Way way back in March 2007 I wrote about receiving my new Apple MacPro. Actually I had got it the previous November but only got around to publishing the article 4 months later. I guess things around here haven’t changed that much :). So this was my 1st Apple Computer and in that article I talked about the fact that I had been considering the move to OSX for many years but it was the announcement and eventual production of Intel based Macs that swung it for me. At the time I had been using Windows for nearly 20 years so had a lot invested in that technology, both software and my own knowledge. However everything I read about Apple Computers, Operating System and Software made me want to jump ship. Up until then I had always built my own systems from scratch, sourcing all the parts separately and putting them all together to make the ‘perfect’ system. I noted such in that original article stating the MacPro was “the first off-the-shelf system I have ever purchased”. This DIY approach was increasingly becoming a chore however and one I had little time for. I just wanted something that worked!
And here I sit just 2 months shy of 5 years later and I am still working from the same MacPro. That might mean little to many of you but to me it is simply incredible. Going from updating parts in my computers every few months; maybe getting a full year before a complete upgrade, to working off the same system for almost 5 years! The only thing I did with the MacPro was to upgrade the memory twice; 2GB to 4GB and then to 8GB, and swap the Graphics Card for a new one. Apart from those two upgrades the MacPro is as I bought it and has worked flawlessly since day 1. I think that is a great testament to Apple.
However something obviously caused you to upgrade right? Of course you’re right, well spotted. Everything was beginning to feel a little sluggish. When I upgraded my DSLR body to the Canon 5D Mark II in March 2009 my image file sizes ballooned also. Apart from dealing with 21MP Raw files my working Photoshop files were suddenly 300MB to 600MB, stitched panoramic images, like the Wicklow Panoramic entitled the Sun and the Moon I posted on Tuesday were over 1GB. The 1st attempt to address this was by upgrading to 8GB of RAM and that certainly helped, but as I said at the beginning of this paragraph it all felt a little sluggish. With my Fine Art work I typically would only be working with one or two images at a time so waiting for Photoshop to apply a few filters wasn’t really an issue. However as my commercial and commissioned work increased over the last 12 months or so I was no longer working with 1 or 2 images at a time but 20 or 40… and a deadline. It was time to upgrade.
OK I understand that but why an iMac, why not another MacPro? Wow, you are on the ball today and it is a fair question. For two reasons, one the premise on which I bought the MacPro was no longer valid indeed it turned out never to be valid, and the iMac has come a long way since 2006.
What premise are you referring too? I mentioned earlier that prior to the MacPro I used to build my own systems. When I moved the the Apple platform I wanted to retain some of that possibility. I thought at least with the MacPro it is a traditional Tower Case and I’ll be able to upgrade, tinker, etc. At the time of purchase I was doing a bit of CGI with 3D Studio Max and Maya. I was also toying with the idea of video. All these reasons led me to the conclusion I needed the power, upgrade-ability and extensibility that only the MacPro offered at the time. History tells a different story; I dropped CGI as photography became increasingly important and 5 years later I’m still toying with the idea of video. That upgrade-ability advantage of the desktop never materialised in to an actual need. Also the iMac in 2011 is a far cry from the 2006 model with its max of 24″ screen, dual 2.16GHz process and 1GB of RAM which maxed out at 3GB.
So what did I actually buy? I purchased the 27-inch iMac and upgraded the processor to the i7 3.4Ghz and also purchased a 256GB SSD along with the 1TB Hard Drive. But what about the memory, did you leave that at just 4GB? Wow another insightful question, and the answer is yes. Why? Because Apple want to charge me €600 to upgrade from 4GB to 16GB. That is just madness! I ordered 16GB (4x 4GB) from Crucial.com for €90 with free shipping. Yes you did read that right Apple will charge you €600 for 12GB of RAM while you can by 16GB for €90. Given how easy it is to upgrade the memory on an iMac it is a no brainer as far as I am concerned.
Indeed I struggled with the SSD option also. Not with needing one, I was convinced of that but with the €600 they charge. The SSD they ship is last years technology with read/writes in the 200MB range vs the new Sandforce models running in the 500+MB range. I could also pick one of these up for around €400. However installing an aftermarket SSD Hard Drive in the iMac is not for the faint of heart and required you to strip the entire system down. Given my background in building PC’s I had no doubt I could do it but did I want that hassle? I guess the answer was no!
The one thing I wanted to do was test the difference in speed and performance between the MacPro and the new iMac. There are all sorts of software based synthetic tests like geekbench, etc that I could use but none of those mean anything to me. I wanted real-world tests. What I really want to understand is the difference between the two machines on the things I do every day. Obviously these are going to be very photographic in nature. So before I even take the iMac out of it’s packaging I decided to run the MacPro through a series of tests that are very typical for me and publish them here.
[table id=10 /] *MacPro Specs: 2x DualCore Intel Xeon 2.66Ghz, 8GB RAM, 7200rpm 1TB Hard Drive, OSX 10.6.8. Time measurements are mm:ss.
I now have a baseline on which to test the iMac. I best warn you now my blog will be a bit of a geek fest for the next while as I intend to write a few more articles on the iMac to discuss my experiences as I get it setup and configured and also to run the above tests again to get a flavour for how it performs (hopefully out-performs) against the MacPro.
Okidoki I’m off to take the iMac out of it’s box and start installing my programs and transferring all my files over from the MacPro.
System Specs for 27-inch iMac
- Processor: 3.4GHz Quad-Core Intel i7
- Memory : 16GB DDR3 SDRAM – 4x4GB
- Hard Drive 1: 256GB Solid State Drive
- Hard Drive 2: 1TB Serial ATA Drive
- Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 6970M 1GB
- Input: Magic Trackpad & Wireless Keyboard
- OS : OSX 10.7 Lion
BTW if you are reading this from Ireland and interested in buying my MacPro or indeed my Dell 30″ Monitor you will find them over on Adverts.ie at the below links.