This year's iMac vs. last year's?

Discussion in 'Apple' started by Ronnie Bateman, Aug 5, 2009.

  1. Need new computer. Currently browsing.....

    Was investigating a Mac dealer which sells slightly out-of-date
    computers, still unopened. Advantage: They're cheaper.

    I want a desktop rather than a laptop.

    The salesman was telling me that he thinks the out-of-date iMac is
    actually BETTER than the newer one, due to Apple cutting some corners
    with the newer model. In particular, he stressed the graphics card. He
    said (I may be getting the jargon slightly wrong) the previous model had
    a dedicated graphics card with its own RAM. Whereas the newer graphics
    card uses the main RAM -- which is a worse way of doing things. He
    believed there was no reason to do this beyond it being cheaper for
    Apple.

    Is this true? How significant is this factor?

    I can get a 10% discount on a new one, so the cost difference doesn't
    end up being too significant. So, it's mainly about whether I believe
    his pitch or not. And weighing this issue versus other factors such as
    the newer one having a larger hard drive (probably not important for my
    needs) and a faintly faster chip (a relatively trivial difference).

    Advice?
     
    Ronnie Bateman, Aug 5, 2009
    #1
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  2. Well, I think the Apple site supports what he said about the new
    graphics card using system RAM rather its own....

    Under Graphics at the above Apple site, the new 20-inch version says:

    "NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics processor with 256MB of DDR3 SDRAM shared
    with main memory"

    And the 2008 version says:

    "ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT with 128MB of GDDR3 memory"

    I believe I saw practically identical charts at the store.
     
    Ronnie Bateman, Aug 5, 2009
    #2
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  3. Don't know if it is true.

    But your other question is important (if it's true). The significance
    of less on-graphics-card memory certainly depends on how graphics
    intensive your uses will be. What are you going to do with the
    computer?
     
    Doug Anderson, Aug 5, 2009
    #3
  4. Ronnie Bateman

    Tom Stiller Guest

    <-september.org>
    ,
    Make sure the graphics card in the older iMac is one that Snow Leopard
    can make use of.
     
    Tom Stiller, Aug 5, 2009
    #4
  5. Ronnie Bateman

    Wes Groleau Guest

    Test done by playing a movie. I wonder whether the results would have
    been different if some heavy number-crunching had been happening at the
    same time.

    --
    Wes Groleau

    You're all individuals!
    Yes, we're all individuals!
    You're all different!
    Yes, we are all different!
    I'm not!
    ("Life of Brian")
     
    Wes Groleau, Aug 6, 2009
    #5
  6. Amen. I'll skip the many war stories.
    Yes. The OP didn't mention which iMac. It makes a huge difference. My
    initial reaction was incredulity because I distinctly recalled that the
    graphics on the new iMacs were so majorly improved over the previous
    ones that I was tempted to buy one just for that. But then I was
    thinking about the 24" models. He was probably talking about the 20" one
    which, as noted above, is only a little better than the prior ones.

    Using system RAM rather than its own doesn't directly tell you much
    about graphics performance. Some, but not much. The cards that don't
    have their own RAM tend to be lowish end, but you can certainly get
    cards with dedicated RAM that are just as low.

    I'm guessing that the OP won't see the difference, mostly because he
    didn't mention what kind of apps you are running, which makes a huge
    difference. For most apps, you just won't notice. If you are running
    something that really pushes 3D graphics hard, then you'd probably want
    the 24" system.

    Yes, the 20" system cuts some corners compared to the 24" ones. It is
    the low-end system and it shows. But I'm not so convinced that it isn't
    just as good or better than the prior model.
     
    Richard Maine, Aug 6, 2009
    #6
  7. Yes, I'm looking at 20-inchers. That's why I quoted the 20" stats
    earlier.
    I don't think that I have out-of-the-ordinary graphics needs. I'm not
    really a "gamer," and I don't watch DVD movies on my computer either.

