What's the Best Darn IMac Upgrade for My Buck

Discussion in 'iMac' started by DonBits, Apr 10, 2014.

  1. DonBits macrumors newbie

    Apr 10, 2014
    I need some advice from the IMac pros in this forum.

    I have decided to buy the 27" IMac. In a few weeks I will begin studying a Digital Media & IT program and I have to choose the best upgrades and keep within my budget.

    I will be installing the Adobe master suite CS6 software, and will be studying a variety of streams in this two year program. Including video editing/production, graphics design, and web design.

    I assume the biggest concerns will be editing video and photos.

    Here are the upgrade options I am considering and I can only include 2 upgrades to stay in budget.
    • Upgrade processor from i5 to i7
    • upgrade to 16 GB RAM (from 8GB)
    • 1TB Fusion Drive, or
    • 256GB Flash Storage
    OR, I can just add the 512GB Flash Storage and none of the other options above.

    My initial thought is that I can upgrade RAM later if I require it. So I can upgrade to i7 plus Fusion-or-256SSD, or stay with i5 and only upgrade to the 512GB SSD.

    It's great to find dedicated forums full of expert advice when you need it in a hurry. My current computer is overheating and giving me problems, and it's only a small netbook so I figure it's best to buy one now that I can use while in school.

    Thanks everybody !! :)
  2. macthefork macrumors 6502

    Feb 2, 2013
    I'm sure you'll get many different suggestions and recommendations to your query.

    I would always suggest the Memory upgrade first. However, as you mentioned, this is easy to add at a later date. The other upgrades are not, so, with that in mind, the following would be my consideration.

    Since you wish to look at two of the listed upgrades, the i7 will help if you are getting into heavy video processing and editing. For Photoshop and the others you probably wouldn't notice much if any difference between the i5 and i7. Keep in mind even the i5 has turboboost to assist in heavy processing if needed, although it doesn't have the hyperthreading capability. Not too many programs are written to take advantage of hyperthreading.

    Next, the Fusion Drive will give you a good speed and storage capacity over a single SSD. Also, with Fusion, if your workload starts demanding virtual memory, it will be written to the SSD, which, not quite as fast as installed memory, is much faster than spinning disk virtual memory.

    I wouldn't recommend the SSD at this time because, although you would love the speed, you would likely fill it up quickly requiring an external drive for your files. Also, at a later date, you may find you can afford a larger external SSD to connect through Thunderbolt or USB3.
  3. MrMJS macrumors member

    Mar 11, 2014
    I bought an i5 with my 27" iMac. I've since upgraded the HD and ram to 16gb, but I wish I had went with the i7. I think at the time it was only an extra $200.
  4. yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Apr 23, 2011
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    For the 27" models, you can buy RAM later. Apple charges daft prices for RAM upgrades. Crucial's a pretty good brand.

    If the apps that you use support hyper threading (basically media production apps like video editing software, audio production, rendering, etc), the i7 will give perhaps a 20-30% performance boost over the i5. Otherwise, it's not much use.

    I'd recommend the 256GB SSD upgrade for reliability reasons. As the FD still has a HDD sector, it's about as likely to fail as a HDD too. If the HDD fails, the entire FD is toast. Besides, in pure speed, the 256GB SSD is much faster.

    My 21.5" iMac's got a Samsung 256GB SSD (all media stored in external drives), while my 27" has a 512GB. Keep in mind that you're playing the SanDisk/Samsung lottery with the 256GB, with the SanDisk one being 150MB/s slower than the Samsung in writes.

    512GB and 1TB variants are Samsung-only.

    I can't help you decide over the processor, so you'll have to look up on whether the apps you use support HT or not.
  5. DonBits thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 10, 2014
    I Made a Decision

    Thanks for helping me choose between the options above.

    After much consideration and reading the forums and relating all that information to my requirements I decided to go with the machine below:

    • 27" iMac, Intel Core i5 quad-core processor, 8GB of RAM, 1TB Fusion drive, and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 775M graphics with 2GB.

    I considered hard about upgrading to the i7, but I will be only doing mid level video editing at home, and all the rest such as Photoshop and other graphics software should be absolutely no problem using the i5.

    Obviously SSD is faster but I believe that because you only typically boot-up every few weeks - or when there is an update, and also because the apps will be cached after the initial start-up, that the FD will be significant and wont require any upgrading for my purposes. The RAM should be significant also, but is easily upgraded if required.

    The video card is also significant for all the applications I will be using. All my research lead me to believe that the video card upgrade is only required for pretty significant heavy use. I'll never be creating a Star Wars movie, and no gaming, so I will be ok.
  6. firedept macrumors 603


    Jul 8, 2011
    I would have to agree with your decision. The i5 unless you are doing serious video editing. RAM can be upgraded later. Which would have made the SSD or Fusion Drive the obvious choice. Fusion Drive giving you really the best of both more speed and more storage.
  7. iMcLovin macrumors 68000


    Feb 11, 2009
    You can find 32 gb or ram dirt cheap, no point putting in less if you can get it cheap. I paid about 150$ for 32gb kingston mac ram.

    cpu, you wont have any noticable difference with i5 or i7, since adobe doesnt use the multicores at all...pretty much. But its a cheap upgrade so if you wanna keep the machine for many years I would get it anyway. I heard adobe is planning to optimize their hardware...though who knows that can take years if they are as swift as they've been so far.

    I would definately go for the best gpu, particularly if you are using After effects.

    and SSD for me is a no brainer. Full ssd. the iMac isn't made to be opened. I have the 768 gb SSD, which everyone said was way too expensive. Personally I think its the best decision I made when buying it.
  8. Irishman macrumors 68030

    Nov 2, 2006
    512GB Flash Storage. The differences everything else will make will be incremental. This upgrade will be leaps and bounds better reads and writes (which is pretty much everything)!

    Enjoy. :)
  9. yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Apr 23, 2011
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    The 256GB isn't bad either, if you're lucky enough to get the Samsung variant. My 21.5" has the Samsung 256GB (720MB/s read and 670MB/s write).

    Meanwhile, my 27" has a 512GB (750MB/s read and 720MB/s write). So the SM0256F isn't too far behind the SM0512F :)

    The SD0256F is a different story (700MB/s read and 550MB/s write).
  10. rambo47 macrumors 6502a


    Oct 3, 2010
    Denville, NJ
    In my experience, the single most important thing to upgrade for performance is the RAM. Max it out!

    Next would be a speedy SSD hard drive. My personal preference would be for a full SSD drive, but that's not really cost effective. They still command a pretty hefty price. If you choose to go with a standard style hard drive, Amazon has the Velociraptor (WD) 1TB 10,000RPM drive for under $200.
  11. Tanax macrumors 6502a

    Jun 15, 2011
    Stockholm, Sweden
    I wouldn't go with the Fusion drive because most likely, you'll have several devices you want to access your media from. Perhaps you have an tablet, laptop, HTPC (like Apple TV), etc. and due to this, you'll want a centralized storage - meaning NAS.

    It's easier to backup your media if you have everything in one place too instead of different media scattered across multiple devices. Buying new computers also becomes easier when you don't have to worry about backing up a lot of media files before selling your old computer. The new computer will already have all your media files by accessing your NAS.

    I'd say SSD all the way. If you need the 256 GB or the 512 GB though, I can't answer. That really depends on how many applications you have and how much application data (which shouldn't be stored on a NAS) you have. Take a look at your current consumption and go from there.

    Just my opinion.

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