SSD or i7 Upgrades?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by AppleiBoy, Dec 6, 2011.

  1. AppleiBoy macrumors newbie

    Jul 20, 2011
    Hi all,
    Planning on purchasing an iMac after Christmas as I start uni in Feb. Will be getting a MacBook Air for xmas, but want a greater screen sized/powerful machine at home!

    Anyways, my uses are general really-- iTunes, iPhoto, Safari, emails, with the most intensive task existing as Handbrake video conversations for playing DVD's on my Apple TV.

    Anyways, with this is mine, which would be a better upgrade for the top of the line 21.5"- all purchased through Apple. SSD or i7. Anyone have any light to share on my issue?
  2. SR20DETDOG macrumors regular

    Jan 25, 2011
    Queensland Australia
    Well the i7 will definitely speed up the handbrake conversions over an i5, however, unless you're constantly converting large numbers of DVDs you will probably be better served by the SSD which would speed up a lot of the day to day tasks. Besides, it's not as if the i5 is a slouch.
  3. AppleiBoy thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 20, 2011
    Yeah. I am so undecided. I noticed you had an iMac with HDD. How do you find having a Hard drive over SSD? How do you find your i7?
  4. MJL macrumors 6502a

    Jun 25, 2011
    SSD are no more reliable than a mechanical HDD. They make sense in a laptop since being dropped a HDD is more likely to be damaged than a SSD.

    The only thing they make a perceptable difference with is starting / stopping your machine / programs.

    IMHO for a desktop they are not worth their money unless the existing HDD is noisy and you cannot stand the noise.

    FYI: I had the 2010 Mac mini and put in an Intel X25M-G2 80 Gb SSD. I now have the 2011 Mac mini and cannot be bothered putting in a SSD. Once the computer is started and the program is up it makes no difference in execution times. If the money is burning in your pocket then get the faster CPU (you can always change the HDD to a SSD later). I only buy what is necessary, not what is nice to have.
  5. lazybee macrumors member

    Oct 8, 2011
    A recently made SSD will by far give more of a performance boost then the i7. The i7 is only a small margin faster then the i5, and will likely make a negligible difference in handbrake completion times. Go with a SSD. Once you have an opportunity to see how different things run, you will never go back to a hard drive.
  6. AppleiBoy thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 20, 2011
    Thanks for the advice, but I heard it is extremely hard to change the hard drives in the 2011 iMacs? Am I incorrect?
  7. AppleiBoy thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 20, 2011
  8. SR20DETDOG macrumors regular

    Jan 25, 2011
    Queensland Australia
    It's kind of hard for me to say. The only computer I've used that had an SSD installed was a Macbook Air that I played around with for 5min in a store, however, the speed in which it opened applications, searched with spotlight etc was incredibly fast compared to my iMac. I don't have a lot of need for an SSD though, I use my iMac to do a lot of 3D rendering often leaving it to render for days and in the near future those days will be turning into weeks. So the i7 was an obvious choice for me.

    I wouldn't say it's extremely hard, though it does involve removing the front glass and screen to get inside and it's pretty cramped once you're in there.

    You could also add an external SSD via Thunderbolt, however, there's not a lot of choice of Thunderbolt externals at the moment and they're all quite expensive.
  9. Santabean2000 macrumors 68000


    Nov 20, 2007
    It is, but there's always the possibility of booting from an external Thunderbolt SSD drive, (when they're more available later).

    I have an i7 iMac (first gen [free replacement for older 24" C2D]) which has HDD only, and also a (2009) 13" MBP with SSD.

    Having used both, a lot, it's a bit painful on the i7 at times with the micro waits. I tend to have a lot of things open, and bounce around a lot, and the 13" kills it over the iMac. Every computer I get in the future will be booting from Solid State.

    Sounds a bit pathetic, but once you get accustomed to the 'instant go' you'll never want to go back, (at least that's how I feel).

    Put it this way, an i7 is all about top speed, where as the SSD is all about acceleration. Most average Joe computer users 'live in the city', so accelerate often, but rarely hit top gear. The pros out there 'live on the racetrack', so of course the i7's high top end makes more sense for them.
  10. leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008
    This is a misinformation. SSD does not give any performance boost at all. Their speed is beneficial in scenarios where hard disk access is the bottleneck (such as starting programs, reading big databases, paging out, many simultaneous applications trying to access the disk etc.). The SSD won't have any noticeable effect for video encoding because encoding video is slower than writing it to the disk.

    The main benefit of the SSD is that it makes your computing experience much more enjoyable (no slowdowns, instant response and fast application launch).
  11. jonnymo5 macrumors 6502

    Jan 21, 2008
    The HDD is one of the slowest things on your computer so I would boot from an SSD. i7 is faster then i5 but you would only notice that during encoding.

