The death of an iMac and the way forwards

casperes1996

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Jan 26, 2014
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Hey, guys.

My begrudgingly beloved 2014 5K iMac died today. For a long time now it’s been struggling, regularly hitting 110 degrees Celsius on the GPU and automatically going to sleep to protect itself, even with fan speeds of 3600RPM, beyond the typical max of 2700RPM. The 4790K/R9 M295X combo was never exactly cool and quiet.

Now the question is how do I proceed?

I fundamentally wish I had a more modular Mac so I could change the GPU to a newer one and replace individual parts as they break, but the new Mac Pro is way beyond my budget and I really can’t be bothered with Hackintosh. I write software for macOS and iOS and find being under the umbrella of official support quite valuable. The iMacs fit my hardware needs the best, although I wish I could keep the screen and replace the Mac beneath, or individual parts more easily. I also wish it wasn’t quite so expensive. I’m a student and not exactly rich... But I can afford a replacement Mac, just about. Though at the cost of having no money left at all and really cutting down on other expenses for a while.
I have a laptop that I survive on for now; a 2014 MacBook Pro. Since it is what I use for uni when I’m not at home, it is more important. But it’s also way less enjoyable to use at home, especially considering I have very bad eyesight per a condition with my visual cortex, so the 27” display was quite lovely.

I kinda don’t want to get a new iMac while there’s still Polaris chips in em by default. The CPUs are fine for what I need, but I don’t think I could really justify getting Polaris GPUs in a non-upgradable machine at this stage. And the Vega 48 is tipping the money ball. Plus I had 1+TB of data on my iMac, but the newer iMacs have worse 1TB Fusion Drives. I don’t think I’d enjoy that downgrade at all.

I’m thinking I’’ll Wait to see what happens with the next iMac bump, but that leaves me in an annoying lacking position now.
Any gut feelings about when we could see new iMacs. I’m hopeful for September/October, but not exactly what I really expect.

Any other suggestions on what I should do?

And what do you think I should do with my dead iMac.

The display, 4790K, 32GB RAM and whatnot is fine. I don’t think it’s worth getting it repaired, really Even when it worked it overheated so regularly, the GPU speed is lackluster and CPUs have increased a good deal with more cores recently, and I must admit that’s very tempting. A repair could be worth it if I could then sell it for more and overall win on that compared to selling it defective though.
And when it comes to selling it defective, I’m also a tad skeptical. I might be able to get a few bucks from it, but my data is still in there on functioning storage drives with no file vault encryption and no password. My keychain can pretty easily be unlocked.
It wouldn’t be such a hard pill to swallow, getting a new iMac sometime, if I could get some money back on this one, but I’m not sure how to go about that. Apple’s recycling program evaluates it at 0. **** all. What do you guys think I can get for it defective? What do you think a new logic board replacement will cost and how much do you think I could then get for selling it?

I am in Denmark where things are an alright bit more expensive, but I can probably work with any figures you give, whether it be dollars or pounds or whatever. I have a good idea of how value converts, not just currency.

Thanks for your feedback on the situation.
 

velocityg4

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Dec 19, 2004
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iMac: Disassemble it and sell the parts. Some are quite valuable. If you want to try to resuscitate it. You can try baking the motherboard in the oven or just the GPU if it is a removable module. Any repair will cost more than the value it will add to a dead iMac.

Macbook: You make no complaints about speed. How about just using a dock with an external monitor, keyboard, mouse and hard drive? Henge docks are quite nice and model specific. Look for Thunderbolt 2 docks elsewise.
 

casperes1996

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Macbook: You make no complaints about speed. How about just using a dock with an external monitor, keyboard, mouse and hard drive? Henge docks are quite nice and model specific. Look for Thunderbolt 2 docks elsewise.
Well, I think the only reason I don’t complain about its performance, is cause it’s always been suplemental to my iMac. For the use-cases it’s been subjected to it’s not just fast enough, but more than I need it to be too. But as my main rig, without lan iMac as the main, I think I’d be frustrated with it’s performance in the end.
So far it’s just been for when i leave my house. Group work at uni, exams and the like. Whenever at home I use my iMac. Used now I suppose. Anything that used the GPU was almost exclusively done on my iMac as well. MacBook Pro has a good CPU, but it’s lacking the GPU power.

iMac: Disassemble it and sell the parts. Some are quite valuable. If you want to try to resuscitate it. You can try baking the motherboard in the oven or just the GPU if it is a removable module. Any repair will cost more than the value it will add to a dead iMac.
Thanks for the advice. You think the parts are worth more sold separately than as “defective iMac” combo then?
 

velocityg4

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Dec 19, 2004
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They sure are. The display itself is worth 60% to 70% of the busted iMac. There is also the fan, stand, CPU, RAM and various other components.

