Replacing recording studio iMac i7 2011

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by louisk2, Jun 2, 2019.

  1. louisk2 macrumors newbie

    Oct 3, 2010
    Hi guys,

    It's about that time when another 2011 iMac bites the dust due to video issues, and I'm sorry to see it go - it's been a fantastic computer in my recording studio.

    I'm looking to buy a new iMac, but I just need some advice on what to buy, considering the options are far greater now than they were then.

    I'm sure that whatever I'll be getting will beat the 2011 iMac, but I'd like to get the most out of my purchase and find that elusive sweet spot of price vs power.

    My 2011 iMac was a 3.4Ghz i7 16GB RAM 1TB (regular HD), and it had no problem handling Cubase, virtual instruments, and connecting to a 2012 UA Apollo interface. Although I never used any of the heavier soft synth packages that are used with Kontakt and the like.

    I'm looking at the base 27" model (+8GB RAM upgrade) because it mostly matches specs of my 2011 iMac, but I'm concerned about moving down from an i7 to an i5 processor. If I were to upgrade to the i9, I'd end up spending another $1100 to do it. So I'm wondering if it's worth it, or if it's better to spend the money swapping out the fusion disk for an SSD? And if I were to stick with just doing the SSD, is the speed bump between the 1st level and 2nd level configurations worth the $300 odd?

    Overall the configuration prices (in Australian dollars) are:
    3119 (1st level + 8GB RAM)
    3599 (1st level + 8GB RAM + SSD)
    3899 (2nd level + 8GB RAM + SSD)
    4189 (2nd level + 8GB RAM + i9)
    4669 (2nd level + 8GB RAM + SSD + i9)

    Any tips would be greatly appreciated!

  2. The_Interloper, Jun 3, 2019
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2019

    The_Interloper macrumors regular


    Oct 28, 2016
    Apple's RAM prices are ridiculous. Do the RAM upgrade yourself (27" has a user-accessible RAM door, so just buy an extra 2x4Gb kit) and with the money saved get the SSD. Don't scrimp on this; the SSD is imperative and makes a world of difference.

    Hell, skipping Apple's RAM upgrade cost means you could even get a 32Gb (2x16Gb) kit for less than what Apple charges to go from 8Gb to 16Gb, giving you a whopping 40Gb total. A 16Gb kit is roughly half Apple's 8gb upgrade (and you'll end up with 24Gb total as the iMac still ships with 8Gb). Just search "imac ddr4 2666" on Amazon to see pricing.

    I also wouldn't worry about going from your i7 to the i5. The base 27" still has 6 physical cores and benchmarks 5255 single-core and 20866 in multi-core:

    That's on par with my Ryzen 7 8-core PC rig in multi-core and over 1000 points faster in single-core performance. Compared to your 2011 i7, it's also much faster in single and almost twice as fast in multi ( Combined with plenty of RAM and the SSD, it'll fly. Unless you have a specific workflow need for the i9, I'm not sure it's worth the extra $$$ (especially as it could thermal throttle under sustained load).
  3. JustMartin macrumors 6502a

    Feb 28, 2012
    Depends on your space requirements. I chatted with Apple when it came time to upgrade my 2012 Fusion model. Apple advisor said that the I9 was overkill for music, but that i7 was a better choice. At the time, that meant 21", which was ok as I had been considering that as an option anyway. So, with the money saved from a 27, I went for an additional Dell monitor. This works well with my Logic setup as I can put the mixer on one screen and deal with the tracks on the other and I find that more comfortable than a single large screen. Does mean you lock yourself into a specific ram config. I have 21", I7, 16gb Ram and 1Tb SSD, with an additional Samsung T5 hung off the back and a Dell U2518D Works very well.
  4. Nbd1790 macrumors regular

    Jan 2, 2017
    New York
    I would highly recommend the i7 processor. As someone mentioned above, save the money and upgrade the ram yourself (a relatively painless process). Ideally, i7, SSD and 16-32gb of RAM (user installed). Depends on what you're doing with audio (editing, composing with external / in the box software) but the mentioned configuration will allow you to have multiple VST plug ins whether they be synths, eq's etc without any hiccups. I personally have a similar configuration and compose with a lot of samples and plug ins, and I rarely have to freeze or convert to audio until the final stages of the track. Hope this helps!
  5. The_Interloper macrumors regular


    Oct 28, 2016
    There is no way to configure an i7 option for the 27" (crazy!). It's i5 only for the base model and i5 or i9 for the mid or top tiers. Those both have substantial price jumps for little benefit (0.1GHz speed increase in the middle, for example) and the i9 is total overkill. For the OP's needs, the base model is probably more than sufficient with extra RAM and SSD.
  6. Hirakata macrumors 6502


    Mar 17, 2011
    Burbank, CA
    You can get an i7 iMac through Apple's Refurbished Store. It comes with a nice discount, and a year warranty. (You can also add Apple Care.) It's like getting a new iMac (still all wrapped and pretty), except it's in a generic box and not the typical iMac one. Add the RAM yourself (buy Crucial PC RAM. I use it in mine and it works fine. Crucial ups the price on their Mac RAM.). And get the iMac with an SSD if one's available in the Refurb Store.
  7. The_Interloper macrumors regular


    Oct 28, 2016
    Yeah, refurb is a great option. Always good as new. Just luck of the draw as to whether the spec required is in stock when you want it.

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6 June 2, 2019