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Apple Desktops Discussion of Apple's desktop machines including Mac Pro, iMac, Power Mac, and mini

iMac - Buying a New iMac


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don_macabre

 
Member Since: Jul 05, 2009
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Hey guys,

I'm a new member of your forum and have just spent a very happy two or three hours browsing around the threads you've got here. Lots of super discussions and some very interesting information!

I have a selection of questions about buying a new iMac, some of which have been half-covered in other threads but which I would still like a bit more information on. I hope I'm not stepping on any toes by posting this; I'm sure, if I am, you will tell me promptly!

I'm not new to using Macs. My very first Mac was - I think? - an LCII, and I have very fond memories of the PPC lines. However, I have never really learned much about computers; how they work; capabilities; differences between Macs (yay!) and Windows-based PCs (boo!); etc.

I'm planning on buying a computer in the next few weeks. It will be a Mac. I need to decide which one to get. I'm hoping you can help.

My uses are almost entirely casual: the standard word-processing, internet use, iTunes, DVDs and gaming, etc. However, I hope to start exploring the world of photography and was intending to use the opportunity of Parallel/Boot Camp to expand my gaming to a whole fun new level.

I have been using a MacBook and have decided I don't need the portability. I have looked at the Mini and have decided that, pound-for-pound, both the iMac and the Mac Pro offer better value for money. However, I dont think I can afford a Mac Pro; reallistically, then, I think I'm looking at an iMac. So here are the questions:
I want a 24" screen. (As a layperson in internal computing terms, the outer physical appearance of the computer is important to me!) The differences between the three specifications offered by Mac seem to be this:

Processor
  • 2.66Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo
  • 2.93Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo
  • 3.06Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo

What is the processor? What does it do? Will I notice a significant difference in performance between one option and the next? What about between the lowest- and highest-spec?

Is this something that can be changed? If I get one and later decide to upgrade, can I change the processor?


Memory
  • 4GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM
  • 8GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM

What does the memory do for the computer? Again, will I notice any particular differences between performance on one and performance on the other?

Can it be changed, or upgraded? I noticed in another thread someone talking aobut getting Memory from a source other than Apple; that it was cheaper that way. What does this involve? If I decided to get the 2*4GB memory sticks/slots/cards that make up the 8GB from a different source, can I put it into the computer myself - or with the help of a university CompSci department - or do I have to go through Apple?


Graphics Card
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 256MB
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 130 512MB
  • ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB

Uhm... what is a graphics card? I have it in my head that it's some kind of dedicated processor that only deals with graphics, but that could be wrong and - even if it's right - I don't actually know what it means. Obviously this will have most impact on gaming as I currently use my computer; would it have an impact on any future photography I get involved in? What's the difference between the three cards? And can I upgrade whatever's put in in the future? I know absolutely nothing about graphics cards - the more information you can give me, the happier I'll be. But please - be gentle...!


Boot Camp/Parallel

How do these bad-boys work? I know the absolute basics - you can either load up Windows independantly of your Mac OS or you can load it up side-by-side. But what does that do to things like virus vulnerability? Do I suddenly have to start being a lot more careful about using anti-virus? If something gets onto my Windows OS, can it affect my Mac OS? With the kind of computing power available in a new iMac, is Parallel something I can realistically use to play games, or will it run too slowly? Should I just stick to Boot Camp? I have no experience running either of these things; again, any information would be greatly appreciated. Presumably the processing power/memory/whatever are the same whether you're running Windows or Mac?


AOB

What kind of potential will an iMac system give for playing games in the future? My main experience of gaming on my old computer has been WoW and Football Manager. I just want a bit more versatility and choice. Will an iMac give me the ability to play current leading-edge games? Is it likely to let me play future leading-edge games? I know that obviously any system will be quickly outdated and that the iMac is fairly inflexible in terms of upgrades, but looking ahead, say, a year or two - will I still be able to see a new game and say "ooh, that's pretty! I'll buy it."?
If you've made it this far through the post, I'll start with expressing thanks for bearing with me so long. Again, sorry if I've stepped on toes - particularly by writing such a long post - but I'm feeling horribly confused by the options and I really want to understand what I'm doing a bit more. Hopefully some of you are willing to help me out and clear some of this up for me.

