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View Full Version : which iMac to buy?


tannenhauser
2010-03-23, 09:38
hello all
my powerbook is dying... its fine for everyday stuff like emails and casual websurfing but lately when i have a lot of cs4 and other programs running, i get this grayed out screen that appears after about an hour of use that tells me i have to restart my computer. also its just been randomly freezing every now and then. altho i like the laptop i think i want to try a desktop/ipad combo.
anyway, i ordered an ipad and will use that for my email, news, youtube, facebook etc (simple tasks to replace my laptop)
now i am wondering about which iMac to get for my work (and i need to get it today cause i have work to do but my laptop is heaving!).
i mostly do a lot of heavy photoshop and indesign. i usually spend about 8 hours a day in cs4land going back and forth between pshop indesign illustrator and bridge. i have LOTS of windows open all the time.
which of the current iMacs would be right for me, i am not opposed to either 21" or 27"? the core2duo the i5 or i7? and how much ram should i get?
does cs4 even recognize 4cores or 8 gigs of ram?
basically i am wondering if i should go all out, or buy something midrange if cs4 in fact will not run AMAZINGLY better on a quadcore with 8gigs or 16 gigs of ram vs lets say a dualcore iMac with 4 gigs or ram.
thank you!

Luca
2010-03-23, 10:27
I would recommend two things:

- Don't configure a faster processor than the one it ships with (the benefit is too small for the cost).
- Get the minimum amount of RAM and add more yourself.

Basically, Apple charges a LOT extra for things like RAM, faster CPUs, etc. You want to minimize the amount of money you pay Apple for that stuff so you can get it yourself for cheaper.

For example, the iMac has four memory slots, and all models come with two of the slots filled with 2 GB modules, for a total of 4 GB with two open slots. If you want to double your memory to 8 GB, Apple charges $200 just to add a pair of 2 GB modules. But if you buy the RAM from NewEgg and add it yourself, it only costs $90 (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820148191). Instant $110 savings right there. Replacing the RAM is very easy to do and it does not void your warranty.

Personally, I'd go for the cheapest model. $1200 is a pretty good price for what you get. The biggest shortcomings are the video card (which isn't that important unless you're really into gaming) and the processor. Unfortunately, you can't do anything about the processor without going all the way up to the $2000 model with the i5, and that one is overpriced IMO. The Core 2 Duo in all the other models is still a great CPU, but you'll have to get someone else's opinion on how much CPU power CS4 needs. I think it's more RAM-dependent, so getting the cheapest model and moving up to 8 GB of RAM might be the best for the price.

tannenhauser
2010-03-23, 11:02
hey luca,
thanks for your response :)
i would be delighted to only pay $1200 vs $2200
but can someone please let me know if the lowest iMac will run heavy CS4 approximately the same speed/pace as an i5 or i7 would... or is there just a very small difference.
also how much ram can cs4 use? would it make use of 8gigs of ram or does it only support up to 4?
thanks!

PB PM
2010-03-23, 13:53
Not even close, the core i5 and i7 are quad core machines, with superior graphics support, they are as fast or faster than the base model Mac Pro, but you should be okay with the base model, unless you are working on massive images (30+ MB files). CS4 is a 32bit app, so it cannot use more than 4GB of RAM. You'd still want to max out the RAM though, so you could run other tasks. You also have to keep in mind that the 9400M IPG steals 256MB of system memory to work, so having max RAM will be good if you want to run other apps at the same time.

tannenhauser
2010-03-23, 14:02
yeah my files are pretty massive.... sounds like i should get the i5 or i7 with 8 gigs of ram then?
i also always have lots of stuff open... safari, all of cs4... mail, itunes, acrobat, cyberduck, office, excel, ichat, and lots of finder windows...

PB PM
2010-03-23, 14:07
I think the second tear 21" model with 8GB should be fine, its just the IGPs don't handle large image files very well.

Luca
2010-03-23, 14:14
Does having a good graphics processor really help that much with Photoshop? Because that's practically the only benefit you get for the extra $300 for the second tier iMac over the first (the other is a larger hard drive, which can be easily corrected with an external drive).

And then the lower end 27" iMac still only gets you the bigger screen, without being any faster. The only way to move up is to spend a full $2k on the top end one. Yeah, it's fast, but is it $800 faster?

