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Author Topic: Mac upgrade advice  (Read 8721 times)
Chairman Bill
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« on: November 30, 2012, 05:57:48 AM »
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My six-year old iMac is still going strong, but the RAM limit is an issue. I want a faster machine, with much more RAM (at least 8GB).

Here's my dilemma. Do I go for a new iMac, and if I do, is an i5 processor OK, or is the Intel i7 worth the extra cost? Alternatively, do I go for a Mac Mini & something like a NEC Spectraview monitor?

The iMac would be sleeker, and potentially better specced, but the NEC monitor is probably better for photo-editing, and future upgrades would be cheaper as I'd only be changing the Mac Mini, not the whole kit.

Advice would be most welcome.
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2012, 07:21:38 AM »
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Hi,

I have a MacPro but I may consider MacMini for my next platform. I would recommend this site for good info: http://macperformanceguide.com/index.html

If you want to upgrade your iMac you may check http://www.macsales.com , they often have more memory options than Apple themselves.

Best regards
Erik

My six-year old iMac is still going strong, but the RAM limit is an issue. I want a faster machine, with much more RAM (at least 8GB).

Here's my dilemma. Do I go for a new iMac, and if I do, is an i5 processor OK, or is the Intel i7 worth the extra cost? Alternatively, do I go for a Mac Mini & something like a NEC Spectraview monitor?

The iMac would be sleeker, and potentially better specced, but the NEC monitor is probably better for photo-editing, and future upgrades would be cheaper as I'd only be changing the Mac Mini, not the whole kit.

Advice would be most welcome.
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francois
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« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2012, 07:44:33 AM »
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I think that I would go for a Mini. The thing that bugs me with an iMac is that you literally have to throw away the display when you go upgrade to a new computer. On top of that, the NEC display is certainly better.
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Francois
Chairman Bill
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« Reply #3 on: November 30, 2012, 07:51:14 AM »
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Thanks for the advice.

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elolaugesen
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« Reply #4 on: November 30, 2012, 08:02:26 AM »
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look the arstechnica article.    very easy to  understand.   In summary if you have many active tasks then quad will benefit you if only one or two tasks at a time and simple photoshop (photographs etc.Not heavy duty ??)) then the extra cores may sit there and gather dust.

http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2012/10/core-i5-or-core-i7-does-your-computer-need-the-extra-juice/

max out on memory  some studies and benchmarks have shown that with 16meg you may not even make enough use of fusion and will never pay for the upgrade.

Another thing  to look at is the difference in disc speed for the 21 inch versus the 27 inch.    the fusion drive may?? make up for the slower disc    we will find out later...
If you go for mac mini    go for the larger one (not server) max out memory, (end cost without monitor, keyboard, mouse    close to the iMac)

whatever decision you make -   someone else would have done differently.   very confusing as we all have different needs.
cheers elo

just saw this thread on luminous         How much faster is 3.33 6 Core than 3.2 Quad Core for Photoshop CS6?
« Last Edit: November 30, 2012, 08:05:48 AM by elolaugesen » Logged
HSakols
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« Reply #5 on: November 30, 2012, 08:26:19 AM »
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I'm in the same situation.  Right now I use my imac with a NEC monitor with Spectraview II.  At this point I'm leaning toward going with the mac mini and living with one small 22 in monitor.  The RAM is quite cheap to max out using someone other than apple.  Right now scrolling through images in LR4 is painful.
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francois
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« Reply #6 on: November 30, 2012, 09:36:57 AM »
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Thanks for the advice.



Bill,
You might also want to read this: http://digilloyd.com/blog/2012/20121109_2-MacMini-for-photographers.html
FWIW, Lloyd Chambers is also the owner of the Mac Performance Guide mentioned by Erik above.
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Francois
Ellis Vener
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« Reply #7 on: November 30, 2012, 09:37:49 AM »
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My six-year old iMac is still going strong, but the RAM limit is an issue. I want a faster machine, with much more RAM (at least 8GB).

Here's my dilemma. Do I go for a new iMac, and if I do, is an i5 processor OK, or is the Intel i7 worth the extra cost? Alternatively, do I go for a Mac Mini & something like a NEC Spectraview monitor?