    You might want to consider saving the money for textbooks :) Or a backup drive to safeguard all those school projects.
  12. MJL macrumors 6502a

    Jun 25, 2011
    You have to ask yourself: How often / how much time do I spent starting / stopping the computer or programs and how much time do I spend opening / closing documents etc versus how much time you spent working with the documents.

    Once you know that then you can determine how much time you are going to save by having an SSD. (likely to be some minutes a day).

    Then after all of that then you have to ask yourself how long you have to work to save the price difference between SSD and HDD.

    Ofcourse it may be time critical to have something opening and closing in a hurry but the nature of a desktop is such that there will be less timesaving than on a laptop.

    And before I forget: OS X boots faster from a SSD attached by USB 2.0 than from the internal HDD (but then you have a TRIM problem).
  13. derbothaus macrumors 601


    Jul 17, 2010
    I think you are arguing semantics. I'd say 14ms vs. 0.05ms response time is just a little bit of a performance upgrade. 100MB/s vs. 280-550MB/s transfer rates as well. 4K and 256K through the roof. All my Mac's boot 3x faster. How is this not an upgrade in performance? All PC's are HDD bottlenecked and have been forever.
  14. MJL macrumors 6502a

    Jun 25, 2011
    And how much time do you save with this? Minutes per day at the most.

    For laptops the SSD is a no brainer (accidental drop / shaking / power saving because quicker start up, taking to classes, demos etc the boot up times help) but a desktop?
  15. kohlson macrumors 68000

    Apr 23, 2010
    Most of the people are CPU-bound know it. Multi-day 3D renders, video encoding, intensive Photoshop work, and so on. So IMHO if you're asking whether you need an i7 or SSD, you probably don't need the more capable processor. Very few programs make full use of multiple cores, and this includes FCP.
    But nearly every application read/writes to the disk all the time. Browsers, office apps (MS and OpenOffice) and so on always seem to be hitting the disk. As has been noted here, spinning disk drives are 100s of times slower than CPUs.
    For my own experience, putting a flash drive into my 2010 MBP13" made a world of day-to-day difference, and it feels faster than my 2009 MPro with RAID0. Of course, for rendering video the MPro is faster. But the MBP sure has a new life.
    Performance and responsiveness are the result of end-to-end capabilities and application design. The drive, interface, bus, CPU, and memory all affect performance, as has been mentioned here. SSD is an expensive way to store things, but can be well worth it.
    If you want to see how hard it is to replace on the aftermarket, see ifixit.
  16. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    The baseless claims that an SSD accelerates everything need to stop. The i7 would actually contribute more to handbrake than you could get from an SSD. They are faster, but you give up capacity for faster application launches and boot times. Their reliability is no better than an HDD (this is another typical myth, although in a couple years it may change).

    This was more of a problem with 32 bit programs and information constantly being written to the disk, that can now be left in ram assuming you install enough of it, which is significantly cheaper on a desktop computer. If an SSD is accelerating a process that really should be cpu bound, it's typically a lack of ram, and in that case the SSD is still slower than ram, but faster than an HDD.
  17. derbothaus macrumors 601


    Jul 17, 2010
    Minutes per day just for app launching, yes.
    Example. I am in the middle of testing whole disk encryption options. Encrypting and de-crypting drives so far on this task alone has saved me over 20 hours. The SSD can encrypt under 1 hour. HDD took over 5. The 4K and 256K gains alone warrant the upgrade and you will feel that. I have not come across anyone who claims their SSD purchase was not "a world of difference".
    If you have a relatively top shelf SSD and you feel it is not a major improvement I'd like to know why and what you are doing.


    Apparently still a problem as you don't have much control of where and when you swap. In theory yes fill up your 32GB of memory and never need Disk retrieval. In practice the HDD is still used way too much as the kernel swaps what it feels it needs. Always hovering around starving for each app (cept Safari, of course) and the other leaky ones.
  18. MJL macrumors 6502a

    Jun 25, 2011
    If you are testing encryption of a whole SSD then I fear for the longevity of the SSD however the time saved may well offset the cost of having to replace the SSD on regular basis.

    For me reliability is number 1 which is why I first fell for the Intel X25M G2 80 Gb in the 2010 Mac Mini. Yes the computer starts faster but if I boot it only on Sunday afternoon and shut it down on Friday afternoon and start only three programs on Sunday afternoon and shut those down on Friday afternoon then how much time am I going to save? The programs that are running do everything in memory and any writes are lazy writes.

    I do have a small 40 Gb Intel 320 series that I have in an external USB 2 enclosure which I use for periodic backup (no noise unlike mechanical HDD in one of those external USB enclosures - very annoying when the house is totally quiet).

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