iMac for prosumer work?

  • Posted: 30 July 2009 12:39 PM

    My latest G4 just croaked, and I’m debating digging deep and buying a new system. While I have only owned and used towers, I just don’t think I can afford one now. I do lots of InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, and Painter work; all for print publishing so it’s lots of big files. So I’m wondering if any designers out there are using the new iMac for pro work. I know I can get lots of external storage nowadays because firewire hard drives are so cheap, but I’m worried the RAM won’t keep up with the work and it won’t last as long as my towers have because of lack of upgrade options. Plus I have grown used to using 2 monitors, and I’m not sure the iMac’s video board (or ports) can handle that. Any thoughts or advice?

    Thanks

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    Posted: 31 July 2009 04:09 PM #1

    I have always used towers as well (right now a quad-core blah blah mac pro), but my work just got me an iMac to work at home and I love it. If your using a g4 now, you will be amazed at the iMac. The difference in speed from your g4 is about 1000x more then the difference between the iMac and Mac Pro.

    The iMac (at least mine) does support dual monitors (I needed an adapter but your milage may vary depending on your monitor). I say go for it, get the most ram you can and you will not be disappointed. The built in screen is sweet too btw.

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  • Posted: 02 August 2009 02:08 AM #2

    I’m using an iMac for commercial Web design work (Adobe CS4) without a hitch or a glitch. A couple of suggestions: Do buy the most RAM. Second, with Snow Leopard peering around the corner, I’d spring for the beefier NVIDIA graphics card.

    The tech specs provide the info on the dual monitor capabilities.

    I, too, used to buy minitowers for my commercial work. But I’m happy with the iMac and its horsepower at a fraction of the cost of a minitower and monitor. Considering the speed enhancements being built into Snow Leopard (and presumably future commercial releases of OS X), I don’t think I’ll have a need for a minitower again.

         
  • Posted: 03 August 2009 11:07 AM #3

    Thanks. I’m thinking if I buy new, I’ll probably get an iMac, but I’m still hunting around campus (I work at a research university) for any MacPros being dumped. The scientists tend to have wads of grant money and upgrade often. :)

    With Apple’s back to School promotion right now, and their 0% for a year financing, the 2.9GHz 24” iMac is looking mighty tempting…

    [ Edited: 03 August 2009 06:04 PM by FlipFriddle ]

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    Posted: 05 August 2009 12:33 PM #4

    I too am a Creative Suite user. I went from a G4 tower to an iMac and haven’t found it to be a problem. I don’t do much video work, but that is area where I wish I had the biggest and most powerful Mac. As the others have said get as much RAM as you can. Also the 24 inch iMac not only has more screen real estate, but seems to have a better viewing angle as well.

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    “Works of art, in my opinion, are the only objects in the material universe to possess internal order, and that is why, though I don’t believe that only art matters, I do believe in Art for Art’s sake.” E. M. Forster

         
  • Posted: 05 August 2009 01:15 PM #5

    From what I’ve read, the 24 inch iMac does have a higher quality display than the 20 inch. I was in a similar conundrum. I had an 4 year old G5 PowerMac that I wanted to update this summer to take advantage of Snow Leopard and other Intel only software (I have a couple year old Intel laptop that I used when I needed to run Intel only software). I couldn’t bring myself to spend the extra money on a Mac Pro so I got the 2.93 GHz 24 inch iMac. This gives you the better video card which Snow Leopard should take advantage of.

    I don’t do graphic design work. I teach computer science and develop apps so I use it for writing and compiling/running apps. I teach some computer graphics courses using OpenGL so I occasionally push the CPU and graphics card to full capacity.

    I’m a little concerned about all the heat in a small enclosed space, but I assume Apple has tested them well and knows they can handle it. The first one I got had some sort of hardware problem - would kernel panic frequently when pushing it hard. This started within two weeks of me getting it so when I took it in for repair and asked politely, the Apple store where I got it replaced it with a new one. The replacement has been running fine for 7 or so weeks I’ve had it.

    I would definitely get AppleCare for it given the cost of just about any repair on the all-in-one machines is more than the cost of AppleCare. And as I said, I’m concerned about the heat leading to early failures so I want to know I’ve got at least 3 years of use without having to put more money into it. I would definitely keep the temperature in the room you use it below 80 degrees.

