#1  
Old 02-14-2019, 11:41 PM
Kolak of Twilo's Avatar
Kolak of Twilo is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Edgewater/Chicago
Posts: 3,777

Building my new iMac


Okay, so I am going to be buying a new computer and have decided to go with an iMac.
Apple haters, no need to chime in here.

My main use for this computer other than browsing the Internet will be photo editing using Lightroom or Photoshop. Possibly Luminar.

While I'm not a professional photographer I do have many years as a serious hobbyist and have enjoyed photography for several decades. The main camera I will be using is a Nikon D500. The two questions have concern RAM and storage. Will I be in good shape with 16GB RAM or do I need to have 32GBs? This is a $400 difference. And should I shell out the extra money for 1TB SSD for storage or would 512GB SSD be sufficient? Again, about $400 difference.

I anticipate needing some external storage at some point so that's part of why I wonder if the 512GB SSD would be enough. Also, while I have the cash to get 32GBs of RAM and 1TB of SSD is that really the best use of $800 I could spend here or on something else.

And of course I could go with 16GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD or 32GB RAM and 512GB SSD if one of those options makes sense. Either of those would save about $400.

Thoughts?
  #2  
Old 02-15-2019, 01:16 AM
zbuzz is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Posts: 1,093
You never want to upgrade memory directly from Apple if you don't have to. They love to gouge on memory upgrades. I'm pretty sure the latest iMacs have a very user-friendly compartment door for upgrading memory, so I'd think your best bet is to get an iMac with the standard 8GB (so not even 16GB), see if that's enough, and if its not, simply upgrade it yourself. A quick search at newegg.com shows 2x16GB for about $200, so you're saving $400 right there.

Personally, I'd say the 512GB SSD is enough, particularly since you expect to expand with external storage anyway.

Something else to consider, though, is that the iMac hasn't been updated in more than a year and a half. If you don't need a new one right now, you might be better off waiting a few months if you're ok with that.
  #3  
Old 02-15-2019, 06:07 AM
Balthisar is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Southeast Michigan, USA
Posts: 10,957
Your use case is pretty lightweight. Just go with the basics, especially because you plan to add external storage. Use the $400 towards a NAS with RAID.
  #4  
Old 02-15-2019, 09:44 AM
wguy123 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 1,687
Quote:
Originally Posted by zbuzz View Post
Something else to consider, though, is that the iMac hasn't been updated in more than a year and a half. If you don't need a new one right now, you might be better off waiting a few months if you're ok with that.
Everyone expected an updated iMac in 2018 but that didn't happen. So now everyone is expecting one in 2019

I would also wait if you can.

https://buyersguide.macrumors.com/#iMac
  #5  
Old 02-15-2019, 09:52 AM
Doug K. is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Hutchinson, KS
Posts: 3,894
Quote:
Originally Posted by zbuzz View Post
You never want to upgrade memory directly from Apple if you don't have to. They love to gouge on memory upgrades. I'm pretty sure the latest iMacs have a very user-friendly compartment door for upgrading memory, so I'd think your best bet is to get an iMac with the standard 8GB (so not even 16GB), see if that's enough, and if its not, simply upgrade it yourself. A quick search at newegg.com shows 2x16GB for about $200, so you're saving $400 right there.
They haven't had a user friendly door for upgrading memory for some time. It can be done, but it requires a lot of disassembly and 1 to 3 hours.
  #6  
Old 02-15-2019, 12:54 PM
Kolak of Twilo's Avatar
Kolak of Twilo is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Edgewater/Chicago
Posts: 3,777
Quote:
Originally Posted by wguy123 View Post
Everyone expected an updated iMac in 2018 but that didn't happen. So now everyone is expecting one in 2019

I would also wait if you can.

https://buyersguide.macrumors.com/#iMac
A very good point, thanks. This isn't a purchase that has to be made right now so waiting for Apple to update the iMac is probably the best idea. I would hope this happens sooner rather than later.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug K. View Post
They haven't had a user friendly door for upgrading memory for some time. It can be done, but it requires a lot of disassembly and 1 to 3 hours.
Yep, which is part of my reason for asking about 16GB RAM vs. 32GB RAM. I'm not tech savvy enough to do it myself and don't want to have to deal with having Apple do it if I decide I need it.

