If you’ve been following along with my blog you know I received my new iMac a couple of weeks ago. I talked about the reasons for the upgrade, and also why I chose an iMac over another MacPro in last weeks post. While it arrived on a Thursday it was not until that Sunday that I found some time to unbox it. I’ve spent last week setting it up, installing software and copying across data from the MacPro. It’s still early days but I thought I’d share some early thoughts as well as a few unboxing pictures.
The Apple experience truly begins with the packaging. It’s clear they put so much thought into this, and they understand that 1st impressions count. I bought a Kindle for my wife last Christmas and I remember this nondescript brown packing box arriving in the door. I immediately opened it expecting to reveal the Kindle box only to find myself staring at the device itself. The horrible brown box was the actual Kindle packaging! I can’t describe the impact that had on my perception of the product.
Anyway I digress. Once I took the iMac out of it’s box and unwrapped it I found the attention to detail followed through to the system itself. I remember my first experience with an Apple Mac system way back in 2006 and a new MacPro. I was blown away at the time with the shear build quality and attention to the smallest details. And while Apple has gone from strength to strength in terms of commercial success since then I am happy to say they are still producing equipment with the same quality and attention. This is all the more impressive when you consider the iMac is their “consumer” or “entry level” system in the Mac Family. That’s not to say it’s all a bed of roses but I’ll save that for another post.
Once my RAM upgrade from Crucial.com arrived last week I promptly replaced the 2x2GB shipped with the iMac with the 4x4GB DIMMS to bring it up to a sweet 16GB which should do me fine for even the largest of my stitched panoramic images. This is a simple affair, in fact Apple have a support document detailing how to do it.
First impressions once I set it up on my desk and switched it on? Fast, speedy, nippy. Yup this thing hums along. Once I had a chance to install my software and transfer my files across I decided to take it’s through its paces and run the tests I ran last week on the MacPro. As a quick reminder here are the specs for the two systems under test;
- Processor: 3.4GHz Quad-Core Intel i7
- Memory : 16GB DDR3 SDRAM – 4x4GB
- *Hard Drive 1: 256GB Solid State Drive
- Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 6970M 1GB
- OS: OSX 10.7.1 Lion
- *Hard Drive 2: 1TB Serial ATA Drive
- Processor: 2x DualCore Intel Xeon 2.66Ghz
- Memory : 8GB DDR3 SDRAM – 4x512GB, 2x1GB, 2xGB
- Hard Drive 1: 1TB 7200rpm Serial ATA Drive
- Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 4870 512MB
- OS: OSX 10.6.8 Snow Leopard
|Test Scenarios||2006 MacPro||2011 iMac|
|Boot to Desktop (incl login)||1:05||0:25|
|Open Aperture 3.0.3 (35GB Library)||0:03||0:01|
|Open Photoshop (CS5 12.0.4, no 3rd party plugins)||0:13||0:02|
|From Aperture open an 8bit RAW file as a PSD in Photoshop (PS needs to start up)||0:31||0:06|
|Run my standard Process Actions against above file (6 layers, 5 masks)||0:13||0:06|
|Save that file (300MB) back into Aperture||0:10||0:03|
|Import 10 21MP Canon 5DII Raw Files to Aperture (fully processed)||0:21||0:10|
|Export 10x Raw files as 8bit PSD Photoshop files to a folder||0:41||0:12|
|Drop the folder on my Standard Process PS Droplet (PS needs to start up)||3:14||1:13|
|Import those 10 Processed PSD images back into Aperture (around 300MB each)||1:45||0:20|
Time measurements are mm:ss.
Yup that’s pretty conclusive. The iMac beats the pants off the MacPro. If I combine the last 4 tests and double them, i.e. 20 images; this would represent a typical workflow for me for commercial work. To complete this workflow it used to take 12 minutes, now it takes 3½ minutes; that’s a quarter of the time! Yea I’m pretty happy with that, but… it got me thinking.
All of these tests are actually pretty much disk bound i.e. the bottleneck is not the Processor or RAM but the Hard Drive. That’s ok though, as I said this is a typical workflow for me. However I wondered was it all down to the SSD, was the newer processor and/or extra memory contributing at all? If I removed the SSD from the equation how much benefit would I see? So I decided the repeat the last 4 tests working from an Aperture library location on the 1TB drive, and exporting the PSD’s to the same drive. This of course is not perfect because the Aperture and Photoshop applications were still located on the SSD but it would give me a flavour. Here’s what I found;
|Test Scenarios||2006 MacPro||2011 iMac (HDD)||2011 iMac (SSD)|
|Import 10 21MP Canon 5DII Raw Files to Aperture (fully processed)||0:21||0:16||0:10|
|Export 10x Raw files as 8bit PSD Photoshop files to a folder||0:41||0:25||0:12|
|Drop the folder on my Standard Process PS Droplet (PS needs to start up)||3:14||1:45||1:13|
|Import those 10 Processed PSD images back into Aperture (around 300MB each)||1:45||0:54||0:20|
Time measurements are mm:ss.
So there you have it. While the SSD is delivering some big improvements its not all down to the flash technology. I think that’s most obvious in the Photoshop test, clearly the extra horsepower afforded by the newer Intel i7 processor goes a long way when creating multiple layers and channel masks. But there is no denying it, the combo of Intel i7 3Ghz Processor, 16GB of RAM and the 256GB SSD drive in this new iMac makes for a potent machine and a huge leap in my productivity.
So there you have it; my first impressions of moving over to an iMac. More to come still but I need to spend a bit more time working with it day-to-day before I’m prepared to write further. In the meantime let me know in the comments if there is anything specific you would like me to discuss or test?