Too many options—what should I get?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Pemm, Apr 21, 2014.

  1. Pemm, Apr 21, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2014

    Pemm macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2014
    #1
    I'm hoping to get some insight on what the best purchase for me to make might be.

    Right now I'm looking to upgrade from a 2010 15" macbook pro (2.4 GHz Intel Core i5, NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M 256 MB, 8GB DDR3, 320GB HDD). I'm out of college and no longer need the portability the macbook offers, so I'm checking out iMacs.

    I like gaming and play fairly often, but I don't usually play the kinds of games that need the latest and greatest hardware. Mostly I play TF2 and other Source games (though you could run TF2 on a toaster if you tried—this game is honestly my biggest concern as I play it more than any other), and I would like to play Bioshock Infinite, etc, smoothly. Playing on ultra with all graphics on max is certainly a nice thought but by no means necessary. I've been playing with everything on medium or low for so long that any improvement is an improvement.

    Other than that I do a little bit of everything—occasional video editing, standard browsing, light coding, lots of writing (I'm planning on investing in a CM QuickFire Rapid with Cherry MX brown switches). I'm a graphic designer, but my current machine has power enough for what I do on my own and the new computer would not be my professional workstation, so I'm not really worried about that.

    I would just grab whatever 2012-ish iMac I could find at a decent price point but for the gaming issue. The 27" screen feels like overkill for me and I don't really have the space for it, but most of the gpus in the 21"s look unsatisfactory (but I don't know for sure). I'm quite techy so I've considered a hackintosh, but they seem to be such a mixed bag that I'm wary of them and I prefer the "it just works" aspect. I'm not at all interested in going back to Windows, and I'm hoping to get a refurbished model to keep the price down somewhat.

    I've done a lot of reading over the last week and my head's starting to spin weighing all my options, so I thought I would ask if anyone has a direct recommendation. My budget is in the ballpark of $1400.

    Thanks!
     
  2. thegoldenmackid macrumors 604

    thegoldenmackid

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    dallas, texas
  3. mad3inch1na, Apr 22, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2014

    mad3inch1na macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2013
    #3
    Look at the bottom if you don't want to read the rest

    Hey Pemm,

    On a budget of 1400$, you can get a great computer. Especially considering the computer you currently have, any recent computer will be an improvement. If you want an iMac, the 2012 models are definitely the way to go. The changes in the 2013 model were minimal, with a shift to PCIE Flash(if you get the upgrade), Haswell CPU, and the gtx 7xx series graphics. Like the previous commenter mentioned, it is hard to recommend the 21" iMac. It is great, but once you have the real estate of 1440p, it is hard to go back. With non-upgradeable RAM, it isn't great, considering Apple's pricing.

    For context, my dad owns the 2012 27" i7/1 TB Fusion/gtx 680mx/8GB RAM. It is 2000$ refurbished. A friend of mine owns the HDD one, and having used both computers, it makes a huge difference. It is the upgrade I would recommend before anything else, as it will make every task more enjoyable. If you can't afford a Fusion Drive, I wouldn't get an iMac. It is the one thing that will keep your computer running well for more than 3 years, and since the only user upgrade is RAM, you are stuck with what you get.

    I'm currently writing this on my hackintosh, which was a slight pain to build because I didn't read the guide correctly and bought the wrong motherboard. I didn't have sound or ethernet, but I worked around it and it is fine now. There are two main issues that hackintosh's currently have. First, the OS you install is the one you are stuck with, unless you want to mess with the setup again. Second, iMessage and Airplay don't work because of an iCloud verification issue on Mavericks (There are multiple fixes, but it varies system to system). I don't think it is an issue on 10.8.

    I don't think you are too interested in a hackintosh, so I won't talk about it too much. For 1400$, you will not be able to get the iMac that you want. If you want a powerful computer on a budget, build your own machine. Go in with the mindset of building a PC, because that will be your most stable and most powerful DIY computer system. Just make sure you get the right parts for a hackintosh (intel processor, nvidia graphics, gigabyte motherboard). A hackintosh can be great, and I use my OSX partition 90% of the time, but it has limitations, so if you DIY, make sure Windows runs correctly first.

    On a side note, if you are thinking about getting a laptop instead, you can pick up a 2012 15" rMBP gtx 650M/256GB SSD/8GB RAM/quad core i7 for around 1400$, or a gtx 650M/512 GB SSD/ 16GB RAM/quad core i7 for 1700$. It will actually perform better than a 21.5" iMac, because it uses the same graphics card, a comparable processor, and a much better hard drive. It will also afford you portability.