If I planned to do video editing the 32GB of RAM would make sense. Just not sure if it is overdoing it for my needs. The SSD for storage appears to be a no brainer; fewer moving parts and speed make sense. Most things I've seen online suggest 1TB is a good idea for photography but those sources also recommend large external storage for photos so that is why I wonder if 512GB SSD would be sufficient.

Last edited by Kolak of Twilo; 02-15-2019 at 12:55 PM.
  #7  
Old 02-15-2019, 01:58 PM
Dandan is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2018
Posts: 40
Windows user, here; don't flip - I promise not to snark!

My machine is several years old, 16 GB ram installed, and speed was about middle of the road when new. I have finally come to drive three monitors, and persuaded myself to buy a fast (but older) video card. Gangbusters! System drive was getting full - I have a ton of software, plugins, etc. - so I reinstalled my stuff on a 1 TB SSD. Double gangbusters! I reserved 300 GB of the sysdrive for scratch, and I have 100 GB of space left for the system. I can reduce the scratch size, for more system space, if it comes to that, and anyway I don't know if scratch is ever engaged, this thing is now so fast, and few of my files top 1GB.

So, my recommendation - try 8 GB of ram (good suggestion - years ago I upgraded to 16 GB in search of more speed, and got no noticeable improvement), a 1 TB SSD (no moving parts) and the best video card you can afford.

See, no snark. My brother-in-law is an Apple/Mac-er, so my snark gland gets enough fresh air.

Dan
  #8  
Old 02-15-2019, 03:02 PM
minor7flat5's Avatar
minor7flat5 is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: Trenton, NJ
Posts: 4,834
I say max it out. If you can't upgrade the memory then I'd recommend going for the most.
I was going to say "use the smaller HD" then I realized that my 6-year-old iMac has 1TB and I'm regularly bumping into that with stuff like video files and virtual machines. This machine will last you many years, so it's not such a freakishly costly investment.

Photos shouldn't be a concern--it's better to have a good culling technique than to keep tens of thousands of gigantic RAW files around for nobody to ever look at.

Shoot RAW+JPEG if you can, then cull fiercely after every photo shoot. Seriously, who needs to see twenty-seven different views of your kid riding his bike--pick the very best shots that represent the moment and bin the rest.
Once you are satisfied with the shots (JPEGs should be fine straight-out-of-camera with modern photo gear), grab any RAW files you really need, such as to fix bad lighting, and toss the rest of the RAW files.

In the end you ought to have a few dozen excellent shots for an outing instead of a few hundred. This will definitely save vast amounts of storage.
  #9  
Old 02-15-2019, 03:37 PM
Turek is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Inara's shuttle
Posts: 3,967
I've been lusting after an iMac Pro for this exact same use case (except no video), but I just can't get myself to pull the trigger.
  #10  
Old 02-15-2019, 05:24 PM
Dandan is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2018
Posts: 40
After I posted, I almost came back and added "don't keep your captures on your system drive!". I put mine on a regular HD, THREE HDs actually, for multiple backups. You don't want to lose your pics if the sysdrive fails.

And I would never, ever cull shots soon after I downloaded them. I go back as many as ten years and find images I want to rework or, in many cases, process for the first time. You have no idea what you'll see in old files, or what the processing software will allow in the future.

Save what you can; bulk storage today is dead cheap!

Dan
  #11  
Old 02-15-2019, 05:50 PM
Kolak of Twilo's Avatar
Kolak of Twilo is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Edgewater/Chicago
Posts: 3,777
minor7flat5 - I'm inclined to max it out with 32GB of RAM and 1TB SSD but since it is a big jump in money I want to be sure I will really need/use all of that.

