Which iMac BTO version?

imacro98

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Original poster
Jul 8, 2017
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Hey all, I am one of those longtime readers/first time posters!

Just wanting to get some opinions from you guys...I am getting ready to buy the new iMac 27inch...I am deciding between the 3 versions and the upgrades available...

My usage will be: office productivity, emails, web dev (joomla/wordpress), photoshop and illustrator, and at time I may use Xcode as I have an app on the app store that I have used the services of freelancers to create, that I wish to start working on myself more...

I have the budget available for the top tier with AMD580, etc...I think I will avoid the i7 based on temperature/fan concerns I've seen online...I will upgrade the RAM to 40GB myself (keep the stock 8 and buy 32 more)...512GB SSD is enough for my usage especially with external drives alongside of it...

so the question is: which level/tier iMac do i buy?! every forum post/review gives me a different opinion of whether the base model is enough for most people, some say the top level is the only way to go...and others see the mid tier as the sweet spot with the AMD575...

Just because I have saved up enough for the top tier doesn't necessarily mean i want to spend that much, especially when I'm looking at RAM upgrades and external hard drives after the fact...I know a lot of people are asking similar questions but I wanted to post as I haven't seen any definitive answers yet...thanks guys!
 

danielwsmithee

macrumors 65816
Mar 12, 2005
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I'd personally go with the top config. One you apply the upgrades your suggesting, the price difference between the mid tier and to tier comes out to only $110 if I configured them correctly. Pretty cheap for a better processor and video card.
 

DaveF

macrumors 6502a
Aug 29, 2007
732
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NoVA
I bought:
iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, 2017)
3.4 GHz Intel Core i5
8 GB 2400 MHz DDR4
500GB SSD

It's the middle configuration with the drive upgrade to SSD. For me this puts the money where I need it: instead of upgrading the CPU, which wouldn't do much to improve my actual experience, I put the money into the SSD which does improve the perceived speed of the computer a great deal. I don't play games on the mac so I don't care about the GPU. And I'm not doing serious computational work that would benefit from an i7. And I can easily upgrade RAM for cheap later if needed.

If this was for pro uses, I'd have bought the top iMac maxed with an i7 and SSD.
 
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Ph.D.

macrumors 6502a
Jul 8, 2014
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The problem with this sort of question is that if enough people respond, you will get every possible suggestion. You won't get any "definitive" answer, and in the end you will just have to decide for yourself. But here are my comments.

I have the base model with 512GB SSD. I mostly do the same things as you on it (minus the dev work) and I like it a lot. No regrets or dissatisfaction. For most of your uses it would be fabulous.

I got the base one because I hate fan noise with a passion. The base model is by far the best value. It has also proven to be an excellent performer even with maxed-out 2k (2560x1440) games, though if I did it over, I might have gotten the mid-tier model with the same SSD for the better GPU, as I doubt it would be much louder.

For your uses, I'd recommend the base model with 512GB SSD, or the mid-tier model (base CPU) with the same SSD if you want a somewhat better GPU. The other models have hotter CPUs, which I personally would avoid in an all-in-one, and the value proposition gets worse with every upgrade unless you absolutely need the extra power.
 
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whatevs

macrumors member
Apr 3, 2008
58
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from the EDU store, the top-tier with the 580 GPU is only $110 more than the mid-tier. Wouldn't that also be a good value for the reported 30% improvement in graphic performance. I expect the GPU to be the fastest aging part of an iMac. Someone recently commented no fan noise on the i5-3.8 GHz model.
 

Pushkin

macrumors newbie
Jul 8, 2017
1
0
I'm in exactly the the situation is the original poster - also first post.
My uses are small amount of photoshop, browsing, spreadsheets and watching video - no gaming unless you count minecraft.
In the U.K. The mid model is £200 more than the base and the higher one a further £300.
I think the question I was hoping someone could answer is will I notice any difference in performance between base and mid.
I'm not sure I fully understand benchmark testing and scores but there doesn't seem to be a huge difference.

