Which iMac 5K configuration?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by milesandcoltrane, Feb 23, 2016.

  1. milesandcoltrane macrumors newbie

    Feb 23, 2016
    Hi all,

    Am looking at getting the 27" iMac 5K (late 2015) to replace my badly aging late 2008 unibody Macbook.

    However I'm at a loss as to which configuration would be bang for buck with enough headroom to last me for the next 4-5 years.

    My needs are relatively simple - basic 'office' related tasks such as web browsing, email, productivity tasks such as word processing, power points, excel etc. Entertainment would be a big function as well - managing my vast music collection, Netflix, Spotify etc

    Though I'm not doing this now I would like to get into coding for iOS and basic photo editing on Lightroom/Pixelmator/Photoshop as well as playing around in Garageband. I don't have a monster camera at the moment just shooting off an iPhone 6 but I might get a Sony Alpha 7 down the line if time and budget allow.

    I was initially thinking of getting the base 1799 iMac - 3.2 ghz core i5 and Radeon M380. I'll definitely upgrade to the SSD (still deciding between the 256 or 512 GB). However I'm worried that the GPU might be a bit weak in this base system.

    I've read reports of screen tearing and laggy Mission Control in the late 2014 rImac on Yosemite but not sure if this has been solved in El Capitan. I'm just worried that the M380 GPU might be a bit weak to drive OS X on this 5K screen. I do not game at all, and video editing will probably limited to iMovie probably twice a year if ever.

    I've been poring through the threads here on M380 vs M390 vs M395/X however most of the feedback is gaming related which is not of concern to me.

    Should I upgrade to the 3.3Ghz i5 (or even the 4.0Ghz i7)? Geek bench scores for the even this Skylake 6600 3.3 CPU seems quite a bit higher than the 6500 3.2 version. Will I notice any difference? Will it help the system feel snappy in 4-5 years. I get the feeling CPU improvements have been fairly limited in recent years and most people apart from gamers and video editors have more than sufficient CPU to work with these days.

    Am definitely not looking at the Fusion drives - even the 2/3TB versions. I'd rather have more speed with the SSD and use external drives via Thunderbolt or USB 3.0 to house my media collection. However I'm not sure if 256 GB will be sufficient. I won't be installing Windows via Boot Camp but might have a very light and small Windows 10 installation via Parallels to open files from work that have compatibility issues with Mac OS X.

    Pls suggest the best configuration of the late 2015 iMac 5k based on my needs above. If my wife would allow I'd max the hell out of the thing, however I need to justify the upgrades on a $/performance ratio.

    Thanks guys!
  2. Strider64 macrumors 6502a


    Dec 1, 2015
    Suburb of Detroit
    My suggestion would to get what you think you can afford, go with the i7 if you can; however, I don't think you can wrong with any option you choose. As for computer I have a 3.5Ghz i5 Imac 5K Retina (Late 2014) and have no problems with it (knocking on wood as I type ;)). Heck I even play Fallout 4 on the Windows 10 side with no problems (I do use bootcamp) and it looks beautiful on a 5K. Screen tearing that is the first time I have heard about that and I have been visiting Macrumors for awhile now. I'm old school, so all this talk about hard drives and speed just has me in a neutral state. :D I still remember when talking about the size of the hard drive was the big factor, but SSD is a nice feature for it definitely gives the computer some pep when first starting up which is very nice. Just my .02 cents.
  3. milesandcoltrane thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 23, 2016
    Thanks for the reply Strider64.

    On the screen tearing/Mission Control graphics lag - believe it was either Jason Snell's review on SixColors or David Pogue or both, I don't quite remember clearly. But of them tested the baseline riMacs from 2014 so I'm not too sure if it was because of the lower spec. Hence my concern about the m380 in the lower end model of the current lineup.

    Does the i7 processor make a difference? For single threaded applications I've read that the i5 is pretty close. However with Photoshop and Lightroom I guess the i7 will be faster due to Hyper Threading. It would also be a nice idea to have the fastest single core processor in the entire Mac lineup.