Every module, component, scrap and cable will sell. Even the busted motherboard will get something. Some tech will buy it and try to fix it.
 

casperes1996

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They sure are. The display itself is worth 60% to 70% of the busted iMac. There is also the fan, stand, CPU, RAM and various other components.

Every module, component, scrap and cable will sell. Even the busted motherboard will get something. Some tech will buy it and try to fix it.

Well thanks for the advice. I'll try and see what I can get for it all then. I'll try and search about to see what sort of price ranges I should put things at, but if you have ideas for what I should try and charge for the parts that can net the most feel free to chip in :) Thanks again.
 

velocityg4

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Dec 19, 2004
4,600
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Georgia
As for new iMacs mentioned in your original post. If anything comes out. The biggest change would likely be a spec bump in the GPU to AMD Navi. There is no expected update on the Intel CPU Roadmap to the desktop class chips used in the iMac until next spring with Comet Lake. I can't imagine they'd do anything like offer a light version of Afterburner or Intel's Icelake AI M.2 accelerator.

Well thanks for the advice. I'll try and see what I can get for it all then. I'll try and search about to see what sort of price ranges I should put things at, but if you have ideas for what I should try and charge for the parts that can net the most feel free to chip in :) Thanks again.
Look at sold items on eBay and set it to only show sold items in your region. Not what people are asking for them. If you have no seller history on eBay. The prices you get will be lower than average. Be sure to take detailed pictures. If there are any known flaws in the screen point them out. You don't want the hassle of a return.

If you can't find sold prices in Europe for a part. Look at what they sell for in the US. They'll likely go for a little bit more in the EU. As electronics, in general, are more expensive. Computer components are also more difficult to find from local EU eBay sellers.

The downsides to selling the parts individually. It takes more work to price and sell them. It will also take longer for everything to sell.

Since you have to open it up to pull the hard drive or SSD to wipe your data. It makes sense to consider selling the parts. If you do sell in whole after removing the drive. I'd just take pictures of the interior. Then tape the display back in place. For shipping and so the buyer can see it assembled. It wouldn't make sense to use new adhesive when they'll be taking it apart again.
 

casperes1996

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Jan 26, 2014
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As for new iMacs mentioned in your original post. If anything comes out. The biggest change would likely be a spec bump in the GPU to AMD Navi. There is no expected update on the Intel CPU Roadmap to the desktop class chips used in the iMac until next spring with Comet Lake. I can't imagine they'd do anything like offer a light version of Afterburner or Intel's Icelake AI M.2 accelerator.
Navi is really all I care about too. I'd be fine with the CPUs available. But a Polaris GPU would make me a little sad at this point. Vega would be alright with me but that's expensive.
I would like them to upgrade the cheaper Fusion options to a 128GB SSD again though.

Look at sold items on eBay and set it to only show sold items in your region. Not what people are asking for them. If you have no seller history on eBay. The prices you get will be lower than average. Be sure to take detailed pictures. If there are any known flaws in the screen point them out. You don't want the hassle of a return.

If you can't find sold prices in Europe for a part. Look at what they sell for in the US. They'll likely go for a little bit more in the EU. As electronics, in general, are more expensive. Computer components are also more difficult to find from local EU eBay sellers.

The downsides to selling the parts individually. It takes more work to price and sell them. It will also take longer for everything to sell.

Since you have to open it up to pull the hard drive or SSD to wipe your data. It makes sense to consider selling the parts. If you do sell in whole after removing the drive. I'd just take pictures of the interior. Then tape the display back in place. For shipping and so the buyer can see it assembled. It wouldn't make sense to use new adhesive when they'll be taking it apart again.
Thank you for the good advice :)
 

jdasikainen

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Mar 4, 2016
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why not go the route of the new Mac mini with a Egpu as you said you wanted a modular systemm that you could upgrade as needed in the future the Mac mini has upgradeable ram a ogpu would allow graphics expansion and you could use any monitors you want was the route I was going to go before I got a sweet trade for my current 2017 4k iMac
 

casperes1996

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why not go the route of the new Mac mini with a Egpu as you said you wanted a modular systemm that you could upgrade as needed in the future the Mac mini has upgradeable ram a ogpu would allow graphics expansion and you could use any monitors you want was the route I was going to go before I got a sweet trade for my current 2017 4k iMac

I don't have faith in an x4 equivalent with overhead TB 3 eGPU setup. Already now it limits performance; In a few years the interface won't be up to snuff for an upgrade path anyway.

