Which Mac desktop configuration is faster and more powerful?

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by jennyp, Apr 17, 2014.

  1. jennyp macrumors 6502

    Oct 27, 2007
    I'm considering two Mac desktop configurations and I'd appreciate some advice. How do these two machines compare with regard to speed and power? I know these are relative terms, but just generally, bearing in mind I'll use the preferred machine for pretty intensive Photoshop work:

    1. Mid-2011 iMac 3.4 GHz Intel Core i7 quad-core, AMD Radeon HD 6970M 2GB VRAM, and fitted with 16GB RAM.

    2. The current (April 2014) 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display 2.6GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7 with 1TB PCIe-based Flash Storage, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M with 2GB VRAM, fitted with the standard 16GB RAM - used with some external display (undecided as to which one).

    Also, if the rMBP is preferable, is there likely to be an update to the rMBP soon that would make waiting worth while?

  2. chown33 macrumors 604

    Aug 9, 2009
    Sailing beyond the sunset
    What is your intended lifetime for this system?

    During that lifetime, do you expect to upgrade the OS and/or apps?

    The 2011 iMac is more likely to reach a point where some OS or app upgrade no longer supports that model. That is, it's more likely to reach its upgradability limit sooner. This is simply based on when the machine itself was released.

    Yout also have to factor in the physical size of the screen, and your upgradability limits. By the latter, I mean are you at an age where a few years down the road, you might need prescription lenses, or a lens change? Looking at a screen for long periods, or at certain distances, is much easier when you're younger. As you age, presbyopia takes its toll. It's generally easier to accomodate a larger screen that can be placed farther away.
  3. Consultant macrumors G5


    Jun 27, 2007
    What do you want to do?

    Whats your definition of intensive Photoshop work?
  4. Apple fanboy macrumors Penryn

    Apple fanboy

    Feb 21, 2012
    Behind the Lens, UK
    Isn't the 2011 iMac still USB2? Is that a problem for you now or in the next few years? It might also affect your resale value.
  5. jennyp thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 27, 2007
    I would want the system to last a good few years, and yes, I'd want to upgrade for quite some time ahead. With that consideration I take your point about the iMac reaching a point where it eventually struggles with OS updates. It doesn't seem anywhere near that now, but I accept that such a point will come sooner or later.

    As for the screen and eyesight, yes, again, point taken, and that's why I planned to use a new rMBP with an external display that suits my ageing eyesight.

    I guess my main concern was the general power and speed comparison - the iMac seems quite a powerful machine right now (it seems to handle anything I throw at it) and I'm wondering how the current model rMBP (as above) compares.

    No - quite intensive Photoshop use (large files etc), video work, the lot, really.

    @Apple fanboy
    Hadn't thought of that - I can't see in the System Information on the iMac where the version number is.
  6. glenthompson macrumors 68000


    Apr 27, 2011
    Yes the 2011 iMac is USB 2. My wife has one. It's possible to add USB 3 via a thunderbolt station like the CalDigit.
  7. macs4nw macrumors 601


    You say you're comparing two desktop configs, but then show us a 2011 desktop vs a current model rMBP? Generally speaking a desktop gives you better performance at a lower price point, but at the same time a two year newer machine has improved technology in it, vs the older unit.

    Unless you'd rather go with the laptop for portability's sake, my inclination would be towards a desktop, but not that 2011 model above, but the current version, late 2013, and unless you're in a hurry, I'd wait till late summer for rumors re an imminently updated model. It will definitely cost you less than a comparably equipped rMBP, in addition to the money saved on that external display you were considering.

    Also I'm very partial towards PCIe-based Flash Storage; imho it's money well spent. The difference in speed vs an HDD varies from noticeable to dramatic, and you will appreciate that doing intensive Photoshop work.
  8. jennyp thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 27, 2007
    Sorry, I didn't make myself clear. The iMac, configured as above, is my existing machine.

    But I was wondering about changing my setup to one where I would have a laptop which I could use with a larger screen when I wanted to. So I thought of the current 15-inch rMBP, configured as above, to use for that purpose.

    But I don't want to miss out on the power of my current desktop iMac, and I was wondering how the rMBP would compare to it in terms of speed and power.
  9. macs4nw macrumors 601


    The rMBP will have the edge, and be the faster machine as you're jumping two processor upgrades from Sandy Bridge on the 2011 iMac to Haswell on the 2013 rMBP, as well as the faster graphics; it is after all a two year newer computer. But unless a laptop is a must for you, I wouldn't waste my time or money to upgrade to that rMBP at this time. The biggest advantage of that would be the flash memory and USB3.

    Unless you are extremely dissatisfied with the performance of that 2011 iMac, and can't wait any longer, imho the smarter thing would be to upgrade to the next version of iMac, sometime later this year, and use that money you had planned to spend on an external display, towards flash storage and upgraded graphics. At that time you would still be able to get a decent price for your 2011 iMac on the resale market.

    As I mentioned before, if you do not need the portability of a laptop: desktops=better performance for less $$, as compared to same generation laptops. Good Luck!
  10. jennyp thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 27, 2007
    This was the info I needed. I realise you pay more for a laptop, but I want to move from using a monolithic desktop to a laptop which I can plug into a large screen if I feel I need that arrangement. If the current 15-inch rMBP beats my iMac, then I'll go for that.

    Thanks for the tips.
  11. macs4nw, Apr 18, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2014

    macs4nw macrumors 601


    Glad to help. But if you're not in a rush, you might still consider waiting for expected updates to the rMBPs, sometime in the not too distant future. A faster processor and better graphics are a given, and you might possibly get more flash storage as a base config, among who knows what else.
  12. jennyp thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 27, 2007
    Thanks for info

    That's what I think I'll do - wait until the retina MacBook Pros are updated (these will surely be much faster and more powerful than my present iMac), then get one, to the maximum specification, and use it with a large display when I want to (possibly with one of those docking stations - they look fantastic for my usage scenario, though I don't know how well they actually perform practically in the real world).

    I'm looking forward to this change. I think it'll be *the* hardware workflow for me. When do you think the retina MacBook Pros will be updated?

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