Thinking about buying new mac something - so many options and questions!

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by sun surfer, Oct 4, 2011.

  1. sun surfer macrumors regular

    Jun 6, 2010
    Hi, I've only ever been using Mac laptops, but now I'm planning to get a new Mac and am opening up my range to everything. Since I've connected my laptop to my TV and never move it anymore, being portable is useless and besides I'm also planning on probably buying a tablet eventually that should serve me for any portable needs I need.

    So with my possibilities opened up, I am supremely confused! I had never even looked at other macs before. Just looking today, I'm realising there is a very cheap Mac Mini but don't know if it's strong enough, then there's an iMac, which I never knew the whole system is behind the screen so the screen is a must. That kind of sucks because I don't need a screen since I use my large TV screen. Then there's the Mac Pro which is too much. I'm hoping to spend no more than say $1500 or so but the less the better.

    One must for me is a faster processor and all that. Here's my current Macbook Pro specs:

    Macbook Pro 13"
    Late 2009 model
    Version 10.6.8
    2.26 GHz
    Intel Core 2 Duo
    4 GB RAM
    NVIDIA GeForce 9400M Graphics Card
    Snow Leopard
    160GB hard drive space

    Things I don't care about: More hard drive space. Mine is only 160GB now and of the new ones, the lowest is 500GB which should be plenty plenty enough for me.

    I'm confused by all the different possible processors across the different Apple products. Which is the best? Is the Intel on an iMac better than the Dual or Quads on the others since it is on an iMac? Or is it worse since it's not a Dual or Quad?

    It seems the better the processor, the smaller the GHz. So which is better? A better processor with less GHz or a lesser processor with more GHz?

    I've already decided I'm going to get 8GB Ram in whichever I decide on.

    Also, not totally necessary since I rarely use it, but a disc slot for DVDs and CDs would be nice as would a burner. Definitely not a top priority but do Mac Minis or iMacs even have a disc slot?

    What about all the different graphics cards? It seems each Apple product has a different graphics card?

    I surf the web a lot and Safari can be slow on my Macbook Pro now so I'd like that fixed.

    Also, I sometimes play games and am currently just starting Civ V, which is running horribly on my Macbook Pro. It's the main reason I've decided for an upgrade now. An Aspyr person told me that the 9400 graphics card is not a supported one for Civ V so that could be the problem.

    So I want one in my price range that will work the best for games, especially Civ V (oddly, the other game I play, Sims 3, works great on my Macbook Pro). On the Aspyr Civ V website, it lists recommended specs as: Intel Quad Core, 2.6 GHz, Video Memory VRAM of 512MB (how do I know how much each Apple product has? It's not on Apple website specs) and they list a bunch of supported graphics cards. Oddly, some of the Apple products video cards aren't listed, but I'm assuming they're the newer graphics cards that weren't initially tested with the game so should hopefully be fine.

    So my options seem to be some configuration of either an iMac, Mac Mini or Macbook Pro. On first glance, it seems an iMac may be more suited to what I want but I really don't know, and it having a screen as part of it is unnecessary to me since I use my tv as my monitor.

    What advice can you guys give me?

  2. simsaladimbamba

    Nov 28, 2010
    Apple uses dual core and quad core processors (CPU) for their MBAs, MBPs, Mac minis and iMacs.
    If the processor is dual core, it will support four threads though, meaning you have up to four virtual cores.
    The frequency is not really a good indicator, but the 1.7GHz i5 (MBA) is slower than the 2.7GHz i5 (MBP) which again is slower than the 2.0 GHz i7 (MBP) which again is slower than the 3.4GHz i7 in the iMac.

    What do you do (besides gaming)?
    Any current Mac will suffice most consumer's needs, you may not need the fastest Mac, just one suiting your needs.
    The i5/7 Macs, that are dual core, all support four threads (2 per core, meaning you have four virtual cores). The i5 Macs, that are quad core, only have one thread per core. Only the i7 quad core Macs (iMac and MBPs) have two threads per core, thus you have eight virtual cores, which mean they are pretty fast with optimised software.

    The Mac mini does not have an optical disk drive (ODD), the iMac has. You can look for technical specs here: + - btw, every Mac has such a page on[name of mac]/specs.html

    As GPUs (graphic cards) are using power too, Apple uses the most efficient solutions for the corresponding products, thus the MBA and 13" MBP only have integrated GPUs, the 15"/17" MBPs and iMacs and Mac mini have dedicated GPUs (except the quad core server Mac mini, which also has an integrated GPU (IGP)).
    Again, Apple lists the GPUs used in their Macs on that Tech Specs page I linked to earlier.

    The more RAM the better, not really a CPU or GPU matter.

    Mac mini could be what you want.

    Just as a side note, a TV is not really an ideal computer display, but such use is up to you.
  3. philipt42 macrumors 6502


    Jun 26, 2009
  4. sun surfer thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 6, 2010
    OK, after reading your comments and searching around, I've narrowed my choices down to probably either the highest powered Mac Mini, or an iMac. Still can't decide between those though.

    I get this, but what I don't get is, if there is a dual core with a higher GHz and a quad core with a lower GHz than the dual core, which is better?