    TL;DR: Here are my recommendations, and their pros/cons, not necessarily in order:

    1. Go all out, get the 27" iMac with a gtx 680mx (benchmarks are literally tied with the 780m), fusion drive, and an i7 processor. It is 2000$, so it will squeeze your wallet, but is the best bang for your buck in comparison to the other iMacs.

    2. Can't afford an iMac, but still crave power? Build a PC, and make OSX your secondary goal on that system. I built mine this last November for around 1400$ (including peripherals), and I can run Bioshock Infinite on Ultra without tipping below 60FPS. If you want to know my build, I can send it to you.

    3. A laptop is really your best solution for 1400$, and it will perform better than a 21" iMac. For Apple's laptop selection, I think that the 2012 15" rMBP is the best computer for power users on a budget. You will be able to play TF2 in all of its glory. The 2013 13" rMBP 256GB/8GB is personally my favorite overall right now, but it seems like you care more about power and less about portability.
     
  4. Pemm thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2014
    #4
    mad3inch1na, thank you for the extremely detailed and informative post! That's exactly the kind of help I was hoping to get. I would actually love to get the build specs of your hackintosh from you (and maybe a suggestion on the mobo you would have gotten if you'd known yours would have problems or any other thoughts on hardware, etc). A hackintosh was my original idea, but I haven't built many computers and was afraid of sinking that much money into something without being sure of my footing. Copying someone else's build would assuage my fears. Sticking with an older version of the OS is fine--I was on Snow Leopard for about two years after they stopped updating it.

    I had to google what Airplay even was and I don't use iMessage outside of my phone, so that's no problem.
     
  5. bigeasy_uk macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2005
    Location:
    Leamington Spa, England
    #5
    Hi Pemm,

    If you are going down the hackintosh route you should check out tonymacx86.com. They have really good info on working components and have up to date buyers guides every month with recommended working parts.
     
  6. mad3inch1na macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2013
    #6
    Hey Pemm,

    As the previous poster mentioned, tonymacx86.com is the place to build your hackintosh. They have a list of all the parts that work, and the website also provides the software and instructions to create a hackintosh very easily.

    Also note, most of the parts I purchased were on sale at the time, so prices today may vary, but the total cost will probably be around 1400$.

    Case: Coolermaster N500
    Processor: Intel i5 4670k
    Graphics: MSI GTX 770 Lightning
    PSU: Raidmax RX-850AE
    Motherboard(recommendation): GA-Z87X-D3H
    RAM: Any RAM works, I got 8GB GSkill Ares, buy as much as you need.
    OS: Windows 8.1
    Hard Drive: You will need 2, because partitioning gets messy with a hackintosh. I used a regular HDD(WD 1TB Blue) for windows for all my games, and a 128GB SSD(Kingston V300) for OSX. The Samsung 840 EVO is also a good option.
    Optical Drive: LG 24x DVD Burner

    Here are some things you will need/want: 16GB USB Flash Drive for hackintosh software, Bluetooth adapter(Orico 4.0 adapter, if you want bluetooth capabilities), Monitor (Viewsonic VX2370SMH), Keyboard (Amazon basics), Mouse(Logitech M510).

    With tax, it came out around 1450$. If you like to play games a lot, you will probably want a different keyboard/mouse. Just search around Newegg and Amazon. I bought all of my parts spread out over a month. Newegg has sales every day, so if you want to get the best price, you have to look component to component. If you want to save some money, cut back on the CPU and the GPU. The GTX 770 is great, but I think the 760 is better for SLI if you plan on further upgrading your system, just because of VRAM limitations on both cards. I went for the 770 because it dropped from 400$ down to 330$ right before I bought my system.

    Like I said before, if you don't want to get a hackintosh, I think a used 2012 15" rMBP is your best option for 1400$. This is a link to all compatible parts. http://www.tonymacx86.com/420-building-customac-buyer-s-guide-april-2014.html.

    Good luck, and let us know what you decide to do!

    Best,
    Matt
     
  7. Pemm thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2014
    #7
    So I did some more research and I think I've come up with what will be a good hackintosh build. I based it largely off this golden build on the tonymac threads (thanks for the link, bigeasy!) and it just hits the ceiling of my budget including the display.

