Seniors iMac

Billfmtx

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 18, 2011
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What I would like to see is an inexpensive iMAC for Senior Citizens. I just want one that searches the Internet, uses a mail service and social media... You know just the fundamentals of communications. From my perspective I do not need all the bells and whistles that go into a computer for writing novels, diagramming buildings... Just the basics. Paying 3k for a computer to do the basics is a little tough. Yes I know that Windows cost less but I like the Mac o/s.
 

EugW

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Jun 18, 2017
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Just be aware that the default font size for iMacs can be tough for some seniors' eyes. However, for a non-Retina model, if you change the scaling to adjust default font size, it looks like crap. And if you keep the scaling native but change the font size separately, it can throw everything off kilter.

The best thing to do is to buy a Retina model, which allows you to change the scaling at will with good text quality.



For a cheaper 21" iMac, I would recommend a 3.6 GHz Core i3 4-core Retina iMac with 256 GB SSD ($1499), or for just $100 more, a 3.0 GHz Core i5 6-core Retina iMac with 256 GB SSD ($1599). The base 8 GB memory should be sufficient.

If you want a 27", then it would be a 3.0 GHz Core i5 6-core Retina iMac with 256 GB SSD ($1899). The base 8 GB should be sufficient, but the 27" also has the added benefit of user upgradability for memory.
 
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Fishrrman

macrumors P6
Feb 20, 2009
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OP wrote:
"I just want one that searches the Internet, uses a mail service and social media... You know just the fundamentals of communications. From my perspective I do not need all the bells and whistles that go into a computer for writing novels, diagramming buildings... Just the basics. Paying 3k for a computer to do the basics is a little tough. Yes I know that Windows cost less but I like the Mac o/s."

Then... get a 2018 Mac Mini i3 with 8gb of RAM and a 128gb SSD.

To go with it, get either a 27" 1080p display or a 32" 1440p display. Or a 4k 27".

Being older (like me), 4k or 5k may not matter to you (I've reached the age where LARGER text is more important than "sharper" text). So I don't need 4k or 5k.

If price is a big consideration, buy an Apple-refurbished unit. See this page:
https://www.apple.com/shop/refurbished/mac/mac-mini

The 2018 Minis are easy to pick out -- they're the dark grey ones.
 

theluggage

macrumors 601
Jul 29, 2011
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Paying 3k for a computer to do the basics is a little tough.
The $1099 entry-level 21.5" iMac ought to be perfectly adequate for that. Ideally, pay an extra $200 for the 256GB SSD, but if your needs are really as basic as you say, save $200 and have a cup of tea while it starts up...

I agree with @EugW that the default font size on the 27" isn't senior-friendly* but I don't think the basic 21.5" is so bad. Paying more for the 4k Retina display gives you more screen size options - at a price.

There's always the Apple refurb store or second-hand if you want to save some pennies - virtually any Mac made in the last 5-8 years will do the job you need.

* OK, ageist assumption but a pretty good bet. If eyesight is an issue, you might want to investigate whether a laptop suits you better - your mileage may vary but some people find laptops work better with bi/varifocals or reading glasses.
 

EugW

macrumors 604
Jun 18, 2017
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OP wrote:
"I just want one that searches the Internet, uses a mail service and social media... You know just the fundamentals of communications. From my perspective I do not need all the bells and whistles that go into a computer for writing novels, diagramming buildings... Just the basics. Paying 3k for a computer to do the basics is a little tough. Yes I know that Windows cost less but I like the Mac o/s."

Then... get a 2018 Mac Mini i3 with 8gb of RAM and a 128gb SSD.

To go with it, get either a 27" 1080p display or a 32" 1440p display. Or a 4k 27".

Being older (like me), 4k or 5k may not matter to you (I've reached the age where LARGER text is more important than "sharper" text). So I don't need 4k or 5k.
Read my post above. If you want LARGER text, you really, really want to get the Retina, perhaps preferably the 4K (since it's a big bigger on the 4K than the 5K).

If you try to increase default font size on the 1080p model by changing the scaling, it looks like garbage. It's bigger but blurry.

On the 4K model, if you change it, it's bigger AND crisp.

The $1099 entry-level 21.5" iMac ought to be perfectly adequate for that. Ideally, pay an extra $200 for the 256GB SSD, but if your needs are really as basic as you say, save $200 and have a cup of tea while it starts up...

