Upgrade ram or CPU?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by Schonert, Nov 19, 2011.

  1. Schonert, Nov 19, 2011
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2011

    Schonert macrumors newbie

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    South Africa
    #1
    Hey there

    My 13" MBP just got stolen, and now I'm standing without a computer. I'm, therefore, going to buy myself an iMac 27. But I'm not sure rather I should save the money and buy the low end, or spend a bit more and get the high end model. I'll be starting on my digital communication uni study, so I'll be using Photoshop, illustrator, Premiere, After Effect and maybe some other programs. I'm not that into the requirements for these programs and I am having a hard time prioritizing hardware ( money is be considered ).

    My questions are therefore, which one of these I should choose:
    - Take the low end out of the box?
    - Take the low end with 8gb ram?
    - Take the high end (i5) out of the box?
    - Take the high end and either upgrade the ram (8gb), the CPU to a i7 or the VRAM to 2gb?

    Any help on this decision would be very much appreciated!
     
  2. lexvo macrumors 65816

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    #2
    More RAM will bring you better performance. When I'm using Lightroom 3, RAM usage is about 5GB.
     
  3. Schonert thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #3
    And that goes for the rest of Adobe programs?
    So you are suggesting the second option?

    Thanks lexvo
     
  4. N0ddie macrumors 6502

    N0ddie

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    Oct 23, 2011
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    Glasgow
    #4
    Dont buy the computer and tick the upgrade RAM option. You can get it at least 75% cheaper from the likes of Crucial or OWC and its a doddle to fit youself.

    I'd go for the i7 mate.
     
  5. Schonert thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #5
    I remember someone telling me that u can't upgrade hdd, ram and etc. on an iMac?
    N0ddie would you mind telling me why you would pref the i7? Thanks by the way :)
     
  6. John T macrumors 68020

    John T

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    Location:
    UK.
    #6
    A good analogy is between a computer and a car. The CPU is equivalent to the engine i.e. the more powerful component, the better performance and the faster the car goes. RAM(Memory) in a computer is equivalent to the car's fuel tank, it doesn't make it run any faster, it just extends it's range.

    If you are planning running heavy video Applications, I, personally, would go for the higher spec PSU and, at a later date, when memory requirements are known, purchase additional RAM - which is relatively cheap.

    Don't forget that Memory can be upgraded, the CPU can't.
     
  7. Schonert thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #7
    So from what I get from you John, is that you recommend taking the higher end with the i7, 4gb ram and standard 1gb VRAM ?
     
  8. thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2010
    #8
    You can't upgrade the HDD yourself. I think the SSD bay works if upgraded. With the HDD it uses a custom setup for retrieval of temperature data so if you replace it yourself, the fans will max out. You do have to remove the display to access either drive bay.

    Ram is definitely user serviceable without removing the display or doing anything complicated. Crucial and OWC are popular here for ram. The software you use scales quite a bit depending on the resolutions you work at. With photoshop if you're using a lot of layers (I can go over 100 regularly), working at 16 bit per channel, or working at exceptionally high resolution, more ram is awesome and even 8GB won't feel like much. You can go 16GB in an imac for around $150 through the vendors I mentioned and a few others. I would just order 8GB from a third party and move the initial ram to the back as this would put you at 12GB. If your scratch disks are still too big or you're getting pageouts, you can always order more. The top imac isn't bad, but I don't care for the display. The ram capacity of the imac is definitely awesome compared to a macbook pro.

    Also I wouldn't worry too much about VRAM unless you're doing something really gpu intensive. If you're using something like mudbox or another 3d program and you want to cache high resolution textures, then you'd want all the vram you can get. Otherwise I'm not sure you'd even notice the difference.
     
  9. Schonert thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #9
    Awesome thekev! Thanks so much. That really helped me a lot! What about CPU? Would it be worth it to take the high end (i5) maybe even i7, or should I stick to the low end model with the 2.7 i5 and the 6770M? If CPU and vram won't be a problem, why waste money. Or am I wrong?
     
  10. thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

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    #10
    First of all, since you are cost conscious you should definitely compare prices. The refurb section has been pricing imacs pretty aggressively which is great. B+H sometimes has some great deals, and since you're a student you should view educational pricing in the Apple store.

    On the cpu, the 3.4 i7 has in some testing shown a significant advantage. I don't think you'll find either one to be slow. It's just that it may render things faster in After Effects. You can look up some tests on barefeats, but these tests aren't always indicative of how the computer will feel when you're there working. Either should feel completely responsive. The differences are basically 10% clock speed and that hyperthreading is disabled in the i5 model. If you're considering the i5 and money is a concern, you could even look at the 21". Both allow the same amount of ram. I haven't paid attention to which has a better display.

    http://barefeats.com/imac11b.html

    http://barefeats.com/imac11d.html

    http://barefeats.com/imac11f.html

    Those are some tests, but make sure you take them in context. The 2.93ghz imac noted in some is a 2010 model. After Effects seems to like hyperthreading in their tests.