    I'm not a huge gamer, but I do go in spurts of heavy gaming like right now. Civ V is a big intensive game and apparently it needs pretty good specs to work at all well. Their recommended specs include Quad Core with at least 2.6 GHz.

    Besides that, I mostly surf the web. Also, I'm often using Pages, Numbers, iTunes, Transmission torrent, and video-watching programs (VLC, Quicktime, DIVX). That's really mostly it. But besides gaming I multi-task a lot so I often have multiple programs open at once.

    I see. What it seems like is that with the Mac Mini, I will need to buy add-ons with it.

    Is integrated or dedicated better? It sounds like dedicated is, but I was looking at the highest powered Mac Mini, which is integrated, so I don't want to be buying the inferior one for my needs.

    It does seem that way, but what I'm nervous about is its processor still not being good enough... That's the main reason I'm still considering the iMac since I'd much rather spend less on a Mini if it were good enough.

    I'm glad you brought it up. I configured this hook up about a year ago and it works great for me for the most part. No more burnt laps or overheated laptops! And much more comfy! I just sit in my comfy chair with my wireless keyboard and mouse and it's fabulous! And I stream movies through my computer to tv and it's a piece of cake as everything is already set up!

    At first, the picture looked fine. It's so nice with the computer on such a big screen. But I admit that after awhile, I think I've noticed that somehow, the picture does look slightly "fuzzier". It's hard to explain, because it looks really clear, but somehow something is different compared to looking at my laptop screen where everything looks extremely sharp in comparison. Maybe it has something to do with resolution, I don't know because I'm a real novice with all that.

    But sometimes, even with 20/20 vision and a big tv screen, I find smaller text on the screen hard to read or small pictures hard to discern, whereas on my smaller 13" laptop screen I can read and see those things more clearly. So something weird is up there. I thought maybe it was just me, but since you brought that up now maybe I think it's something with the set-up or with using a tv screen as a computer monitor.

    So what are you referring to when you say a tv screen isn't optimal? I would love to still use my tv as my computer screen, but if it really is sub-optimal I may change my mind.
  5. Irishman macrumors 68030

    Nov 2, 2006
    I would suggest the entry level iMac w/ the 21" screen and 2.5Ghz.

    The performance boost over any of the minis is substantial, and you can take the money you'd put in the larger monitor and put it towards more RAM so you can more easily multitask. That way, if you continue to use your big screen, then the few times you DO sit at the iMac you'll be greeted by a very gorgeous screen!
  6. sun surfer thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 6, 2010
    Thanks! Yes, that's what it's seeming like to me - the processor seems to jump up in quality from the highest power mini to the lowest power imac, so it's hard to justify going with the mini even though the mini would work perfectly with my current tv set-up. The only thing that sucks about the low end imac is that it is 2.5 ghz on quad whereas Civ V recommends 2.6 ghz on quad at least. I know that's hardly any difference, but it's annoying that it would still barely not meet its recommendations.

    I'd still very much appreciate any more advice on the questions I've already posed, but I'm going to throw a new wrench into the mix:

    Supposing I went with an imac and supposing I went with the 27" one, is there any way I could just get rid of my tv and use my monitor as a tv as well? It's probably not possible I'm guessing, but it doesn't hurt to ask. My tv is 32" so I'd be going down in inches but it may all be worth it if I could get everything on one screen, since this is a small space.

    Here is what would need to be possible:

    • Somehow plugging HDMI into the monitor (I have two - my PS3 and my cable box/DVR)
    • Somehow plugging those red/white/yellow cords into my monitor (my Wii)
    • A wall mount. Is there places for this on the back of an imac? I don't want to ruin the imac so I'd only wall mount if it was already set up where it could be.

    Also, another random question, but is the DVD drive in an imac blu-ray? Or can you choose blu-ray instead? If I have a blu-ray player on my computer, I could probably also get rid of my PS3 since I don't use it for gaming anymore, just the blu-ray.
  7. Irishman macrumors 68030

    Nov 2, 2006
    Does your budget allow for stepping up the least-expensive quad core model?

    There is an iMac wall mount, that is actually kind of cheap, BUT you still need a regular VESA mount to attach this too (it basically works as an adapter to an existing bracket you buy separately).

    There is no way I'm aware of to plug your Wii into the iMac. It doesn't have composite in (red, white, yellow cords).

    There ARE HDMI switchers and splitters that might work as inputs (since HDMI is bidirectional), it might let you use your iMac as a monitor for connected devices. I've never tried it.

    Keep your PS3. The Mac OS doesn't currently support Blu-Ray, and if they follow Steve's statements about it, they won't be adding it. The PS3 is an amazing Blu-Ray player, FYI.
  8. sun surfer thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 6, 2010
    Thanks Irishman! This is a really hard decision and I'm still mulling over it.

    After your reply on monitor=tv, I asked the question in the iMac forum to see what others thought about it, and it seems it may or may not be possible, and if it is possible, it's difficult. That sucks! Why can't Apple have made it easier to make the monitor a tv? It seems like that would make the product more popular.

    And I really don't have room for a monitor and tv. So I'm now trying to decide if I'd rather cram a monitor into the space and have the computer I'd prefer, or if I should just go with a Mini and hope the processor and graphics card are good enough.
  9. cwt1nospam macrumors 6502a

    Oct 6, 2006

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