Which iMac to Buy for the Long Term

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Meteo, Aug 2, 2011.

  1. Meteo macrumors newbie

    Jul 31, 2011
    We (the wife and I) are planning to purchase an iMac soon as I think it is finally time to replace this G4 iBook. I plan to buy a refurbished model since that seems to be by far the best price and my research indicates Apple's refurbished products can be well trusted.

    While that's my main question, if anyone has any advice or can make sure I'm pointed in the right direction, here is my situation.

    I'm upgrading from a G4 iBook running OS X 10.4. I had the laptop for college, but we don't need the portability now and thus the plan is to go back to the iMac. Just like our current computer, we plan to keep the new iMac as long as possible. Price isn't really an issue, but I still would rather not spend any more than I need to.

    We do not do anything intensive on the computer (although part of that could be that our current iBook hasn't liked to do much anything intensive for quite awhile now). The most the iMac will be used for will be word processing, web browsing, iTunes, watching online video, any maybe some light photo/graphics editing (I don't know enough to do anything ambitious). We might try out some games as well.

    While I presume I would be perfectly fine getting one of the previous generation iMacs, and saving some more money, I want to get something with the current Sandy Bridge chipset so as to better future proof it. Sandy Bridge seems to be a bit of a jump and having it could be helpful if Apple uses it as a cutoff point for support for a future version of OS X.

    What I'm more unsure of is whether upgrading within the Sandy Bridge chipset will buy us much anything in terms of longevity of the computer. I want to avoid for as long as possible a situation like my current iBook where is still "works", but it is a lot slower than it used to be and it even has a lot of trouble playing YouTube videos.

    My main thought is to just get the entry level 21.5" 2.5ghz i5. It seems to be hard to go wrong with, and it seems to compare a lot more favorably to the other current iMac models when compared to the entry level model of previous generations. And just the 21.5" screen is a huge step up from our current 12".

    As far as the 21.5" models go, I'm not too concerned about the graphics since the 6770 doesn't seem to be that much of a step up from the 6750. What does intrigue me though is the upgrade to the i7 chip. It probably isn't necessary for what we would be doing with the computer, but it is tempting and seems like quite the boost. I don't know whether this would really future proof me though or if I am talking myself into something that seems cool, but that I don't really need.

    The 27" model is also tempting, and I'm facing a similar dilemma if we go that route. If we decide to go with the 27" I'm think I might want to opt for the better graphics and/or processor. While I'm not really worried about this with the 21.5" model, with the size and the additional resolution of the 27" model, I want to make sure it can handle itself down the road, especially under future iterations of OS X. Thus, if we decide we want the 27", I'm heavily tempted to go with the 6970 and the 3.4ghz i7. I don't know about upping the graphics from 1GB of Ram to 2GB though, that may be overkill, even for the long run (perhaps the whole thing is overkill though).

    Whatever I do, I'll probably max out the Ram. With the prices I've seen at the places mentioned on this forum its almost too inexpensive not to just go ahead and do it.

    As for the other main option, the SSD, unless someone wants to try and talk me into it, I'm leaning heavily against it. The price is a pretty big jump and considering the planned usage of the computer, I don't think we'd get much benefit out of it.

    Finally, I have a question regarding the Apple Magic Mouse vs. the Magic Trackpad. If I buy a non-refurbished model through the Apple Store I can pick one or the other. However, the refurbished listings I've looked at only ever list the Apple Magic Mouse. Has anyone ever seen a refurbished model that included the Magic Trackpad? Even with buying the Magic Trackpad separately the refurbished price still beats everything I've seen, but I'd rather not spend the extra $69 if I didn't have to.

