Totally confused: imac vs macbook pro vs. desktop PC vs. external monitor

manmit

macrumors member
Original poster
Jun 14, 2012
39
4
Toronto, Canada
I am in terrible dilemma. I currently have macbook pro 13 2011 model. There are few employer related software which only works in windows platform. These software are for statistical analysis on gigabytes of data. As such, i need a powerful machine with bigger screen size. I don't play games at all. Below are my options - can you please provide your expert opinion. Total budget $1500. I will be spending 70% of my time in running that windows based application.

1. Replace macbook pro with imac 21 inch and install VMware or parallel for windows (however, i am afraid that VM based windows won't be able to run the processor intensive applications).
2. Retain macbook pro and install VMware or parallel for windows (however, i am afraid that VM based windows won't be able to run the processor intensive applications) + get external monitor
3. Retain macbook pro and get windows based PC desktop
4. Replace macbook pro with windows based PC desktop
5. Any other options you feel could solve this frustrating decision making
 

Razorhog

macrumors 65816
Sep 16, 2006
1,144
116
Arkansas
With a total budget of $1500, your options are pretty limited. I would probably keep the mbp and buy a decent Windows workstation from Dell or HP. A low-end 21.5" iMac would run windows in VMWare Fusion just fine, and probably do what you want, but it's hard to tell without the software requirements. If you do go that route, make sure you get 8gb ram so you can give the Windows install plenty of memory. The iMac + VMWare Fusion + a copy of Windows will push your budget to the max.
 
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DeaconGraves

macrumors 65816
Apr 25, 2007
1,291
0
Dallas, TX
First, if you're concerned about performance issues through a VM, the you can always install windows via Bootcamp a dual boot. I would find a copy of Parallels on sale and try it out on your MBP (if you search hard enough, you should not have to pay full retail for it). If you're not getting the performance you want, try it in bootcamp instead (or just skip the VM part altogether and go straight to bootcamp).

If you find that, performance wise, one of the two options above is working for you, then just keep your mbp and buy an external display. If it's not, then consider buying a new iMac (though you might want to wait for the rumored hardware refresh).
 
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forty2j

macrumors 68030
Jul 11, 2008
2,585
2
NJ
however, i am afraid that VM based windows won't be able to run the processor intensive applications
CPU-intensive operations won't struggle in a VM. It's the GPU-intensive operations you need to worry about.

I'm not going to look it up right now, but I think the CPU in the 2011 MBP and 2011 iMac was the same (or, effectively close enough). The 2012 iMacs aren't out yet. No reason to get an iMac just yet.

Since you're churning through tons of data, you'd probably see the most benefit actually from an SSD. Try an external Thunderbolt SSD + VMWare/Parallels on the existing MBP.

(If you're wondering, VMWare gives better stability, and Parallels gives better performance. Both are well recommended by those that use them.)

Why do you think you need an external display?
 
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cirus

macrumors 6502a
Mar 15, 2011
582
0
I am in terrible dilemma. I currently have macbook pro 13 2011 model. There are few employer related software which only works in windows platform. These software are for statistical analysis on gigabytes of data. As such, i need a powerful machine with bigger screen size. I don't play games at all. Below are my options - can you please provide your expert opinion. Total budget $1500. I will be spending 70% of my time in running that windows based application.

1. Replace macbook pro with imac 21 inch and install VMware or parallel for windows (however, i am afraid that VM based windows won't be able to run the processor intensive applications).
2. Retain macbook pro and install VMware or parallel for windows (however, i am afraid that VM based windows won't be able to run the processor intensive applications) + get external monitor
3. Retain macbook pro and get windows based PC desktop
4. Replace macbook pro with windows based PC desktop
5. Any other options you feel could solve this frustrating decision making
I would just build/buy a pc. You will notice a huge improvement from an overclocked quad core (or hexa core--you may be able to fit it in that budget) that will absolutely demolish any mac for that price.

If you are spending so much time in windows it makes sense to just buy a pc, rather than a $1400 mac (low end imac or 13 inch mbp) and a $100 copy of windows.
 