The iMac would be sleeker, and potentially better specced, but the NEC monitor is probably better for photo-editing, and future upgrades would be cheaper as I'd only be changing the Mac Mini, not the whole kit.

Advice would be most welcome.

I have a late 2009 27" 2.66Ghz quadcore i5 iMac.  The max RAM capacity is 16GB which I have installed. I have also hot rodded it a bit by replacing the internal optical disk drive with a 240GB SSD from OWC (Specifically this one: http://eshop.macsales.com/item/OWC/SSDEX3G240/ which I use as my Boot drive (OS X 10.8.# + Applications. Applications include the full set of Adobe Creative Suite CS 6 Extended, Lightroom 4.3,  PTGui Pro 9.1.5, and several other photo and business related programs.))  The internal 1TB HDD is used as a scratch disk for CS 6 applications and for hot projects.  Since installing the SSD the iMac now runs significantly quieter and cooler.

I regularly work with multi gigabyte  deeply layered large resolution stitched panoramics and while I am sure there are faster machines especially when it comes to compositing and stitching I would have to spend significantly more to get more than a fractional speed increase. I wish I could have waited a few months more before buying this machine as newer iMac i5 and i7 motherboards (I believe) can accomodate up to 32GB RAM.  

This generation of iMac displays,  while not quite as good as the top of the line NECs and Eizo CG monitors (I also have an Eizo CG I use as a second display)  is definitely better than the one in your 2009 iMac, calibrates and profiles well and is fine for photography work. Yes there are better displays but you have to balance cost vs. benefits. I have yet to hear any complaints from my advertising or editorial clients, in fact I get compliments from print production houses on the quality of the color of the qwork my clients deliver to them. I also get very good screen to inkjet (Epson and Canon iPF) print results. I profile my displays with the Xrite i1 Display Pro and printing with the current Xrite i1 Pro Photo set up.

The iMacs that were recently announced supposedly have even better displays but I am not yet sold on the hybrid drive idea.

The one area I wish were better  have to do with connections to peripherals: I wish my imac were two FW 800 channels. In a new iMac USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt probably make that a moot criticism.
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jonathanlung
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« Reply #8 on: November 30, 2012, 10:12:56 AM »
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The thing that bugs me with an iMac is that you literally have to throw away the display when you go upgrade to a new computer.

An integrated system like an iMac doesn't make sense for my use, but there's Target Display Mode on newer iMacs which allows you to use the iMac as an external display. Newer iMacs can do this with Thunderbolt, too.
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mac_paolo
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« Reply #9 on: November 30, 2012, 10:41:31 AM »
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I'd go for the Mac Mini. The new 2012 version with fusion drive and maxed RAM is a speed monster.
It blows away some elder Mac Pro and, since we really know nothing for sure about the real Mac Pro, the Mini is getting a best buy.
With USB 3 ports and Thunderbolt the machine itself is quite future proof.
Then, if you're geeky enough, you may in time stack several Mini's to build a Compressor cluster (if you do video work), deploy an home server or an HTPC.

The real Mac Mini downside is the GPU. There's no option for a discrete one, so you'd better not rely on GPU-bound applications.

Paolo
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kaelaria
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« Reply #10 on: November 30, 2012, 10:44:29 AM »
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Build a PC and know real power and speed Smiley
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Chairman Bill
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« Reply #11 on: November 30, 2012, 10:50:52 AM »
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Build a PC and know real power and speed Smiley

Yeah, yeah, yeah. An old TV set, some egg cartons & the innards from a microwave, and I can build a PC far, far more cheaply than any Apple machine. Allegedly.
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kikashi
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« Reply #12 on: November 30, 2012, 01:22:19 PM »
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I'm in a similar position, except that my aged machine is a huge, clunking Pro. Would the mini be able to drive two DVI monitors?

Jeremy
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #13 on: November 30, 2012, 02:31:05 PM »
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Hi,

Yes I think so. I have a mini driving a full HD projector and "HD-ready" projector at the same time using the display port and the HDMI port. Both work with DVI adapters. But, times are changing, you need to check!

Best regards
Erik

I'm in a similar position, except that my aged machine is a huge, clunking Pro. Would the mini be able to drive two DVI monitors?