But it's still not completely off limits as an option. I'll consider further and see what my financial state is at when it gets to the point I feel like I can't stand laptop only any longer. I'll definitely wait for a new desktop from Apple first anyway. I've only ever bought one Mac outside of "just released" time-frame; This laptop. I needed a laptop, and as per their excellent accessibility features basically couldn't do without it being a Mac.
 

Ledgem

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Jan 18, 2008
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I was also thinking that the Mac mini would probably be your best bet. You mentioned writing code; from what I've seen in benchmarks, the new Mac mini performs extremely well for those tasks. You might be able to get by without an external GPU for a while. Video encoding without an external GPU is also great, by the benchmarks. Certain media tasks - 3D rendering, and rendering video effects - are where the external GPU practically becomes a necessity. The only downside is that it seems pretty difficult to find a 5K monitor; LG's UltraFine monitor can be hard to find. There are a plethora of 4K monitors, but even if you get one with a larger screen size than your iMac it may feel like a slight downgrade until you get used to it.

An alternative would be to hound Apple's refurbished store and get an iMac from there. It won't increase your modularity (although 2017 and later iMacs can support eGPUs), but it would allow you to refresh your system and stick with what you know and love. It won't be the absolute latest and greatest, but it doesn't need to be; you'll still feel a speed benefit, coming from the 2014 system.
 

casperes1996

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I was also thinking that the Mac mini would probably be your best bet. You mentioned writing code; from what I've seen in benchmarks, the new Mac mini performs extremely well for those tasks. You might be able to get by without an external GPU for a while. Video encoding without an external GPU is also great, by the benchmarks. Certain media tasks - 3D rendering, and rendering video effects - are where the external GPU practically becomes a necessity. The only downside is that it seems pretty difficult to find a 5K monitor; LG's UltraFine monitor can be hard to find. There are a plethora of 4K monitors, but even if you get one with a larger screen size than your iMac it may feel like a slight downgrade until you get used to it.
Yeah, I'm sure the Mac mini would be fine in the CPU aspect. My 2014 MacBook Pro is fine for me CPU wise too. I mean, I'd never say no to more, faster cores, but it's really fine.
All the code I write for uni on the like is also undemanding enough that it could run satisfactorily on a Core-M or less.
But my hobbies are more demanding, especially on the GPU front. Games, video creation in Final Cut, Blender projects, Affinity Photo, GPGPU programming with Metal (arguably somewhere between hobby and study since it falls under computer science, but it's outside my curriculum, at least for the bachelor)
Honestly the Final Cut speed of my last iMac was at times a bit annoying. But I was also never too fond of proxy workflows...
I always keep system monitoring tools up, and my GPU is often entirely hammered; Or, it was on my iMac. On my MacBook Pro, as it was mostly a secondary study-only computer, I barely ever used the GPU much.

Anyway, point is mostly just that the GPU is quite important to me. And the monitor really is too. In the end, since there's no middle thing between a mini and a Pro, I think the iMac is where I'll stay, despite the issues I have with it. Overall, I did love it for what it is. Only wish it'd have lasted longer and had an option for GPU upgradability.


An alternative would be to hound Apple's refurbished store and get an iMac from there. It won't increase your modularity (although 2017 and later iMacs can support eGPUs), but it would allow you to refresh your system and stick with what you know and love. It won't be the absolute latest and greatest, but it doesn't need to be; you'll still feel a speed benefit, coming from the 2014 system.
The official Apple Refurbished Store doesn't operate in Denmark to my knowledge.
I think my current plan is just a wait-and-see approach. A new iMac with a Navi GPU would be great. And if they also increase the SSD part of a Fusion setup on the base models, I'd be able to get a much cheaper configuration than I would currently want with the models available now. But I'll keep an eye on the unofficial refurb market as well to see if the price to value in that field becomes too tempting too :).
 

Shivetya

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the sad part about a Mac Mini is by the time you have a reasonable configuration its 2k if not more and then you still need a good monitor and eGPU if going that route.
 

lars666

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I have the exact same problem right now as you had – Late 2014 Retina iMac, GPU temperature shooting up within moments even when only watching a YouTube video to 100° celsius, shutting down itself at about 115°, even fans can't really tame it. I am not at the point where the iMac completely died, but I brought it to a repair service today which offered to replace the GPU chip for about $400 – which is a lot money, but still worth for me to invest for a repair. (I maxed out my i7 Mac when buying.) Would not have invested much more for sure, but maybe – if your defect is solely the GPU, too – you can consider a repair, too, and hopefully to still use it a few more years. (Or sell it, if you're too afraid that the problem will come back.) At least that's what I hope to be able to do. Maybe this at least is an option when weighting up all the alternatives.
 