I agree with @EugW that the default font size on the 27" isn't senior-friendly* but I don't think the basic 21.5" is so bad. Paying more for the 4k Retina display gives you more screen size options - at a price.

There's always the Apple refurb store or second-hand if you want to save some pennies - virtually any Mac made in the last 5-8 years will do the job you need.

* OK, ageist assumption but a pretty good bet. If eyesight is an issue, you might want to investigate whether a laptop suits you better - your mileage may vary but some people find laptops work better with bi/varifocals or reading glasses.
Agreed. The default font sizing on the 21.5" is better than 27". However, as you said, having Retina means you can adjust size to how you want without sacrificing text quality.

In fact, I'm not even 50, but I'd even increase my font sizing if I could but I can't since I'm using a 2010 iMac as an external screen for a 2017 iMac. If I adjust on that 2010 it looks like crap, and I want to keep the screens matched.

However, I'm young enough where the 27"'s default font sizing is acceptable for the time being, several years at least. Eventually I'll have to retire the 2010 and then just go to a scaled resolution on the 2017, perhaps with an external 5K monitor. The other possibility is a new 21.5" iMac with external 4K monitor.
 
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Fishrrman

macrumors P6
Feb 20, 2009
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EugW wrote:
"If you try to increase default font size on the 1080p model by changing the scaling, it looks like garbage. It's bigger but blurry.
On the 4K model, if you change it, it's bigger AND crisp."


Not what I meant.
I don't need to make text "larger than normal font sizes" would be (i.e., 12pt, 14pt) to see it clearly.

I just need those sizes displayed on a monitor that has "large enough" pixel sizes so they won't appear "too small" to me.

In my case, 1080p on a 27" display yields a pixel size of about .31mm.
That's fine for me.
1440p on 32" will yield a pixel size of about .28mm. A little smaller, but still readable.

On the other hand, if I look at a 27" 5k iMac (which "looks like" 1440p on a 27" display), the text becomes "too small", whether rendered in HiDPI mode or not.
It's not the retina display that makes a difference.
It's the physical pixel size (at least for me).

I'm typing this right now on my 2015 13" MacBook Pro (retina display, of course). Even with the retina display, I may find myself squinting at text displayed at certain sizes (say, 10pt).
It's not "the clarity" of the text that matters to me.
It's the brute-force SIZE.
I've found myself using a magnifying glass with the MBP now and then!

Do you have "older eyes"?
You cannot understand what I'm talking about until you have them and can "see for yourself"... ;)
 
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EugW

macrumors 604
Jun 18, 2017
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EugW wrote:
"If you try to increase default font size on the 1080p model by changing the scaling, it looks like garbage. It's bigger but blurry.
On the 4K model, if you change it, it's bigger AND crisp."


Not what I meant.
I don't need to make text "larger than normal font sizes" would be (i.e., 12pt, 14pt) to see it clearly.

I just need those sizes displayed on a monitor that has "large enough" pixel sizes so they won't appear "too small" to me.

In my case, 1080p on a 27" display yields a pixel size of about .31mm.
That's fine for me.
1440p on 32" will yield a pixel size of about .28mm. A little smaller, but still readable.

On the other hand, if I look at a 27" 5k iMac (which "looks like" 1440p on a 27" display), the text becomes "too small", whether rendered in HiDPI mode or not.
It's not the retina display that makes a difference.
It's the physical pixel size (at least for me).

I'm typing this right now on my 2015 13" MacBook Pro (retina display, of course). Even with the retina display, I may find myself squinting at text displayed at certain sizes (say, 10pt).
It's not "the clarity" of the text that matters to me.
It's the brute-force SIZE.
I've found myself using a magnifying glass with the MBP now and then!

Do you have "older eyes"?
You cannot understand what I'm talking about until you have them and can "see for yourself"... ;)
I know what you are talking about. However, you don't seem to understand what I'm talking about. The point is with a 5K 27" screen, you can change the scaling at will and it will all look good. With a non-Retina screen, once you start scaling the screen, it just looks horrible. Even if you have a native 1080p 27" it still doesn't look good because the pixels are way too big. If you have never used a Retina 27" or Retina 21.5", you don't know what you're missing.

Native:

Screen Shot 2019-03-23 at 12.12.26 PM.png


Semi-Larger Text:

Screen Shot 2019-03-23 at 12.12.29 PM.png


Larger Text:

Screen Shot 2019-03-23 at 12.12.34 PM.png


You'll see from the screen grabs that it's not just the text size that changes, but EVERYTHING on screen changes, including the menu bar, dock icons, dialogue boxes, buttons, etc.

