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Economically: Mac Pro better than iMac?
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Sep 18, 2006, 03:27 PM
 
I want to get an Intel Mac, but I can't decide between a Mac Pro and a 24" iMac. To be honest, the iMac is all the computer I need right now, but I'm thinking about expandability.

It seems to me that since the iMac is based on notebook components, there's a good chance it will be a dead end in the near future even though all the parts are technically upgradeable. So I'm thinking in the long run, the $800 more the Mac Pro + display costs would be outweighed by being able to upgrade the parts individually as needed.

I can afford either one right now (been putting away my pennies), but I'm trying to save money to go back to school and want to go with the option that would be most economical in the long run. Anybody with more experience in upgrading computers feel like sharing?
Chuck
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Sep 18, 2006, 03:40 PM
 
I can afford the Mac Pro too. I bought the 24" iMac. I prefer its design, and its price.

The potential issues:

1) Lack of memory expandability beyond 3 GB. Well, I'd probably get a new machine before I'd get more than 3 GB. And at least I don't have to deal with slow FB-DIMMs.

2) Inability to upgrade the GPU. (Well, technically you might be able to, but for all intents and purposes the GPU is non-upgradable.) That's a downer, but then again, the 7600 GT is a great performer. The 7600 GT does well with Aperture at least for what I need to do with it, which is moderate edits of 8 MP RAW files.

3) Lack of an internal secondary drive. So, I can't install XP on it. No biggie. I'll just get Parallels or something, since all I need to run is Quicken. Actually, that's not really an issue, since I have Windows installed on my MacBook already.

Actually the biggest issue I have with the 24" iMac is that it's harder to get into ergonomic position, cuz the height of the screen is so high, due the chin at the bottom. I had to change my table and chair heights to compensate, but I think I'll get used to it.
     
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Sep 18, 2006, 03:44 PM
 
I'm not sure why you think the components will be a dead end but if the iMac fits your needs why spend more money. You mentinoed expandability, what components were you thinking of upgrading in the future?

I opted for the Macpro myself but I already owned a 24" monitor and the 24"imac wasn't announced when I ordered the computer otherwise I may have sold my existing monitor and opted for the iMac.

While I love my Macpro and I have no regrets with the purchase its certainly more computer then I intended to buy but my options were limited - needing a large display and a faster computer then my mini.

The money you save by going with the iMac can be for software, an external drive or as you mentioned going back to school.
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Sep 18, 2006, 03:46 PM
 
There's also the CPU. With the iMac, you're stuck with Merom-compatible processors — which there likely won't be so many more of, from what I hear.
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Sep 18, 2006, 03:48 PM
 
P.S. Having the iSight in the iMac rocks. It's amazing how much time you can waste with PhotoBooth.

Seriously though, I do like having that. I don't use iChat much, but when I did, I hated hooking up my Firewire camcorder.
     
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Sep 18, 2006, 03:52 PM
 
For most people, the iMac would probably be the better buy. Most people do not need four cores, and most people do not take advantage of the extra expandaility of a tower. Considering the screen size and decent components, the iMac has solid value. With that said, I'm not a big fan of AIOs. I'd say that if you plan to hold on to the computer for a number of years and can afford it, go for a Mac Pro. If you like upgrading more frequently, get an iMac instead.

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Sep 18, 2006, 03:53 PM
 
Originally Posted by Chuckit
There's also the CPU. With the iMac, you're stuck with Merom-compatible processors — which there likely won't be so many more of, from what I hear.
seriously what are the odds on you upgrading the cpus in a macpro (or an imac) when the time comes. Before I opted for purchasing the macpro, I looked at getting a faster processor for my mini and the costs were beyond what I thought was acceptable for the performance I would reap.

I see a lot of "noise" about replacing the CPUs here and other forums but I think most people won't go that route because with a little more cash can get a brand new computer.
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Sep 18, 2006, 03:54 PM
 
Originally Posted by mac128k-1984
You mentinoed expandability, what components were you thinking of upgrading in the future?
Well, all the components will soon become badly outdated (or at least that's been my experience so far with AIOs ), so I'd like to upgrade as much as possible rather than have to sink another $2K two years down the road and then again two years later.
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Sep 18, 2006, 03:54 PM
 
Originally Posted by Chuckit
There's also the CPU. With the iMac, you're stuck with Merom-compatible processors — which there likely won't be so many more of, from what I hear.
Have you ever had a Mac you've upgraded before? if so what kinds of upgrades did you do? I'd say let your past habits guide your computer purchase. If you current have an older iMac that you'd keep if you could upgrade, then upgradeability might be key. Same thing if you have an older G4/G5 with the drives maxed out, extra cards in it. I know I had an 8600/300 that i filled to the brim with drives. Sure enough, I've already filled the 4 bays in my Pro. Just don't buy into a Pro because you can expand it to keep it current. By the time the Pro is slow enough that you'll want to upgrade the processors, the sockets will probably have changed again. I built a PC around the then-brand-new AMD 939 platform and already that socket is the "low end" of AMD's offerings.

