Which upgrades: iMac 5k for graphic design

Discussion in 'iMac' started by Add-Delay, Nov 27, 2014.

  1. Add-Delay macrumors newbie


    Oct 28, 2012
    Adelaide, Australia
    Hi all,

    I'm about to pull the trigger on an iMac 5k, and despite plenty of threads I still can't decide on which upgrades to spring for.

    I'm obviously going to get extra RAM separately (two 8gb sticks to bring it up to 24gb), and thinking the 512gb SSD, but stuck on the CPU and GPU upgrades, especially which will give me greater impact over the life of the machine.

    My current iMac is an early 2009 model, and looking to get a similar 5+ year life out of this one. But obviously don't want to go overboard because it adds up very quickly.

    I'm a graphic designer (branding, print, web), and this is going to be my home machine (my primary work machine will live at the studio). I do some extra work at home, and occasionally do my day work from home too. Primarily using Creative Cloud (InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Acrobat, Lightroom). PS work is not taxing filter heavy stuff - more layer styles, blend mode, paragraph styles. (I could almost completely remove the filter menu given how little use it is). So not sure whether that kind of use would benefit more from the CPU or GPU upgrades, or even not benefit much from either. Gaming performance is not of a concern.

  2. Nosferax macrumors regular

    Nov 11, 2014
    The base CPU would be fine for your need, but for longevity I would upgrade the GPU... Graphical slowdown as a bigger impact on your perception of the performance of your computer as the years goes by.

    My i3 based 2010 iMac still does the job cpu wise in photoshop CC, but the GPU is just not powerful enough anymore...
  3. spiritlevel macrumors 6502

    Nov 5, 2007
    I'm a designer and I went for the CPU, GPU and 512 SSD upgrades.

    + an OWC Thunderbay 4 and 12TB of drives...

    If you want 5 years + of life out of it I would get the CPU upgrade too if at all possible but get the GPU first.

    In fact, if you are not too bothered about gaming and bootcamp, I would get the GPU and CPU upgrade before the 512 SSD. You can easily add more fast storage later and a 256GB SSD is plenty for Mac OS and apps.
  4. Nosferax macrumors regular

    Nov 11, 2014
    Unless his applications need hyperthreading, going for the i7 isn't required. If he was encoding video, sure I would make the i7 a must, but for photoshop and illustrator... Not really.

    I do recommend the GPU upgrade, because as I said earlier, video lag is a "in your face" problem performances wise.

    You'll replace you iMac due to graphic performance way before you feel the effect of a slow CPU.
  5. spiritlevel macrumors 6502

    Nov 5, 2007
    True for now - but in 3 to 5 years who knows what applications will benefit from hyper threading?

    In the UK its a £200 upgrade for the CPU. The difference between a 256 and a 512 SSD is £240.

    The OP is already thinking he can get the 512 SSD and the GPU upgrade. The CPU + GPU + 256 SSD is £40 cheaper.

    Given that whatever SSD he gets, he will need additional external storage anyway, in my opinion the CPU/GPU upgrade would be a better way to spend the money considering his 5 year + requirement.
  6. rainydays macrumors 6502a

    Nov 6, 2006
    I'd vote for the GPU upgrade, because graphics apps are offloading more and more to the GPU these days. The 295 will perform way better than the 290 for your application. Keep in mind though, that if you are going to play game with it, it's going to get very hot. But it's not an issue for design apps.

    It's hard to say where software will be in five years. But at the rate it has been going for the past years the 3.5 i5 should be more than enough for your needs.
  7. Add-Delay thread starter macrumors newbie


    Oct 28, 2012
    Adelaide, Australia
    Thanks all,

    I ended up going for the i7 and 512gb SSD, and left the graphics card as the stock option.

    I managed to find some documentation on what tasks Creative Cloud off loads to the GPU and they were all generally of little use to me (only upscaling in Photoshop is of occasional use). InDesign doesn't appear to take advantage of the GPU at all, and Illustrator has only just added some experimental (and buggy) features on the Windows version only. So it looks like a better CPU, more RAM and an all SSD scratch disk are going to be of greater benefit to my usage.
  8. joema2 macrumors 65816


    Sep 3, 2013
    That was about as good a tradeoff as you could make. LR does not use the GPU at all. Photoshop uses it for a few things like Liquify, but not that often. By contrast many tasks in LR and PS are multi-threaded and will use all available cores. You want the greatest number of fastest cores available, which you obtained with the retina iMac i7.

    Of course SSD helps a lot, provided all your data fits on that. However in many cases -- even importing and exporting hundreds of raw, high-res stills -- it's not an I/O-bound task. Rather CPU is what dominates the workflow. You can keep an eye on this with the app iStat Menus.
  9. odedia macrumors 65816

    Nov 24, 2005
    I think you made the correct call if you couldn't take both. The i7 CPU is the fastest single core CPU ever on a Mac, and outperforms the entry level Mac pro in most tasks. Heck out even outperforms the 6-core model in many tasks with Adobe software, that mainly cares about CPU and single threaded performance.


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