    Like I said with vram I don't see it as a concern unless you're doing 3d rendering and caching large textures.
     
  11. SDColorado macrumors 65816

    SDColorado

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    #11
    I think TheKev is pretty much spot on about the RAM usage if you are using CS5. 8GB definitely won't feel like too much. From what I recall, for a rough rule of thumb, CS5 can use about 4GB of RAM per core. So while going to a full 16GB might be ideal, his suggestion for upgrading to 12GB is cost effective and will provide you with a comfortable amount of RAM.

    The benefits of a faster CPU can certainly be argued, but unless you have enough RAM, performance is going to be bottle necked by CS5 hitting the hard drive/scratch disk.
     
  12. Schonert thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #12
    Thanks for your answers thekev and SDColorado. I really appreciate you sharing your knowledge! I'll se how much the insurance is gonna pay off, and I'll decide. But at least now I know not to buy it with extra ram or VRAM, which is nice to know. And since I'll be using it for a while I just as might aim for the high end i7, and upgrade ram as first priority.

    Just for the sake of interest. How dose Adobe and AMD work together? All my pc geek friends all vote for Nvidia. Is there any difference or is Nvidia just better advertised?

    Aging, thank you guyse!
     
  13. thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

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    #13
    Ok on the topic of AMD vs NVidia gpus you don't have much of a choice on OSX. The only NVidia card is a mac pro quadro 4000 which would run you about $750 for the gpu alone, and it won't help in everything you run. FCPX requires OpenCL in case you plan to run that, but the imac cards don't have a huge difference between them.

    http://barefeats.com/wst10g11.html

    That shows the NVidia cards. Photoshop and a couple other things for some reason work quite well with AMD. On the Windows side, NVidia often has the stronger graphics drivers. With OSX Apple is pretty restrictive on gpu drivers in general. Even the Quadro 4000 took a long damn time to see a stable driver release.

    Adobe also optimizes on Intel cpus. They've done this for years, even before Apple switched over. Thinking about vram, there's no way I can actually guarantee that they won't find a better way to make use of it in the future, but as of today, it does nothing for you. The cards that come with more today on the PC side are designed for either running many displays simultaneously or working in 3d software.

    You are spot on in terms of focusing on ram and cpu first for your purposes. Consider shopping around on them like I mentioned. Look at the student pricing, refurb store, Black Friday sales, B+H simply because they sometimes have great pricing (when the 2010 mac pros hit, they clearanced the 2009 $2500 mac pro for $1900 and they're often below Apple in general).

    I've worked with Adobe stuff for about a decade. If you run into issues feel free to ask.
     
  14. SDColorado macrumors 65816

    SDColorado

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    #14
    You may find this video of some interest. Dave Helmey walks through a demonstration of Adobe's Mercury Playback Engine on a new MacBook Pro. It demonstrates how well the new MacBook Pro performs with even 8GB of RAM and without an nVidia CUDA GPU. I think you will agree that the ATI GPU and Adobe products are more than an adequate fit.
     
  15. topmounter macrumors 68020

    topmounter

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    #15
    I just upgraded the RAM in my iMac, one phillips head screw, it simply could not have been easier. 8GB (2x4) of Crucial RAM for $45 delivered.

    I'd probably buy an i7 refurb over a new i5. My experience with Apple's refurbs has been exemplary.
     
  16. lexvo macrumors 65816

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    #16
    This was what I meant in my short reply earlier. But it won't hurt to have the fastest CPU possible/affordable :)
     
  17. toxic macrumors 68000

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    Nov 9, 2008
    #17
    AE will use up as much CPU power as you throw at it. Premiere is similar. PS and Illustrator only really care about RAM. figure out what you'll be using most of them time and prioritize from there. head to the Adobe forums if you need to, since that's what you're optimizing your hardware for.
     
  18. szolr macrumors 6502

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    London, UK
    #18
    Production software (i.e.- After Effects, Premiere Pro) will benefit from the best CPU you can afford. Photoshop and Illustrator and general tasks will benefit more from more RAM.

    I'd go for the better processor tbh. It's relatively easy to upgrade the RAM yourself in a year or 2 if you wanted.
     
  19. thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

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    #19
    Bleh waiting a year or two doesn't make much sense at all. Consider this... it comes with 4GB baseline in 2 dimms. You can buy 2 x 4GB dimms from crucial for $46. Move the original ones to the back, and you're at 12GB cheap with quality ram.