    Thanks for any thoughts you've had. I've learned quite a bit lurking on this forum!
  2. FrankHahn macrumors 6502a

    May 17, 2011
    After reading your post, I think that a 27" iMac with an i7 CPU is a proper choice (upgrade RAM by yourself). This way, you can greatly enjoy the huge jump from your iBook to a maxed-out iMac and this machine will serve you for quite some time (probably you do not need to replace it in five years). Another benefit for your getting a maxed-out iMac is that you can have a feeling at one of the most advanced personal computers made by Apple in addition to get useful things done with it.
  3. maril1111 macrumors 68000


    Mar 14, 2010
    The Thing I would think about is if you would be fine with a 21inch or a 27inch, some people feel that a 27inch screen is just too big for them, if I were you I would go to an Apple Store and check out both screen sizes
  4. cyclotron451 macrumors regular


    Mar 16, 2005
    small iMac big HDD?

    I have a couple of the excellent 21" iMacs, one for main family shared PC at home in the den and one on my work desk. My boss prefers the 27" as he can get 2 A4 sheets at the same time on the screen, I prefer my 21 inch as I can plug in an old Philips 19 inch DVI should I need more display acreage. the work iMac does OK with a 250GB HDD but at home I had to swap this out for a Samsung ecogreen 1500GB to hold all the media files.
    in the newest iMacs it's no longer easy to upgrade the HDD due to embedded temp. sensors & firmware, so I'd suggest getting the biggest HDD available standard in refurb. The July 2010 iMac is available on refurb today in US with corei3 for $1K1 with 1TB, the Quad-corei5 iMac from May 2011 is a little bit more at $1K3 with the terabyte HDD (future proofest?)
    I haven't , to be honest, noticed any real big deal in usability from a MBPro CoreDuo 2006 to the Core2Duo 2GHz iMacs, to a new MBPro Quad-corei7 2.2GHz. CPU speed and number of threads isn't completely relevant for 'standard use' unless you're doing video rendering or Matlab number crunching. It's important to have at least 4GB RAM, which I have on all my machines.
    My 2 iMacs are well into their 4th year - remember to buy an external USB terabyte HDD for TimeMachine as the most essential accessory,
    the magic mouse is appreciated by all the family,
    the trackpad is a bit of a luxury?
  5. Macman45 macrumors G5


    Jul 29, 2011
    Somewhere Back In The Long Ago
    Go for the 27"

    And the i7 I would upgrade the graphics too. You say you don't do anything that intensive, and I find my 8gb is more than enough for high end video editing etc.

    I plan on upgrading to 16gb when funds allow.

    With my spec ( see signature at bottom) you will be buying the most future proof iMac you can....We all know that there isn't really such a thing as true future proofing, but I'm hoping mine will see me through many years.

    With 2 Thunderbolt ports included, you will be able to take advantage of kit that is only now being designed, large NAS solutions displays, and manybother new devices will be released over the coming months.

    Hope this helps you in making a choice! :)
  6. smirk macrumors 6502a


    Jul 18, 2002
    Orange County, CA
    I get the point of your question, but I just wanted to point out a less obvious obstacle to "future proofing". Sometimes down the road your computer will still be fast enough to do what you want, but it becomes prematurely obsolete due to a technological change. For example, my 2006 Core Duo iMac still runs well, but it has a 32 bit processor. Now that everything is 64 bit, it is unable to run OS X Lion. Sure, I could keep it on Snow Leopard and keep using it as my main computer, but more and more apps will become 64 bit and will require Lion or other Lion-based technologies. Pretty soon it will be largely unusable for normal work.

    So while it makes sense to spend a little extra dough to get a machine that will hopefully last longer, keep in mind that it's a gamble as you don't know in what direction technology will eventually turn. This does seem like a good time to buy, though, as the Sandy Bridge CPU architecture and Thunderbolt ports just came out, the LCD displays are probably large enough to last awhile, memory in these machines can be upgraded quite a bit, etc.

    I think we are thinking along the same lines, actually. I just bought a new i7 3.4 GHz with maxed out VRAM. I figure I can add an SSD later when the computer starts feeling sluggish. Spending the extra $100 for more video memory was a hard decision, but I ended up going for it as insurance, just in case Apple starts handing off even more work to the GPU in the future or something. For me, the 27" screen is not too big; it's great being able to view two documents or web pages side-by-side, and movies look great.