I've also decided to go for the SSD 512g.
 

imacro98

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jul 8, 2017
2
0
thanks so much for the replies so far guys! it's reassuring to know you were happy with the base model, it does seem to be good value...

I appreciate it's hard to find a definitive answer to this as it's all based on personal needs, it's just hard to work out from all the info online, if the relatively small difference in cost between the base/mid/top models is worth it (i.e. obviously the top model is more powerful, but is it SO powerfully different from the base model that it'll be noticeable now/in a few years time?)...

i'm on a budget and weighing up maxing out the iMac now, then coming back a in a few months for the other things I need like external drives, or buying the base model and getting the extra things I need now...everytime I read a review or forum I feel ready to pull the trigger on a different version!!!
 

Ph.D.

macrumors 6502a
Jul 8, 2014
510
417
For most routine use, few people will notice a substantial difference between the models, or any at all. Since the display is locked at 60 Hz max in any event, the upgrades generally won't make too much difference for 2k games either (and 4k/5k gaming is generally out of reach of these machines).

Apple's pricing for upgrades is often (but not always) overpriced. RAM is famously overpriced, for example. But the "good-better-best" pricing model includes some whoppers too.

Most of the value is present in the base model, and each upgrade you apply (with a few exceptions) adds only slightly to the performance but a lot to Apple's profits. The upgrades are intended to sound reasonable ("for $200 more you get..." and "for $300 more than that you get...", etc.), and that's fine if the money isn't a big deal for you or if it's worth the extra.

If you are a power user who needs to run all cores non-stop for hours on end, or have money to burn, then go for upper-tier configurations or wait for the iMac Pro, etc. Otherwise, go base and spend any extra cash on an SSD - that will make a bigger difference. No one will argue with a base SSD system over a slightly faster one hobbled with an archaic, noisy, vibration-prone, hotter and likely more trouble-prone spinner. Only then ask yourself if a CPU/GPU upgrade is worth the cost to you. The performance improvement is marginal and it is not a very good financial value (probably only costs Apple $20-30 more), but sometimes you just want it anyway.
 
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EugW

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Jun 18, 2017
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All of them would likely be fine for your usage. Probably the bottom tier 27" model would have been fine for me too, but because I can write off some of the cost, I splurged and got the mid tier. The cost difference was only about CAD$250 for me, or less than $200 US. At that price I figured I'd take the extra 7% CPU performance and the extra 25% GPU performance.

Actually, I originally really splurged and got the i7 / 580, but didn't like the occasional fan noise, so I returned it for the mid-tier which has none.
 
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trsblader

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May 20, 2011
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thanks so much for the replies so far guys! it's reassuring to know you were happy with the base model, it does seem to be good value...
Just based on your workflow in the first post, and doing nearly identical work but with the addition of VM's and a few other things, the base model with the ssd and ram upgrades would be an excellent choice. I wouldn't even consider the high end, and I'd only buy the mid tier if you can find it on sale somewhere for the same price as a normally priced base model.

i'm on a budget and weighing up maxing out the iMac now, then coming back a in a few months for the other things I need like external drives, or buying the base model and getting the extra things I need now...everytime I read a review or forum I feel ready to pull the trigger on a different version!!!
Since you said you're on a budget, I would just order the base model and call it a day and then go order my ram. If you need to further cut a little cost, a 16gb ram upgrade, for 24gb total, would be ok. That is probably only saving another $100 or so, so it would depend on budget really. Also as mentioned, ask 100 different people you'll get 100 different answers. You'll surely find someone that swears the maxed out i7 with 64gb of ram is "absolutely essential" to browse the internet and watch YouTube because they have "lots of tabs open at once."
 
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Pug72

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Mar 18, 2012
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@EugW, How often did the fan kick in?

I don't mind for stuff like video conversion or gaming but as long as it's silent when web browsing I'd be happy.
 

EugW

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Jun 18, 2017
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@EugW, How often did the fan kick in?

I don't mind for stuff like video conversion or gaming but as long as it's silent when web browsing I'd be happy.
The i7-7700K was silent in web browsing, but I could occasionally get it to kick in Photos if I stressed it a bit, but that stress sometimes was video encoding. Most of the time in Photos it was silent. Somebody also mentioned generating previews for RAW files in Photos also got the fan going audibly.

