soon enough. An external SSD would be good.
  5. padams35 macrumors regular

    Nov 10, 2016
    New OS updates: I'm guessing 3 more updates... at least. 2012 has most of the current goodies (Native Metal graphics, USB 3.0, iOS Airdrop compatible, etc). Also I think Apple has to offer at least security updates for the 2012 MBP (last sold late 2016) through 2023 when the MBP gets classified obsolete; it would be very odd if an update supported the MBP but not the iMac.

    Performance: For what its worth I've observed my i5 2011 iMac to be slightly slower at single-thread tasks than my new 2015 i7 MBA but is still significantly faster at multi-thread intensive tasks than the Air. Compared to current 5K iMacs I'd speculate that a 2012 i7 would to be somewhat slower single thread CPU, somewhat faster multithread CPU, but noticeably slower GPU than an entry 2017 5K.

    It's certainly a great deal but traditionally people err on the side of new and reliable when it comes to business machines and work computers.
  6. Glmnet1 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2017
    Well the base 21.5 has a similar multithreaded performance to that model but the 27" are all faster.
  7. ozone thread starter macrumors 6502


    Feb 18, 2004
    Ontario, Canada
    Hmmm... based on what people are saying... I'm probably better off with a newer Mac for the sake of reliability and staying current with OS updates: either a current model or one that's only a year or two out. I have an SSD I could put in it, but even though it's paid for, I'm putting more "money" into a much older model. I suppose if it was my own Mac or if I only had to pay literally $100 or less for it, the older iMac would be worth it.
  8. mj_ macrumors 6502


    May 18, 2017
    Austin, TX
    Look at it this way: a brand-new 27" iMac base model is CN $2,400, and it'll only have 8 GB of RAM and a 1 TB Fusion Drive. Thus, this used iMac is CN $1,650 more expensive and might be slower than the older one depending on what you are doing with it. It's impossible to say how long Apple is going to offer OS updates but my guess is it will be at least three more. Which means you've got at least 5.5 years of software updates since Apple supports its operating systems for three years (current version plus two versions back, aka currently 10.13, 10.12 + 10.11). Performance wise a 2012 i7 is not going to be that much slower than an i7 from 2017, although the 2018 i7 might - again, depending on what you are doing with it - be much faster thanks to its two extra cores.

    My advice would be to grab it while you still can if you actually don't need a 5K display or the extra oomph a fully specced 2017 iMac will offer.
  9. Guy Clark Suspended

    Guy Clark

    Nov 28, 2013
    London United Kingdom.
    Certainly seems like a reasonable price for the specs. The Ivy Bridge i7 was an excellent CPU however my only concern would be the age of the Fusion Drive which is well in to its expected lifespan. Furthermore High Sierra APFS does not support Fusion Drives. That being said it would be viable to replace the Hard Drive given the specifications. I thoroughly recommend a Solid State Hybrid Drive (SSHD) which offers excellent performance with high capacity at a lower cost than SSD. Hybrid Drives also support APFS

    Here is a detailed iFixit tutorial on replacing the Hard Drive on a 2012 27" iMac along with the links to the materials you will need. Do not forget the adhesive strips

    If you do not feel comfortable with opening the iMac up then macOS can be run from an external Thunderbolt 2 Drive

    Although the Buffalo Thunderbolt 2 Ministation comes with a 7200rpm HDD it performs very well. I have used them myself in the past.

    Also excellent performance can be achieved running macOS from USB 3.0 and if you were to take that approach it would be just a case of purchasing an empty USB 3.0 caddy and fitting it with a Solid State Hybrid Drive (SSHD) as outlined above.
  10. ozone thread starter macrumors 6502


    Feb 18, 2004
    Ontario, Canada
    Good point about APFS. I overlooked that APFS doesn't work with Fusion drives.

    I'm no computer technician, but I'm reasonably comfortable doing my own upgrades. However, I'm less inclined to go that route: that means I'm putting time, money, and effort into a 6 year old machine more than the purchase price. If that's the case, I might be better served with a new machine (or at least much more recent).
  11. AlexMaximus macrumors 6502a


    Aug 15, 2006
    A400M Base
    I think the 2012 Model could be a great machine if you would refit it with a 1TB SSD Drive from Samsung.
    Ask the store if they would want to open the machine up and a put one in for you, or maybe you do that on your own.
    It's a bit of a pain, but that's what I would do. Believe me, - the fusion drive stinks, its a major source of "potential-data-loss-of-pain" and it is super SLOW as molasses.

    Alternatively, if you want to do it on your own, go with one of the OWC kits, it even comes with an external HDD case and all the opening tools. Do this and you will be fine I think.
  12. ozone thread starter macrumors 6502


    Feb 18, 2004
    Ontario, Canada
    I'll look into the Macsales. Unfortunately, the shop I would buy it from (if I did) does not do any in-store fixes or repairs. They send it all away.

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