Which Mac to boost efficiency?

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Am an event photographer, currently using a mid-2010 21" iMac, 3.06GHz Intel Core i3 processor, with 6GB of memory on OSX 10.8.5. I use it to process literally thousands of images on-site during an event. By 'processing', I mean importing and 'making a copy' from the CF card to the desktop via Lightroom. These are then categorised and uploaded to a local-network website via Lightroom's web upload facility, with very little actual editing, if any at all. My issue is speed - I desperately need to speed up the importing and uploading process as it's currently costing me time and, consequently, money. Clearly a fully-specked Mac Pro would do the job, but my budget is more in the region of £750 to £1250 rather than £2500 upwards!! Maybe a new MacBook Pro (plus a cheap monitor?)? If so which one? Or a newer iMac boosted with more memory? Any advice would be very much appreciated.
 

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I use it to process literally thousands of images on-site during an event.

Maybe a new MacBook Pro (plus a cheap monitor?)? If so which one? Or a newer iMac boosted with more memory? Any advice would be very much appreciated.

This was going to be my first question…since you mentioned "on-site during an event". I know that you currently have an iMac…but I'm thinking that setting up a desktop computer at an event can be a pain. So I just wanted to be sure you were ok with a laptop computer(?).

If a laptop is ok…were you thinking a 13" or 15" MBP. Remembering that the 15" MacBook Pro's can be pretty pricey. Of course this is where a decent sized external display could be used (if a 13" was purchased…or a 15").:)

Also. When you are doing this work at an event. What do you find slower…the importing of the data from the CF cards…or other tasks once you get the file info imported from the CF cards?

- If importing the data from the CF cards is the slowest part…maybe the "bottleneck" is the transfer method. Meaning if you are importing the data via USB…this method may not be the quickest.
- If the slowest part is working with the files after the data is imported…then this could be a "CPU speed thing"…or it could be a "ram thing". 6gig of ram on your iMac could probably be improved on.:)

Just trying to explore all options…just in case your current setup is not optimized. If it is not optimized…maybe purchasing a newer computer is not the only option.

- Nick
 
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Thank you for your reply Nick, very much appreciated.

A laptop would be ideal to transport to events yes, but the iMac hasn't really been an issue as I had a flight case built specifically for it. I would settle for either if I could sort the speed issue.

Laptop screen size would't be an issue as I would be happy to use it with an external display, so as long as I got the performance from a 13" then no problem.

The importing seems to be slow either via USB reader or Firewire reader. Speed does vary a bit between various CF cards of course, depending on the specific card used, but it's generally very slow compared to when I use the same card readers on my iMac 27" at home (3.5GHz Intel Core i7, 32gb, 2014, OSX 10.9.2 - top spek costly iMac which I won't risk at an event!). So that tells me it'll mostly be a general speed issue with the CPU. And the uploading to web is even slower if anything, almost interminable with a lot of files.

I haven't really considered boosting the memory to be honest - d'you think it would make that much difference? It would make some, clearly, but enough?

Thanks
 

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...but it's generally very slow compared to when I use the same card readers on my iMac 27" at home (3.5GHz Intel Core i7, 32gb, 2014, OSX 10.9.2 - top spek costly iMac which I won't risk at an event!). So that tells me it'll mostly be a general speed issue with the CPU.

You should have mentioned this earlier!:) There's nothing more definitive for this sort of situation/question…than having a 2nd more powerful computer (doing the same exact computing tasks)…and it being much faster.:) This would clearly point to the older iMac as being lacking in the horsepower department (compared to the newer 27" iMac).

And the uploading to web is even slower if anything, almost interminable with a lot of files.

Since this uploading at an event is so slow…could it be possible that the internet speed at the event is MUCH slower than what you have at home? If so…then no computer (regardless of it's horsepower) is going to be able to over come this hurdle (slow event internet).

I haven't really considered boosting the memory to be honest - d'you think it would make that much difference? It would make some, clearly, but enough?

As I'm sure you know…that well-speced 27" iMac with 32gig of ram has a lot more going for it than the 2010 iMac.

- more CPU & GPU horsepower
- more ram
- maybe faster ports

I'm betting that more ram in the 2010 iMac would help…but probably wouldn't speed things up to match (or get close) to the 27" iMac with 32gig of ram performance.

So I see three issue's with the 2010 iMac:

- slow importing
- slow processing
- slow uploading

The slow uploading may be difficult to overcome if slow internet is commonly found at the events. The slow processing & slow importing are probably the areas that will be improved with a newer computer.

If a new computer is the way to go for you…if it was a desktop model…I'm assuming you would want another 21" iMac. Is this true?

- Nick
 
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It does't necessarily have to be a 21" iMac, I'm very open to anything that will help me process the images faster but which is within my budget.

Internet isn't an issue at the events, all I do create a local network with a router and upload to some iPads within our event trailer, they don't go fully online.

Yes fully aware that my 27" iMac has a lot more going for it than the 21", and know that nothing within my budget will get close to it. But hence my query in the first place to see what is recommended with regards something that WILL fit the budget but is will do those tasks quicker. The ports are restricted to USB 2.0 and Firewire 800 I think, so possibly more RAM is the temporary answer for now?

Thank you.
 

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It does't necessarily have to be a 21" iMac, I'm very open to anything that will help me process the images faster but which is within my budget.

I thought maybe if you got a newer desktop…that you would prefer another 21". Both because it's smaller & lighter than a 27" iMac…and you have the special airline case for a 21" iMac.

So are you saying you would be ok with a 27" iMac? Of course with a budget of £750 to £1250…a 27" iMac is more than this (lowest cost brand new 27" iMac is £1449).