    I'm not rich, and a 24-inch monitor seems like an unnecessary luxury. I
    can get by without that. I'm using a (dying) 17-inch eMac right now, so
    a 20-inch screen is still an upgrade. But I'm just wondering about the
    salesman's point about the new vs. old 20-inch desktops. From what you
    and Jolly Roger say, it sounds like the graphics issue is legitimate and
    not just some dishonest sales pitch....but it also sounds like it's not
    really too important for me personally. Hm. And the salesman didn't ask
    about much my personal computer needs, so maybe he projected his own
    "maximum" graphics requirements onto me.
    OK, thanks.
     
    Ronnie Bateman, Aug 6, 2009
    #7
  8. And BareFeats is a highly respected independent site. Note that they do
    not at all just parrot praise of Apple. They have sometimes hit Apple
    pretty hard for things like releasing new systems with worse performance
    than old ones (as has on occasion happened). If you want real-world
    graphics performance data for Macs, it is probably *THE* site to check.
     
    Richard Maine, Aug 6, 2009
    #8
  9. Ronnie Bateman

    Wes Groleau Guest

    Huh? That's what _they_ said they did.

    --
    Wes Groleau

    After the christening of his baby brother in church, Jason sobbed
    all the way home in the back seat of the car. His father asked him
    three times what was wrong. Finally, the boy replied, "That preacher
    said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home, and I wanted to
    stay with you guys."
     
    Wes Groleau, Aug 6, 2009
    #9
  10. Ronnie Bateman

    David Empson Guest

    Of the four current "stock" iMacs offered by Apple, the two cheaper
    models (20" and entry level 24") have "integrated graphics" chipsets
    (NVIDIA GeForce 9400M), while the top two 24" models have dedicated
    graphics controllers (and you can customize them with a few
    alternatives).

    As for the salesman's claim that there was no reason for this:

    - Apple switched to using NVIDIA controller chipsets instead of Intel
    ones across the entire product line (except for the high-end Mac Pro and
    Xserve).

    - The NVIDIA chipset allows Apple to use faster memory in the 2009 model
    (DDR3 vs DDR2).

    - The NVIDIA 9400M is significantly better than Intel integrated
    graphics used on some older models (but not the 2008 iMac).

    - The NVIDIA 9400M probably out-performs the ATI graphics controllers in
    low-end 2008 iMacs. (Need to find some benchmarks to confirm this.)

    - The NVIDIA 9400M adds some significant features for offloading work
    from the main CPU, including hardware decompression of H.264 video, and
    support for the OpenCL language Apple will be introducing in Snow
    Leopard. (Most recent NVIDIA graphics controllers support these
    features, but only high-end ATI graphics controllers, which weren't an
    option in the 2008 iMacs.)

    There are some disadvantages:

    - Integrated graphics uses up some of the computer's main memory, so you
    will have less memory available for other purposes, which generally
    reduces the performance of the computer. (Counteracting this: the
    standard memory supplied with the 2009 iMacs is double that of the
    equivalent 2008 model; you could upgrade the RAM in the 2008 model to
    cancel this out.)

    - Heavy-duty 3D graphics and some advanced software requires a dedicated
    graphics card (e.g. some games, and parts of Final Cut Studio).
    Other aspects of the 2009 models to consider:

    - The 2009 iMacs switched to a new type of external display connector
    (Mini DisplayPort instead of Mini DVI). This is a mixed blessing: it
    allows the use of an external 30" Cinema Display (with an expensive
    adapter), may require replacing any adapters you currently have, and
    loses support for composite/S-Video output (e.g. to an old television).

    - The Firewire 400 port was replaced with another USB 2.0 port. It still
    has a single Firewire 800 port, but if you need to connect Firewire 400
    devices you might need an adpater or converter cable, and this may
    complicate things if you need to connect more than one Firewire device.
     
    David Empson, Aug 6, 2009
    #10
  11. Ronnie Bateman

    Wes Groleau Guest

    Sorry. Guess I misinterpreted this:
    "The X-Plane benchmark uses our record movie of the X-15 dropped from a
    bomber and diving for the mountains below."
     
    Wes Groleau, Aug 6, 2009
    #11
  12. Ronnie Bateman

    David Empson Guest

    Assuming your Firewire devices have daisy-chain connectors.

    If you want to connect two devices which only have one connector, and
    your computer only has one Firewire port, then you will need a Firewire
    hub.