Thanks in advance,

--D


Edit: If there's somewhere better for me to find this information, where it's already written down and is much less hassle for everyone, please link it for me! I'm not wanting to make anyone write out a Dummies Guide to How Computers Work... :/
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CrimsonRequiem

 
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You can easily google this stuff. >_>"

Ignoring the technical stuff.

I don't think you will notice the any difference between the processor speeds, unless you literally had them side by side running the same application and doing the same things with a stop watch.

The difference is minimal, it might unzip and compress your files a few seconds faster in Winrar or whatever.

Can you upgrade the CPU? I haven't really looked into it but I think the new iMacs are Socketed. Not 100% sure on that, because there is a sticker or something saying if you remove it will void the warranty.

Judging by the stuff that you are going to be doing. There isn't a need to have more than 4GB of RAM. 8GB of ram is going to cost you around 700-800 dollars and this is from third party vendors. I don't even want to fathom what apple would charge.

The GPU for sure can't be upgraded, and it comes down to brand preference. The 4850 is better on 3d rendering and gaming though.

If you are serious about gaming at all, then I would advise to build your own rig.

As much as I love Macs they just aren't meant for hardcore gaming. Too many restrictions on hardware, and you can't overclock.
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don_macabre

 
Member Since: Jul 05, 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CrimsonRequiem View Post
You can easily google this stuff. >_>"

Ignoring the technical stuff.

I don't think you will notice the any difference between the processor speeds, unless you literally had them side by side running the same application and doing the same things with with a stop watch.

The difference is minimal, it might unzip and compress your files a few seconds faster in Winrar or whatever.

Can you upgrade the CPU? I haven't really looked into it but I think the new iMacs are Socketed. Not 100% sure on that, because there is a sticker or something saying if you remove it will void the warranty.

Judging by the stuff that you are going to be doing. There isn't a need to have more than 4GB of RAM. 8GB of ram is going to cost you around 700-800 dollars and this is from third party vendors. I don't even want to fathom what apple would charge.

The GPU for sure can't be upgraded, and it comes down to brand preference. The 4850 is better on 3d rendering and gaming though.

If you are serious about gaming at all, then I would advise to build your own rig.

As much as I love Macs they just aren't meant for hardcore gaming. Too many restrictions on hardware, and you can't overclock.
Firstly, many thanks for the prompt reply. Greatly appreciated.

Since writing the thread, I've started looking at things on Wiki. It genuinely hadn't occurred to me until I'd posted, but I think I've apologised enough for it in my original post...

I also have plans to trap a CompSci friend and forcefeed him nachos until he tells me everything I need to know at some point!

Ok. Processor speeds. My instinct tells me that I want the fastest one possible given the exponential (?) increase in demands from gaming software in particular. However, looking at it rationally I can't quite convince myself that the 0.4GHz difference between the bottom- and top-end specifications can be that great. However, I'm a self-confessed layperson. Perhaps that 0.4GHz makes all the difference in the world? You think I wouldn't notice differences in applications - for simple applications I completely agree. Is that still the case for higher-end programmes like games? I also tend to rip my DVDs and store 'em on an external drive - will the processor increase the speed of that happening significantly?

CPU = central processor unit = processor, right? So if I chose the 2.66GHz and it blows, I can't change it. Ok.

Memory isn't as expensive as all that, I think. I looked on Crucial (I'm in Britain) and I believe this is the 8GB memory that I would need - it seems to have the exact same specs as the one offered by Apple. Apple's memory costs 800.00 from their UK store. That's too much. However, if I'm getting'n'selling an iPod with it, I can justify popping out an extra couple hundred bucks on the memory IF it makes a difference. Presumably, however, if I can upgrade it when I get the system I can also upgrade it a few years down the line. Which is most likely to cause problems with running applications - the CPU or the RAM?

