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  1. #1


    Member Since
    Feb 05, 2010
    Posts
    53
    Refurb 24-inch imac buying advice
    OK, I've finally come to peace with the decision to switch from PC to imac. I want the screen real estate of the bigger screen but can't quite get to the 27-inch now, so I am going with the 24-inch refurb unit. I have heard excellent things about the Apple refurbs -- I hope I won't be disappointed.

    So here's my question ... there are three trim levels and here are the differences as far as I can tell:

    Base - 2.66 ghz CPU, GeForce 9400M integrated memory GPU, 640 GB hard drive, $1,099

    Mid - 2.93 ghz CPU, GeForce GT 120 with 256 MB separate memory, 640 GB hard drive, $1,279 (Base + $180)

    Top - 3.06 ghz CPU, GeForce GT 130 with 512 separate memory, 1 TB hard drive, $1,349 (Mid + $70)

    So the differences are upgraded CPU, GPU and in the top end, bigger hard drive.

    The real sweet spot here seems to be the top end one. You get a lot more horse power for only $70 more. But how often do these come up on the refurb site? I see the mid grade one a lot. Is the upgrade in CPU and GPU really that pronounced that I should wait for the top one to show up again or just get the midgrade?

    I understand the difference between 640 GB and 1 TB, but it's harder to know how much difference the upgraded CPU and GPU would make in the performance. I am not a power user -- mostly photo processing and some light video editing, but no games really. But with an eye toward future proofing, how much difference is there really?

    Thanks

  2. #2

    pigoo3's Avatar
    Member Since
    May 20, 2008
    Location
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    34,827
    Specs:
    2011 13" MBP 2.3ghz, 8gig ram, OS 10.8.5
    Quote Originally Posted by ceejay View Post
    The real sweet spot here seems to be the top end one.
    I agree with you. The price differences really are not enormous.

    And remember...with the iMac you CANNOT upgrade the processor or video hardware...so buy as much as you can afford!

    - Nick
    - Too many "beachballs", read this: Beachballs
    - Computer seems slower than it used to? Read this for some slow computer tips: Speedup
    - Almost full hard drive? Some solutions. Out of Space
    - Apple Battery Info. Battery

  3. #3

    ZorroAMG's Avatar
    Member Since
    Oct 23, 2005
    Location
    Vancouver Canada
    Posts
    522
    Specs:
    | '09 24" iMac 3.06 8GB | '09 iPhone 3GS 32GB | '09 ATV 1.16TB | '07 23" ACD | '06 15" MBP |
    I have the 24" 3.06/130/1tb and I LOVE it. If you can find one, snatch it up..I paid $3000 CAD with taxes and apple care this past July.

  4. #4


    Member Since
    Feb 05, 2010
    Posts
    53
    Argh!
    Just called in to Apple to ask a question about how often the 3.06 24 inchers come into stock and the guy said he had one available. I said I'll take it and he started ringing it up and it went out of stock before he completed the transaction!

    How unlucky can you be?

    So anyway, it seems to me like the biggest jump in specs would be from the base GPU to the midrange GPU. The CPU speeds are slightly better at each level, and of course the bigger hard drive would be great, but I think:

    midrange GPU >>>> base GPU
    top GPU > midrange GPU

    I am a little ignorant about the GPUs, but does that sound right?

  5. #5

    ZorroAMG's Avatar
    Member Since
    Oct 23, 2005
    Location
    Vancouver Canada
    Posts
    522
    Specs:
    | '09 24" iMac 3.06 8GB | '09 iPhone 3GS 32GB | '09 ATV 1.16TB | '07 23" ACD | '06 15" MBP |
    You will NOT notice the difference in CPU speed between the 2.93 and the 3.06. The HD and vid card is the difference there and those could appear in the 2.93...find one of those refurbs and you'll be fine...

  6. #6


    Member Since
    Feb 02, 2010
    Location
    Europe
    Posts
    16
    Specs:
    24 '' I-MAC, 4GB, GT130, XP Pro SP3
    Gt130
    Ok, I leave it up to you as to what you will buy.

    I have a 2.93Ghz with the GT130... I very happy with it, I mostly run Windows XP SP3 anyways. Gives me no trouble at all with Bootcamp 2.2, I even use the latest Nvidia drivers which Phys-x etc. If you wish to use Bootcamp, get one with the GT120 or GT130. Otherwise the ATI is a better choice. Reason is, that the ATI drivers for Windows have always been trouble when you update them!

    For your information:
    The Nvidia Gforce GT130, is not a GT130... As all the I-MAC's are indeed oversized Notebooks... that use the Nvidia 9400m as integrated Chipset/Graphics adapter, they only use Mobile Graphics Cards.

    So what Apple calls a GT130 in the 24'' I-MAC is... a Nvidia 9800m GTS! Which is quite a good mobile Video card. It has 64 Cuda cores, and the 9400m chipset/gpu has another 16 Cuda cores, which many aps can use to do math instead of graphics. I verified this using a tool called GPU-Z which runs under Windows! Also I use drivers for the 9800m GTS under Windows!

    If yo get an ATI GPU, the 16 CUDA cores "shut down", because Nvidia reserves itself the right to use multiple cores from multiple cards together. So a GT130 I-MAC will have 80 CUDA cores. To give you an idea... with proper software, some Math or video encoding can be done 8x faster then on a I-MAC that has a ATI GPU. (According to Nvidia)

    Now as to the GT120... facing me, I have a 2.93Ghz 24'' I-MAC that I am installing these days... I will setup Bootcamp on it, as well as XP SP2... also because I want to know what that GT120 is in fact. As soon as ID it, I will post a note somewhere on this Forum.