    @toxic ---- Yeah photoshop uses a ton of ram if you're working at 16 bpc, really high resolutions, or with a lot of layers. It's definitely a smoother experience when ram is a non issue.
     
  20. szolr macrumors 6502

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    London, UK
    #20
    I didn't see the need to upgrade mine to 8GB as soon as I got it. I'll wait til I feel it'd help a fair bit first. It's personal choice.
     
  21. Schonert thread starter macrumors newbie

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    South Africa
    #21
    I've been looking around on iMac and MBP benchmarks, and the iMac aren't leading by far.

    iMac: http://www.primatelabs.ca/blog/2011/05/imac-benchmarks-mid-2011/
    MBP: http://www.primatelabs.ca/blog/2011/02/macbookpro-benchmarks-early-2011/

    Update
    Both: http://www.primatelabs.ca/geekbench/mac-benchmarks/

    It seems a bit stupid to spend that much money on a desktop, when for nearly the same you can get a laptop that can do the same or even better? Or is there a difference from the laptop test and the desktop test? These charts are giving me second thought..
     
  22. Spike88 macrumors 6502a

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    Jan 25, 2010
    #22
    I agree.....

    If CPU hungary apps are used, go for larger CPU.
     
  23. The-Pro macrumors 65816

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    Germany
    #23
    well look at it this way.
    27" (2560x1440) iMac, 3.4GHz i7, 16GB RAM (not from apple), 1TB 7200rpm HDD, Radeon 6970M 1GB = approx $2200
    15" (1440x900) MacBook Pro, 2.4GHz i7 (slightly less performance than 3.4 i7), 16GB RAM (not from apple), 750GB 5400rpm HDD (significantly slower than 7200rpm, from own experience), Radeon 6770M 1GB (half performance of 6970M) = approx $2800

    Difference?? 600 for a start, then a 15" (1,296,000 pixels) vs a 27" (3,686,400 pixels) screen. Thats almost three times more pixels in the 27". 2x the graphics performance in the iMac. Fairly good speakers in the iMac, technically more upgrade possibilities (SSD slot) if you are prepared to take it apart. And well biggest difference, portable vs not portable.

    Those charts say a lot, but they are just numbers and don't depict real life usage.
    Do you want a computer with a stunning 27" screen or a more expensive portable computer with a 15" screen and a battery which is also extremely noisy under load? well comes down to the fact if you need power on the go or not or if you really need the power in the first place.
     
  24. Charcoalwerks macrumors regular

    Charcoalwerks

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    Maryland
    #24
    I just bought a refurb 21.5 iMac this month due to an aging BlackBook. I paid $1019 for the Mac, $43 for 8Gb Crucial RAM to bump the Mac up to 12Gb. I am a graphic designer/web designer so I use a lot of Adobe CS simultaneously. This computer, even the 2.5Ghz i5 "entry level" I bought handles the work load amazingly! I couldn't be happier. Needless to say, I think you will be extremely pleased no matter which iMac model you go with.

    Also, as a previous laptop-only owner I can say it is great to have a nice "big" powerful desktop for a change and now my BlackBook as been retired to menial tasks like web browsing and email on the go.
     
  25. thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

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    #25
    I could type up a long response, but it wouldn't add much. I didn't mention macbook pros before simply because you asked about imacs specifically. The macbook pros can get pretty hot which always makes me uncomfortable. Someone posted in another thread that the sloppy thermal paste issue contributes to it to this day. They're quite zippy machines if you can tolerate the smaller/lower quality display and you can remain within the disk and ram IO capabilities.

    If you're generating a lot of scratch files or lacking enough ram on a laptop, it can be much much slower than an imac. The macbook pros are still maybe 25% slower on many things. They're quite a bit slower on graphics. The thing that makes up for the difference in clock speed is turbo boost which started with sandy bridge.

    http://barefeats.com/macs11_01.html

    Scroll down to the after effects test. Note that I have no idea why the damn mini is so slow. I like the mini design so I wish it was faster :(.

    Last thing I want to note is that to experience maximum speeds on any of these tightly enclosed cpu setups, it has to remain cool enough. Turbo boost is basically throttled if it gets too hot. This was from one of intel's white papers. I haven't done any valid testing comparing these two myself.

    I'm personally waiting for a mac pro update. I use too many ports, displays, too much ram, too much gpu power, and too many hard drives to deal with an imac or laptop. I've actually commented on here that I felt the people who
    previously bought imacs are all moving to laptops, so getting rid of the mac pro in favor of the imac might eventually become a problematic move.

    I do think you should consider displays, and I think you should load some files onto one of these machines at an Apple store, especially to see how much the screen real estate helps.

    Damn it that became a long response after all.
     

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