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Ledgem

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the sad part about a Mac Mini is by the time you have a reasonable configuration its 2k if not more and then you still need a good monitor and eGPU if going that route.
"Reasonable" means different things to different people... but you're right, when I build my own system I get to a little over $2,000 (which is allowing Apple to do the RAM; I haven't priced RAM out for myself, but with the mini I could technically do it on my own and knock a few hundred dollars off the price). However, when I bought my iMac it was close to $3,000 - and that was before upgrading the RAM, myself. And here's the rub: when I replace my iMac, I'll have nothing but the keyboard and trackpad that came with it. If I had bought a Mac mini (which would have been a terrible option back in 2015), I'd still have the monitor. If I went with a Mac mini now, I'd also likely have an eGPU that could carry between systems, although it remains to be seen how future-proof that solution really is.

When it comes to the Mac mini the up-front costs can seem high, given that you need to buy multiple peripherals that come with the iMac. But in the long run it's cheaper, as you can swap things out only as you need. The modularity also allows you to change and upgrade only components that fail, whereas with the iMac it's all or nothing. I like my 2015 5K iMac but after some insects got behind the screen, and now that the Mac mini is much more respectable, I don't think that I'll go with an iMac again. I just wish Apple would release something between the Mac mini and the Mac Pro...
 
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casperes1996

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I have the exact same problem right now as you had – Late 2014 Retina iMac, GPU temperature shooting up within moments even when only watching a YouTube video to 100° celsius, shutting down itself at about 115°, even fans can't really tame it. I am not at the point where the iMac completely died, but I brought it to a repair service today which offered to replace the CPU for about $400 – which is a lot money, but still worth for to invest for a repair. (I maxed out my i7 Mac when buying.) Would not have invested much more, but maybe – if your defect is solely the GPU, too – you can consider a repair, too, after weighting up the other alternatives.
What good would replacing the CPU do for you? If nothing has died for you yet, and it's just getting temps down, I suppose it might help if they repast it, but simply opening it to clean it out could help you too. A new CPU wouldn't be any necessity for you though.
The CPUs are also socketed unlike the GPU which is soldered to the logic board with a BGA join. Whilst a new could be soldered on, official repair shops would replace the whole logic board with that issue.
Plus the 3.5mm audio port died long ago. Not too big an issue cause I just got an external audio interface that worked over USB, but another little defect.

Also, the GPU should start throttling at 105 and shut off at 110. - At least that's how the R9 M295X I had was.

Hope your machine works out for you.

What'd you pay for the replacement CPU anyway?
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"Reasonable" means different things to different people... but you're right, when I build my own system I get to a little over $2,000 (which is allowing Apple to do the RAM; I haven't priced RAM out for myself, but with the mini I could technically do it on my own and knock a few hundred dollars off the price). However, when I bought my iMac it was close to $3,000 - and that was before upgrading the RAM, myself. And here's the rub: when I replace my iMac, I'll have nothing but the keyboard and trackpad that came with it. If I had bought a Mac mini (which would have been a terrible option back in 2015), I'd still have the monitor. If I went with a Mac mini now, I'd also likely have an eGPU that could carry between systems, although it remains to be seen how future-proof that solution really is.

When it comes to the Mac mini the up-front costs can seem high, given that you need to buy multiple peripherals that come with the iMac. But in the long run it's cheaper, as you can swap things out only as you need. The modularity also allows you to change and upgrade only components that fail, whereas with the iMac it's all or nothing. I like my 2015 5K iMac but after some insects got behind the screen, and now that the Mac mini is much more respectable, I don't think that I'll go with an iMac again. I just wish Apple would release something between the Mac mini and the Mac Pro...
Agreed. I think the iMacs is still where I'll be for now though
Already that x4 link that TB3 offers can be quite limiting for some GPUs, especially for some tasks (and my own GPU code especially is not very efficient in terms of data locality, so I move data between GPU and main memory inefficiently much)
Maybe with PCIe 4.0 and TB4 it'll be almost 1:1 for a while but nothing beats an x16 connection. Though a potential TB4 would be equivalent to x8 on PCIe 3.0 which is quite nice.
Though an eGPU also means an extra box.
 

lars666

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Jul 13, 2008
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What good would replacing the CPU do for you? If nothing has died for you yet, and it's just getting temps down, I suppose it might help if they repast it, but simply opening it to clean it out could help you too. A new CPU wouldn't be any necessity for you though.
The CPUs are also socketed unlike the GPU which is soldered to the logic board with a BGA join. Whilst a new could be soldered on, official repair shops would replace the whole logic board with that issue.
Plus the 3.5mm audio port died long ago. Not too big an issue cause I just got an external audio interface that worked over USB, but another little defect.