    Regards,
    Coolknight

    (I think it is a mistake that the new 27'' no longer offers something like the GT130, cause most Windows games are optimized for Nvidia, even more so the older games!)

  7. #7


    Member Since
    Feb 05, 2010
    Posts
    53
    GT 120 vs GT 130
    OK, thanks for the info CoolKnight. I am very interested in knowing the real world difference between the GT 120 and GT 130. I agree with a previous poster that the CPU difference (2.93 vs 3.06) would be completely imperceptible to the end user. Of course the 1 TB hard drive is more than 50% larger than the 640 GB so that would be probably worth the price difference by itself. (How hard is it to swap hard drives in the imacs, by the way?)

    Again, to non-technical me, I think the following relationship applies between the three GPUs available:

    GeForce 9400M <<< GT 120 < GT 130

    What are your thoughts on this? I would definitely be planning to run boot camp (XP / SP3) and want to make sure it would be fully capable.

  8. #8

    pigoo3's Avatar
    Member Since
    May 20, 2008
    Location
    U.S.
    Posts
    34,827
    Specs:
    2011 13" MBP 2.3ghz, 8gig ram, OS 10.8.5
    Quote Originally Posted by ceejay View Post
    Just called in to Apple to ask a question about how often the 3.06 24 inchers come into stock and the guy said he had one available. I said I'll take it and he started ringing it up and it went out of stock before he completed the transaction!

    How unlucky can you be?
    Refurbished stock changes daily if not hourly at the Apple online store. So you just have to keep looking till a config. you want comes back into stock.

    But still lucky for you...since you were on the phone with Apple...and you were ready to buy!

    Congrats,

    - Nick
    - Too many "beachballs", read this: Beachballs
    - Computer seems slower than it used to? Read this for some slow computer tips: Speedup
    - Almost full hard drive? Some solutions. Out of Space
    - Apple Battery Info. Battery

  9. #9


    Member Since
    Feb 02, 2010
    Location
    Europe
    Posts
    16
    Specs:
    24 '' I-MAC, 4GB, GT130, XP Pro SP3
    Quote Originally Posted by ceejay View Post
    OK, thanks for the info CoolKnight. I am very interested in knowing the real world difference between the GT 120 and GT 130. I agree with a previous poster that the CPU difference (2.93 vs 3.06) would be completely imperceptible to the end user. Of course the 1 TB hard drive is more than 50&#37; larger than the 640 GB so that would be probably worth the price difference by itself. (How hard is it to swap hard drives in the imacs, by the way?)

    Again, to non-technical me, I think the following relationship applies between the three GPUs available:

    GeForce 9400M <<< GT 120 < GT 130

    What are your thoughts on this? I would definitely be planning to run boot camp (XP / SP3) and want to make sure it would be fully capable.
    I would pay extra to get one with a GT130... cause it has 256mb more video ram, is probably a plus for Phys-x... also, I don't know yet if the GT120 is the same chip as the GT130... in tests the GT130 is only 11% faster... but if it has fewer Cuda cores, for math, encoding and Phys-x the performance might be much less then the GT130.

    As to the ATI... good card, DX11 etc. Problem are the Windows Drivers. To update you need to uninstall em first... not practical when you run under Bootcamp. The Nvidia drivers, you simply install over the old ones, uninstall only the Nvidia Control Panel if need be...

    As to games... most PC games run under Full-Res just fine on the GT130. Call of Duty series etc... Medal of Honor Airborne, The Saboteur... Doom3 is the only game I have that runs better under 1280x1024 (I need to see if there is newer patched version out then the older patch I have). Even all my old PC Games work just fine, like Medal of Honor Allied Assault or IL2 series etc.

    Let me put this into perspective... a GT120, is a faster card then ie. one of the old 7900GTOs from Nvidia... Of course the sky is the limit... but for only games... one would not buy an I-MAC, rather a water cooled i7 PC with all the goodies from either ATI or Nvidia... and overclock it like nuts!

    (Wrote this from the 2.9Ghz with GT120... OS-X, re-installed (I always do that), patched. When I get time, I will put on XP SP2)

    Ah... one thing, when you update the Nvidia drivers under XP, you will get lots of error messages, progs closing, crashing... LOL... as the chipset driver is also updated... just keep saying ok... be patient... (always backup before)... it does work just fine. After the Nvidia driver update, update the Phys-x driver once more.

    Regards,
    Coolknight

  10. #10


    Member Since
    Feb 02, 2010
    Location
    Europe
    Posts
    16
    Specs:
    24 '' I-MAC, 4GB, GT130, XP Pro SP3
    GT 120 Tech Data
    Hi,

    Here is the Tech Data on the GT 120.
    Data Bus PCie 2.0
    Tech: 65nm
    Cuda Cores 32
    Chip: G96-A1
    Bus: 128 Bits, Max 25.3Gb Bandwidth
    CPU Clock: 500Mhz
    Mem: 792Mhz
    Shader: 1250Mhz

    So looking at this, it seems that the GT120 is a modified 9600m. That got the new PCie bus, some minor tweaks.

    Compare this to the GT130.
    Data Bus PCie. 2.0
    Tech: 65nm
    Cuda Cores 64
    Chip: G94-A1
    Bus: 256 Bits, Max 50.7Gb
    CPU Clock: 600Mhz
    Mem: 792Mhz
    Shader: 1500Mhz

    Clearly the GT130 has more power to do Math or Graphics.

    Regards,
    Coolknight

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