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manmit

macrumors member
Original poster
Jun 14, 2012
39
4
Toronto, Canada
With a total budget of $1500, your options are pretty limited. I would probably keep the mbp and buy a decent Windows workstation from Dell or HP. A low-end 21.5" iMac would run windows in VMWare Fusion just fine, and probably do what you want, but it's hard to tell without the software requirements. If you do go that route, make sure you get 8gb ram so you can give the Windows install plenty of memory. The iMac + VMWare Fusion + a copy of Windows will push your budget to the max.
There is no doubt that display of imac is just phenomenal however consider the cost here: my macbook pro 13 ($1200)+reburbished imac ($900)+VM and windows 7 ($200)=$2300 cost of ownership. Is it worth it?

----------

First, if you're concerned about performance issues through a VM, the you can always install windows via Bootcamp a dual boot. I would find a copy of Parallels on sale and try it out on your MBP (if you search hard enough, you should not have to pay full retail for it). If you're not getting the performance you want, try it in bootcamp instead (or just skip the VM part altogether and go straight to bootcamp).

If you find that, performance wise, one of the two options above is working for you, then just keep your mbp and buy an external display. If it's not, then consider buying a new iMac (though you might want to wait for the rumored hardware refresh).
Ok, this is a option however if I purchase apple cinema display it is ~$650 (24")+VM+wINDOWS 7 COST. Refurbished imac is $850. As such it is worth it to spend $650 on display where spending $200 gets imac?

----------

CPU-intensive operations won't struggle in a VM. It's the GPU-intensive operations you need to worry about.

I'm not going to look it up right now, but I think the CPU in the 2011 MBP and 2011 iMac was the same (or, effectively close enough). The 2012 iMacs aren't out yet. No reason to get an iMac just yet.

Since you're churning through tons of data, you'd probably see the most benefit actually from an SSD. Try an external Thunderbolt SSD + VMWare/Parallels on the existing MBP.

(If you're wondering, VMWare gives better stability, and Parallels gives better performance. Both are well recommended by those that use them.)

Why do you think you need an external display?
I never thought of this option. How would thunderbolt SSD work? Are you suggesting I install parallel and my windows based application on SSD? I need external display as i will be analyzing large spreadsheets and for this my current macbook 13 in not at all sufficient. I also realize that 17 inch macbook pro are on huge sale. Worth it?
 
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forty2j

macrumors 68030
Jul 11, 2008
2,585
2
NJ
I never thought of this option. How would thunderbolt SSD work? Are you suggesting I install parallel and my windows based application on SSD? I need external display as i will be analyzing large spreadsheets and for this my current macbook 13 in not at all sufficient.
Yes, in this scenario the Windows install, and application, and most importantly the 2+ GB data you're churning will be on the SSD. Parallels itself could be on the SSD or not.. won't affect much except the startup time to launch the Windows window.

I also realize that 17 inch macbook pro are on huge sale. Worth it?
17" MBP was discontinued for a reason. Lots of people tried it, and took it back. If you want to buy a different computer, the RMBP is the better bet. The whole drive would even be SSD so you don't need to worry about the pricey thunderbolt external. Doesn't fit your $1500 budget though.

In my scenario, you're looking at:
$420 - External TBolt SSD, 120GB
$50 - Tbolt Cable
$850 - 27" Thunderbolt Display (refurb)
$70 - Parallels
$100 - Windows 7 Home Premium (OEM license = no calls to Microsoft for help)
= $1490 :)
 
Last edited:
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vastoholic

macrumors 68000
Jan 28, 2009
1,957
0
Tulsa, OK
[/COLOR] Ok, this is a option however if I purchase apple cinema display it is ~$650 (24")+VM+wINDOWS 7 COST. Refurbished imac is $850. As such it is worth it to spend $650 on display where spending $200 gets imac?

It doesn't sound like you'll need an Apple display if you doing analytical and statistical work. There are plenty of displays out there that go for aroun $150-$200 that still look great. I have an Asus 23" that I bought for $140 and I'm completely happy with it.
 
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