If the native pixels on a screen are too big, then the text quality suffers. You can have the same size text and the same size UI elements, formed by many many more pixels and the quality will be significantly better. Why have a letter formed by 50 pixels when the same shaped letter at the same size can be formed by 200 or even 400 pixels? That's what Retina offers you.

This will be even more of an issue going forward. In 10.14 Mojave, Apple has turned off sub-pixel anti-aliasing throughout the OS, which makes text quality suffer on non-Retina screens. Luckily, on Mojave you can turn it back on with a terminal command. However, there is no guarantee you will be able to turn it back on with 10.15 or 10.16. Fortunately, with Retina screens, it doesn't matter, since you don't need sub-pixel rendering.
 
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theluggage

macrumors 601
Jul 29, 2011
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I'm typing this right now on my 2015 13" MacBook Pro (retina display, of course). Even with the retina display, I may find myself squinting at text displayed at certain sizes (say, 10pt).
I know what you are talking about. However, you don't seem to understand what I'm talking about.
There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about the whole Retina/HiDPI/Scaled thing and Apple using "looks like 1920x1080" to describe something that doesn't look like 1920x1080. A simplified, but IMHO non-misleading version (with some of the ifs and buts relocated to footnotes) is:

In MacOS you can't[1] actually change the resolution of a 4k/5k/Retina display the way you could with standard def. The display always runs at native resolution[2].

The "looks like" resolution quoted in the displays control panel isn't the resolution[3]. "Looks like 1920x1080" just means that the fixed-size UI elements (menus, icons, dialogs etc.) are the same physical size as they would be on a 1080p screen. The actual "resolution" of the display is much better than the "looks-like" value [4] and any application that lets you set the font size/zoom can take advantage of that.

The optimum mode for any display is always "looks like" half the actual screen resolution - i.e. "looks like 2560x1440" for a 5120x2880 (5k) display. Jumping through a hoop and selecting 1:1 mode just makes the UI too small. Other modes give a slightly softer 'edge' to things and also place more demands on the GPU and VRAM, but they're very usable.

"HIDPI" mode means that the UI elements are rendered with twice as many pixels to make them a more usable size on a "retina" screen. Mostly, any mode without this is near-unusable with mortal eyesight on a 4k display smaller than about 30" and with Apple Retina displays all of the non-hoop-jumpy-through[5] modes are HiDPI[6][7].

Bottom line: on a retina display you can choose a "scaled" screen mode that makes UI elements the same physical size as they would be on a lower resolution display, but at a level of detail approaching 'native'. You get several choices of text size. You just can't do that on a standard-def display.

get a 2018 Mac Mini i3 with 8gb of RAM and a 128gb SSD.
I wouldn't pair that model with a 4k display because the scaled modes do need a half-decent GPU and adequate VRAM. The Mini has a fairly mediocre GPU that has to 'steal' its VRAM from the system RAM. From other comments here, just upping the RAM to 16GB might be enough, though.

The sharpness vs. size thing is complicated as well - I've got an ancient pre-retina version of Photoshop Elements that does look fuzzy in retina mode and while it ought to be perfectly readable, if my eyes are tired it drives them crazy trying to focus on it.

[1]... without ticking a box to 'show low resolution' modes or installing a third-party utility
[2]... i.e. the image sent from the computer to the display is always at the native resolution of the display. With standard def, the computer would happily send, say, a 1024x768 signal to a 1920x1080 and let the display sort it out (usually badly).
[3]... and the values you see in "system report" may or may not be, depending on how the display is connected.
[4]... e.g. "looks like "2560x1440" on a 4k display is actually 5120x2880 downsampled to 3840x2160 and contains substantially more detail than you would get on an actual 2560x1440 screen, even if its not quite 'full 4k'. On a 5k display, that's just 5120x2880 with twice as many pixels in the system fonts, menus, icons etc.
[5] At some time in my life I must have watched way to much Buffy...
[6] Windows has a user-settable DPI which lets you tailor the UI size exactly to the screen and your preferences, and would be technically much better if only all applications supported it properly. MacOS just has two settings - low and hi - and uses the render-huge-and-downsample mode instead.
[7] Its 2019 and the vast majority of Apps either have HiDPI versions of their icons with more detail or render stuff using resolution-independent vector graphics (which also happens with fonts). Some ancient apps not updated since 2012 don't so the system just doubles-up the pixels.
 