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Sep 18, 2006, 03:55 PM
 
Originally Posted by mac128k-1984
I see a lot of "noise" about replacing the CPUs here and other forums but I think most people won't go that route because with a little more cash can get a brand new computer.
Erm…unless I'm reading wrong, the difference between a CPU upgrade and a new iMac is more than the difference between the iMac and the Mac Pro in the first place.
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Sep 18, 2006, 04:00 PM
 
Originally Posted by Xyrrus
Have you ever had a Mac you've upgraded before? if so what kinds of upgrades did you do? I'd say let your past habits guide your computer purchase. If you current have an older iMac that you'd keep if you could upgrade, then upgradeability might be key.
Well, that's why I wanted the opinion of people with more experience. Aside from an LC II when I was 12, I've owned an iMac G3 that I finally had to retire because it couldn't even run iMovie anymore and a PowerBook that's been similarly outmoded two years after I bought it. So I'd like to get something I could upgrade rather than burning the cost of a new Mac every couple of years just to make my computer work with modern software. Maybe it's a pipe dream, though.
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Sep 18, 2006, 04:57 PM
 
Originally Posted by Chuckit
Well, that's why I wanted the opinion of people with more experience. Aside from an LC II when I was 12, I've owned an iMac G3 that I finally had to retire because it couldn't even run iMovie anymore and a PowerBook that's been similarly outmoded two years after I bought it. So I'd like to get something I could upgrade rather than burning the cost of a new Mac every couple of years just to make my computer work with modern software. Maybe it's a pipe dream, though.
If you were using a G3 iMac-era tower you'd be well past the point of upgrading it by now - the system architecture is just too old to bring the machine up to speed. Laptops are always a different story because, especially with apple, there's very little room to upgrade. I put a 7200 RPM drive and an extra stick of ram in mine and that was the end of the line. Processor sockets and chipsets change, GPU architectures change (How long until 24 or 32 lane PCIe is the requirement for a good graphics card?). Upgrading a Mac makes sense if you always NEED the horsepower and a $500 video card makes more sense than a $2500 new machine, or if you're going to really extend the machine right out of the gate.

Also, if you're into gaming then the pro makes sence because the X1900 is going to age a lot less gracefully than a pair of dual core 2.66 xeons and the socket on the GPU (PCIe x16) isn't likely to change next generation.

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Sep 18, 2006, 05:12 PM
 
Originally Posted by Chuckit
There's also the CPU. With the iMac, you're stuck with Merom-compatible processors — which there likely won't be so many more of, from what I hear.
What's happening is that Santa Rosa - next Centrino version - is rumored to have a new socket. If so, Socket 479/Socket M will eventually be phased out. Prices on Core 2 Duo Mobile (Merom) will continue to drop though, and processors based on that socket will be available for some time yet. After all, Intel is still selling the old Pentium M (Dothan), at least until the end of the year. You may not see faster Meroms than are available today (though that's not impossible either) but you'll definately see prices on current Meroms drop.

The Woodcrests in the Mac Pro will see an upgrade in the form of Clovertown - if 4 cores isn't enough for you - but beyond that, little is certain. Intel desperately needs a better bus architechture in its server line - they're far behind AMDs coherent Hypertransport.
     
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Sep 18, 2006, 05:20 PM
 
Originally Posted by Chuckit
Well, that's why I wanted the opinion of people with more experience. Aside from an LC II when I was 12, I've owned an iMac G3 that I finally had to retire because it couldn't even run iMovie anymore and a PowerBook that's been similarly outmoded two years after I bought it. So I'd like to get something I could upgrade rather than burning the cost of a new Mac every couple of years just to make my computer work with modern software. Maybe it's a pipe dream, though.
Why were we on opposite sides in the "headless Mac" thread?

