Which Imac 21.5inch vs 27inch

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by Zannh, May 3, 2016.

  1. Zannh

    Zannh Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 12, 2013
    Sydney, Australia
    So my near 6 year old MacBook Pro is acting up and repeated attempts to resolve the problem have failed so given this laptop has never really left the desktop I thought I'd look at the Imac options

    Tossing up between the 21.5 inch retina model and upgrading the ram to 16gb and the 1tb fusion drive or the 27 inch and grabbing the 1tb fusion drive with the intent to upgrade the ram to 16gb at some point down the road. Can I survive with the 8gb in the short term if I go the 27inch option? I'M also not sure what effect the intel vs amd graphics chip would have.

    Any thoughts? 21.5 inch is probably the better size for the space I have but given the small price differential between these two options though I might as well consider the 27inch option.

    Cheers, Chris
  2. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Legend

    I would say no, you really want 16GB, but that is brain-dead easy to upgrade yourself. There's an easy access panel for it. Instructions here: iMac Intel 27" Retina 5K Display RAM Replacement Don't pay Apple's absurd RAM prices. Sadly the hard drives can't be upgraded yourself so make sure to pick the right one up front. SSD or Fusion for sure.

    As for which size, it's just a matter of preference or budget. But have you seen them in person? The 27" is pretty big. So it just depends if you have the room and also the room to sit back a little farther. If you have a narrow desk, 27" is kind of "in your face".
    Last edited: May 3, 2016
    • Agree Agree x 1
  3. Zannh

    Zannh Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 12, 2013
    Sydney, Australia
    Yes I've done this in the past with my Macbook Pro, it's a shame the ram in the 21inch isn't user upgradeable. Budget isn't really an issue as the configurations I am talking about are fairly close in price.

    On the balance I'd say going the 27inch and upgrading the ram myself represents the best value but I do feel like it could be very in your face with the space I have. Though it's always hard to judge based on displays in stores because things always look bigger when you get them home to the more confined space of your home office.
  4. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Legend

    Typically you would want to be 1-1.5x as far away as the screen diagonal for comfort. So with the 27", you'd want your eyes to be at 27-40" away from it. That's about how my 27" monitor is, pushed all the way back to the wall on my desk (although mine's not a 5K imac). I love the size for editing and working on documents and multiple windows, but If I'm honest it's a little uncomfortable for full screen movie viewing. I typically wheel back a little from the desk for that.

    If one seems too small, and the other too big, have you also considered maybe a mac mini and going with a separate monitor? Then you could go with whatever size fits your space best and not be locked into it forever. Or you could get another macbook and run it on an external monitor most of the time.
  5. 50orsohours

    50orsohours Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 13, 2013
    Portland Oregon
    We have a 21" and a 5k imac (27") Get the 5k
    • Agree Agree x 1
  6. ijm5012

    ijm5012 Mu-43 Legend

    Oct 2, 2013
    Pittsburgh, PA
    There was a thread on here a while ago asking the same question. When you actually compare the specs, it makes very little financial sense to get the 21" 4K iMac. It's hardware is very dated/slow, and in order to upgrade it to really handle 4K video and large MP files, you'd spend so much that you're just better off getting the 27" 5K iMac (which you can upgrade the RAM on yourself, unlike the 21" model).

    If you're spending that much on a computer, spend a bit extra to help futureproof it as much as you can.
  7. ScanSpeak

    ScanSpeak Mu-43 Rookie

    Feb 5, 2016
    If you go with the 21.5" model make sure you go for the 2TB Fusion Drive over the 1TB version. The 2TB Fusion ups the SSD from 24gb to 128gb. Not sure if the 27" is the same.
  8. Zannh

    Zannh Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 12, 2013
    Sydney, Australia
    Yes, this is the way I see it too. Really just the size issue that is stopping me from going in this direction. Might need to measure it out and see exactly how close I'll be sitting to the screen if I get the 27inch.

    Thanks for the insights people!
  9. ashburtononline

    ashburtononline Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 21, 2015
    New Zealand
    you can add Ram and upgrade drives but you cannot ever upgrade the screen ..... Go 27 !
  10. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Legend

    I don't know. I agree with the main crux of your argument, but the 4K imac with CPU and RAM maxed out and a Fusion drive or SSD is going to scream for any kind of photo editing or general computer use. An i7 quad is at the top of the performance heap and when it comes down to it most editing tasks are still CPU bound. For photo editing there will be essentially zero difference between the two.

    I'm not arguing with the main point that the 27" might be a little more futureproof. But the hardware on the 21.5" 4k iMac is not going to be slow.
  11. Go for the bigger screen and update the RAM yourself -- takes 2 minutes to install, counting shutdown/restart time. ;) 

    You really will want to upgrade to 16, and decent third-party RAM is cheap, but you can easily get by in the short term with 8 GB. I love my 27" iMac with 16GB at home and my 32GB at work.
    Last edited: May 4, 2016
  12. John M Flores

    John M Flores Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2011
    Somerville, NJ
    One advantage of the non-Retina 21.5" is that it can be used in Target Display Mode (used as a monitor for another computer). This is some value-once the hardware is obsolete it can still be used as a display. But computers are so fast these days that if you spec them right they can last 5+ years.
  13. Hendrik

    Hendrik Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Feb 27, 2015
    Wayland MA
    Thom Hogan just did a blog piece on Mac hardware. You might find it interesting.

    I have an early 2011 15" MBP and a late 2013 27" iMac. I have changed the MBP to an SSD, maxed the memory and replaced the optical drive with a hard drive. It continues to work very well. Except for some of the more processor-intensive blending modes in Photoshop, results are quickly achieved in both Lightroom and Photoshop.

    The iMac is memory-maxed, too, and boots from a hard disk but the photo data is kept on external Thunderbolt drives, mirror-raided. This takes a modest bit of waking up at times but once working Lightroom and Photoshop are fast and near-instantaneous. On the whole, the display (non-retina) is quite satisfactory viewed at arm's length. There are two real deficiencies. First, the screen is too bright at default and needs to be dialed back for accurate color work. Second, unlike the MBP and older Cinema Display monitors, the surface is very glossy and can pick up reflections from widely dispersed light sources to the side and rear of the user.

    The previous iMac (2007) was retired once it suffered the double whammy of insufficient memory and the impending incompatibility of its maximum OS with current minimum Adobe OS requirements.

    This photography stuff is not an inexpensive undertaking... ;) 
    • Like Like x 1
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.