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NeverFade
2011-08-08, 13:37
Hello.

This is my mind working here, so bear with me. I have always thought the iMac to be for a newbie, or not real powerful computing. I have always had towers, I guess, except for my first Mac which was a Power PC 7200. I'm an art director so I work with Photoshop, Illustrator, etc, on a daily basis, so I do need the power, but with the iMacs now - they are way more powerful than the machine I am running at home. Granted I do most of my design work at, well, work with a Power Mac ( again, another tower here ).

So, let me say that I have a dual 2 G5 at home, with 4 gigs of Ram. The thing has been a beast, and still is. Keeps on running daily and is on right now at home. Never quits, but it's obsolete when it comes to software coming out. I'm running CS2, and Leopard. It runs, and it runs okay, but I guess it is starting to show it's age.

Having a tower I know, I can keep on building on and open it up - add Ram easy, drives if need be - and there's lots of power. However, having all of those cords all over the back of my desk is, however, horrible, and would look so much nicer with an iMac.

Now, the iMac - MUCH more powerful than I ever thought it was going to be - specially when it was first released with the Bondi Blue color and the hockey puck mouse. Really has evolved to become quite an impressive machine. And obviously, the current line of iMacs would blow my G5 away, that's for sure. And they're pretty darn inexpensive. A 27" iMac for $1,700? I bought my 22" Apple Cinema Display for $2,000 8 years ago!

So, with that said, and what I'm going to do with it, do you agree that buying a tower would be overkill, and I'd be able to do everything plus more with an iMac, or should I wait for a Power Mac, as they're supposed to be coming out with new ones, and just sticking with the tower. The thing is right now on Apple's Store is that the new iMacs come standard with 4 gigs of ram, while the towers come with only 3! How backwards is that?!

Anyways, that'd my thought. I'd be interested to hear what anyone has to say.

Xaqtly
2011-08-08, 17:08
"Overkill" is in the eyes and needs of the beholder. If you need 4 internal drive slots, 64GB RAM capacity, the ability to use PCI cards, multiple gigabit ethernet ports, multiple graphics cards, Xeon workstation class processors instead of the i3/i5/i7 series, up to 12 processor cores or any combination of the above, the Mac Pro is pretty much your only choice.

The new iMac is very powerful, the towers are still more powerful. So it really comes down to how much is enough, and only you can answer that. You could probably get away with putting 16GB of RAM into the highest-power iMac and achieve most of what you would get in a Mac Pro, but you would have none of the expandability. And if you really need power and a lot of RAM, multiple internal drives etc., the Mac Pro is the only way to go right now.

On the other hand if you can live with 16GB of RAM, don't need a lot of internal storage and are ok with a single quad core i7 (4 cores as opposed to 4, 6, 8 or 12 in the Mac Pro), the iMac might be fine. It really depends on what you're willing to put up with, depending on the type of work you do.

FFL
2011-08-08, 17:52
I know exactly what I'd do in your shoes (and recommend to a client in your situation): New iMac all the way.

You tend to hang on to your hardware for more than a few years, so you don't want to skimp on initial specs. Your other prospective purchase is a Mac Pro, so you're not heavily constrained by budget concerns.

So here's what you want to do….

Go to apple.com, to Store, to iMac, and Select the 27-inch: 3.1GHz ($1999 base price).

Skip Processor and Memory upgrades.

Upgrade Hard Drive to one of the two most expensive options (256GB Solid State Drive, with either a 1TB or 2TB Serial ATA drive), depending on your budget. Apple overcharges (of course) for the larger drive, but it's not a simple upgrade to do yourself, so you might as well max it out from the start.

This is the most important of your upgrades, because the SSD will affect your system speed more than anything else you can do. The SSD will be used only for your OS and Applications, and the SATA will be used for all your User home folders. If you routinely work on Photoshop files of 100GB or more, you may also need to set Photoshop to use the SATA as your Photoshop scratch disk.

Consider upgrading Graphics (again, depending on your budget).

