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

21.5 iMac advice please.


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Sonic Reducer

 
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Hi All,
I'm going to be buying a new late 2013 21.5 iMac at the end of January. I'm thinking of going for the 3.1GHZ processor, regular 8mb memory, a Fusion drive and the usb Super drive.

I'm probably not going to be doing anything more taxing with the iMac than using stuff like Garage band and perhaps some other music making programs so I'm wondering if perhaps the 3.1 processor might be overkill? My main thinking towards going down that road was a kind of 'future proofing' thing. I can afford the 3.1 setup, but dont really plan on buying a new computer again for quite a few years so I'd like it to be good for as long as possible.

If it IS overkill to go for the 3.1 though, would I be better to just skip the 2.9 processor and just get the regular 2.7 processor and fusion drive and save myself a bit of money?

Also, what are peoples opinions on getting the Apple Super Drive? Are they worth the cost or would I be better served to buy a third party drive? I'm toying with the idea of playing Blu Rays on the machine in the future and I know for that I need a 3rd party drive. ( though i dont know which one is best or what software I'd need to run it ) Any recommendations for 3rd party drives, regular or Blu Ray would be much appreciated.

Thanks in advance for any advice and opinions. I'm used to Apple products, I have an ipad, ipod and currently use a 2nd hand 2006 15" Macbook Pro I've had for 3 years now thats frankly on its last legs, hence the need for a change. Don't feel I need the portability anymore as i mainly use my Ipad for that.
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Lifeisabeach

 
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I doubt you'll see any significant benefit to going with the 3.1 vs even the 2.7 CPU. The "problem" I see with scaling back to the 2.7 processor is that model comes with Intel's Iris GPU. I just read up on that some and apparently it's quite good, but if you plan to install Windows and do any gaming, nVidia's drivers are still better optimized.

As for an external drive, you may as well get a Blu-Ray drive. However, the software for actually playing Blu-Ray discs on a Mac is dominated by a bunch of titles that get really bad reviews. A lot of them seem to be the same piece of software, just renamed. Or bad copies of each other. Check out the comments section on MacUpdate for this one in particular.

Also read this:
Watch and rip Blu-ray movies on your Mac | Macworld

As for an actual drive, I've long been partial to Plextor's drives and can wholeheartedly recommend them. I have had the PX-B310U for a few years now and it is a rock solid performer. I've also used their PX-B120U and while it has the advantage of being powered over USB (meaning only one cable), it is slower. It also only lasted a couple years due to the lid failing to open one day. It's just the nature of the design, which is intended for light, portable use.
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PeterC4

 
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I have an early build 2007 iMac that I have been thinking of upgrading. (I actually did with a 27 inch model that I just returned...I could not get used to the size of the screen - but I had upgraded everything). I plan to upgrade everything I can on a 21.5 inch model from RAM to processor speed before I take delivery. Like you I want it to last and have done reasonably well with my current model which is going on seven years. Since the RAM is difficult to upgrade after the fact, I would go for that now. I don't know what drives are available for the iMac, but I imagine there are a reasonable amount of options. At least you know with a Superdrive it will work out of the gate.
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Lifeisabeach

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PeterC4 View Post
I have an early build 2007 iMac that I have been thinking of upgrading. (I actually did with a 27 inch model that I just returned...I could not get used to the size of the screen - but I had upgraded everything). I plan to upgrade everything I can on a 21.5 inch model from RAM to processor speed before I take delivery. Like you I want it to last and have done reasonably well with my current model which is going on seven years. Since the RAM is difficult to upgrade after the fact, I would go for that now. I don't know what drives are available for the iMac, but I imagine there are a reasonable amount of options. At least you know with a Superdrive it will work out of the gate.
You make a good point about the RAM. On the current 21.5" model, the RAM is not user serviceable, although it is on the 27" model. Mavericks is very efficient with RAM, so 8GB should be plenty. Bumping it to 16 GB might be a wise idea to future proof it though. 32 GB is overkill for the average user, although for music making, maybe it isn't?

