Spec Envy - Why it might not matter

Discussion in 'iMac' started by travistaylor, Oct 8, 2013.

  1. travistaylor macrumors regular

    Oct 16, 2006
    I bought the $1,999 27" iMac last Friday night. I considered doing a BTO with all the bells and whistles- 4GB GPU, i7 CPU, 3TB Fusion Drive, etc...

    However, when it boiled right down to it- I realized that the only reason I was considering those options were to keep up with the fellas online, make sure I had the longest (or shortest) bar on the benchmark tests, and have the extra power just to have it.

    I started calling is 'Spec Envy,' it just consumes our minds when we purchase new devices.

    I'm here to implore those of you that will be using your iMacs for school work, basic web browsing and email, and maybe a game or two of StarCraft II every six months... do yourself a favor, get a base model that's available in the Apple Store. There's no reason to wait 5-7 days for it to ship to you. There's no reason to order an i7 CPU, and you don't need a 4GB GPU. The out-of-the-box iMac is a superb machine- I absolutely recommend it. Realistically, I probably could have even gotten the base 27" model.

    I am sure this isn't a popular stance- but I thought this would be a good discussion for folks that just need to be honest about what they're going to use their new iMac for. I had to level with myself- I really just didn't need the extra options. Do you?
  2. bp1000, Oct 8, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2013

    bp1000 macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2011
    The base spec imac is still a fine beast.

    I think it might be easier to explain why I spec-ed up.

    I got a system spec to meet my requirements. SSD is the only upgrade I would do if I had only 1.

    But I upgraded the gpu purely because I might try and return to PC gaming.

    I did go for the 3.4ghz i5 just because.... I already added the ssd and the CPU upgrade was only slightly more. My photography apps would get a boost too. I didn't go for the i7 purely because I simply don't edit much video and FCP, after effects and maybe some modelling software are the only programs that could take advantage of hyper threading.

    None of my programs installed on my haswell imac would need hyper threading apart from handbrake. So for me the i7 was an unjustified upgrade.

    You would loose I reckon 30% speed, base spec to i7 comparison. My i5 maybe 15-20% in the few apps that utilise the i7 threading and max out CPU.

    I'm sure the video editors are totally justified getting the i7.

    All things considered even my system vs base spec, gpu excluded the time to complete operations differs by fractions of a second, at most only a few seconds. Unless you are doing complex processing, just wait a few more minutes :)

    There is bottlenecks in every system. Say you installed 32gb in your hdd base imac, a friend had fusion and 8gb. Both editing the same video. You have your entire project loaded into memory his is part on disk and possibly not the ssd part. Your project would run quicker.

    If he had the i7 export would make up the ground. All in its only a minor difference. On the other hand a maxed out imac would ruin you :)

    Benchmarks rarely give the complete picture. If you are a complete novice the most time a project will take is dictated by your ability.
  3. gnasher729 macrumors P6


    Nov 25, 2005
    If you want to keep up with the fellas online, you don't have to _buy_ that iMac with everything, you only have to _post_ that you bought one.

    And the fellas online will tell you that you shouldn't get the 3TB Fusion Drive, but spend a lot more for the 1TB SSD. Actually, you should buy a Thunderbolt SSD RAID drive! Anything else is too cheap. :D
  4. Tanax macrumors 6502a

    Jun 15, 2011
    Stockholm, Sweden
    I doubt people buy those specced out models to brag about it online. I think they buy it to make sure it will be able to keep up in 3 years as well. Then of course there are the professionals who buy the specced out models because they actually need the extra juice.

    I think the average consumer looking to buy a 27" iMac would be completely fine with the base model. With that said, for those who want to do some gaming and have the iMac last a few years (and still be able to game on it) would benefit from choosing the upper model (and for those extreme gamers or those who want the computer to last a little extra long in terms of GPU performance - upgrade to the 780M).

    In terms of storage, the 256GB SSD will suffice for most. Keeping your media external (and backed up) is good practice anyway.

    In terms of CPU, most people will definitely do just fine with the i5. Even those who do video/photo editing on their spare time will do just fine with it. Getting the i7 might save you a few minutes on a normal consumer grade video editing -render. Definitely not worth your money IMO.

    Memory is user-upgradable.
  5. Gherkin macrumors 6502

    Apr 9, 2004
    I bought the base 27" in July 2011.

    It's served me fine, but when I placed my order last week, that wasn't happening again. I use After Effects daily and the extra juice of the i7, 4 GB graphics and Fusion Drive are going to be insane compared to my current model.
  6. MikeChicago macrumors member

    Sep 30, 2013
    In some way, I agree.

    On the other hand, I would say that you have to assess your own needs. I personally opted for the same model you purchased but upgraded it with fusion drive. The GPU is very capable and will serve the needs I have and the Fusion makes it a little faster, which is something that I wanted. I also considered the whole value/price ration when thinking about upgrades and making my decision.