Also, the GPU should start throttling at 105 and shut off at 110. - At least that's how the R9 M295X I had was.

Hope your machine works out for you.

What'd you pay for the replacement CPU anyway?
Sorry, I wrote "CPU" when I meant "GPU" – my fault, it's corrected now.

Simply cleaning and repasting wouldn't do it anymore – it's not a problem of getting this thing a few degrees colder again for longevity, the GPU temperature shoots up from about 60° to 100° and 115° within literally seconds when only starting a YouTube video. The repair shop told me that the GPU itself is damaged and has to be replaced and, considering this extreme behaviour, I hope I can believe them. Maybe they are replacing the whole logic board? I don't know, to be honest, but I'll invest (with a heavy heart) the $400 / 389€ – at least there are six months of warranty on the repair so there can't be a bad "It didn't work, you have to pay anyway!" surprise. In any case, the way it is now my iMac isn't usable anymore. Ramping up the fans manually to full speed all the time may be able to keep the GPU temperature down to "only" (!) 90-100°, but it's like sitting in front of a jet engine. If I let the fans do their normal thing, my GPU completely shuts down.

As to the correct temperature numbers, I am referring to what iStat says. I saw 115° several times, but it may very well be that these temp sensors numbers aren't 100% correct. The GPU is much too hot, though, that's for sure. :)
 
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casperes1996

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Sorry, I wrote "CPU" when I meant "GPU" – my fault, it's corrected now.

Simply cleaning and repasting wouldn't do it anymore – it's not a problem of getting this thing a few degrees colder again for longevity, the GPU temperature shoots up from about 60° to 100° and 115° within literally seconds when only starting a YouTube video. The repair shop told me that the GPU itself is damaged and has to be replaced and, considering this extreme behaviour, I hope I can believe them. Maybe they are replacing the whole logic board? I don't know, to be honest, but I'll invest (with a heavy heart) the $400 / 389€ – at least there are six months of warranty on the repair so there can't be a bad "It didn't work, you have to pay anyway!" surprise. In any case, the way it is now my iMac isn't usable anymore. Ramping up the fans manually to full speed all the time may be able to keep the GPU temperature down to "only" (!) 90-100°, but it's like sitting in front of a jet engine. If I let the fans do their normal thing, my GPU completely shuts down.

Hm. Right. Interesting.

389€ isn't as bad as I would've expected, really.
How far up do your fans go at max? When mine was new it had a max of 2700RPM, but as this started to develop the fans, through sheer willpower, decided they could actually go to 3600RPM. Whenever doing anything that'd use the GPU I always kicked them up to that speed a bit in advance. Wasn't always enough, but it typically kept it below the shut-off point. But not always.
 

lars666

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Jul 13, 2008
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A max of 2700RPM, really? I'm not sure, but I think mine always went up to a maximum of 3600RPM if necessary (Handbrake conversion etc.). Don't know about your system, but I have the i7 upgrade, though, which makes a significant (!) difference to the i5 when it comes to fan noise resp. ramping up quicker – which I had to learn the hard way after buying. Up to today, I regret not having chosen the stock i5 one which would have been more than enough for me, too, but resulting in a much more quiet iMac ...
 

casperes1996

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A max of 2700RPM, really? I'm not sure, but I think mine always went up to a maximum of 3600RPM if necessary (Handbrake conversion etc.). Don't know about your system, but I have the i7 upgrade, though – which makes a significant difference to the i5 when it comes to fan noise – which I had to learn the hard way after buying. Up to today, I regret not having chosen the stock i5 one which would have been more than enough for me, too, but resulting in a much more quiet iMac ...
Yep 2700RPM was the max originally. But 3600 became the new max after the system found out it wasn't enough... Fan control software like Macs Fan Control et. al. also could only get to 3600RPM after the system first did it on its own.

I had the max'd out one. i7, R9 M295X, manually upgraded to 32GB of RAM.
 

lars666

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Jul 13, 2008
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Yep 2700RPM was the max originally. But 3600 became the new max after the system found out it wasn't enough... Fan control software like Macs Fan Control et. al. also could only get to 3600RPM after the system first did it on its own.

I had the max'd out one. i7, R9 M295X, manually upgraded to 32GB of RAM.
Exactly my system, even up to the manually upgraded 32GB RAM.