    Disclosure: I own some Apple stock.

         
  • Posted: 05 August 2009 01:17 PM #6

    Unless you have no overhead lighting or windows in your work space you’re going to hate the glossy screen.  If you require 5000 Kelvin overhead lighting, you will also need a hood (if you can find one) or you’ll end up wanting to throw the iMac out the nearest window because of the glare.  Using a second monitor is no problem however, though you might need an adapter.  Like the others say, you MUST max the RAM.  If you have a lot of peripherals you will likely need some firewire/usb hubs.

         
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    Posted: 05 August 2009 01:28 PM #7

    +

    When my G4 tower could no longer keep up, I opted for the 3.06GHz dual-core 24” iMac, and (as others have suggested) maxed the RAM. I use it for print, web, and 3D design and animation. With the notable exception of rendering 3D animation in Cinema 4D (it got the job done, but took forever even at 320x240), the iMac easily handles Adobe Creative Suite, Final Cut Studio, Cinema 4D (except, again, rendering is slow), and all my Drupal-based web design work. I’m extremely happy with it, and am sure it will serve me well for years to come. It’s also whisper-quiet, which is nice. As for the glossy screen, I have it in an armoire, so glare’s not a problem.

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  • Posted: 05 August 2009 01:28 PM #8

    I forgot to mention the glossy screen. This is my first since ditching CRTs a few years back. It took me a bit to get used to, but it’s not too bad. The only window in the room does not face the screen so that helps.

    As far as maxing out the RAM - I believe these can take two 4GB sticks for a total of 8GB but the 4GB sticks are very expensive right now. I’d stick with the two 2GB sticks for a total of 4GB and then if you need 8GB later, hopefully the prices on the 4GB sticks will be down by then.

         
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    Posted: 05 August 2009 01:31 PM #9

    dave256 - 05 August 2009 04:15 PM

    I’m a little concerned about all the heat in a small enclosed space, but I assume Apple has tested them well and knows they can handle it.

    I haven’t notice the heat being a problem and I don’t think that I ever heard the fan come on. The fans on my G4 MDD Tower are almost always running, you could ventilate a mine shaft with that thing.

    The glossy screen. Yes, placement of it is important and in the late afternoon when I get a lot of reflected light into my north facing window I find I usually need to lower the blinds. However, I have gotten used to it and I have learned to “see through the glare.” The glossy monitors are easier to clean than the matt screens, I use KlearScreen

    One other thing. The keyboards that come with the new iMacs come without a keypad. If you order it online from Apple you can specify a full keyboard at no additional cost. I usually order the Macs online so I can get them with a bigger hard drive and more RAM (if the price is good).

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    “Works of art, in my opinion, are the only objects in the material universe to possess internal order, and that is why, though I don’t believe that only art matters, I do believe in Art for Art’s sake.” E. M. Forster

         
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    Posted: 05 August 2009 01:32 PM #10

    a 24” iMac is perfect for everything you described as something you did on your G4.

    I have been using a 2.16Ghz 24” iMac for a few years now with no problems. As everyone said, max the ram and you should be fine. I use all the same apps you use, plus I also do web design and development using the it and it rocks.

    I’m thinking about moving up to the latest top of the line iMac now in preparation for Snow Leopard. I have a need for speed : )

    ps. They (iMacs) are also great for games! I play COD4 on mine constantly when I’m not working.

    [ Edited: 05 August 2009 01:34 PM by ChoMomma ]

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    Posted: 05 August 2009 01:32 PM #11

    1. Some useful data at http://marketingtactics.com/Speedmark/ . You will see that any 24-inch iMac is very powerful compared with your current machine.

    2. More useful data at:
    http://www.barefeats.com/imac09d.html
    http://www.barefeats.com/imac09c.html
    http://www.barefeats.com/imac09b.html
    http://www.barefeats.com/imac09.html
    If you are not doing moving pictures (video) then the standard video card is good enough.

    3. I went from a G5 tower to an iMac. Worked for me. I run MS Office + Adobe CS3 (Web) + 8 other apps all day and every day.