Anyway, about the sockets changing in the Mac Pro, you'll still have the upgrade makers like Sonnet and so forth that always seem to find some way to get some kind of new processor to work on any given tower machine. My dad used to have one of those ancient Power Computing clones that someone managed to make a G4 upgrade card for, since he had one. Yeah, it was pretty silly, but still. I'm pretty sure those weren't socket-compatible.

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Sep 18, 2006, 05:47 PM
 
Originally Posted by CharlesS
Why were we on opposite sides in the "headless Mac" thread?
Because I don't think there's a chance in hell of it getting made. Like I said in that thread, I'd love to have one, but it just doesn't jibe with Apple's MO.

Anyway, thanks a lot to everybody who has responded so far.
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Sep 18, 2006, 06:45 PM
 
Originally Posted by CharlesS
Why were we on opposite sides in the "headless Mac" thread?

Anyway, about the sockets changing in the Mac Pro, you'll still have the upgrade makers like Sonnet and so forth that always seem to find some way to get some kind of new processor to work on any given tower machine. My dad used to have one of those ancient Power Computing clones that someone managed to make a G4 upgrade card for, since he had one. Yeah, it was pretty silly, but still. I'm pretty sure those weren't socket-compatible.
A lot of the G3 era machines had the processor on a riserboard, which had additional hardware on it. Since the xeons are right on the board, you're much more likely to need a pin compatible replacement. That said, even the P3-style connectors were updated for quite some time, although the offerings weren't quite up to par with what was the "new hotness" at the time.

It really comes down to how you want to spread the cost of your machine out and how much you feel you can afford. Do you want to buy a new Pro every 2 years? A new iMac every three? A new Pro every 4, with $1000 in upgrades along the way?

I know I prefer to front load my costs and buy the machine that hits the sweet spot (for me, its a 2.66 Pro, before that it was a 1Ghz powerbook) and just use the crap out of it until I need a new one. I had an 8600/300 that I added ram, HDDs and a USB card to as well as a 2D video card to drive a second monitor, but when it came time for a CPU upgrade, I just bought a new machine.

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Sep 18, 2006, 07:23 PM
 
Originally Posted by Chuckit
There's also the CPU. With the iMac, you're stuck with Merom-compatible processors — which there likely won't be so many more of, from what I hear.
I doubt Intel will completely drop S479/667Mhz soon... they continued to produce S478 Pentium 4s long after LGA775 became available.
My guess is that new S479/667Mhz chips will be released for about 2 years (until the core update in 08).

Originally Posted by mac128k-1984
seriously what are the odds on you upgrading the cpus in a macpro (or an imac) when the time comes. Before I opted for purchasing the macpro, I looked at getting a faster processor for my mini and the costs were beyond what I thought was acceptable for the performance I would reap.

I see a lot of "noise" about replacing the CPUs here and other forums but I think most people won't go that route because with a little more cash can get a brand new computer.
Of course the upgrades are relatively expensive today; the top of the line chips are always going to be $500. But in 3 years when the 2.33-2.5Ghz dual core chips are in the $100 bargain-bin, upgrading a 1.5Ghz solo or 1.6Ghz duo mini will make a lot of sense.
     
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Sep 18, 2006, 07:27 PM
 
They'll continue to sell the chips. They may not sell them at top speeds though.
     
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Sep 18, 2006, 07:57 PM
 
Originally Posted by Chuckit
Erm…unless I'm reading wrong, the difference between a CPU upgrade and a new iMac is more than the difference between the iMac and the Mac Pro in the first place.
Your right but what happens a couple of years from now when the next wizz bang iMac is out and you can spend several hundred on a new cpu or get the latest and greatest.

I had two points, first the price for performance increase on the CPUs right now are such that it makes little sense to plunk a lot of money to only get a small incremental increase.

Second, is that a lot of mac users lately have been obsessing about changing the cpu but given the opportunity I doubt they'll do that not when the newer computers will have improved GPUs fsb, memory architecture.

Do Mac owners upgrade their machines of course, but dare I make the assumption that most mac users just buy a new machine.

I'll bet that you'll be better suited to sell the older computer on ebay or craigslist and order a new one then you would by changing the cpu.

Just my $.02
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Sep 18, 2006, 08:14 PM
 
Originally Posted by Eug Wanker
They'll continue to sell the chips. They may not sell them at top speeds though.
Of course they'll continue to sell the chips; Intel and AMD only stopped production of 468/568 chips a few years ago. But my point was that they'll continue to offer competitively clocked chips on the old bus/socket for quite a while.