PB PM
2010-03-23, 14:17
Is $800 worth it? That totally depends on what you do. If you are rendering videos all day, I'd say yes, if you are working on image files in CS4, maybe not. I recommend the 2nd tear model because OSX uses the GPU for so many things now days, thanks to OpenCL in SL, that you notice the GPU a lot more, even in simple tasks. When it comes to working with large image files on a 20+" monitor you start to notice the difference as well.

tannenhauser
2010-03-24, 08:21
thanks everyone for your help!
i ended up getting the 27" with i5. it is gigantic!! the store where i bought it (tekserve) wanted $300 for a 4gb stick of ram. is that the going price? i told them i am going to hold off on upgrading the ram, wanted to check first. ;)

Luca
2010-03-24, 08:29
That's definitely over the going price. Single 4 GB modules cost $170-$220 on NewEgg, with 2x4 GB kits costing $340-$440. 2 GB modules are much more cost-effective - about $50 each.

Since the iMac uses dual-channel memory technology, it helps performance to install the RAM in pairs. So unless you want to spend the $400 or so necessary to get a pair of 4 GB modules, you're better off getting a pair of 2 GB ones for $100.

tannenhauser
2010-03-24, 08:40
hi luca, i am a little confused about your response. do you mean that i have two options.

1 option: is to get a pair of 2gb sticks for $100 and adding that to the my imac for a total of 8gb ram.

2 option: is to get a pair of 4gb sticks for about $400, remove the two 2gb sticks from the imac and replace with the 4gb pair.

both options achieve 8gb ram right? then why would i consider paying $400 instead of $100 for the same thing? or am i missing something? (i dont ever plan on upgrading to 16 gigs)

Luca
2010-03-24, 09:25
No, the iMac has 4 RAM slots. Therefore, these are your options:

Option 1: Buy a pair of 2 GB sticks for $100, add to your existing 4 GB for a total of 8 GB.
Option 2: Buy a pair of 4 GB sticks for $400, add to your existing 4 GB for a total of 12 GB.

There's no reason to get rid of your existing RAM if you go for the more expensive option. It gets you more RAM and allows you to easily upgrade to 16 GB down the road if you want. However, since CS4 can't use more than 4 GB anyway, it seems a bit too expensive. And if you decide you need more RAM later, you can still upgrade if you go with option 1.

The only disadvantage to option 1, really, is that if you do decide to upgrade in the future, you'll be out the $100 it cost you to buy the pair of 2 GB sticks since you'll have to remove one of those pairs to make room for more.

tannenhauser
2010-03-24, 09:51
awesome. i am going to get the $100 option.
thank you!

knudeNoggin
2010-03-25, 11:22
Personally, I'd go for the cheapest model. $1200 is a pretty good price for what you get. The biggest shortcomings are the video card (which isn't that important unless you're really into gaming) and the processor. Unfortunately, you can't do anything about the processor without going all the way up to the $2000 model with the i5, and that one is overpriced IMO. The Core 2 Duo in all the other models is still a great CPU, but you'll have to get someone else's opinion on how much CPU power CS4 needs. I think it's more RAM-dependent, so getting the cheapest model and moving up to 8 GB of RAM might be the best for the price.

How about looking on the Refurbished list -- how much is one giving up by $$ savings there:

E.g., currently I see models moving up from the NVidia 9400m graphics card.
(Frankly, I'm surprised to see that yet in so many models: a year ago, when I was
shopping for a replacement iMac to a rev.a 20" G5 w/bad logic board (sound familiar?),
Luca, you opined that Apple was really behind the state of the art or practice even,
with the 9400M. Yet, here, a year later, that's still the common card?!)

$1,249
Refurbished iMac 24-inch 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
24-inch glossy widescreen display
4GB memory
640GB hard drive
8x SuperDrive (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 with 256MB memory
Built-in iSight camera

$1,279.00
Refurbished iMac 24-inch 2.93GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
<ditto>
[so, it's a mystery why this slower cpu is $30 more?]

and newer, better CPU, with the small bump in display size,
and in video card:

$1,699.00
Refurbished iMac 27-inch 2.66GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5
27-inch LED-backlit glossy widescreen display
4GB memory
1TB hard drive
8x SuperDrive (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics with 512MB memory
Built-in iSight camera

Thanks much for the insights,
*knudeNoggin*