    4. More memory is always better. I just upgraded my iMac 7,1 to 6GB of RAM and it made all the difference in the world. (http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=2102130&tstart=0)

    5. I would buy:
    a. a new 2.93 GHz with the 120 video and 4GB for $1800 USD. Then, when the prices of the 4GB SODIMMs fall to a reasonable price (http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/memory/iMac/DDR3_2009) in a year, I would upgrade the memory to 8GB.
    b. a refurbished iMac such as http://store.apple.com/us/product/FB398LL/A?mco=MjE0NDk5Mw for $1600. This is an iMac 8,1 and can take up to 6GB of inexpensive SODIMMs ($160).

    6. Be sure to buy AppleCare. See LAComputerComputer.com to save money.

    [ Edited: 05 August 2009 01:34 PM by davebarnes ]

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  • Posted: 05 August 2009 01:54 PM #12

    Sir Harry Flashman - 05 August 2009 04:31 PM
    dave256 - 05 August 2009 04:15 PM

    I’m a little concerned about all the heat in a small enclosed space, but I assume Apple has tested them well and knows they can handle it.

    I haven’t notice the heat being a problem and I don’t think that I ever heard the fan come on. The fans on my G4 MDD Tower are almost always running, you could ventilate a mine shaft with that thing.

    The fans are running - they are just very quiet. The iStat Pro widget shows three fans on my 2.93GHz 24 inch iMac running at speeds from 800 to 1600 RPM under light use and the various temperature sensors read from 110 to 140 degrees. I’m not saying the heat is a problem - I’m just saying I worry about it. When the machine is being pushed the heat coming out of the vent at the top is very noticeable. It’s probably no worse than a PowerMac G5 when the fans were running like airplane engines, but it just seems like a lot of heat in a small space with lots of components.

    When the first one had problems I started to second guess my decision to save $600 and get a 24 inch monitor, but for now I’m happy with the replacement and would recommend an iMac if you’re willing to buy AppleCare.

         
  • Posted: 05 August 2009 03:03 PM #13

    Thanks for the info everyone. I’m so proud as this is the first “Hot Topic” I ever generated. :)

    While I’d love to max the RAM, at over $800 for non-Apple ram, that just isn’t possible right now. Plus, psychologically I feel like if in the future if it’s feeling slow, there is at least one thing I can do about it.

    Your discussion of heat has me a bit concerned, as my studio is in my attic and I don’t want to have to add the cost of an air conditioner to my purchase price. I’m still wondering if that’s why the G4 died (though my friend a repair tech said heat will mainly destroy hard drives, not the CPU which is what turns out croaked). In the winter it’s no problem since I have to wear a hat up there. :)

    I’ll have to buy a FirewireSCSI adapter for my scanner, and a 1TB backup drive for timemachine, but that’s no big deal. Well, Apple has me on the hook, but I’m still struggling. It would be nice to replace that 1st Gen iPod…

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  • Posted: 05 August 2009 03:07 PM #14

    I manage a publishing operation in Boston MA - where we are all on 24” iMacs - the white plastic ones - 2.16G core duos, with 2GB of RAM. Our IT folks still have us on OSX 10.5, but we run CS4 very easily. Plenty of horsepower in these machines for just about anything short of video editing or complex image rendering.

         
  • Posted: 05 August 2009 03:15 PM #15

    My heat concern is mainly anecdotal, not hard evidence - it’s just something I would consider when buying an all-in-one device. For the most part, the components in iMacs are the same as laptops so they’re designed to work in small enclosed areas.

    All computers dislike high temperatures. Apple’s tech specs for the iMac say its operating temperature is 50 to 95 degrees so they don’t seem concerned about it at those temperatures.  Where I work they have had a number of 24 inch iMacs have issues (mainly hard drive failures from what I hear). The room they are in is warm (but below 95 degrees). Could it be heat related - yes, could it be just bad luck with hard drives - yes.

    As I said before, I wouldn’t worry about it if the room is below 80 degrees. Apple thinks up to 95 is ok, but I wouldn’t want to test that. That’s too hot for me to work reliably also. grin If you’re going to purchase AppleCare, I wouldn’t worry too much about it.