Jeremy
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Per Ofverbeck
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« Reply #14 on: December 01, 2012, 03:27:29 AM »
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FWIW, I´ve ordered a Mini; delivery date stated as Dec 12th....  So I´ll know something more a few days later..... Roll Eyes

Details: I have a 2007 MacPro w/ 2x2.66 Dual-Core Xeons and 7 GB of RAM. My monitor is a 30" Cinema Display, bought at the same time (and I intend to keep it).  The MP is SLOW, and just putting more memory in isn´t economical; the correct type can still be got at an exorbitant price, but cannot be reused on anything more recent...  I do have a SSD as system disk, but that one is indeed eminently reusable...  So, need for an update, but the wait for an elusive new MP is too much.

After reading, among other stuff, the Digilloyd and ArsTechnica articles, I ordered the 2.6 GHZ QC i7 Mini, maxed out with 16 GB RAM and a 256 GB SSD (after reading more about the FusionDrive, I think I can do a better job myself of putting the right things on the right disk... Wink).  I´ll need an external cabinet for the less demanding stuff, and a Time Capsule will (hopefully) take care of auto backup; I perform 2nd and 3rd backups manually, to disks kept in a safe or off-site. The Dual-link DVI adapter should work with the Cinema Display.  The one thing that worries me just a bit is the absence of a separate GPU, but I never play games....

I anticipate a noticeably faster system, with less heat and noise, and fre floor space under my desk.... Now, let´s see if I really get it.... Undecided

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Per Ofverbeck
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mac_paolo
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« Reply #15 on: December 01, 2012, 05:06:44 AM »
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256 GB SSD (after reading more about the FusionDrive, I think I can do a better job myself of putting the right things on the right disk... Wink)
I agree with most of the post but here you're wrong, IMHO.

Fusion drive not only is way bigger than a single SSD (128+1000 GB), but it uses CoreStorage routines to move single chunks of the files. The ones you use the most. No matter what the file system you use.
In other words you may have parts of an application or parts of a huge document that are often referred to on the SSD, while the rest will be kept on the slower HDD. From the outside the performance is almost equal to a single huge SSD.

You just can't do that by hand.
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elliot_n
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« Reply #16 on: December 01, 2012, 07:05:40 AM »
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FWIW, I´ve ordered a Mini; delivery date stated as Dec 12th....  So I´ll know something more a few days later..... Roll Eyes

I'm interested to hear how you get on with the new mini. I have the previous version (2.7 i7, AMD graphics, 16Gb ram) with a 27" Eizo CG275W monitor. Photoshop CS6 performance is extremely sluggish - after adjusting sliders in ACR I have to wait several seconds for an on-screen update. No fun at all when working to a deadline.
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Per Ofverbeck
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« Reply #17 on: December 01, 2012, 07:25:43 AM »
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I agree with most of the post but here you're wrong, IMHO.

Fusion drive not only is way bigger than a single SSD (128+1000 GB), but it uses CoreStorage routines to move single chunks of the files. The ones you use the most. No matter what the file system you use.
In other words you may have parts of an application or parts of a huge document that are often referred to on the SSD, while the rest will be kept on the slower HDD. From the outside the performance is almost equal to a single huge SSD.

You just can't do that by hand.

OK, maybe I wasn´t very clear....  I don´t mean I´m going to move things ´dynamically´ between disks, just that I decide what´s important enough to keep on the SSD and what´s not (if necessary, one can always make a symbolic link to something on the HD if it´s necessary to ´pretend´ it´s on the system disk).  For example, if I were to keep Garage Band at all, I would put it, and it´s very substantial Application Support folders on the HD, likewise all of my raw image files except possible the ones I´m still working actively with.  The Lightroom data base and previews, however, would stay on the SSD.

In fact, this is exactly what I´m doing right now on my old MP, which does have an SSD as system disk, and a 1 TB HD for the rest (the other 2 bays are for backup purposes).  With the Mini, I´ll use a 1 TB HD in a FW 800 enclosure for the same ´rest´; remember that the HD part of the Fusion drive is a 5400 rpm one.

Finally, my conclusion is obviously not based on personal experience with a Fusion drive, but mainly on this Digilloyd article, along with similar ones from ArsTechnica.  In the linked article, Lloyd specifically states that

"What I have NOT been able to find is any intelligent migration activity: repeated viewing of images which are known to be on the hard drive does NOT cause migration to the SSD. Hence performance remains poor for reads on files that I’ve used for real-world viewing over and over.

