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macrumors newbie
Original poster
Dec 7, 2019
Hello, I will be switching to the 27-inch iMac from PC for photo (RAW) and video editing with Photoshop and either Premiere Pro or iMovie. I would like to know which tech specs will be needed at the least and which are preferred for this type of work. Thank you.


macrumors 65816
Jul 12, 2009
Get a model with a SSD and the minimum* amount of RAM. No fusion drive - it is very slow and will slow down everything.

It is easy to buy your own RAM and upgrade it for a fraction of the cost of what the upgrade costs through Apple.

Base model CPU and Graphics card should be fine for your needs.
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macrumors 68020
Jan 18, 2008
Hawaii, USA
I don't think anyone can tell you anything about what processor or GPU you'd need because just doing video editing and Photoshop don't mean much. Are you doing multi-4K video streams with heavy effects? Are you working with a lot of layers in Photoshop with 100-megapixel files? Or are you editing 1080p video footage and iPhone photos? There's a big difference in what hardware recommendations go with that.

My general advice, considering the future, is this:
Get the best CPU you can afford. This is the one component you won't be able to upgrade in the future.

Get the minimum RAM Apple will sell you. It's not cost-effective to upgrade your RAM through them, and unless you're terrified of touching computer internals, the RAM upgrade process is pretty fool-proof. You can potentially save quite a bit by doing it yourself and buying from somewhere besides Apple. Don't feel the need to get "Mac-specific RAM" - that's just a marketing ploy with increased prices. Macs are using the same x86 architecture as everyone else, and as long as you've matched the RAM correctly (same as you'd need to do on a PC), "PC RAM" works the exact same.

I'm mixed on whether to recommend for or against Fusion drives, and whether to recommend going with the minimum SSD size. Your system has Thunderbolt 3, which means you can buy a NVME blade and put it into a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure, use it as your primary drive, and have performance that matches and potentially exceeds what the SSDs that Apple would build into your system can do. However, Thunderbolt 3 enclosures are expensive and that probably won't change any time soon. (Even Thunderbolt 2 enclosures are really expensive, despite being "yesterday's tech.") It also represents another device hanging off of a port. What I'd do for myself is to get a 256 GB or 512 GB SSD through Apple for the convenience, with plans to be on the lookout for deals on enclosures and larger SSD blades, and relying more heavily on external storage until then. This depends more on your own comfort levels and how far you want to go being cost-conscious.

GPUs can't be upgraded inside of the computer, itself, but with Thunderbolt 3 you have the option of using external GPUs that can outperform an upgraded-from-Apple GPU. Upgrade it if you need it for the work you're doing now, but I don't know that I'd go for the absolute maxed out option. Instead, plan to go for an eGPU solution in a few years, which will also extend the longevity of your system. Similar to the discussion on using a SSD in a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure, this is slightly kludgy compared with just having everything sitting pretty inside of the computer.

Welcome to the Mac side, and if you have any other questions, feel free to ask.


macrumors member
Oct 19, 2019
Hudson Valley NY
Here's a good read on what specs are important and why (and where to can cut corners if budget is a concern)...

Configure a 2019 iMac for Video Editing | Larry Jordan:

...and while originally written for the 2017 models Larry has updated it completely for the current models. (I have no affiliation with that site, posted for informational purposes only.)

For my usage, HDR video editing in FCPX and Davinci Resolve and photo processing in Affinity Photo (and other apps), I went with the i9, base RAM (+64GB OWC = 72GB), 2TB SSD and Vega 48. YM(and budget)MV. :)


macrumors Penryn
Feb 20, 2009
If the video is going to be 4k, you want "as much as you can afford".
If it's going to [at least most of the time] be 1080p, you can probably do fine with "a step down from the top".