Get a Magic Trackpad if you don't have one already. Lion luvs trackpad! Use it in addition to whatever you currently use (mouse or tablet) for Adobe apps.

After you've added that to your cart, continue shopping and add a Mini DisplayPort to DVI adaptor
http://store.apple.com/us/product/MB570Z/A
which should let you use your current display to give you an extended desktop, and a NON-glossy display for your most color-sensitive Photoshop work.

Lastly, go to macsales.com and get yourself an 8 GB kit (2x 4GB chips) for the current iMac line. This will add to the stock 4 GB and give you 12 GB for less than the cost of getting an upgrade from 4 to 8 GB from Apple. And you can always go from 12 to 16 with another such kit in the future.

The end result will be a system that will run Photoshop and Illustrator significantly faster than anything you could buy in a Mac Pro (unless, of course, the Mac Pro is also configures with an SSD boot drive).

Xaqtly
2011-08-08, 22:43
I'd have to disagree with that assessment simply because in a Mac Pro you could buy a much faster SSD, use it as a boot drive, put in another 6TB of space in the other drive bays and go with a 12-core Xeon along with 16-32 GB of RAM that would absolutely and utterly demolish any iMac in terms of speed, in the context of doing Photoshop work.

If you're working with large high rez images, processing power is king, not disk speed. Also, if you're working with large images you will be storing them on a secondary big disk, not the SSD. But it really does depend on the size of the images you're working with. 12 cores is overkill if you're only doing web layouts or small print jobs. It's when you start getting into the heavier duty, 400GB photoshop files that you want every single iota of processing power you can get your hands on. And as much RAM as you can stuff into the machine, too.

I manage a studio full of artists and designers who do high rez stuff like this, as in full size billboards at full print resolution. They're all on relatively recent Mac Pros and they are all crying for more power. They have to sit and wait for effects to process. So this decision should really be based on the specific work that you are doing and how much of a workload it creates.

An SSD boot drive is great and speeds up the day to day stuff immensely but doesn't really help for doing Photoshop work. You're going to want to use a bigger disk as a scratch disk, and then you're going to want to stuff the Mac full of RAM so it doesn't have to use it.

Make no mistake - if you need a real workstation, you need a Mac Pro. An iMac is pretty fantastic for what it is but it can't compete on a professional level where sheer processing power and memory capacity is the bottleneck. But like I said, it really depends on the specific work you're doing. If you're not working with massive files that require that sort of power to wrangle to the ground, then an iMac will probably work fine. Everything is relative.

FFL
2011-08-08, 23:36
I'd have to disagree with that assessment simply because in a Mac Pro you could buy a much faster SSD, use it as a boot drive, put in another 6TB of space in the other drive bays and go with a 12-core Xeon along with 16-32 GB of RAM that would absolutely and utterly demolish any iMac in terms of speed, in the context of doing Photoshop work.

...

Make no mistake - if you need a real workstation, you need a Mac Pro. An iMac is pretty fantastic for what it is but it can't compete on a professional level where sheer processing power and memory capacity is the bottleneck. But like I said, it really depends on the specific work you're doing. If you're not working with massive files that require that sort of power to wrangle to the ground, then an iMac will probably work fine. Everything is relative.

Well, sure - clearly a Mac Pro with an SSD will be faster than an iMac with an SSD. It will also be much more expensive, and won't include a screen. An iMac with SSD will still be significantly faster than a stock Mac Pro (except, perhaps, in Photoshop with those 400+GB files you mentioned).

More bang for the buck, is my theory. Given an UNLIMITED budget, we'd all be driving 12-core Mac Pros with 32 GB of RAM booted from 512 GB SSDs with a 4 TB internal RAID for data storage.
:D

It's all relative, like you said. And given where he is coming from...
So, let me say that I have a dual 2 G5 at home, with 4 gigs of Ram.
I think it's safe to say that he doesn't need 12 cores and 32 GB of RAM to handle his Photoshop work. And an i7 iMac with 12 GB of RAM will be a huge upgrade.