Fishrrman

macrumors P6
Feb 20, 2009
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Won't work for me, Eugene.
I don't want 5k (looks like 1440p) on a 27" display.
I wouldn't mind 5k (looks like 1440p) on a 32" display. But try and find an affordable 32" 5k display (either "not available" or very expensive).

In that case, I'll settle for (native) 1440p on a 32" display (several models available at reasonable prices).

This is why I won't buy a 27" 5k iMac.
I'd have to "scale" the display to (looks like) 1080p to read it comfortably.
Leaving it in the (Apple-standard) resolution of 5k (looks like 1440p) makes the text too small.
What's the point of spending the $$$ for 5k if I won't use it at "full 5k"?

And a 4k 27" display isn't going to look all that much better to me than a plain old-fashioned 1080p display will (which is what I use now).

I've just reached that point in life where I know "what works for me" (even if it doesn't work for you, either practically or intellectually). And that's the way it's gonna be.
 

EugW

macrumors 604
Jun 18, 2017
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Won't work for me, Eugene.
I don't want 5k (looks like 1440p) on a 27" display.
I wouldn't mind 5k (looks like 1440p) on a 32" display. But try and find an affordable 32" 5k display (either "not available" or very expensive).

In that case, I'll settle for (native) 1440p on a 32" display (several models available at reasonable prices).

This is why I won't buy a 27" 5k iMac.
I'd have to "scale" the display to (looks like) 1080p to read it comfortably.
Leaving it in the (Apple-standard) resolution of 5k (looks like 1440p) makes the text too small.
What's the point of spending the $$$ for 5k if I won't use it at "full 5k"
Because it looks better. Have you tried it? If you have actually tried it and don't think it's worth the extra money, then that's fine. However, if you haven't tried it, you will never know.


The optimum mode for any display is always "looks like" half the actual screen resolution - i.e. "looks like 2560x1440" for a 5120x2880 (5k) display. Jumping through a hoop and selecting 1:1 mode just makes the UI too small. Other modes give a slightly softer 'edge' to things and also place more demands on the GPU and VRAM, but they're very usable.

"HIDPI" mode means that the UI elements are rendered with twice as many pixels to make them a more usable size on a "retina" screen. Mostly, any mode without this is near-unusable with mortal eyesight on a 4k display smaller than about 30" and with Apple Retina displays all of the non-hoop-jumpy-through[5] modes are HiDPI[6][7].

Bottom line: on a retina display you can choose a "scaled" screen mode that makes UI elements the same physical size as they would be on a lower resolution display, but at a level of detail approaching 'native'. You get several choices of text size. You just can't do that on a standard-def display.
It should be noted that the default setting of my MacBook 12" is a scaled resolution.

Screen is 2304x1440, meaning the "native" setting is 1152x720. However, the machine ships with the 1280x800 setting as default. By the way, there is no "looks like" terminology in Mojave for my MacBook (or my iMac) in the Displays settings. The settings on the MacBook are:

Larger Text
(blank) <-- This is the native 1152x720.
Default <-- This simulates a 1280x800 screen, just with smaller screen elements.
More Space

 

NoBoMac

Moderator
Staff member
Jul 1, 2014
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Going to go with @theluggage and the entry level will do just fine.

Won't get into the pissing match re: fonts. Will say that mom (80) has the entry level and has no issues. Ditto uncle (78).

For simple stuff, maybe iPad as alternative? Have another relative (79), been full-time iPad for a number of years now and loves it. Will be getting the new Air to replace her "classic" iPad.

ADD: or a Mini with a quality display?
 

burgman

macrumors 68000
Sep 24, 2013
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Anyone else get the feeling that way to much information supplied for a simple question? Congrates have a cookie ;). I suggest going to an Apple store or other retailer and try a couple of machines, then order a refurb. Sounds like a base 21 inch would work fine
 
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EugW

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Jun 18, 2017
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Anyone else get the feeling that way to much information supplied for a simple question? Congrates have a cookie ;). I suggest going to an Apple store or other retailer and try a couple of machines, then order a refurb. Sounds like a base 21 inch would work fine
I think the problem is people not understanding the technology and then buying based on old information.

The rule that you MUST use the native resolution in order to get a good image is no longer true in the Retina era. With Retina, it offers you a lot of choice of settings, all with the same display. If you need big UI elements and big fonts then I agree, do you as you say, and actually try it in-store, including all the various display settings, and don't just judge it based on the default setting.