Dandan - I agree about culling heavily which is why I know I will be using external storage for a lot of the files. I already deal with RAW and jpeg files so storage can be an issue hence why I am upgrading.
  #12  
Old 02-15-2019, 06:00 PM
Dandan is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2018
Posts: 40
Good deal, and do look into the video card thing - they carry their own ram, which should get the image updated quicker.

Dan
  #13  
Old 02-15-2019, 06:06 PM
minor7flat5's Avatar
minor7flat5 is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: Trenton, NJ
Posts: 4,834
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dandan View Post
After I posted, I almost came back and added "don't keep your captures on your system drive!". I put mine on a regular HD, THREE HDs actually, for multiple backups. You don't want to lose your pics if the sysdrive fails.

And I would never, ever cull shots soon after I downloaded them. I go back as many as ten years and find images I want to rework or, in many cases, process for the first time. You have no idea what you'll see in old files, or what the processing software will allow in the future.

Save what you can; bulk storage today is dead cheap!

Dan
To each his own. I had the same viewpoint for years, then I realized that I was taking hundreds of shots at each event that never would see the light of day. These days I use a tool called Photo Mechanic, designed for the workflow of pro sports photographers, to speed through the culling process.

It’s not just the disk space, but also the challenge of sifting through thousands and thousands of shots to find something from several years ago. It’s much more pleasing to see finished sets of photos, with a few extras held onto. In the past I really would have twenty or thirty photos for each keeper.

If that isn’t a burden then you are probably more successful with ratings and keywords than I am.
[/tangent]
  #14  
Old 02-15-2019, 08:00 PM
zbuzz is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Posts: 1,093
Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug K. View Post
They haven't had a user friendly door for upgrading memory for some time. It can be done, but it requires a lot of disassembly and 1 to 3 hours.
Well, the current 27-inch has the easy access little compartment door..

I assumed the OP was going for the 27-inch because of the photography usage and because you can only get 32GB of RAM on the top end 21 (and the 27s obviously). And if you're in the position to not mind dropping $800 on RAM and SSD bumps, might as well drop the $300 for the bump up to 27.

So Kolak of Twilo, if you were indeed looking at the top end 21-inch with 32GB (and I guess you are because you're still concerned about installing the RAM yourself), you should be happy to learn that it will cost you $100 less to instead get a 27-inch with 8GB RAM and then purchase and upgrade the RAM yourself using the friendly little door on the back.
  #15  
Old 02-16-2019, 12:07 AM
Kolak of Twilo's Avatar
Kolak of Twilo is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Edgewater/Chicago
Posts: 3,777
zbuzz, yes I'm looking at the 21" iMac. I realize that may seem odd given my main motivation is for photography but I do have reasons for this.

First, I have spent a lot of time looking at both the 21" and 27" side by side at my local Apple store. Honestly the 27" model just seems absurdly large to me and is frankly overwhelming. It may seem strange but I really prefer the size and look of the 21" 4K screen.

Second, I am not comfortable in anyway with trying to install memory in a computer I have spent $3000 on. I am nowhere near tech savvy enough to try to do something like that. Maybe I am making it too big of an issue in my mind but I would really prefer buying a computer already configured the way I want it. I do plan to keep this computer for years so if that means more money upfront then I am okay with that. To get a 27" iMac configured by Apple to my liking would push this purchase close to $4000 once taxes are added on. Frankly that's more than I want to spend on a computer at the moment.

Also, I have difficulty imagining a scenario where I would need more than 32GB of RAM. My initial thought was to go this way but there were some articles I read suggesting 16GB was enough which led to my question here about how much do I really need. I am leaning toward 32GBs and the 1TB SSD at this point. It just seems to be a really large jump from what I currently have and while I can afford it I don't want to "overbuy" if that makes sense.