GPU = graphics processing unit? Ok, no upgrades. Is that a hardware or software issue? I presume hardware, as the software changes as time goes by. How then do people with PCs upgrade their graphics cards? Is this a Mac-specific problem? Hmmm. You say the 4850 is better for 3D rendering and gaming - are there other things the Radeon is better at? Or is 3D rendering and gaming the be-all-and-end-all of a GPU's remit?

Finally, I'm never going to be a 'serious' gamer, I don't think. I'll always be casual. I just prefer having more choice of game and not being left behind playing Escape Velocity (brilliant, brilliant game; don't get me wrong!) while all my friends are off getting some crazy new-fangled high-tech, 3D, shooty, escape-from-monsters, build-stuff and blow-stuff-up gaming high.

I understand the thinking behind building a gaming rig. However, I am absolutely definitely a Mac user. I quite simply don't want a PC.

Oh, and what's overclocking?

So. Thanks again for the quick response. Hopefully these aren't questions I can quickly Google...!
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CrimsonRequiem

 
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I don't see .4 Ghz being game breaking or making a huge difference at all. Nor will it be any better for games.

Ripping DVD is does use the CPU but in the end I think it depends on how fast your Super drive can read/write data that matters.

For applications the RAM is the thing that will make it run smoothly or not.

GPU is hardware so it's a physical thing as it's attached to the logic board, and can't be removed.

If you had a PC machine, talking about a desktop machine you can remove the GPU easy since it's not welded onto the Motherboard.

I don't particularly like Radeon but in this case it renders 3D better than the other two GPU that is available, it's not the best GPU in the world.

I love Macs and it's fine if you want to game on them if it's just casual. Personally I just like to keep gaming separate from my work computer. Plus I don't want to torture my Mac, by installing Windows on it.

Overclocking is making computer components preform over what their factory settings are initially. IE. Making a CPU with a factory setting of 2 GHz run at 3.5GHz Overclocked.
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didymus

 
Member Since: Apr 23, 2009
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Mac Specs: Model Identifier: iMac9,1 Processor Name: Intel Core 2 Duo Processor Speed: 2.66 GHz

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Can't comment on all of this but, briefly, you are unlikely to notice much difference processor speed between 2.66 and 2.93 and not a lot between 2.66 and anything higher - most applications will be optimised to run and the speed of the most commonly used processor and that will probably be 2.66, because most people can't afford to pay for more.

On the video card - only of much relevance if you are heavily into gaming, then you need the highest spec card you can get.

Memory - currently I think the iMac 2.66 comes with 4 gig and is upgradeable to 8

Parallels is not the only virtual machine software - I checked out both this and VM Fusion and eventually went with the latter - and have not been disappointed. In my view it knocks out Parallels.

Hope this helps a little :-)
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chrismcfc

 
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I'm actually in the same boat as you, It'll be my first mac purchase (the last time I used a mac it was black and white)

I'll probably be going for the 3.06Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo, ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB usually I prefer NVIDIA but I think these choices are a little outdated (I could be wrong with that) because they are usually better for gaming!

As I'm quite into photography I'll be using photoshop and may use it for a little gaming. Dispite this I'm going for 4GB memory for 2 reasons.

1. It's easily upgraded if I find I need more after I purchase (I don't think I will)

2. DDR3 memory is very expensive at the moment (By the way the memory you pointed to on crucial is NOT the right sort. The imac takes the shorter laptop sized sticks, hence the price) it's this one CT2KIT51264BC1067 - 8GB Kit (4GBx2), 204-pin SODIMM , DDR3 PC3-8500 from Crucial.com

The only thing holding me back at the minute is that apple are releasing a new operating system in September and I'm not sure what the price of an upgrade would be.

C.
And the Imac has been around for a while now and I don't know if there is an planned upgrades for the near future... Somebody else may be able to spread some light on this for us. (dispite that I'll prob still purchase this one).
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CrimsonRequiem

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chrismcfc View Post
C.
And the Imac has been around for a while now and I don't know if there is an planned upgrades for the near future... Somebody else may be able to spread some light on this for us. (dispite that I'll prob still purchase this one).
I would check this website out periodically before making any major purchases.
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macnoob#1

 
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Instead of VM or Parallels, use virtual box, it is free, and the same thing.
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