    Moving up from the base GPU/CPU configuration provides 103% boost in GPU performance and probably a more modest 5-10% boost in CPU performance for only 10% premium in price. This is a pretty nice jump in performance at a relatively low cost. Adding the 780M card and i7 process will boost GPU performance another 24% and the CPU performance maybe 10-20% (maybe more?). This is still a nice bump but considerably more modest at an additional 16% premium. Some people will certainly need this bump, most people won't.

    So, with my needs in mind the higher base model with fusion was the best bang for the buck and offered the best value.
  7. Santabean2000 macrumors 68000


    Nov 20, 2007
    Apple has a pretty convincing pricing model, (SSDs aside); they make it easy to keep sliding up the ladder.

    I like reading reviews and posts. Nothing like being informed and making the best choices.

    My MBP 13" is the base spec, but I added extra RAM, removed the ODD and dropped in dual SSDs. It flies and has a heap of storage for not too much. I love it.:D
  8. Bear macrumors G3

    Jul 23, 2002
    Sol III - Terra
    It is true everyone has different needs. Going down the list of iMac options, this is what I want and need:
    • Processor: i5 is fine, wouldn't mind an i7.
    • Memory: 8GB is not qute enough, but will go with 3rd party memory.
    • Storage: Fusion Drive - no question.
    • Graphics: 780M - will add at least a year to how long the iMac is useable for me.
    Looking at the late 2012 model, I could have gotten the i7/680MX/1TB Fusion Drive refurbished for $200 less than I could've gotten the i5/680MX/1TB FD new. Based on what I saw for the 2012 models, I expect the only 780M model refurbished to be i7/780M/3TB FD and cost at least $50 less than the i5/780M/1TB Fusion. I expect I'll be about ready to buy around the time the 2013 models start showing up refurbished and if I can save a few dollars and get a better system, why not?

    However, you are right, some people just buy to have the best no matter what they need. And some people buy the least expensive system even if it doesn't meet their needs and grouch about it.
  9. tann macrumors 68000

    Apr 15, 2010
    Nottingham, England
    Your post intrigued me at the handbrake bit, how much difference does hyperthreading make for video encoding projects? I know the computer sees 8 cores, but I didn't think it would drastically decrease the time, or am I wrong in that regard?

    Also I feel that it's a bit strange the high end 27" doesn't come as standard with an i7 still.
  10. joe-h2o macrumors 6502a

    Jun 24, 2012
    Video encoding is one of the few areas where the hyperthreading actually *does* make a difference for the average user.

    Any task that is 'embarrassingly parallel' (the term that describes any computing job that can be broken up into lots of small, easy to process, discrete pieces that don't rely on each other too much) is going to benefit greatly from being able to run 8 threads instead of 4.

    Video encoding is one of these tasks, since the encoder can slice the video up into a series of chunks and encode them separately. The more cores it has that can work on these pieces, the quicker it will go, since each new piece doesn't rely on what the other threads are doing (thread 1 could be doing the first minute, thread 2 doing the second etc)

    For most computing tasks, the output of one thread is needed by the next one, so you can't run them in parallel, which is why the i7 doesn't show much more performance than the i5 for general tasks - there aren;t that many things you can chop up into discrete threads like video encodes.
  11. tann macrumors 68000

    Apr 15, 2010
    Nottingham, England
    Oh wow thank you for that in depth response. I do a lot of handbrake video encoding occasionally and didn't realise this. Obviously my machine (macbook air) isn't ideal for it though (faster than the MacBook Pro I had before).

    I can only dream how fast one of these iMacs could get through a film!
  12. Tanax macrumors 6502a

    Jun 15, 2011
    Stockholm, Sweden
    The i7 takes just under half the time to encode a video compared to the i5. So instead of 10 minutes with an i5, it'll take 6 minutes with an i7.

    I'm not saying that the i7 isn't making any difference, it does make a difference! It's just whether or not that difference is worth the price of the i7. Because in all honesty, I think the average Joe has 4 minutes to spare, especially if they do it in their spare time without making any money from it.
  13. Bear macrumors G3

    Jul 23, 2002
    Sol III - Terra
    I have an older iMac with an i7. I just started a video conversion in handbrake that is apparently going to take about 22 minutes. And you're right for some people it doesn't matter that it takes longer. However for others, some people don't have that much free time even if video is a hobby.

    This iMac is an i7 because of the configurations Apple offered that year. For the next iMac, I would probably get an i5 because I don't do much video work.

    However, I often wonder how many of these you don't need the upgrades/spec envy threads are by people who wish they had bought a better configuration.
  14. kitsunestudios macrumors regular

    Apr 10, 2012
    I run into this a bit myself: I don't _need_ all the power from the top end systems, but it wouldn't go to waste, either.

    Digital art, flash animation, basic video editing, and internet can be done on any Core2Duo with a dedicated graphic card. The other things I want to do (games and 3d design) will work fine on a midrange computer, but will also take all the power I can throw at them.