But, like you said - it all depends on the size of his PSD files. I think we've both done a good job of presenting him with the advantages of either choice.

Eugene
2011-08-09, 01:18
The iMac is my least favorite choice of the three Apple desktop lines because of the integrated display.

I just don't like the idea of losing a perfectly good display when some other component in the iMac goes up in smoke. I could sell the bare LCD panel, but I'd really just rather have my choice of a non-glossy wider-gamut Dell paired with either a Mac mini or a Mac Pro.

NeverFade
2011-08-09, 09:54
@ FFL and Xagtly,

Thank you very much for your responses. I very much appreciate them...! I will take them into account when purchasing. I think when I do, I will probably go in the way of the iMac, but I'll see what the new Mac Pros have to offer. You also both enlightened me to SSD because I had no idea about the speed behind them.

I also mistyped before - not a Power Mac at work, but a Mac Pro. Also, as for .psd files - they get pretty big at work here: 200 - 400 megs files. I would like to be able to handle those at home as well, however.

Thanks, again, for your input. If anyone else has any solutions, I'll come back to read more...

pscates2.0
2011-08-09, 10:20
I think I'm kinda with FFL on this one. Considering what you'd be coming from, any of the current iMacs, loaded with RAM, should more than handle the job. And, as you'd mentioned, you'd get a cleaner, nicer area there in your home.

I understand Eugene's concern about the separate display and all. But, to me, that's worth a roll of the dice. If you get the AppleCare and you're covered for three years, anything faulty or failing is on Apple. Yeah, it might suck to be without for a couple of days, but you'd be in the same situation if you have a separate box and display and the monitor goes back (unless you just went out immediately and grabbed another monitor).

I just like the idea of so much power and capability in such a sleek, clean package, with less crap to connect and hook up.

But that's just me. I've been an iMac guy since the beginning. I love the AIO approach, period. And these days, since they're so powerful and capable, it's a total no-brainer to me! The loss of expansion/upgrading is really the biggest trade-off here, I think. And if you're currently not packing your tower with extra drives and job-specfic cards or enhancements, then you're not really using the tower to its fullest anyway.

Years ago the "consumer" stuff might've been hobbled or throttled back enough (compared to the towers) that there was legitimate reasons for going with a tower (even if you weren't going to load them up extra drives or cards). But today, even though the towers outperform the iMacs (all those cores, higher RAM ceiling, etc.), the iMacs have stepped up to such a level that you can do what you need.

To me, the towers would be for people who are truly pushing the envelope and dealing with video and audio, or 3D/animation, type of stuff. And maybe they require certain audio or video cards, and huge amounts of multiple drives and 32GB of RAM, etc. But I think those types are much fewer and further between than even us Photoshop monkeys.

I'm using an iMac from 2008 with 3GB RAM, and I've always got the Adobe CS stuff going. I'm sure I'd benefit from a newer machine, more RAM and a newer version of CS. But, point is, I do everything I need and never recall sitting here thinking "I'm losing money!"

:)

I think a modern, current iMac would be fine for what you talk about (if the thing Eugene talks about doesn't weigh too heavily on you...it's worth considering too). He's smart and he's forgotten more about all this stuff than I'll ever know, so it's worth factoring in things he says too (he's one of the 4-5 people here whose knowledge/insight on all this kind of stuff I'd take to the bank).

Eugene
2011-08-10, 02:46
I understand Eugene's concern about the separate display and all. But, to me, that's worth a roll of the dice. If you get the AppleCare and you're covered for three years, anything faulty or failing is on Apple. Yeah, it might suck to be without for a couple of days, but you'd be in the same situation if you have a separate box and display and the monitor goes back (unless you just went out immediately and grabbed another monitor).
I had three years of AppleCare on my iMac. It had a power supply failure which also took out the main logicboard after 4 years 3 months. Even if you are planning on buying a new Mac every 3-4 years you are being extremely wasteful by throwing away a perfectly good monitor. My current Dell U2405FPW is going on six years without an issue. When this monitor finally gives out, it will have seen probably 3-4 major PC upgrades.