Internet isn't an issue at the events, all I do create a local network with a router and upload to some iPads within our event trailer, they don't go fully online.

Ok. I thought that the you were uploading to the internet (Cloud Storage or something). You did mention earlier…"Uploading to the web" in your 2nd post.:)

Yes fully aware that my 27" iMac has a lot more going for it than the 21", and know that nothing within my budget will get close to it. But hence my query in the first place to see what is recommended with regards something that WILL fit the budget but is will do those tasks quicker.

Desktops have almost always given more "bang for the buck" than laptops. And since you don't have a problem hauling around a desktop…I'm thinking that you would be best of with the most powerful 21" iMac your budget will allow (£1250). But also allowing some extra £££ for a ram upgrade to 16gig…since the stock 21" iMac's only come with 8gig.

Be aware that the newest available 21" iMac's technically DO NOT have user upgradeable ram. So if you wanted more than the stock 8gig…you have to custom configure it at the time of purchase.

The ram on your 2010 iMac is user upgradeable.:)

...so possibly more RAM is the temporary answer for now?

Your 2010 iMac has 4 ram slots (maybe you already know). I'm guessing since your 21" iMac has 6gig of ram (a non-standard amount)…you must have already upgraded the ram at least once.

If your upgrade budget is tight…you could go with an 8gig ram upgrade (2 x 4gig sticks)…and keep some of the ram you already have. Which would probably get it to 12gig. Or you could simply go with a 16gig upgrade (4 x 4gig sticks).

It would be interesting to see exactly how much an 8gig or 16gig ram upgrade would improve things on your 21" iMac.:)

- Nick

p.s. By the way. I should also mention that you could check the Apple refurbished area for deals. I just checked…and the UK Apple Online Store currently has no refurbished 21" or 27" iMac's. But things can change quickly.

p.p.s. I should also mention (#2) that the last time the 21" iMac's were released was September, 2013. So it's possible Apple could release new 21" iMac's at any time (but who knows). A signal new 21" iMac was released in June, 2014…but it's pretty underpowered from a CPU perspective. It's a low-end model.
 
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Nick - that's extremely useful thank you. Your phrase 'Desktops have almost always given more "bang for the buck" than laptops' has hit the nail on the head for me and summed it up nicely, and I think I'll go down that route.

I DID wonder how my current 21" had 6GB of RAM in it, but I do have a vague recollection of buying some a while back. I'm presuming that it'll three slots of 2GB, or is it possible for it to be one slot of two and one of 4GB?

Again, thank you for the info and advice.
 
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As I understand it, you need to be faster in importing photos from a CF card, and faster at uploading them to a website.

The former might be helped by switching to an SSD drive as the import target, but the speed is largely going to be controlled by the speed of the CF card.

The latter is only going to be materially changed if you get a faster Internet connection at the place you are uploading from, or use an LTE cellular connection for that.
 

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I DID wonder how my current 21" had 6GB of RAM in it, but I do have a vague recollection of buying some a while back. I'm presuming that it'll three slots of 2GB, or is it possible for it to be one slot of two and one of 4GB?

The 2010 21" iMac originally probably came with 4gig (2 x 2gig DIMMs). It has 4 ram slots…and the smallest size is 2gig. So to get 6gig of ram…it either has 3 x 2gig (3 ram slots used)…or 4gig + 2gig (2 ram slots used).

If you purchased this computer new…it probably has 3 x 2gig (originally coming with 2 x 2gig)…and adding 1 x 2gig later.

- Nick
 

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First issue - transferring or copying pictures from a CF card to the internal hard drive.

imho - with 6GB RAM already, I don't know that either upping the RAM or the CPU is going to have much affect on transfer speed.

The primary issue is the read and write speed of the devices in question.

Have you tested your 2 computers using the exact same CF card and reader and the same 500 pics via FW and timed the transfer speed of one machine vs the other? And since you're using Lightroom to import them, both machines need to be running the same version of Lightroom.

I'd be interested in seeing that result. Testing is the only way to know one is faster at a task than the other.

The major difference between your 2 iMacs related to transfer speed is the 21" has a 3 Gbps SATA with a hard drive and the 27" is using a 6 Gbps SATA and a PCIe with either a Fusion drive (HD and SSD) or an SSD - whichever one you bought with it. I have a hard time believing FW could saturate that 3 Gbps bus on the 21", but actual testing would show whether that is the case.

There is one other thing to consider. The 21" has been in use for what, 4 years now you've been using it for this? Have you ever looked at the drive with a defrag tool to see the condition of the free space on that machine? Even if you're running 40% free space on it, if you've never defragged it, that free space "is" going to be spread out from one end of the drive to the other. Fragmented free space is definitely an issue when trying to copy large amounts of data to a drive - slowing down the transfer speed as the arms in that mechanical drive are having to move all over the platters instead of having contiguous free space available to write to. If you've got the 3 TB Fusion drive in the 27" iMac, I sort of doubt you have any issue with contiguous free space yet.
 
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pigoo3

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Have you tested your 2 computers using the exact same CF card and reader and the same 500 pics via FW and timed the transfer speed of one machine vs the other? And since you're using Lightroom to import them, both machines need to be running the same version of Lightroom.

I'd be interested in seeing that result. Testing is the only way to know one is faster at a task than the other.

I love to see the results in a side by side test as well!:)

- Nick
 

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@ Melparree: Definitely investigate the ideas "bobtomay" mentioned!:)

I would hate for you to spend a bunch of money on a new computer if there were things with the 2010 21" iMac that could be "restored" (defragmenting the HD) or improved (installing an SSD) to make it faster.:)

- Nick
 

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