    As I said, the loss of a Firewire port may complicate things for some
    people who have more than one Firewire peripheral.
     
    David Empson, Aug 6, 2009
    #12
  13. Ronnie Bateman

    Ian Gregory Guest

    The cheapest 24" machine is $300 more than the 20" but if you choose the
    24" you are not paying $300 for a bigger display, you are paying for
    double the RAM, double the hard drive capacity and a bigger display. Of
    course you might think all of those are unnecessary luxuries, in which
    case the 20" machine is for you, but if you configure a 20" with the
    same RAM and hard drive as the cheapest 24" then the price difference
    drops to $125.

    My 20" iMac is nearly three years old so I will be replacing it soon.
    Since I don't own any sort of television (let alone one of those
    monstrous plasma screen things that are all the rage) I only have my
    iMac on which to watch movies and a 24" display would be a nice luxury
    to have. I am by no means rich but I can't see it being difficult to
    justify to myself:)

    Ian
     
    Ian Gregory, Aug 7, 2009
    #13
  14. OK, thanks....I appreciate your help. You folks have convinced me. ;)
     
    Ronnie Bateman, Aug 7, 2009
    #14
  15. Ronnie Bateman

    Priam Guest

    I couldn't sympathize more with you since I had a similar problem. It's
    not that I'm not rich enough to buy those nice Macs... but I'd rather
    keep things this way.

    So, finally, I found a Mac that suits my needs and wallet. The problem,
    if you have space concerns, is that it looks more like a Mac Pro than a
    iMac. But check the specs compared to an iMac:

    Triple Core 2.8 GHz CPU | 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
    Gigabyte MA770T-UD3P mobo | some unknown lowest bidder mobo
    4 GB of DDR3 1333 MHz RAM | 2GB of 1066MHz DDR3
    9400GT video card 1 GB RAM | 9400M with 256MB *shared* memory
    640 GB Western Digital HD | 320 MB Samsung HD
    Asus VW246H 24" 2ms monitor | 20" Lucky Goldstar monitor

    Price US: ~ $850 | $1,2000

    If you really need Bluetooth, WiFi and Firewire 800 -- the Gigabyte
    board "only" has Firewire 400 and 10 USB2 ports -- extra cards will set
    you back another $100, but it would be cheaper to buy a mobo with those
    integrated. But let's say a total of $950.

    It's "only" $250 less than the 20" iMac, but you get your 24" monitor,
    twice the RAM at higher speed, twice the HD space, a much more powerful
    CPU, a way better video card and enough space and PSU power to add extra
    HD. Even if it was the same price, it would already be a pretty good
    deal. Now you get $250 off!!!

    And, that's not all. Whereas the iMac runs proprietarized BSD-Unix
    software, my Mac runs open-source Linux-Unix. So you get all your
    software for free.

    Of course, if, like all those who spend about 16 hours a day on this
    group, you're a professional and you intend to shell out $1000 for Final
    Cut Studio, I do suggest you stay with Mac.

    Otherwise, Linux will provide you the likes of LiVES and KDEnLive, which
    will offer you all the HD video editing options you'll ever need, and more.

    So, if, unlike everybody on this group, you don't drink Laphroaig
    whiskey all day long while the money comes in, my Mac might be a sound
    alternative. :)
     
    Priam, Aug 7, 2009
    #15
  16. Ronnie Bateman

    mac user Guest

    I've been considering installing Ubuntu on a system but I see that
    Debian is getting a lot of "word" time on the Internet. I don't know a
    lot about LInux except that when I installed a run from disc test on a
    PC, I discovered that I was going to have to download a lot of
    additional software to do the things I wanted to do except for word
    processing and the odd game. And it also appeared that I was going to
    have to get involved with command line to install or get programs and
    hardware to work. I burnt out on command line with Windows - that's why
    I switched to Macs. That is my problem with Linux - when it gets to the
    point where I can freely obtain or, for a small shipping fee, get a
    version that has all or at least most of what I need on DVD so I can
    slip it in and install it without having to search, download and tweak
    to get it all to work, I might give it a try.
     
    mac user, Aug 26, 2009
    #16
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