Where best to upgrade

Discussion in 'iMac' started by lkalliance, Dec 14, 2015.

  1. lkalliance, Dec 14, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2015

    lkalliance macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2015
    #1
    Hi, all,

    A couple of months ago I posted a thread about considering a new iMac, where I have limited resources. I felt a little put upon by folks suggesting I was being cheap, and I wanted to try again as the time is coming nearer for a decision.

    I'm in the market for a new iMac. My current one is a mid-2009 model, Core 2 Duo, getting long in the tooth and starting to bog down under El Capitan; I expect it won't support the next OS in any event. It's lived a good life and given me six years of reliable operation, so I don't feel badly about replacing it.

    I am looking at the 21.5" iMacs, and considering options. I'm disappointed that at the 21.5" size the new ones are not user-upgradable at all, which means if I want to upgrade the RAM it's at Apple's high RAM prices.

    So, given the options I have and trying to keep costs down, I would like some input as to which option might represent the bigger bang for the buck. I am considering two of these three upgrades:

    --Moving up from the low-end model (1.6 GHz Core i5) to the mid-tier model (2.8 GHz Core i5) at the standard 8GB RAM
    --Staying at the low end but upgrading from 8GB to 16GB RAM
    --Getting the 256GB SSD instead of the HDD

    I'm not necessarily interested in maximizing speed. I'm more interested in maximizing probable lifetime. But of course faster would be better than slower.

    Thanks!


    EDIT: I would also consider refurbs, if they enable avenues of upgrade that would be better. For example, getting a 2013 iMac would enable me to upgrade the RAM at a little less money (though not THAT much less).

    EDIT REDUX: I suppose another option would be to go all the way up to the top tier...would anyone consider getting the top tier stock, with no upgrades, compared to the low- or mid-tier with some upgrades?
     
  2. ucfgrad93 macrumors P6

    ucfgrad93

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    Aug 17, 2007
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    Colorado
    #2
    I'm not sure what you do, but here are my recommendations.

    1. Go with the 2.8 Ghz i5.
    2. Upgrade the RAM to 16GB, after all there is no chance to do this at a later date.
    3. Stick with the 1TB HDD. You can add better external storage later on.
     
  3. lkalliance thread starter macrumors member

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    Jul 17, 2015
    #3
    Oh, right, what I want to do with it is important. The duty is actually pretty light. Most heavy-duty things I'm doing are photo editing; I take a lot of photos with my DSLR, and I play around with those. I'm really just making sure that I've got hardware that will survive for a few years.
     
  4. lkalliance thread starter macrumors member

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    #4
    I do actually have some external storage...not Thunderbolt but two 500GB FW800 HDDs. About a year old.
     
  5. ucfgrad93 macrumors P6

    ucfgrad93

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    #5
    Given this new information, I'd stick with my earlier recommendations.

    EDIT: There are no FireWire ports on the new iMacs, so you'll need to figure out something for your external drives.
     
  6. bent christian Suspended

    bent christian

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    Nov 5, 2015
    #6
    Any iMac with a quad core processor, 8 GB of RAM, and at least the 1TB Fusion Drive will be relevant for the next 5, 8, maybe even 10 years, for hobbyist photography. 16GB would be better, but I don't think it will be necessary (need vs want). The current mid-tier iMac is very powerful. Computer technology is reaching a plateau for all but those with very specific, generally, professional needs. You can boot from an external SSD at some point later if you feel like it. It's really not that much work to replace the hard drive (not SSD blade) in a current iMac. I plan on making an SSD/SSD Fusion drive once warranty is up on my iMac.
     
  7. lkalliance thread starter macrumors member

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    Jul 17, 2015
    #7
    Yeah, I'd need to go with a Thunderbolt-to-FW adaptor, which I think Apple sells. Given a 1TB HDD, and two 500GB external HDD...I'm guessing it would be unwise to leave one of those to be the Time Machine drive, due to the size of the HDD. I could use one for a Photos-only redundant backup.
    So on the 1TB Fusion Drive, I understand that only 24GB is SSD...that would be enough to store and access the OS, I take it?
     
  8. bent christian Suspended

    bent christian

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    Nov 5, 2015
    #8
    Well, the Fusion system probably doesn't really ever put the whole OS on the SSD card. It moves files it deems necessary for the best speed. And it will move files back and forth as usage changes. It will spit up the OS and other applications across the two drives. Other system files that are barely ever used or that would not benefit the system will stay on the hard drive.

    I have the 2.8 i5/1TB Fusion model. Lightroom and ACR run fine. No discernible lag. None that I care about. I can't imagine Adobe overhauling these applications to the point that it would outstrip the power an 8G RAM/quad core processor system is capable of. I encode amateur video out of Premiere, which is a much more demanding task, and it holds up. SLR h264 footage renders in about 1.5 to 2 minutes for every minute of footage.

