Upgrade RAM or Processor?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by cuencap, Sep 25, 2013.

  1. cuencap macrumors regular

    Dec 12, 2011
    I use my iMac for all of the basic functions (web, email, iTunes, iPhoto, etc). No gaming.

    Should I get the low end 21.5" iMac with 16GB RAM (in the past, I've liked upgrading RAM at the 2-3yr mark to increase speed and elongate the usage for me) or getting the higher end 21.5" with 8GB RAM?
  2. toddzrx macrumors 6502a


    Nov 20, 2012
    First question: what kind of machine are you replacing?

    If I were in your shoes I'd spend on the extra RAM. Processors are awfully capable at this point; I doubt you'd even notice a difference between the base and upgraded machine for the stuff you're doing. On the other hand, more RAM will help down the road as the OS and apps get larger.
  3. cuencap thread starter macrumors regular

    Dec 12, 2011
    I'm replacing a 20" late 2006 iMac. Don't laugh. I maxed the ram a couple years ago to stretch the life of it. I notice the slowness in iPhoto and iTunes and overall general lag. I'm also over on the 250GB hard drive.

    I think I'll get the lower end with maxed out ram. Since I use the iMac also as a music hub for the entire house, I'm looking forward to being able to stream to Apple TV with Mavericks!

    Thanks for the help!
  4. page3 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 10, 2003
    Vicar of Dibley-land, UK
    I'm upgrading from an early 2006 iMac. :)
  5. cuencap thread starter macrumors regular

    Dec 12, 2011
    Did you upgrade the RAM on your early 2006 when you bought the machine, sometime recent, or never? Are you upgrading the RAM when you purchase your new iMac?
  6. page3 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 10, 2003
    Vicar of Dibley-land, UK
    Upgraded RAM as far as possible around 2008, but maximum addressable was only 3 Gb. Made a difference, but now clearly needing more.

    Compared to that 8Gb will seem loads, so staying with that for now, but intend to add more in the future if necessary.

    Processor I'm unsure about, probably i5 as I feel SSD/Fusion better value than the processor upgrade.
  7. dakwar macrumors 6502

    Nov 2, 2010
    For what you've described, no doubts about it: spend the money on SSD first! You'll the see the biggest speed bump there. 8 gigs of RAM is more than enough. CPU is not at all an issue.
  8. MrGimper macrumors 603


    Sep 22, 2012
    Andover, UK
    Just remember that on the 21.5 you can't upgrade the RAM yourself (unless you want to dismantle your iMac)
  9. CWallace macrumors 603


    Aug 17, 2007
    Seattle, WA
    I'd take more RAM over a faster CPU, but dakwar's suggestion on a 1TB Fusion Drive might be the best use of the $200 as that will probably be a bigger overall performance boost than a 2.9GHz CPU or 16GB of RAM.
  10. cuencap, Sep 25, 2013
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2013

    cuencap thread starter macrumors regular

    Dec 12, 2011
    I only spent the $200 to upgrade the ram because of the limitation on users not being able to do it themselves. The order just shipped, but I like the recommendation of the fusion drive if it's that much faster...

    So....is it worth it to cancel the order (more like return it now) and order the fusion? Which will future proof myself the best? Future=4 years
  11. Justin L Franks macrumors member

    Sep 24, 2013
    On the 21.5" iMacs, my BTO upgrade priorities would be Fusion Drive first, RAM second, CPU third.

    On the 27" iMacs, it would be Fusion Drive first, graphics card second, CPU third, and RAM last.

    You can't upgrade the RAM on the 21.5" iMacs without taking it apart, so RAM upgrades should be a higher priority.

    On the 27" iMacs, you can upgrade the RAM easily -- you don't even need tools -- so your best bet is to stick with the standard 8 GB and buy more RAM from Crucial or another third-party vendor. Much cheaper than Apple's RAM upgrade costs.
  12. T'hain Esh Kelch macrumors 601

    T'hain Esh Kelch

    Aug 5, 2001
    Based on your usage, a fusion drive. I would be VERY surprised if you would ever hit the 8GB RAM ceiling, so no need for that either. Processor upgrade is a waste of money in your case also.
  13. leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008
    I would like to add my voice in support of Fusion drive. You probably won't need more than 8Gb.
  14. cocky jeremy macrumors 68040

    cocky jeremy

    Jul 12, 2008
    Columbus, OH
    Do the CPU, then just upgrade the RAM later on yourself. If it comes down to something you can only upgrade at time of order vs something you can upgrade anytime, pick the one you can only upgrade when you order.
  15. cuencap thread starter macrumors regular

    Dec 12, 2011
    Ram can't be upgraded in the 21.5", but thanks for the support of Fusion. Looks like I'll be canceling the order and going with the Fusion drive!
  16. fig macrumors 6502a


    Jun 13, 2012
    Austin, TX
    I upgraded from a 2006 iMac to a new Mini just a few months ago so I feel your pain :) I had actually replaced the drive in the old iMac with an SSD though, and that made a HUGE difference in day to day performance and actually made it pretty usable for a bit longer.

    I've got a Fusion drive in the Mini and agree with the others that it's a great upgrade, for your usage I think it's a good way to go.
  17. theSeb macrumors 604


    Aug 10, 2010
    Poole, England
    But in the 21.5" iMac both the ram and CPU can only be upgraded at the time of purchase.

    Most people don't need as much CPU power as they think they do and one would be.hard pressed to see the difference in the upgrade. For the op's use cases I would suggest upgrading the ram
  18. cuencap thread starter macrumors regular

    Dec 12, 2011
    16GB RAM or Fusion drive?

    New comparison for low end 21.5" iMac...

    -upgrade to 16GB of RAM
    -upgrade to 1GB Fusion Drive

    Based on responses above, I'm thinking of canceling my order and getting the Fusion drive.
  19. toddzrx macrumors 6502a


    Nov 20, 2012
    I would definitely go with the FD if your budget is constrained, then RAM if you can afford it.
  20. mmomega macrumors demi-god


    Dec 30, 2009
    DFW, TX
    If you don't mind opening the iMac up you can upgrade the RAM yourself, not sure if Apple Store can/will do this for you but it's worth asking.
  21. stiligFox macrumors 65816


    Apr 24, 2009
    RAM, all the way. I have a Core2Duo with 4GB of RAM. The processor is till holding up okay, even with Photoshop CS5/6. It's the RAM I wish I had more of.

    Tl:dr: RAM
  22. cuencap thread starter macrumors regular

    Dec 12, 2011
    Sounds like you might have an older system...have you had experience with fusion drives?

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