Which iMac should I buy?

I’m finding myself agonizing over which iMac to buy. It seems like I could spend a million dollars if I wanted.

I’m going to be recording and editing my podcast, working on video, and doing some larger format image editing with photoshop and so on.

So what do you think I’d regret not getting. I’m going with the 27" for sure so I know I can upgrade the RAM. Buy what about the processor? Does the jump from 3.0 to 3.1 in the processors matter that much? I’m thinking about getting a SSD is the 1TB worth it or should I run an external drive for larger storage?

Thanks all for your thoughts.

An internal drive will be much faster, and an SSD will be more so. Based on your use cases, I’d go for the 1T SSD.

Plenty of related discussion here on the forum. Search around a bit for more info, and plenty of opinions :slight_smile:


The internal SSD is fast, and there’s something to be said for finally abandoning spinning rusty metal, :wink: but when I made my own 27" i5 iMac purchase in late '17 I decided I wanted to keep my large iTunes library (36,000+ songs) on the internal drive. That, plus the considerable premium Apple charged for its internal SSD made me instead choose the 3Tb Fusion Drive option.

For the most part I’m satisfied. I use the iMac for writing, for music composition (Ableton Live and virtual instruments, in addition to MIDI instruments connected), and photography (Lightroom + tens of thousands of images sitting on an external spinning 8Tb drive). On rare occasions I’ll get a brief slowdown, but that’s a usually something OS-related, like having for some reason to rebuild the LaunchServices database and making me wait when I right-click on a document to bring up app options in ‘Open With’.

I just looked at Apple’s site and was shocked that they removed options for larger-sized Fusion drives (I paid $1949 for my 3.8GHz i5 with 8Gb RAM and 3Tb Fusion drive), evidently to help push people with more storage needs up the price ladder for an SSD. I think in September 2017 the price to upgrade to a 3Tb Fusion Drive was $300. Since then SSD prices have fallen, so I’d probably consider the $700 for the 1Tb SSD Apple now offers as the largest internal storage option. But I’m still not sure I’d spend that much money.

Your real-world speeds won’t be much slower if you got a cheaper (and possibly more capacious) external SSD for storage. Samsung’s 1Tb external USB 3.1 SSD is $169 and the 2Tb version is $350, or half what Apple wants for the (somewhat faster) internal 1Tb.

If I had to buy an iMac right now that’s what I’d likely do: get the 256Gb or 512Gb internal SSD option for my essential files and apps, then buy an external SSD for my non-essential ones. (Plus a a large spinning drive for video, music and images, and big honking external spinning drive for local backups.)

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I honestly don’t think you would notice a precievable difference between the 3.0 to 3.1 processor in using the iMac. As far as the disk goes, I like @bowline’s advice. I would probably go with the 512 internal SSD. The 1TB would be nice but I’d probably use the $400 you would save and put it towards external disks to supplement as you need them.

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I’m facing this same issue myself. I’ve currently got an iMac with the 1.1TB Fusion (before they shrunk the SSD) and am running at 900GB, which puts me at quite a quandary!

I’m currently considering the 500GB SSD internal plus a 1 or 2 TB external SSD connected via USB-C for data storage. I’m sure that even the external SSD will be much faster that what I’ve got now.

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Then get a big external SSD and make it your boot drive. Done.

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I did this with my late 2012 Mac Mini. I wouldn’t even be looking at upgrading right now expect that it was damaged in a fire and I have insurance money to spend on replacing it.

It was a fast and affordable option. It worked great for everything I needed to do.

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