Buying new iMac advice

Hi all,

This has been at the back of my mind for a while, but now that I have a gig coming up in July teaching high school English online for a (very intense) three weeks, it figure now’s the time to act.

I’ve had a 2017 12” MacBook since its release; I encountered keyboard issues a couple of times but have had the fortune of being close to two Apple Stores, so repair hasn’t been an issue.

However, I’ve since essentially switched to an iPad Pro for daily work, so the extreme mobility of the MacBook isn’t something I want or need anymore. Plus, the keyboard (this time, the space bar) is acting up again. With a recent refresh of the iMac plus a full knowledge of what’s happening this year with the Mac Pro (i.e. definite overkill for my needs) I feel ready to make a change to suit my work these days.

So there’s a couple of elements to this question:

(1) Apple’s trade in program is quoting me at $800 Canadian. This seems OK—should I be going for much more? The machine is an 1.3 i5 / 8 GB / 512GB. Part of me wants to eat the potential loss in revenue by doing with the trade in to avoid the finagling with selling on Kijiji or whatnot. It was $2000 with tax two years ago, but it’s still the current version of the MacBook.

(2) Which desktop (or laptop) to switch to? It seems to me that the 27 inch iMac is where the value is now that I have my portable needs fully met with the iPad (even more so with iPadOS).

I was looking at configs and I think the 2019 Radeon 570 / i5 hexacore / 8GB RAM / 512 GB SSD is a good fit (idea being I can upgrade RAM later, of course). I would love to do some photography workflows and 4K video editing on it, but mostly for short (2-5min) videos and not day in and day out. I should also note that I’m big on audio recording with Logic X and would love a machine that can handle a lot of AUs.

With tax and my education discount this config comes to about $3000. There’s a similar 2017 machine available for about $200 less in the refurbished section, but I really think the delta is worth it for the jump from 4 to 6 cores alone.

So that’s the plan—thoughts? Sound reasonable? I guess the only essential question for me is whether I’m going to regret getting the base model + SSD versus something like the 8-core or Vega graphics. I’m confident that 512 SSD is comfortable—getting external SSD drives if it comes to that.

Thanks!

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That refurb model has twice as much RAM (irrelevant, since you can add your own) and has a Radeon 580. For CAD 200 more I’d agree with you that new model is probably a slightly better deal overall, but you’ll need to budget more RAM, and I’d strongly recommend considering external SSD storage as well.

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Great points, thank you—I figure I can get by on 8 until a project comes up that clearly strangled it, as my laptop is 8GB and it’s been ok. I believe the 2019 also raises the RAM ceiling from 64 to 128, so I figure that’s something. Good point about video tho. I’m leaning towards 2019.

I think the RAM ceiling going up is not really relevant, especially if you’ve been ok with 8GB so far.
But, I do think you will want 16GB at some point, I’d say immediately if you can afford it. I’ve found real benefits having 16GB RAM with Logic by itself, especially when recording. Multitasking with Logic and only 8GB RAM can cause apps to become unresponsive.

I know lots of people recommend that more RAM is better, but to be honest, they’re probably not even close to using 8Gb most of the time. 16Gb is probably the optimum RAM for the vast majority of people. And will cover any occasional spikes in memory pressure

This changes if you’re running some pro apps, such as Logic Pro etc often and for more complex work — but most people running these kinds of apps regularly tend to be aware of their RAM needs.

If you’re unsure about how much RAM to get, go 16Gb. Unused RAM is a waste, both economically and environmentally.

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I got my 27” iMac with 8Gb RAM and soon bought an additional 32Gb to install. While typical basic users could easily get away with 8Gb I found that I constantly bumped against that limit and had the system slow down as the RAM cached to disk. I typically have Chrome/Brave with a dozen tabs open, a text processor, an outliner, iTunes, Calendar, numerous menu bar utilities, and maybe something like Lightroom or Ableton Live or GarageBand. Not atypical for a Mac Power User :wink:

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Absolutely. To clarify… I’ve been fine with 8GB because I’ve steered away from complex Logic projects, but I would love to be able to get back into it. I’m definitely going with third party RAM if and when that happens though.

I think it’s unfair to characterise that as power use (versus ‘basic’ use). It’s having a lot of stuff open. You can be a power user without having multiple menu bar apps, or having half your apps open at the same time.

For me power use is simply making your hardware and software do the most work for you with the minimum overhead. A power user is someone who makes considerations to maximising their work to effort ratio for whatever tasks they’re trying to perform with their device(s). That’s valid for writing email responses as much as processing audio for a podcast.

There’s nothing about being a power user that involves multiple browser tabs, or having iTunes open at the same time as garage band.

Yes, more memory will make your system perform better if you have a ton of stuff happening at once, but half those processes are probably asleep.

I dunno. I guess the conflation of doing a lot of concurrent things with ‘power user’ kinda irks me.

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I’ll just add that as an education worker, we use GSuite a lot—with 128GB of RAM, I might be able to look at three Google Docs at once!

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In that case I even more strongly disagree with the idea that 8Gb would be sufficient for even that kind of basic user.

Google Docs is a problem that I can’t offer a solution for :rofl:

This is just plain sad. But I guess you are also using Chrome which seems to be at the root of many persons’ RAM problems.

Chrome/Chromium/Brave are RAM hogs, but the benefits from extensions overwhelmingly outweigh the costs for me, and I outlined some of the unique and very useful extensions I use here and here.

And under Safari 12.1 Apple disabled the ability to disable hyperlink auditing (click-tracking). Although Apple implements protection against cross-site tracking, this new development does permit sites to track what you click on now. Brave (Chromium-based) and Firefox still have the protection on by default. So there are real reasons relating to privacy and productivity that people may have for using Chrome or a Chromium-based browser.