As for the Superdrive, there is nothing special about Apple's drive. Well actually... I think you can only use their drive for "sharing" a CD/DVD with another Mac that has no disc drive. Otherwise though, there are no compatibility issues. You can get anything you want, although some brands are more reliable than others; are more "tolerant" of faults in media than others; and more compatible with a broader range of discs and even brands of writable discs than others. Plextor has long been tops in these regards.
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Sonic Reducer

 
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Thanks for the replies guys. Much appreciated. My situation is basically that i can afford 2 upgrades (assuming i go for the 2.9ghz model), one is going to be the Fusion Drive and the other is a choice between the 3.1GHZ processor or having 16GB of RAM.

With my limited knowledge, I figure 8MB of RAM ought to be enough for what I'll want to do on the machine. just really basic music making stuff really. A lot of it I already do on my ipad and can transfer tracks to the Imac as and when needed.

What I'm not sure about, is which of my choices makes for better Future Proofing. In an ideal world I'd get both the memory and the 3.1 processor, but I can really only justify the expenditure for one of them. Gut feeling is to go for the bigger Processor but again, all advice/knowledge is much appreciated.

I've decided to not bother with the Blu-Ray drive. We have a BR player that's perfectly adequate, I'm not likely to burn my own Blu Rays either so i may as well just get a cheaper external optical drive than the Apple version and save a bit there. I'll have a look into a Plextor Drive, I want one that's as reliable as possible.
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Lifeisabeach

 
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You can always just go with the CPU upgrade. The RAM "can" be upgraded down the road if need be, it's just not easy to get at it. The CPU typically cannot be upgraded, so what you get is what you are stuck with.
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PeterC4

 
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CPU over RAM at this point makes sense.
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chscag

 
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Quote:
Thanks for the replies guys. Much appreciated. My situation is basically that i can afford 2 upgrades (assuming i go for the 2.9ghz model), one is going to be the Fusion Drive and the other is a choice between the 3.1GHZ processor or having 16GB of RAM.
@Sonic Reducer

Go for the Fusion drive and the 16 GB of memory. Upgrading the memory on a 21.5" iMac later on is not possible and boosting the CPU to 3.1 GHz from 2.9 GHz won't even be noticed. And this is important: Buy Apple Care! The new iMac series are not designed to be worked on by the user. One trip to the genius bar during the 3 years of Apple Care will more than pay for itself.
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Sonic Reducer

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chscag View Post
@Sonic Reducer

Go for the Fusion drive and the 16 GB of memory. Upgrading the memory on a 21.5" iMac later on is not possible and boosting the CPU to 3.1 GHz from 2.9 GHz won't even be noticed. And this is important: Buy Apple Care! The new iMac series are not designed to be worked on by the user. One trip to the genius bar during the 3 years of Apple Care will more than pay for itself.
Thanks for the reply. Would the 3.1GHz not be more future proof though? I presumed the i7 would be the stronger performer and therefor have more longevity. Is that not necessarily the case? What are the differences between the 2?
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chscag

 
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Unless you're into scientific and mathematical use of your iMac or you're a graphic designer and you really need the CPU power to crunch numbers, you won't be able to tell the difference. You can look up the benchmarks at the MacWorld Magazine site if you wish, but as I said above, unless you need the extra power, it's a waste of money.

As far as future proofing your Mac, think 2 or 3 years ahead because the way technology changes, chances are an iMac in 2016 will be much more powerful than the one you intend to buy today. And if you really need the kind of power I mentioned above, then you don't need an iMac. In that case, save your pennies and buy the new Mac Pro.

I have both a 2011 21.5" iMac and a brand new 2013 27" iMac and I can't tell the difference between them as far as speed and computing power is concerned. You can look up the specs on both machines using Mactracker (free download) and compare.
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Sonic Reducer

 
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Fantastic Stuff. Thanks very much. Looks like I'm saving some money then. I'm really not sure I'd need 16GB of memory but I might upgrade to that. Not sure yet. if i chose not to though, the money saved would certainly help.
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Go with the 16GB. Today's and future operating systems, web sites etc etc will only get more demanding. Too late after the purchase as chscag states unable to update memory on the 21.5" model.

Hang on to those original install discs like grim death! Using OS X.7 or later make a bootable USB thumb drive before running Installer!
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