    I actually use a much less capable system at work (2010 iMac) in the print industry. This almost six year old computer still runs Photoshop/ACR, Illustrator, and InDesign just fine. Many people do not understand that the 5400RPM drives Apple is using now are much faster than drives at this speed used to be. Testing I have done shows similar speeds (at least as fast, often even faster) coming from the current 54000RPM drives as compared to the 2010 7200RPM drives.
     
  9. lkalliance thread starter macrumors member

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    Jul 17, 2015
    #9
    Thanks for your detailed info. I believe, reading this thread and others, that I'm comfortable with a decision. The last decision I really have to make is whether to get the additional RAM. In the past I would have deferred and done it myself more cheaply, but I pretty much have to make a decision now, and live with it. I can afford the extra couple hundred dollars, that's not the question...but, hey, it's a couple hundred dollars. If it's likely I'm just throwing it down the memory hole for no reason, then I can definitely find a better use for it.

    Sounds like from your input that 8GB ought to be plenty. If I can get 5-6 years out of it, then I'll be happy. I actually don't worry about the applications I run -- as you noted, I'm not really being very demanding of it, and I expect more and more of it to be done on my iPad. But as we get out to past 2020 I really can't know whether the extra 8GB will eventually mean something on the OS end: will there come a point where just running the latest OS (with whatever advantage it gives me) would have liked the extra RAM? Would that $200 be worth an extra year? An extra two years? Or would I likely reach the limits of the processor (or some other non-upgradable part) before I reach the limits of 8GB of RAM?
     
  10. ucfgrad93 macrumors P6

    ucfgrad93

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    Location:
    Colorado
    #10
    Hard to say. But if it were me, I'd spend the extra $200 to get the 16GB of RAM since there is no chance to do this at a later date.
     
  11. lkalliance thread starter macrumors member

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    Jul 17, 2015
    #11
    That makes sense. Let me throw in a wrinkle.

    (If it sounds like I'm over-thinking this, I am...it's my nature.)

    I've identified the price point that works, and the upgrades that work. At this price point I could EITHER get the mid-tier 21.5" with 16GB of RAM...or I can get the high-end 4K version (with the slightly better processor) with 8GB of RAM. Prioritizing likely useful lifespan over anything else, which would you choose?
     
  12. ucfgrad93 macrumors P6

    ucfgrad93

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    #12
    I'd go with the mid-tier 2.8Ghz, with 16GB of RAM.
     
  13. lkalliance thread starter macrumors member

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    Jul 17, 2015
    #13
    Coolio, thanks for the direct answer!
     
  14. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

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    Oct 24, 2013
    #14
    I'd go with the 4K with 8Gb myself nothing you do needs 16GB of RAM will it be slightly faster for photo editing with 16GB of RAM?? Yes I expect so but I'd rather do it a little slower on a 4K screen myself.
     
  15. MadDane macrumors 6502a

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    Apr 5, 2015
    #15
    As Samuelsan2001 said you are not going to need the full 16GB of RAM right away. However, if you plan on using it in 6 years as well they might very well come in handy. So looking purely at the lifespan, I would say that the mid-tier model is the one to go with.

    However, personally there is no way I would give up 6 years of looking at a beautiful retina display (which also is way better for picture editing because of the wider color gamut and higher resolution) just for the extra RAM that might be necessary 6 years from now.
     
  16. lkalliance thread starter macrumors member

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    Jul 17, 2015
    #16
    Yeah, that seems to be the trade-off. I'm leading toward the extra RAM instead of the screen, for a couple of reasons.

    For one, as time goes by I've been spending less time in front of the computer and not more. I still like having a local "hub" around which the devices orbit; I get the feeling this is an old-fashioned view, but that's what I'm comfortable with. But more and more of my consumption is being done on my iPad. I'm looking forward to continued improvement in the editing capabilities of Photos for iPad, and iCloud Photo Library was a piece I was waiting for.

    For another, and perhaps this is just a function of the first one above, I don't feel the itch to upgrade. It's just time, as my current Mac has begun to struggle. There was a time, in my youth, when I wouldn't have been able to wait to get a Retina display (or whatever other big deal)...but that time has passed.

    I also don't see THAT much difference in the displays in-store. However I discount that: that's not an environment or a time span in which the benefits of that could truly be evaluated. Right now, it's a lean, not a decision. I expect to be purchasing after the first of the year sometime, and by then my gut will have told me the right way to go. Thanks everyone for the valuable advice from all sides of the decision!
     
  17. bent christian Suspended

    bent christian

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    Nov 5, 2015
    #17
    I would too. I am never right up on a monitor, so I don't care about 4k. I am always three feet or so back. 1080p is fine at that distance on a 21.5" screen.
     
  18. MadDane macrumors 6502a

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    Apr 5, 2015
    #18
    It sounds like you have made an informed decision based on your description (even though you say it is a lean). The mid-tier model is also a very capable model, and no matter your decision the iMac will most likely serve you well for the following years :)
     

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