With video encoding though the fan went to max quite quickly and stayed there until the encode was done.

The i5-7600 (non-K) is silent all the time, including the 10 minute video encoding test I did, with the CPU at 100%.
 

Pug72

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Mar 18, 2012
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Thanks for the reply.

Not encouraging to be honest hearing how any hardish work and the fan kicks in, but....

....I'm one of those sad b******s who likes to have the top spec without using it.
For example, my current iMac is a maxed out late 2012 and rarely gets worked hard. Only hear the fan when Plex is transcoding or I'm converting a film in Handbrake.

I just like to get top spec because it feels I'm future proofing and I can afford it.

(I own a 15 inch MacBook Pro TB used mainly for web browsing on the sofa.)
 

kazmac

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Mar 24, 2010
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These threads are always helpful, I may have to upgrade sooner rather than later as my system (2013 non-retina 27" with an HDD) has slowed down significantly (yep, spinner (but surprisingly I have almost 3/4s space left)) and it's getting to be a PITA, even with 24GB of RAM and most of my content on external storage.

I can upgrade now, but would rather hold out as long as possible (as I bought this in December 2015 - a not so great decision along with others made at the time); so please keep those expert opinions coming. I'm looking at either the fully specs'd high end 21.5" or the mid-tier 27" for future proofing (video conversion - rips mostly from SD dvds, image manipulation & a little design, writing extensively etc.) I am always amazed at how much more I can get specs-wise for what I used pay for iMacs prior to 2010. The base stock models are no longer an option for me.
 

EugW

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Jun 18, 2017
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These threads are always helpful, I may have to upgrade sooner rather than later as my system (2013 non-retina 27" with an HDD) has slowed down significantly (yep, spinner (but surprisingly I have almost 3/4s space left)) and it's getting to be a PITA, even with 24GB of RAM and most of my content on external storage.

I can upgrade now, but would rather hold out as long as possible (as I bought this in December 2015 - a not so great decision along with others made at the time); so please keep those expert opinions coming. I'm looking at either the fully specs'd high end 21.5" or the mid-tier 27" for future proofing (video conversion - rips mostly from SD dvds, image manipulation & a little design, writing extensively etc.) I am always amazed at how much more I can get specs-wise for what I used pay for iMacs prior to 2010. The base stock models are no longer an option for me.
That machine would work well with a Thunderbolt SSD. 256 GB may be all that is necessary and you would continue to use your existing HD for data.
 
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kazmac

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That machine would work well with a Thunderbolt SSD. 256 GB may be all that is necessary and you would continue to use your existing HD for data.
Thank you very much. Your posts have been fantastic so I appreciate hearing from you. I've never made an external SSD boot drive, but I think I have an article saved somewhere on how to do it. I am wondering if it is also the video card which is NVIDIA GeForce GT 755M 1024 MB, that is struggling to deal with rips, playback, and occasional image manipulation at the same time (Granted, I do not use Adobe products, more of a Pixelmator and light Affinity Photo user now). Also, it now takes about a minute for any images on my desktop to appear (besides the drive icons and my wallpaper).

I just find it strange for this kind of slowdown when my internal 1TB spinner has almost 700GB free on it. I'll hang in until High Sierra is released and see how the system works then. I'll have more $ saved at that point anyway, but will definitely keep the thunderbolt SSD in mind.
 

Ph.D.

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Jul 8, 2014
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I7 is hyperthreaded (simulates twice the cores), I5 is not. For a few applications that constantly produce a flood of available threads, the I7 may be up to 30% faster. Video applications may benefit, for example. These are not necessarily common use cases, though, and for many applications you would see little difference.
 

Jax44

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Jul 24, 2010
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I7 is hyperthreaded (simulates twice the cores), I5 is not. For a few applications that constantly produce a flood of available threads, the I7 may be up to 30% faster. Video applications may benefit, for example. These are not necessarily common use cases, though, and for many applications you would see little difference.
Thanks for the information