Hence storing a Lightroom catalog or similar on a Fusion drive is massively inferior to storing it on an explicit SSD volume. Where people get fooled is starting to use a Fusion drive which has an SSD still with ample space. That’s not Fusion at work, that’s just the SSD not yet full."

That just about settles it for me...

(And, Elliot, I´ll return with my experience when I´ve got the delivery and get up and running again...)
« Last Edit: December 01, 2012, 07:28:54 AM by Per Ofverbeck » Logged

Per Ofverbeck
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mac_paolo
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« Reply #18 on: December 01, 2012, 08:03:16 AM »
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OK, maybe I wasn´t very clear....  I don´t mean I´m going to move things ´dynamically´ between disks, just that I decide what´s important enough to keep on the SSD and what´s not (if necessary, one can always make a symbolic link to something on the HD if it´s necessary to ´pretend´ it´s on the system disk).  For example, if I were to keep Garage Band at all, I would put it, and it´s very substantial Application Support folders on the HD, likewise all of my raw image files except possible the ones I´m still working actively with.  The Lightroom data base and previews, however, would stay on the SSD.

In fact, this is exactly what I´m doing right now on my old MP, which does have an SSD as system disk, and a 1 TB HD for the rest (the other 2 bays are for backup purposes).  With the Mini, I´ll use a 1 TB HD in a FW 800 enclosure for the same ´rest´; remember that the HD part of the Fusion drive is a 5400 rpm one.

Finally, my conclusion is obviously not based on personal experience with a Fusion drive, but mainly on this Digilloyd article, along with similar ones from ArsTechnica.  In the linked article, Lloyd specifically states that

"What I have NOT been able to find is any intelligent migration activity: repeated viewing of images which are known to be on the hard drive does NOT cause migration to the SSD. Hence performance remains poor for reads on files that I’ve used for real-world viewing over and over.

Hence storing a Lightroom catalog or similar on a Fusion drive is massively inferior to storing it on an explicit SSD volume. Where people get fooled is starting to use a Fusion drive which has an SSD still with ample space. That’s not Fusion at work, that’s just the SSD not yet full."

That just about settles it for me...

(And, Elliot, I´ll return with my experience when I´ve got the delivery and get up and running again...)
With all the respect to you and Mr. Chambers, that review (maybe more than the Fusion technology) is mediocre at best.

The author writes that even opening an image a number of times the data is kept on the HDD. How many times did he try? We don't know.
Who tells that after how many times a block is moved? Who tells wether it's the same no matter what the size of the read data?
Any serious test clearly demonstrated that reading many times the same file (maybe even just one more than what Mr. Chambers did), it (or some blocks) get moved indeed.
I don't have any Fusion Drive test, I only spoke with computer engineer colleagues that have one.

It would be questionable to move data after a small number of reads. That would stress the mechanics over necessary.

Other sources:
Fusion Drive: An Overview
Pushing a Fusion Drive to its limits

As for you example, you may leave very small portions of GarageBand on the SSD, or none, depending on your usage. Remember: blocks are fragmented at MB sizes, not GB. It's a very fine granularity.

I disagree with the author regarding the Lightroom Catalog. My one (and most probably yours too) gets modified -several times- a day. It's the most common candidate to be left on the SSD. Being the catalog a SQLite DB, in the worst case it may leave old portions which weren't accessed since a long time, yet I think that most of it will always remain on the SSD.

Regarding the 5400rpm disk, benchmarks show about 80 MBps in sustained write speed. Even FW800 may struggle to reach those speeds. Definitely not a bottleneck.

The dual approach has a single advantage over the Fusion. You may decide what to keep where no matter what. However, since you'll most probably decided basing on performance, you'll end to do what Fusion does for you under the hood, with much less flexibility. Is it worth it? Maybe, or maybe not. Smiley
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JimGoshorn
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« Reply #19 on: December 01, 2012, 09:27:57 AM »
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FWIW, Tim Cook has said that Apple has not forgotten the pro user and is working on a new Mac Pro that he thinks people will like that should be out next year. Just Google MacPro 2013.

Jim
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