Look at the P4: The new LGA775 made it to 3.8Ghz/800Mhz or 3.73Ghz/1066Mhz, but the old S478 made it to 3.4Ghz/800Mhz and the 533Mhz bus made it to 3.33Ghz.
Or the P3: The new S478 topped out at the same clockrate/bus as the old S370 (1.4Ghz/133Mhz).
     
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Sep 19, 2006, 03:52 AM
 
Originally Posted by mduell
Of course the upgrades are relatively expensive today; the top of the line chips are always going to be $500. But in 3 years when the 2.33-2.5Ghz dual core chips are in the $100 bargain-bin, upgrading a 1.5Ghz solo or 1.6Ghz duo mini will make a lot of sense.
Of course today's top Meroms will be pretty cheap one day. The real question is if that is relevant.

By the time a 2.33 GHz Merom costs $100, will it be worth the update at all? Going from a 1.83 GHz Merom to a 2.33 GHz Merom will offer a clear advantage for CPU-bound tasks, but you will still be stuck with Napa's 667 MHz bus which means for stuff that was already bottlenecked with your old Merom, the new one won't do much good at all.

Much more important though is that by the time the 2.33 GHz Merom costs $100, you could likely also buy a new iMac with a let's say 1.33 GHz board, 4 core CPU (in three years from now we'll have the second generation Core 3), vastly improved GPU, etc. And with that kind of hardware becoming standard, software requirements will have grown as well - and you start wondering what a 2.33 GHz Merom will be able to do for you. $100 is not much true, but chances are, by the time you can get it, it won't get you that far either.

Of course if your requirements remain humble and you don't want to spend much money at all, a 2.33 GHz Merom for $100 will be fine. But anybody that needs a real performance upgrade will likely have to dump the iMac and get a new one.
( Last edited by Simon; Sep 19, 2006 at 04:20 AM. )
     
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Sep 19, 2006, 04:16 AM
 
To get back to the OP's original question...

Unfortunately I'm not in the market for a new desktop right now so I'm not going to buy either one. Nevertheless I spec'ed out both - price-wise both are well within the budget. I was amazed what a great deal the 24" iMac is.

You can spec a 24" iMac with a very decent GPU for $2300. That same money won't even get you a MP (at least not one with a decent amount of RAM). If you spec out a MP with 2 GB RAM and a good GPU you're at $2749 even without the wireless options. And of course while the iMac comes with a huge and decent screen, the MP requires you already have a good screen or you need to lay down even more money.

It just goes to show that although the MP is an awesome workstation, you pay a lot to get its expansion and its power (yes, the former should definitely be available in a cheaper box too). If you really need drive bays, PCI slots, etc. the MP is a winner, but if not or if you're not sure (which usually means not really), the iMac is much better value. The bang for buck ratio of the 24" iMac is great.

In my case that means for work I'd get a MP (I'm not because we're already working on MBPs remotely connected to Xserves) and for at home I'd get the iMac.
     
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Sep 19, 2006, 10:30 PM
 
Originally Posted by Chuckit
...I'm trying to save money to go back to school and want to go with the option that would be most economical in the long run. Anybody with more experience in upgrading computers feel like sharing?...
(emphasis mine)

If you will be going to school you want a laptop for sure. Mac laptops will have a major upgrade soon (very likely this month for at least the MBPs, plus MBs by November) and probably again approx. Q2 2007, so laptop advice today will quickly become moot. When you get ready to spend ask this question on the laptop forum.

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( Last edited by SierraDragon; Sep 19, 2006 at 10:36 PM. )
     
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Sep 19, 2006, 10:48 PM
 
Buy the iMac, spend you money on school, which I'd argue is much more important, and then buy your Mac Pro when you're rich and prosperous a few years down the line.
     
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Sep 19, 2006, 10:49 PM
 
I already have a laptop that I use as my sole computer right now. I want a desktop for more intensive work (e.g. programming and video editing) and gaming. Also, the PowerBook screen isn't as easy on the eyes as a good desktop LCD. I can work on my iMac at work for 12 hours at a stretch and I'm OK, but six straight hours on my PowerBook and I've got a headache.

Oh, and like I said, I was trying to figure out which was more economical in the long run — it wasn't whether I should spend money on school or a Mac Pro. If I buy an iMac now and then have to get another in a couple of years, that might end up costing more than just buying a Mac Pro now and then a GPU upgrade a couple of years down the line.
( Last edited by Chuckit; Sep 19, 2006 at 10:57 PM. )
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Sep 20, 2006, 01:10 AM
 
Originally Posted by Chuckit
I want to get an Intel Mac, but I can't decide between a Mac Pro and a 24" iMac. To be honest, the iMac is all the computer I need right now, but I'm thinking about expandability.