The most puzzling thing I had noticed while comparing was that both the 21 and 27" iMacs were using 7th generation Intel processors while companies like Dell are using 8th or 9th gen Intel processors. I now understand why that is the case and think it would be best to wait what Apple does with any potential new models.
  #16  
Old 02-16-2019, 12:46 AM
zbuzz is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Posts: 1,093
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kolak of Twilo View Post
I am nowhere near tech savvy enough to try to do something like that. Maybe I am making it too big of an issue in my mind but I would really prefer buying a computer already configured the way I want it.
Okay. I mean, I just wanted to stress that you could get the bigger, better iMac for less and that if you've ever inserted a cassette tape into a Walkman you have the skillset to upgrade the RAM. But if you're not comfortable, you're not comfortable.

Good idea to wait for the refresh, though.
  #17  
Old 02-17-2019, 07:52 AM
filmstar-en is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 945
Wait for the new model, max out the RAM and SSD.

It will cost a lot. But you have to take into account how long these machines last. You will get a good few years use out of it.

However, Apple, like all computer makers, have issues with some models. iMacs are no exception and they are expensive to fix, though Apple has one of the better after care services.

If you really don't want get involved with hardware, and need a bit of hand holding. Apple and an iMac is a good, stable workhorse.
  #18  
Old 02-17-2019, 09:49 AM
minor7flat5's Avatar
minor7flat5 is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: Trenton, NJ
Posts: 4,834
One more thing—something that pains me to say as a card-carrying Apple fanboi—spend a few moments in deep contemplation about whether you could use a PC instead.

I have been having this struggle because Apple is acting a bit too full of themselves in recent years (in my opinion). For the most egregious example, they shamelessly sell the same Mac Pro that they released in 2013, though it has had a price cut—what PC manufacturer could get away with that?

Check out a nice easy-to-follow reference to the age of Apple product models and recommendations here: https://buyersguide.macrumors.com/#Mac

For the iMac they clearly have it listed as "Don't Buy", saying the current model has the longest span ever between updates.

Unfortunately for me, though I use Windows 10 for my day job, it lacks the polish of MacOS--I find such niceties as quick view and the global zoom-in with ctrl+mousewheel really make a difference for me. If backed into a corner, I imagine I could switch though.
I have also been considering the Android ecosystem on the phone/tablet side since I feel that Apple is getting a little full of themselves with their unfortunately high pricing (but it's so thin!!!). The jury is still out on that one; I rely heavily on sheet music software (Forscore) that is only available on iOS, so if I can find an equivalent alternate I might change my allegiance.
  #19  
Old 02-17-2019, 01:40 PM
Kolak of Twilo's Avatar
Kolak of Twilo is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Edgewater/Chicago
Posts: 3,777
I understand what you are saying minor7flat5. I have looked around at some PCs but haven't been really impressed. I have a laptop that I use for work things that is a PC and I use a desktop in my office at work. I feel that since this purchase is mostly so I can get more serious with my photography that Apple is going to be the best choice. And I am a long time iPhone user so that pushes me in that direction as well. But yeah, I will be taking a wait and see attitude because of the likely update.

ETA: I really don't want a tower and the PC all-in-one models don't seem up to what Apple has done with the iMac line. At least not the ones I've seen.

Last edited by Kolak of Twilo; 02-17-2019 at 01:42 PM.
  #20  
Old 02-17-2019, 07:00 PM
Balthisar is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Southeast Michigan, USA
Posts: 10,957
Why is everyone ignoring his use case?:

Quote:
My main use for this computer other than browsing the Internet will be photo editing using Lightroom or Photoshop. Possibly Luminar.
A base model plus external storage is more than adequate. For myself (programming, 3D modelling, webdev, video editing, effects editing, etc.) I like to max myself out. But for the stated use case, there's no point in awaiting the next model and maxing all of the specs.
  #21  
Old 02-17-2019, 08:10 PM
minor7flat5's Avatar
minor7flat5 is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: Trenton, NJ
Posts: 4,834
One reason: longevity.

