Time for a New Mac for Christmas

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by Biro, Oct 13, 2011.

  1. Biro

    Biro Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 8, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    Real Name:
    My iMac, the first Intel dual-core version purchased right after Christmas 2005 (17-inch screen), is starting to slow down and the monitor is starting to act up. No problem... the machine has been used heavily, has been drop-dead reliable and owes me nothing.

    But it is time to start shopping for a new Mac. I also have an iPad for daily e-mail, web browsing, etc. But I prefer to do my photo (and potential video) editing on something bigger and more powerful. The question is... another iMac or a Mac laptop? While I want more monitor real estate than the iPad can give me, I don't think I need 27 inches. A 21.5 iMac would be fine. But how about a 17-inch MacBook Pro?

    Of course, it would be great to get another 5-plus years out of the new machine. So, an i5 or i7 processor... and how much RAM to "future proof" the machine - at least to a reasonable extent?

    And - final question - I've been using Aperture 2 and occasionally iPhoto. Stick with the latest version of each or go with Lightroom? What are the Mac guys on mu-43.com using?
  2. Grinch

    Grinch Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 9, 2011
    I was in a similar situation, my MacBook pro 15 core duo 1st generation, had been starting to drag it's feet. Also have an iPad, so really portability isn't a high priority like it was when I purchased my last Mac, so I went with a 3 month old 21.5 iMac with i5 quad core 2.5 and 8GB of ram. Works great, fast, and relatively inexpensive as compared to what I paid for the MacBook pro($2800) versus $800 but it was second hand with balance of warranty. I'm sure occasionally I'll regret it not being a laptop, but overall performance vs cost and practicality, I'm pretty content.
  3. krugorg

    krugorg Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jul 18, 2011
    Minnesota USA
    An iMac will be less cost and have faster CPU and Graphics Processors, while running more quietly and probably cooler than a high power laptop.

    I have a fast workstation at home where I do most of my heavy tasks, including PP. I then have a little Macbook Air for mobile productivity stuff, as well as some occasional image editing.

    You could get a nice iMac plus a Macbook Air or iPad for the same cost as a 17" macbook pro, and the iMac will outperform the laptop.

    Really, just comes down to where you need to do your heavy computing stuff... mobile or fixed okay?

    I am using LR 3.5 on both my Macs and Windows, but hard to beat Aperture for $79 (I believe) in the Apple App store (single computer license).
  4. Biro

    Biro Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 8, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    Real Name:
    Hi, guys. Yeah... It's clear you can buy more power for your buck with an iMac vs. a MBP and I must admit I am leaning in that direction. A MBP with the same power and capacity will cost nearly $1000 more than a similarly equipped iMac - and the iMac will still have a larger monitor. So maybe I'm answering my own question. But it's good to know the i5 processor will do the job with the latest programs.

    And it is true: The iPad is making the portability of a laptop less critical these days, at least for many of us. I love the MacBook Air but I really can't justify it while I have the iPad. On the other hand, my wife might like an iPad of her own this Christmas. And, actually, doing most of my heavy production with a desktop is fine.
  5. Bokeaji

    Bokeaji Gonzo's Dad O.*

    Aug 6, 2011
    Austin, TX
    you have an ipad... id go with an imac and max that baby out to last!
    ive got a mbp and an ipad, and i WISH i had a big screened imac
    you only THINK you dont need that 27" ;) wait till you HAVE it!
    photo editting on one side of it, web browsing on another, and STILL LEFT OVER ROOM!

    but if yer set on a laptop, id get something more portable, but still powerful, and just get a separate 23/24" lcd

    oh, i use aperture, and was enjoying demos of NIX software(until the other day.. cries)
    mainly got it because i couldnt find a definite preference of either aperture or lightroom.. so i went for cheaper and apple made
  6. drizek

    drizek Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 5, 2011
    Not a terrible time to buy an iMac. New ones will probably come out in 6-8 months, so it probably isn't worth waiting for.

    Macbook Pros, on the other hand, I would wait on. New models should come out in the spring or early summer and be qutie a bit faster.
  7. krugorg

    krugorg Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jul 18, 2011
    Minnesota USA
    On processors, I usually pick one or two down from the top... once you are at the higher end, it usually seems that systems improvements are incremental, while costs go through the roof. At that point, I think SSDs and RAM will have a bigger impact.