    Good luck with whatever you decide!
  7. carlgo macrumors 68000

    Dec 29, 2006
    Monterey CA
    When I pulled out the old G4 to use when my old MBP was in the shop I was astounded at how slow it was doing even the most basic tasks. When I went back to the MBP it was like it was atomic powered or something. And a 2007 MBP is not close to what any new Mac is like today!

    If you tolerated a G4 for this long, you will be astonished at the speeds of even the most basic new models and from your description of what you use it for any these would be more than enough.

    I don't think you can save a computer from obsolescence simply by checking more stuff off on the option list. Apple and the PC People will eventually make it necessary to upgrade even though you are happy with what you have now for what you do anyway.

    And the cheaper it is, the less total money you lose when you sell it. Like the poster said, check out the screens at the store, but after that you probably don't really have to go high end at all. Something to consider...
  8. Young Spade macrumors 68020

    Mar 31, 2011
    Tallahassee, Florida
    Although you are getting a new machine (Directed at OP), this is what you don't want to do. Macs are great; I have a MBP myself, however I got this machine because I can DO things with it. I have a baseline MBP. No overpriced upgrade for the .x ghz increase, haven't increased the stock RAM (3rd party is best option), and no increase in HD (have an external).

    My point here is that you want to get what is good for YOU. At the end of the day, if you only use 12 percent of the total CPU power, what's the use of paying that extra cash? For some reason, from what I have seen, people readily throw money away in the technology department because they aren't fully educated on what they should buy. They end up coming to forums, getting great information, however they get information from people who either a) have money to burn or b) are ultimately suggesting something that's overpowered.

    People have an idea of (future proofing) and IMO that term DOES NOT apply to people who actually bring it up in conversation. Think of it this way: If a person walks into a car dealership, looks at a viper, a corvette, and a mustang, then says he wants the viper because it has the most HP, he obviously does not know what he's doing. (mind you, he based the buy from HP just as people buy from specs alone). Going for the "best" isn't always the best option.

    This. I think that you should really read around here on the forums. It's a great place to ask questions and get answers, however it is an AMAZING place to actually educate yourself on the matter.

    Get to the point of where you don't have to ask others, you already know. Be a "buyer", not a "shopper". (Buyer walks into store, buys what he has researched, and leaves. Shopper walks into store, asks associates whats best, ends up spending too much).

    Yes. I just sold an 06, upgraded black Macbook. 4 gigs of ram, 2.2ghz C2D. Great machine, however, I replaced it. I needed something reliable, the MB ran hot with loud fans, and I wanted something with longer battery life.

    Given the chance, I wouldn't trade this baseline MBP for ANY other MB, just because this is perfect for my usage. I'm a college student. I don't edit, render, and I'll do maybe some light gaming here and there. I want this to last and I can upgrade the internals on this machine.

    Sorry for the long post, but I encourage you to read more; you're obviously an intelligent individual because you came here and gave us a detailed post about what you want to do, and just from a fellow mac user to user, it ALWAYS helps, in any situation, to read, read, read, read, read, and read some more before, during, and after you ask questions.

    You have time. Just take a few days off during the week, head to a coffee shop (or your study/kitchen table, anywhere) with a good cup of coffee and read. Bookmark pages and refer back to them.

    Personally I use Read it Later and just save things from various sites and then read through them en-masse; I got a little backed up though and have over 150 pages (9 web pages per page) of unread stuff -_-

    Hoped this wasn't too long and helped :)
  9. afd macrumors 65816

    Apr 12, 2005
    I recently upgraded to a 21.5 iMac from a g5 iMac 17". I chose the 21.5 mostly because it was the cheapest but I have not been disapointed. The screen seems huge compared to the 17" one and I doubt that my desk would be big enough for a 27".
  10. utazdevl macrumors regular


    Jul 18, 2008
    @Meteo - My wife and I are looking at nearly the same situation as you. Her PC if finally crapped out and she's "moved in wit me" on my MacBook Pro Intel Core 2 Duo 2.33. I don't travel for work anymore, so my need for a laptop is much less than it was in late 2006, when I bought my MacBook Pro, so we are looking to upgrade to something that makes more sense for us both.