Want to be environmentally friendly? Don't buy a new monitor every 3 years...Don't buy an iMac if you can avoid it.

pscates2.0
2011-08-10, 03:51
I don't really consider that angle. Apple makes the stuff, I buy it. They're doing what they can on their end to meet various environmental goals. That's about as far as I take it. I'm not going to make a Mac purchase decision based on that.

But I'm not gonna lose sleep over upgrading an iMac every 4-5 years. Or even every three (which is the shortest spam I'd ever consider).

Eugene
2011-08-10, 04:43
I don't really consider that angle. Apple makes the stuff, I buy it. They're doing what they can on their end to meet various environmental goals. That's about as far as I take it. I'm not going to make a Mac purchase decision based on that.

But I'm not gonna lose sleep over upgrading an iMac every 4-5 years. Or even every three (which is the shortest spam I'd ever consider).
You can also consider the additional cost of the monitor. I buy a tricked out mini for $900, a 27" Thunderbolt Display for $1000. I buy another mini for $900 4-5 years later. That $2800 lasts you at least 8-10 years. If you choose 27" iMacs instead, you're paying at least $3400.

Admittedly the iMac has better graphics, more HDD space and a better processor, but it's really only a better deal once.

The mini is the more practical purchase for buyers on a budget. The aesthetic advantage of an AIO design is pretty minimal as well. You're trading a chin for one extra cord and feeling good about the environment.

Note that I purchased a early-2011 iMac (reluctantly) when the late-2006 iMac died in March. The new Mac mini would have been perfect for me if only it were released earlier.

Xaqtly
2011-08-10, 15:37
Also, as for .psd files - they get pretty big at work here: 200 - 400 megs files. I would like to be able to handle those at home as well, however.

Well, here's the thing. 200-400MB files are easily in the range where a Mac Pro will make a difference over an iMac. A Mac Pro will simply be able to push those files around faster and working with them (resizing, filters, effects etc.) will go faster too. This level of work is past the point where the bottleneck is the boot disk speed, and it moves to being the processors and RAM capacity/speed.

So the answer is, you will see better performance with those kind of files using a Mac Pro over an iMac. That being said though, the iMac can handle them too. Just not quite as fast, since in the case of photoshop work, double the processor cores is an easy 50% increase in speed. So there is no "right" answer for you, there is only what you are willing to put up with in terms of power and speed. We have designers here that have iMacs at home and they're perfectly happy with them. It's hard to justify the cost of Mac Pros, but when you're working with those files the extra power can translate directly to $$$ in the form of time saved > more jobs completed in a day.

If your revenue isn't time or deadline-based, then it may not make as much sense to go with the Mac Pro since the time saved wouldn't be benefiting you directly other than not having to wait quite as long for filters to run. That part's entirely up to you. But if you are able to make more money by getting more done in less time, the Mac Pro can literally pay for itself. Tough call, right? :D I wouldn't say it's necessary to get a Mac Pro, only that it will help you get your work done faster.

Chinney
2011-09-18, 19:18
As someone just about to get an iMac to replace my 6 year old iMac G5, I must say that the capabilities illustrated by the comments in this thread indicate that the current iMac (probably even the base model) is more than overkill for most general computer needs for most people (whatever it might be in relation to specialized needs like those of NeverFade). The most intensive process I will be using it for is work in Aperture 3 and it will be able to more than handle that.

digitalprimate
2011-09-21, 15:44
If I wouldn't be a hardcore After Effects user, I would very happy with a Mac Mini server, I think. But I need graphics capabilities beyond the 'general', and budget-constraints narrow it down for me to an iMac. I don't think I'll suffice with the base model, because there, the ram is not really upgradeable (only up to 8 GB compared to 16 GB in the second iMac).

A Mac Pro would be lovely (64GBs of ram: Yummee!!) but it's beyond what I can afford, so the iMac will give me enough oomph from my current Mac, which is an MBP 2.16-Ghz. :-)