    On Fusion vs SSD, I have read the long thread on the pros vs cons here. I was quite close to getting the 2TB Fusion (certainly not the 1GB with only 24GB SSD) after having tried a late 2014 5K imac with this drive. it was definitely nippy and I couldn't tell much of a difference between fusion and SSD - but I guess again its a comfort of mind that I have nothing but an SSD in there. I have a huge lossless music collection so even the 3TB fusion is insufficient to have an AIO solution for me. If I definitely need an external hard drive I was thinking that I might as well just go pure SSD.
  4. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    Nope, its only for when you're running demanding multi-threaded apps.

    If you can live within 256 or 512GB of space, I definitely recommend the SSD. Sounds like you already have an external drive system to hold all of your data, so that I think helps justiify the SSD option over the Fusion drive, i.e., getting the Fusion drive for space.
  5. Penfold2711 macrumors member

    Jan 17, 2011
    I got the i7 4ghz only because i am leaning video production and i needed the extra oomph but for your needs as you have stated the i5 will suit you but you get the system that you feel is right for you, i spent at least 3 months going through if i needed the i5 or i7, the graphics and ssd or fusion and they were painful nights lol.

    In the end i went for the system i have as i feel it will last me and i can always upgrade the ram at my own leisure, but whatever iMac you get I'm sure it will give years of pleasure when you see a 4k video or image its a :cool: moment.
  6. Adam552 macrumors 6502

    May 30, 2006
    Liverpool, UK.
    I think you will be ok with an i5 CPU. And from looking at Bearfeats benchmarks of the GPUs, I think you'll be fine with any of them to be honest (http://barefeats.com/imac5k15.html).

    You might want to upgrade the RAM to 16GB if you're doing editing and other multiple things at the same time. I haven't checked the prices, but very likely to be easier for you to buy your own and put it in yourself.

    If you were going with an SSD, I highly recommend the 512GB for what you are using it for, you can easily fill up a drive with big photo and music libraries (again, depends on how big these libraries are and what you want on the iMac's drive).

    Yes you could put the rest on an external and go with a smaller one, it's just slow transferring stuff between that and your iMac. If you're going to put frequently accessed files on the external too and you're going to be reading/writing to it a lot, it kind of eliminates a lot of the performance advantages of an SSD for daily tasks.

    If you want large storage and fast read speed, scrap the external drives, get a Fusion drive. You could use the external drives as backup devices.
    If you access a lot of the same files regularly, and would like to read/write those files a lot, get an SSD of the appropriate size for those files, and put the 'less frequently' used files on the external drives.

    The read speeds of the fusion are pretty similar to an SSD. However, the write speeds are not as close.
    Source: http://barefeats.com/imac5k12.html
  7. milesandcoltrane thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 23, 2016
    Yeah for my current use case I think the i7 will have very little value. Even in Photoshop and LR I'll be dabbling around doing simple things occasionally rather than doing intensive stuff and relying on this work to pay the bills.

    Currently I only have external USB 2.0 desktop drives - one connected to my router for NAS functionality and the others plugged into the macs. I definitely need to get USB 3.0 or TB drives (though USB 3.0 seems to have more than enough headroom for regular SATA 6 SSDs and 7200 RPM spinners).
    --- Post Merged, Feb 24, 2016 ---
    Oh man tell me about it. Agonizing over these choices has been really painful as well. In a perfect world I would max out all the specs save for ram (buy third party). However in reality my wife would probably chop my head off for spending 4 grand plus on a computer unnecessarily.
    --- Post Merged, Feb 24, 2016 ---
    Those bare feats benchmarks certainly sure a big jump going from m380 to m390 a bit more to m395 and minimal jump to the m395x. However these are all gaming related tests and for my use case I was thinking that the m380 might be sufficient. If Apple is confident enough to put it in a machine it should be ok right? Haha.

    On the SSD yeah the more I think about it yeah the more a 512 makes more sense. 256 might be ok now for core files but in a few years that might not be the case

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