    We are buying the Entry level iMac (21.5 inch, i5, 500GB). I have done a lot of thinking (obsessing) over the decision. Maybe it would help you if I told you why we chose the way we did:

    My wife is a total casual user. Web surfing and some word docs plus image storing and syncing her iPhone. I do a little more, like encoding films, light video editing (like assembling home movies) and on occasion I bring home some Photoshop work.

    I've checked several reviews and they say the processors in the new iMacs all perform basically the same, except for the 27 inch i7, which is faster. All are a distinct step up from the last iMac round, which is a big boost from where we are. Therefore, unless we buy the top of the line, we probably will not see much of a performance difference.

    I have a 27 inch iMac at the office. It is awesome, but the screen is huge. It would light up the room at home. Plus, we are coming from a 15 inch MBP screen. We figured 21.5 inches is plenty.

    That leads us to the choice between the 21.5 with a 500GB HD and the one with the 1TB HD. I know that this round of iMacs has some kind of proprietary internal hard drive system, so upgrading the inner hard drive is a bit more of a pain, but my experience has been that my best system is to keep the OS and applications on the internal hard drive, and keep all my files on a larger external drive (or 2). This allows me to keep up with the growing file sizes without opening my machine all too frequently. I do like the idea of putting a SSD drive in the machine at some point for the speed and with the 1TB seems easier to do, but that possibility seems to be an option that costs me $300 plus the cost of the drive. That $$$ can buy a lot of peripherals and software, or more RAM should 4GB prove not to be enough in the future

    As far as "future proofing", I think pretty much all of this iMac line is built the same, where their obselecence will come at the same time It is inevitable regardless of how much you spend, as I am sure you know.

    Looking forward to hear what you pick, then reading your similar post in 2016, asking which iMac you should buy, the one with the 22.5 ghz processor and 128 GB of RAM or spring for the one with 25 ghz and 256GB of RAM. :)
  11. Don Kosak macrumors 6502a

    Don Kosak

    Mar 12, 2010
    Hilo, Hawaii
    I'm I a similar position. I plan on buying a new iMac very shortly.

    Should I go low-end, save $1000 and have a machine that's better in many aspects than my 2007 iMac?

    Or should I go high-end, spending a lot more, but having a machine that is overwhelmingly better in almost every aspect?

    It's true that the high-end will probably buy me an extra year or so, but as a previous poster said, the fundamental technology itself is changing quickly - we seem to be at another inflection point for tech:

    * Thunderbolt is changing the way peripherals will interconnect and extending the "bus" outside of the computer.

    * Very High Density (retina-like) displays are maybe only a year out. Lion already has artwork designed for them built in.

    * Intel's "i" line of processors is at (or close) to it's last version. I think we'll see an i9 built followed by a new multicore design based on Intel's new 3D gate architecture.

    * Mac OS X and iOS are cross-pollenating, and that may result in new iMac designs, like convertible up-right / drafting table models that swivel down to allow better use with touch screens.

    * Don't even start me on the 4-5 year outlook as we may have wacky hundred terabyte SSD storage, Thousand core CPU's made from nanowire or memristor technology, and exotic voice/video/gesture UIs (a la Minority Report).

    I have't decided yet. Each day I seem to toggle back and forth between the two iMac models I'm considering.

    I am leaning heavily towards the higher end model. Life is short, and over the course of 3-4 years that extra cost is maybe only $15-20 a month... Might as well have the best possible experience I can get, as I spend a huge amount of time with my computer.

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