Get an SSD (not a fusion drive).
512gb will be good enough.
Add external SSD storage for "more room" if you need it.


macrumors 6502
May 19, 2016
i9 CPU (because futureproofing and multicore/multithread support for heavy processing and video rendering)

8 GB RAM (expand with 3rd party to at least 24 GB)

if your budget allows it then go for Vega 48 (if not, stay on 580X and add eGPU later - which is firstly lot of finances to go because you need enclosure + GPU but later you just swap GPUs - however you will end up with large box on the desk next to your clean iMac solution, which for me is a no go)

1 TB SSD (to keep current working files on ultrafast storage and add spinning external drives for saved data and backup eg. 3 TB HDD for data and 6 TB HDD for backups - or maybe smaller, depends how many TB of data you need)

...or maybe you are just hobbyist and then you can go with basic top tier iMac (i5-9600K, 8 GB RAM (expand to 24 GB with 3rd party), 580X, 2 TB Fusion)
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macrumors 65816
Jul 12, 2009
however you will end up with large box on the desk next to your clean iMac solution

An eGPU doesn’t necessarily need to be unsightly or sit on top of the desk. I have mine mounted under + a caldigit tb 3 dock puts all my ports and peripherals out of the main work area

3SQ Machine

macrumors regular
Dec 8, 2019
You will need ram that you can buy 3rd party. Avoid 1TB fusion drive. The bargain deals on them at big box retailers will compel you. I did it but you shouldn't--my workflow doesn't need 64GB ram. The 1TB fusion only supports 32GB RAM and that is an awfully tough bottleneck for your workflow.

UNLESS you plan on using external X5 or other NVME as your BOOT drive. The problem of course is that iMac only has two TB3 ports and you'll lock one up with the OS drive and now you're stuck with one TB3 port. if you plan on multiple TB3 peripherals you start running more and more off that bus and I'm just not sure if this will eventually slow down your whole workflow or limit other screens you may want to add, etc. There are ample slower USB 3 ports though so that helps a bit.

I would rank the internal SSD above all others in terms of $$$ priority with the 2d being the processor--only because these i5 hexacore chips all start getting within 10% of each other on benchmarks until you reach the stratospheric (but potentially under-utilized) i9 level. The upgraded internal dGPU is another consideration, though. I haven't had to worry much about that level but the 8GB version looks like a big jump up in graphics performance from the base models.


macrumors 6502
May 19, 2016
An eGPU doesn’t necessarily need to be unsightly or sit on top of the desk. I have mine mounted under + a caldigit tb 3 dock puts all my ports and peripherals out of the main work area

sure, you can hide it under the desk but it is still something which takes space - one of the main reasons for me to go from tower PC to iMac was clean desk - no tower on or under the desk

but of course, someone doesn't mind that and that is OK too


Nov 22, 2007
Aalborg, Denmark
My suggestions:

Get the iMac with 8GB conventional system RAM like I did and buy additional 16GB after the fact via or get 16GB if your budget allows.

Get more than 4GB of AMD graphics card memory.
With my 2GB, I am down to below 50% of graphics card ram when booted. Not cool. The large 27" monitor with Retina display technology takes up a decent amount of available memory to begin with.

You'll see your iMac halt and it is my belief that more graphics card ram is as essential today with Retina screens beyond 15" as conventional machine RAM is.
And if you are to work with video and powerful applications this is not a place to save beyond the CPU and the model of graphics card.

Get the largest CPU that your budget allows - i7 or i9. I only have an i5 Intel CPU in my iMac. Is the verdict that i9 brings that much to table compared to the best i7!?

Try looking for the twelvesouth iMac Backback - which I also have - on Amazon or their official website. Makes the placement of external drives a breeze. A shelf on the back of your iMac attached to the "foot". I have a Thunderbolt SSD Boot drive on there and my local Time Machine backup attached to an USB3 port. All 2.5 inch drives and there's room for one more drive.

Since I don't have any internal SSD, because of my budget at the time, I went with this solution. Originally a LaCie Rugged that I have taken apart to update to 256GB WD Blue SSD which I can continue throwing in a larger SSD. Only issue is that now I can't create Boot Camp partitions for Windows because the assistant won't partition with an external device attached and tells me to remove this which I can't because it's the boot drive. I will have to create the Boot Camp partition on the internal hard disk before ever installing macOS Catalina. So perhaps don't go this route like I did if you are planning on ever - for kicks - installing Windows. I know this goes against the whole idea of switching to a Mac but I thought I'd throw this in there.

And like most here I suggest that you stay clear of Fusion Drives. Might sound great on paper. An internal SSD with 512GB(better 1TB) or more and perhaps then an external SSD with less or equal capacity. I suggest the larger capacity SSD's(beyond 256GB) because they have a longer lifespan.
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