    If you haven't used them yet, recommend buying RAM from Other World Computing (macsales.com). I have had good luck with them on Mac Pros and Macbooks and they are considerably less than direct from Apple. They have vids on the site with instructions on how to install and a lifetime warranty. You can use the money you saved towards CPU and GPU upgrades, etc.
  8. Biro

    Biro Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 8, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    Real Name:
    I've never used Other World Computing but I will check them out. I usually buy my Mac hardware at TekServe in New York. Thanks for the tip.
  9. dothraki

    dothraki Mu-43 Rookie

    Oct 8, 2011
    São Paulo, Brazil
    I agree, Christmas it's not the best time to buy a new Macbook Pro, I would expect Apple to release a new MBP early 2012.
  10. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Real Name:
    I have a MacPro Eight Core with a 24' S-IPS display, a 27" iMac i7, a 15" MacBook Pro i7, an array of MacMini and 20" CoreDuo white iMacs at my imaging studio, and an iPad2 for light mobile communications and internet use. I use the first three of the Macs the most.

    When I bought the 27" iMac, I thought I might find it to be just a bit too big. In hindsight, I think the 27" i7 iMac is the sweet meat in all of this. It's a phenomenal machine and will serve very well for years to come. I'm about to trade in my 15" i7 iMac for a new 17" i7 iMac as I would appreciate a little more screen real estate for image editing when I am sitting in an easy chair or traveling.

    For cranking out a lot of work, the 27" iMac is fantastic. But I can't sit at a desk for as many hours as I need to spend editing my work, so I have a very comfortable recliner set-up where I can work with the MacBook Pro for hours on end much more comfortably.

    Only you can decide what will work best for you. if you are OK with sitting at the desk for as long as you would need to for your work, the iMac is an awesome production machine.

    On the other hand if you would like the freedom of working in a comfortable easy chair, on the road while traveling, etc. then I would go with the 17" i7 iMac and go heavy on the aftermarket RAM because that's what Photoshop and Lightroom thrive on. If you can afford it, go with high end processors and heavy on the aftermarket RAM... these elements will help ensure the productive longevity of your new machine. I used to keep my Macs for at least four or five years, but lately, I'm more inclined to trade them in (they have excellent resale value!) every year or two.

    Funny you should mention what troopers the older white 20" Intel iMacs are... I've had three in my studio working every day for all the years since they came out... I don't remember how long ago that was, but it seems like at least four or five years. Awesome machines... never a lick of trouble. But that's typical of Macs... problems with them are exceeding rare and far between.
  11. timallenphoto

    timallenphoto Mu-43 Veteran

    May 20, 2011
    Kent, England
    Don't discount the Mac Mini with a big matte finish screen of your choice. Now I have an iPad I will get rid of my 13" MBP next time round as using it with a big screen is a bit of a pain, I'd have dumped it already but I don't want to run Lion any sooner than I have to. Oh, and Lightroom every time. With m4/3 you need a decent noise reduction system and the one in Aperture is pretty pathetic compared to Lr IMO.
  12. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Real Name:
    Good point, Tim. The new MacMini, in the higher levels of configuration, is a real screamer! Load up the memory and add a matte finish S-IPS display and you've got a really great photo workstation. And I also agree on LightRoom... it's an absolutely indispensible software program for me now, taking over almost all of what I once used Photoshop for. Of course, for high end pixel editing and some filters, I still use PS. The latest LR (3.x) does have some excellent NR capability. I don't use any NR in camera with my Panys and Olympus.
  13. Canonista

    Canonista Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 3, 2011
    The new MBP release may be imminent according to Mac Rumours:

    New MacBook Pro Part Numbers Suggest Updated Models Coming Soon - Mac Rumors

    I agree with Don that there's just no substitute for screen real estate if you can sit at a desk (I had to invest in a Humanscale Freedom chair a few years ago to overcome lumbar discomfort). If you go with a desktop, get the largest iMac or Apple screen available. It makes photo editing so much easier.

    I've been using Lightroom since version 1.0 and have been very happy with it. The workflow is excellent.
  14. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    My take if you want to use it for as long as possible before replacement is:

    -get an iMac or Mac Mini, and get the fastest you can within your budget. You probably don't need the speed now but it's going to be things like web graphics and photo processing changes that will eventually cause you to run into problems, or using a processor that eventually can't run the latest version of the OS to come out. Going top of the range now avoids those issues for as long as possible.