Starting with yesterday’s news at a premium price means it won’t last as many years before Apple reduces support. My 2012 iMac is in such peril right now.
With an awesome machine, especially with a fat SSD, it should be good for a decade.
  #22  
Old 02-17-2019, 08:14 PM
GMANCANADA is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Toronto
Posts: 219
I'm in a similar situation and also in no rush to make any upgrades yet. Most of my heavy lifting on my older iMac is personal photo and video editing as well.

I haven't done the price & performance comparisons since I'm not ready to buy now, but one of the options I'm considering is switching to a Mac mini and adding a 3rd party monitor.

They've just re-engineered the mini and the reviews I've read are very positive. You can equip it with up to 64gb and 2TD SSD. You can also get very good 3rd party monitors, more than good enough for my photo editing needs.

My plan is to wait until the new iMac comes out and then do the full price / performance comparison.
  #23  
Old 02-17-2019, 08:15 PM
Kolak of Twilo's Avatar
Kolak of Twilo is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Edgewater/Chicago
Posts: 3,777
So Balthisar this is pretty much my reason for questioning this. I can afford to max it out but do I really need to? I realize that is the response for folks who are much bigger tech geeks than I am. But why go for 32GB RAM if the most I might ever need at one time is 8GB? From researching things it seems Photoshop, etc. can require 4-6GB RAM which makes me want to at least go with 16GB. SSD is a no brainer over a Fusion drive. 1TB of storage on the machine strikes me as a reasonable choice because I will also have iTunes on this machine and I know it can really be a memory hog.

As for waiting, in your opinion do you think it would be best to go with the newest processor available or are the 7th generation Intel ones good enough to just go with one of them?
  #24  
Old 02-17-2019, 08:22 PM
minor7flat5's Avatar
minor7flat5 is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: Trenton, NJ
Posts: 4,834
And I realized that my ten year estimate was probably optimistic. Regardless, the newer one won’t become obsolete so quickly as a stodgy old model.

And be careful with the Mac mini—we bought the previous model for our church A/V needs and it was a dog from day one. Hopefully the new one has more pep, but I would research carefully before going with a Mac mini.
  #25  
Old 02-18-2019, 06:47 AM
Balthisar is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Southeast Michigan, USA
Posts: 10,957
You want an SSD for speed. You want your applications and operating system to live there. This will provide most of the responsiveness the system will give you. You also want your “active” media files to live there, so that your photo editing in PS will be responsive (saving, opening). Your iTunes collection can live on a spinning platter or NAS, because you’ll never notice the access speed when the next song is queued up.

It’s up to you to decide how large your SSD should be. Don’t forget that Thunderbolt SSD is nearly as fast as internal, and much cheaper than the Apple options. This might be a good place to place your “working” files. For years I ran my retired 2011 iMac off a Thunderbolt 2 SSD.

The RAM affects how many things you can use simultaneously without the OS swapping RAM memory in and out of the hard drive (“virtual memory”). When this happens, you’ll notice sluggishness, especially if you didn’t opt for SSD. If you’re primarily going to be working in PS with 50MB RAW images, you don’t need to worry too much about virtual memory.

Processor speed is pretty much moot at this point. If you are constantly rendering 3D images, then you want lots and lots of fast cores. But for running PS filters and doing common things, most operations are going to be taking place in a single core. Even the slower versions of the processor will turbo-boost to higher speeds as needed. Personally, I would go for a “slower” i7 than a “faster” i5, because of this.

Apple lets you bring things back without a restocking fee. Try a 16GB system for a week or so. If it doesn’t meet your needs, take it back and get upgraded memory and/or processor if you opt for the i5.

Side note: although I have a max-spec’d late 2014 Retina iMac, I also have a mid-2013 (I think) MacBook Pro. Because I bought it off the shelf, I couldn’t max spec it. It works perfectly fine for portable use, even when running VMWare (I need Windows for some work-related stuff). Modern computers really, really are overpowered for the vast majority of consumer use cases that don’t involve gaming.
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 01:39 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright © 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

 
Copyright © 2017