    Before I pull the trigger I'd appreciate any wiser eyes willing to make sure I haven't chosen anything I'll regret later.

    PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

    CPU: Intel Core i5-4670K 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor ($199.99 @ Amazon)
    Motherboard: ASRock Z87E-ITX Mini ITX LGA1150 Motherboard ($139.99 @ Newegg)
    Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 8GB (1 x 8GB) DDR3-1333 Memory ($69.99 @ Newegg) (Will add a second stick of this later.)
    Storage: Crucial M500 120GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($73.99 @ Amazon)
    Storage: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($54.98 @ OutletPC)
    Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 760 2GB Video Card ($224.99 @ Micro Center)
    Case: Antec ISK600 Mini ITX Tower Case ($59.95 @ Mwave)
    Power Supply: Corsair 760W 80+ Platinum Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply ($159.99 @ Best Buy)
    Monitor: Asus VG248QE 144Hz 24.0" Monitor ($269.99 @ NCIX US)
    Keyboard: Cooler Master CM Storm QuickFire Rapid Wired Gaming Keyboard ($108.42 @ Amazon)
    Other: Dell Dw 1510 AGN Half Bcm4322 Dual-band N Pci-e Card 802.11a/g/n ($14.99)
    Total: $1377.27
    (Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
    (Generated by PCPartPicker 2014-04-23 18:48 EDT-0400)

    I already own a Logitech G500 I'm very happy with, so no mouse needed, and I'll shop around for sales etc before I buy anything--PC Part Picker is just supremely convenient as a jumping-off point.

    Thanks so much for all the help! I rarely post to forums and the welcoming atmosphere has been wonderful.
     
  8. mad3inch1na macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2013
    #8
    Hey Pemm,

    It looks like you have a pretty balanced build. There are just a few things that may cause some issues. Granted, it seems like the build worked for that guy, although I don't know if his items worked out of box or if he had to mess around with it.

    First, I don't know if that motherboard is compatible. I would highly recommend getting a gigabyte motherboard, whether you go mATX or ATX, just because you will be stuck missing important drivers if it isn't supported. Also, the miniATX motherboards are really limited, as you are capped at 16GB RAM, and they have a maximum of 4 PCIE slots. Your wifi card and graphics card will take up two of those slots. If you aren't looking to expand in the future, it will be a great compact build though.

    Also, I don't know if the wifi card you are looking to get is compatible without messing with drivers. The TP-LINK card works out of box, but for 45$, maybe a 15$ card is worth the risk, and you can just buy the TP-LINK if it doesn't work.

    The 760 watt platinum rated PSU is overkill for a mATX build. It is good for future expandability, but with this type of build, you probably won't do that. Even with SLI 760's, you wouldn't use all the power. Modular is the way to go, but for the PSU that it is, it is a bit pricey. My 850 watt gold rated modular was under 100$.

    I personally can't stand TN panels, but if you really need the GTG times, then it is your money. I just do casual gaming, like borderlands 2, bioshock infinite, and some league of legends, but I don't notice any motion blur on my 24" IPS panel, which I got for 140$. I also see your keyboard for 80$ with amazon prime.

    Two last things to mention. Remember, you also have to pay for windows. Also, make sure to buy a bluetooth adapter. They are pretty cheap, and can come in handy.

    Best,
    Matt
     
  9. Pemm, Apr 24, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2014

    Pemm thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2014
    #9
    Thanks again Matt! I took your suggestions into account and worked out an updated build, which came out cheaper and I'm much more pleased with. Learned a lot about monitors, too—I had no idea what IPS or TN was before yesterday. That's what buying Macs will do to you, I figure. I also switched out the case because the Bitfenix got stellar reviews, it looks great, and I have a disturbing weakness for anything featuring wings or bird imagery.

    Here's the updated build. Added a few of the things I already own, mainly my Logitech G500 and 1TB external. (Again I'll be shopping around for better prices before purchasing, and I'll worry about getting a Windows OS later.)

    (Edit: Updated updated build. Did some more reading, made sure the PSU/case/GPU would all play nice as far as space goes, went down a level on the CPU since the gains don't seem quite worth the extra $30 or so.)

    PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

    CPU: Intel Core i5-4570 3.2GHz Quad-Core Processor ($189.99 @ Amazon)
    Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z87MX-D3H Micro ATX LGA1150 Motherboard ($128.71 @ Amazon)
    Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1866 Memory ($69.99 @ Newegg)
    Storage: Crucial M500 120GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($73.99 @ Amazon)
    Storage: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($54.98 @ OutletPC)
    Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 760 2GB Video Card ($224.99 @ Micro Center)
    Case: BitFenix Prodigy M Midnight MicroATX Mini Tower Case ($89.99 @ Amazon)
    Power Supply: SeaSonic G 550W 80+ Gold Certified Semi-Modular ATX Power Supply ($79.99 @ Amazon)
    Monitor: Asus VS239H-P 23.0" Monitor ($139.99 @ Newegg)
    Wireless Network Adapter: TP-Link TL-WDN4800 802.11a/b/g/n PCI-Express x1 Wi-Fi Adapter ($38.57 @ Amazon)
    Keyboard: Cooler Master CM Storm QuickFire Rapid Wired Gaming Keyboard ($108.42 @ Amazon)
    Mouse: Logitech G500 Wired Laser Mouse (Purchased For $0.00)
    Other: Logitech c270 720p Webcam ($27.79)
    Other: SanDisk Cruzer 16 GB USB Flash Drive (SDCZ36-016G-AFFP) ($10.48)
    Other: GMYLE Bluetooth 4.0 Adapter ($9.98)
    Other: LaCie Porsche Design P'9220 1 TB USB 3.0 Portable External Hard Drive 302000 (Purchased)
    Total: $1247.86
    (Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
    (Generated by PCPartPicker 2014-04-24 22:21 EDT-0400)
     
  10. bigeasy_uk macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2005
    Location:
    Leamington Spa, England
    #10
    Good call on revising the motherboard, I always go with gigabyte, even for non-hackintosh builds. they are rock solid and have great features like dual bios, so you always have a backup incase an update doesn't work.

    Looks like a nice solid set of components, I'm sure you'll be happy with the results. Gaming wise it should perform nicely, I've got the GTX 670, which is near identical to the 760 and it is really nice :)
     
  11. Cubytus macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2007
    #11
    A reason to buy an authentic Mac instead of hackintosh. Of course it depends if the OP is more into tinkering, or trying to produce something with the machine.

    Powerful yes, stable, definitely not. Building your own you'll have to spend time figuring out what part went wrong when it does, struggling with manufacturers to get warranty support, before repeating the process when the next part fails, all taking into account different warranty coverages and back-shipping fees, typically not covered if not dealing with Apple.

    Now, I did have my homebuilt PC years ago, and it was nice while it lasted, and I still credit it for pushing me toward Mac OS X. But its reliability was terrible. Plus, it was very noisy and I had to add manual fan control. I would still build my own PC if not buying a Mac because it's more flexible, as long as hackintosh isn't a requirement.
     
  12. mad3inch1na macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2013
    #12
    I definitely agree with you. I think if you build a hackintosh, you need to go in with the mindset of it being a project, and an unstable one at that. It doesn't mean that you can't, or shouldn't, produce something with the machine. The OP mentioned that this wouldn't be his professional workstation, and that he was mostly interested in gaming and writing on this machine.

    DIY builds are definitely less stable than bundled systems. What I was saying was that if he were going to build a system himself, a Windows DIY would be the most stable out of the options he has. Not to discredit what you have to say, because DIY systems are only supported by the individual manufacturer's warranty, which can be a hassle.

    Matt
     
  13. Cubytus macrumors 65816

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    Mar 2, 2007
    #13
    The one I used for the most time improved in stability (relatively) when I converted it from Windows to Linux, and I was no Linux expert at the time, but was lucky enough to get well-supported parts. YMMV
     
  14. mad3inch1na macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2013
    #14
    Oh. Yeah I didn't really consider Linux since he was mostly using the system for gaming. I don't have a lot of experience with it, so I can't give any sound advice about word processing or gaming support.

    Matt
     
  15. Cubytus macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2007
    #15
    Linux was never a significant platform for gaming, admittedly. But as I never was a gamer, this wasn't of significance to me. On the other hand, all other non-game tasks were easy to accomplish, even back in 2008.
     
  16. Pemm thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2014
    #16
    Thought I'd check back in. I did go ahead with everything in my earlier post and although putting the whole thing together and getting OS X running was a bit of an endeavor and quite the learning experience, my new hackintosh is working absolutely flawlessly.

    Thanks all for your help!
     
  17. ezekielrage_99 macrumors 68040

    ezekielrage_99

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2005
    #17
    Refurb or Hackintosh might be the best option if not already mentioned.
     

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