    - get as much ram as you can afford within your budget. You can always add more ram later if you don't max the machine out right at the start. I'm running Aperture 3 with 4 GB ram on a 24" iMac and that runs fine.

    - I updated to my current 24" iMac when it was the largest iMac screen available. My previous iMac had a 17" screen, top of the range when I bought it. I was amazed how much difference the bigger screen made. If you go for the top of the range in processor you may get a choice in screen size or you may not. If you can afford it go for the larger but I'd go for processor and at least 4 GB of ram plus enough hard disk space before I'd worry about the difference between, say, a 24" screen and a 27" screen.

    As I said above, I'm using Aperture and it works fine for me, though I'm not into heavy post processing. Through the app store it's now dirt cheap, much cheaper than it was when I bought it over the counter. Since you're already using Aperture 2 I'd suggest buying Aperture 3 via the app store.

    Finally, looking at photos on a bigger screen is more enjoyable and lets you see what you're doing a hell of a lot better. If you have a good large tv screen, especially one that's been professionally calibrated, get an Apple TV as well and try viewing your photos on that at some stage. 12 mp photos on a calibrated 54" Panasonic plasma look wonderful, and tossing the shots you want into an album in Aperture and viewing that on your tv is the simplest way to do the equivalent of the old slide show that I've come across.
  15. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    You don't think you need a 27" screen, but you'll never regret getting one. I upgraded a 21" imac from just a couple of years ago (its my wife's now and way more than adequate for her needs) to a new quad-core 27" with 8 gigs. It screams. The old one ran Aperture 3 fine but really bogged down with the newest version of Silver Efex Pro and some other plug-ins. The new one never bogs down with anything I've thrown at it. I personally love Aperture and the way it works within the overall Mac environment, but I don't do a lot of serious processing with it - most shots that I work on go out to one of the Nik plug-ins.

    And once you've worked on photos on a 27 inch screen, you won't want to go back to a 21", let alone a laptop. And its not like I'm sharing screen space when I'm editing either - I'll use the full screen for the photo editing. I have the "spaces" utility setup to have my photo stuff in one pane, my day to day browser and itunes type stuff in another, Microsoft Office apps in another, and financial software in a fourth. Very easy to move between them that way and they don't clutter the screen...

    And this was a relatively affordable computer for what it is, at least compared to a comparable laptop - I think about $1700 plus a bit to upgrade from four to eight gigs. Its the 2.7 gigahertz model - the 3.1 was a few hundred more - maybe that will prove worth it in a couple of years.

    I gotta say, though, I never appreciated screen real estate until I had it. Now I don't think I'd ever go back.

  16. usayit

    usayit Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    my thoughts

    * For photography, 27 inch is a must for comfort.
    * A separate 27 inch monitor capable of 2560x1440 is going to be at least half the price of a high end iMac. A separate 27 inch high end monitor specifically designed for graphic arts and photography that is better than the panel on the iMac is going to cost as much (if not more) than an iMac
    * Our applications are memory bound rather than CPU bound. I generally go for a slightly lower end model to free up budget to max out the memory.
    * Laptops are great but their display panels are not ideal.
    * I couldn't imagine working without a monitor calibrator.

    I've been on a (now fully loaded) Power Mac G5 Dual 2 until this year. Running like a champ but Lightroom 3 doesn't support PowerPC CPUs any longer. I ended up buying brand new in box 2010 model of iMac 27inch i5 for $1150 and in the process of saving to max out its memory. Its very nice.... very fast. I rarely buy current model new of anything.. cars, cameras nor computers. I prefer to be on the right side of the depreciation equation.
  17. chris.j.sorensen

    chris.j.sorensen Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 5, 2010
    Freehold, NJ
    +1 for macsales.com- I get all my ram & hd's from them. As far as rigs go, I'd go with iMac or mini. Laptop only if portability is a total necessity. The iMac is sweet if you're looking for a streamlined unit that is aesthetically pleasing. Mini is awesome because you can replace either your computer or monitor without having to throw the baby out with the bath water. I use an iMac 7.1 currently. If I had to upgrade, I'd look at a mini attached to my television.