    So while I'm looking at the top-end CTO iMacs and Mac Pros, I've been using mid-range models for 4-6 years at a time without issue.
  15. Tanax macrumors 6502a

    Jun 15, 2011
    Stockholm, Sweden
    This is true. It all comes down how much your free time is worth to you.
    And I don't think it's coming from people wishing they had bought better configurations. I'm talking for not needing some of the upgrades and I don't even have an iMac so no wishing for better configurations here.. :p
  16. alksion macrumors 68000


    Sep 10, 2010
    Los Angeles County
    It's not just encoding that people choose to go with the i7. Most people usually walk away when rendering a project or encoding a clip. The i7 is more beneficial as it works as a key part that allows the editor to work in real-time, something that is extremely important.
  17. Tanax macrumors 6502a

    Jun 15, 2011
    Stockholm, Sweden
    Extremely important for someone who doesn't make any money off of the "work" that the i7 does? Nor do most of them mind an extra 6 minutes, especially if the walk away.

    I still stand by my opinion that most consumers would suffice with an i5, 256GB SSD, 8GB (and later upgradeable) RAM and the GT 755M as far as the 27" goes. For gamers, GTX 775M and hardcore gamers GTX 780M.

    The CPU is the least valuable piece in the computer to upgrade since most people really don't need it. Unless of course, you actually need it, or just have extra cash to spend.
  18. propower, Oct 10, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2013

    propower macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2010
    I just tested the 2013 i5 3.4 7200rpm 1TB vs i7 3.5 512 PCIe in imovie --

    i5 /// i7

    Import 12 minute video: 2:50 /// 2:30 (SSD vs Spinning drive)
    Export as "Large" : 5:35 /// 5:35 (imovie uses all cores but no HT)

    FWIW i5 ran 15degC cooler too...

    Unless you have a HT enabled video encoder (does final cut use HT??) - no difference i5 vs i7 :)
  19. NeoCracer macrumors member

    Jun 29, 2009
    There's indeed no point in buying a full spec'ed iMac when you're just using it for web browsing, watching films and managing family pictures. But if you are a professional, you do want better specs. But I think most people will do fine with the i5 CPU and the 775M.

    I'm a graphic designer and photographer, and I use many applications from Adobe. Some of them require a lot of power and ram. I also do some work in AutoCAD, and rendering some stuff in Cinema 4D. So yes, I have upgraded my iMac 27" to its full capacity. i7, 780M, 512 flash, 32GB ram.

    I want this machine to be able to perform for a few years. So it's justifiable to have a high specced iMac.

    I'm still waiting for it to arrive at my Apple Premium Reseller... Should be next week.
  20. alksion macrumors 68000


    Sep 10, 2010
    Los Angeles County
    I'm not talking about consumers. I don't know a ton of consumers who edit 1080p footage and the ones who do, can get by easily with iMovie as it handles basic editing fine.

    For professionals, working in Premiere or Final Cut using 10+ tracks, I stand by what I said, it is imperative to be able to work in real-time.
  21. toddzrx macrumors 6502a


    Nov 20, 2012
    Just curious: what machine did you replace?

    I'm probably a little older than the typical poster (going on 40 shortly); I got over what I call "Shiny New Thingy Syndrome" several years ago. Or maybe I'm just cheap. Anyway, I was in need of replacing my 6 year old MBP last year, and waited through the summer and into the fall to see what Apple had in store for the new iMac, specifically the 21.5". When they were finally unveiled, I found the new ones unappealing (again, in the 21.5" which requires major surgery to add RAM amongst other complaints). Anyway, I went shopping on Craigslist and found a 2010 model (upper spec) that, with an SSD installed (that used to be in the old MBP) works just fine for what I need. And I find a bit of satisfaction in having saved a significant amount of money over a new machine.
  22. roland.g macrumors 603


    Apr 11, 2005
    One mile up and soaring
    In Aug 2011 I bought the base 27" which at the time was a 2.7 GHz i5 Quad-Core with 512 on the GPU. However, I did BTO it with the SSD + HDD which at the time was a $600 upgrade. I wanted my OS and Apps and some data on the SSD and I definitely noticed the speed. 6 weeks ago that machine was stolen in a home burglary. And I will be replacing it in the near future.

    However, I will either get the 1TB Fusion or the 256 or 512 SSD as I don't want just a traditional HDD running the OS. I am somewhat annoyed by the facts that

    1. Apple still offers the HDD in the iMac without the Fusion being standard.

    2. No Apple Store carries the Fusion in stock, it is only a BTO, with the exception of the maxed out higher end model.

    So you have to order the iMac if you want a Fusion drive. And after 2 years of having an SSD, I can't imagine going back.
  23. cynics macrumors G4

    Jan 8, 2012
    Future proofing would be my only reason to get a higher spec'd model. I could careless about benchmarks.

    I'm the type of person that keeps a computer until trivial task are unbearably slow though. Hell I had a Dell dimension 8100 for over ten years!
  24. Bear macrumors G3

    Jul 23, 2002
    Sol III - Terra
    10 years seems overly long. Heck, I'm surprised a Dell lasted that long. And yes when you keep a machine several years, spending a little more now will add to how long it will last you.
  25. Confusius macrumors regular

    Mar 24, 2012
    New York
    Dog years, perhaps?

Share This Page