It seems to me that since the iMac is based on notebook components, there's a good chance it will be a dead end in the near future even though all the parts are technically upgradeable. So I'm thinking in the long run, the $800 more the Mac Pro + display costs would be outweighed by being able to upgrade the parts individually as needed.

I can afford either one right now (been putting away my pennies), but I'm trying to save money to go back to school and want to go with the option that would be most economical in the long run. Anybody with more experience in upgrading computers feel like sharing?
On a Mac the CPU upgrades and the such just don't make a lot of sense. I've always felt that the advantage of the Mac is that they hold their value extremely well compared to any other computer on the market and it just doesn't make sense when you can sell your one to two or even three to four year old Mac and get a decent amount of money to buy a brand new one! The other options that will come with a brand new one like, all the latest software and OS versions, make this route a much more senseable one.

About the only thing I'd say that should weigh in your desicion making between a 24" iMac and a MacPro is... Do you need the expandability of RAM, HD, and Graphics cards. Also do you want to shell out another grand for an equivalent monitor to the 24" iMac? If a 24" iMac suits your needs and your budget right now then buy the iMac and in another year or two look at what it is you want then. You can't go wrong there! If you want to get a MacPro at that time just sell the iMac and get the MacPro!
     
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Sep 20, 2006, 02:08 AM
 
Originally Posted by SMacSteve
On a Mac the CPU upgrades and the such just don't make a lot of sense. I've always felt that the advantage of the Mac is that they hold their value extremely well compared to any other computer on the market and it just doesn't make sense when you can sell your one to two or even three to four year old Mac and get a decent amount of money to buy a brand new one! The other options that will come with a brand new one like, all the latest software and OS versions, make this route a much more senseable one.
Honestly, I don't think I will ever sell a computer. I use my computers until they are worthless scrap. If I don't want one, I'll give it to somebody who needs one. Selling a computer for any decent price just seems like way too much trouble — eBay is a bunch of scammers, and then you have to be without a computer for a while.
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Sep 21, 2006, 07:35 PM
 
With Macs generally the overall architecture of a computer determines its throughput. Macs are typically engineered well enough that one single component is not a bottleneck (the exception being that GPU usage atypically exploded recently, so stock G5s are hugely bottlenecked in the GPU department). That means that upgrading one component like CPU normally has marginal benefit, because it is the sum total throughput of the overall architecture that really matters.

IMO in general best life cycle usage is to buy a top end box, use it hard and buy a new one when performance no longer is cost effective. Generally the only essential component that IMO must be capable of post-purchase upgrading is RAM. We may, however, find that in our new core graphics world GPU upgradability also is important (just ask anyone trying to run Aperture on a stock Quad G5 that cannot be GPU upgraded).

Today we have the first true 64 bit Macs and the ability of the OS and pro apps to take advantage of much larger amounts of RAM is rapidly increasing, with Photoshop already improving at up to 8 GB RAM. IMO the only reason for a graphics user to invest in a new box limited to 3 GB RAM forever is to obtain laptop portability. I consider iMacs to be less than ideal long-term for pro graphics usage solely because of the 3 GB RAM limitation.

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Originally Posted by Chuckit
Honestly, I don't think I will ever sell a computer. I use my computers until they are worthless scrap. If I don't want one, I'll give it to somebody who needs one. Selling a computer for any decent price just seems like way too much trouble — eBay is a bunch of scammers, and then you have to be without a computer for a while.
I fully agree.

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Sep 25, 2006, 01:12 PM
 
Originally Posted by Chuckit
I want to get an Intel Mac, but I can't decide between a Mac Pro and a 24" iMac.
I recently went through the same decision, and I decided for me the Pro was overkiil. The 24" iMac will meet my needs for the foreseeable future. The 17" flat panel it replaces served me very well for 4 years and expect the same from the new one. It matters not the processor model as long as it meets your requirements. Bottom line is what are your needs, and what hw do you need to meet those needs ? For me the Merom does the job as well as Conroe, Woodcrest etc.. Also, if you consider the cost difference between the Pro and the iMac, and toss in a couple of hundred in upgrades to the Pro, you probably have the cost of a new iMac right there..
     
   
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