Why I Won't be Buying Apple's New iMac

I have been buying and using Apple products for a long time. Whenever the occasion has come up to investigate and shop for a new Mac, it's been a delightful experience. Juggling the various options and price plus fantasizing about the new technology is always a fun process.

However, to tell you why I won't be buying one of the new iMacs, I have to tell you about the previous one. My workhorse iMac is a 2010 27-inch iMac with an i7 CPU and a 256 GB SSD, factory installed by Apple. I paid the extra $400 at the time of purchase for that SSD because I thought it would pay off in speed and time saved from the hard disk spinning up. It worked, and that iMac has been a joy to use.

Now I want to replace it with a new 2012 27-inch iMac, and pass the current one down to my wife -- who has struggled with a much older iMac with a slow 1 TB hard disk. Her iMac takes forever to boot and is constantly waiting on the disk

A Nasty Surprise

While I pondered whether I wanted to stick with a 256 GB SSD or move up to a 512 MB SSD, I eagerly loaded up Apple's online store and checked my storage options. They look like this:

Options are bleak.

I was stunned and annoyed that I could not pick a reasonable SSD at a reasonable price (compared to 2010). Now, Apple wants to soak me for US$1,300 for a 768 GB SSD.

It's outrageous. It's larceny. It's obscene.

Never Going Back Again

All my Macs boot from SSDs. Recently, I upgraded the sturdy, old 2009 Mac Pro with the Accelsior 480 GB SSD that sits on the PCI bus and is bootable. It's a dream. Fast and quiet. Did I mention fast?

Throughout the years, I've come to believe that SSDs are the way to go, and I will never buy another Mac that has a rotating hard disk. Even Apple has promoted this, bravely starting with a 64 GB SSD in the original MacBook Airs in 2008. Okay, I'm signed up.

I'm not going back in time, and I'm never going to own another computer that boots from or has an internal hard disk. But Apple suddenly, for the sake of an apparent money grab, wants to take away reasonable SSD options in order to soak me for an additional $1,300 for 768 GB. That's $1.69/GB. Otherwise, all in the name of the Fusion technology which is touted as some kind of breakthough, and it isn't, shove a hard disk down my throat. Hard disks, by any name, are dead to me.

According to Computerworld, the going rate today for SSDs is 80 to 90 cents per gigabyte, and there is even a new SSD, announced at CES, that's 1 TB for less than $600.

Let's do some math. I paid an extra $400 for a 256 GB SSD in 2010. Three times 256 = 768 and 3 x $400 is $1200. One would think that, over the last 2.5 years, the natural reduction in SSD prices would bring that price for 768 GB well below $1,200. And it has in all other circles. Instead Apple has increased the price, in proportion, to $1,300. Nonsense.

None of the options presented to me are going to happen.

Potential Options

If this has been a 2011 iMac, I could have taken advantage of a special upgrade program from Other World Computing. You can:

  • Upgrade the SD card slot to a high-performance eSATA port
  • Upgrade to say, 16 GB  RAM (for much less than Apple's price)
  • Add internal SSDs, for example 2 x 240 GB
  • Maintain the Warranty via OWC
  • A shipping box is provided.

Our Jim Tanous did this, all for less than Apple is charging for the 768 GB SSD today. But the newer 2012 iMac is glued together, has a very low serviceability (3/10) according to iFixit -- if the 21.5-inch sibling is any indication --  and could be very hard to upgrade the SSD by a third party.  (For the 2012 iMac, OWC is still working on a kit because Apple has changed the wiring to prevent the use of standard SSD connectors.)

Another option is to buy the iMac with the cheapest hard disk, keep it dismounted, and connect a bootable SSD of my choosing via the Thunderbolt port. That's inelegant, but should work. Could I convert the internal hard disk to be the Time Machine drive? Looks ugly.

The third option is to cave in and accept the Fusion drive and literally go back in time with an Internal hard disk -- with the attendant reliability and maintenance issues if it crashes hard. That's not going to happen. Ever.

My Stand

Apple has always restricted options to keep things simple. But when I bought the 2010 iMac, I had a tempting and desirable option for a mid-range SSD, market priced. Now, nearly three years later, Apple has taken away sensible state-of-the-art options for mid-range, pure SSDs, tried to drag me into Fusion hard disks, forced me to consider some ugly, backwards and undesirable configurations, or else get soaked for a credit card crunching extra $1300, an SSD whose price is way, way out of line even by Apple's premium standards.

[I have since learned that one reason that SSD is so expensive is that it is the same very dense unit used for the Retina MacBook Pro. So it's over-enginered, overly costly for the iMac.]

Apple: see that money burning a hole in my pocket? It's staying right there until I have modern, realistic options. Or until the new Mac Pro comes out. That is, if the new Mac Pro promised by Tim Cook isn't similarly hosed up.