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New iMacs
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P
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Oct 13, 2015, 08:51 AM
 
Apple has updated its entire iMac line. The 27"ers are now all Retina, they get Skylake, newer graphics, better display (wider color gamut) and a cheaper but worse Fusion Drive. For some reason they stay with DDR3 RAM, but I don't think that that will matter much.

All 27" have discrete graphics, but that is about as much as we know about them. All AMD Radeons for now, they're called R9-M380, R9-M390, and R9-M395. The first is probably old Cape Verde (Radeon 7700), only 10 CUs of shaders and barely an upgrade over integrated graphics. It seems Apple would have put integrated graphics in this if Intel had released Skylake models with Iris Pro yet. It could also be that the R9-M380 is the slightly newer Bonaire (Radeon 260 series), but cut down a bit. AMD doesn't specify, but the memory clock that they do list is higher than what Cape Verde ever delivered.

R9-M395 appears to be the same chip that the last gen had, under the name R9-M295 - the fully unlocked Tonga, still not released but expected to be called Radeon 380X when it gets here. The one below is a special case, though - R9-M390 is the same Tonga chip, with no apparent difference to the M395 except the VRAM ceiling. That at least is an upgrade from last gen's Pitcairn chip.

The 21.5" now has a Retina display with the curious resolution of 4096*2304, not the regular 4K (which is 3840*2160), but only at the top end. The ones below still use the regular 1080p displays. All of them are updated to Broadwell, not Skylake, and use integrated Iris Pro graphics.
( Last edited by P; Oct 13, 2015 at 09:01 AM. )
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Oct 13, 2015, 09:30 AM
 
As I pontificated, its a custom panel.
     
P  (op)
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Oct 13, 2015, 09:36 AM
 
Very custom panel, in fact.

I may have been wrong above on the R9-M390. It may be Pitcairn after all. The M390X is a Tonga variant with a lower RAM ceiling, but the M390 is not listed on AMD's site, and a detailed "product search" only shows that it has a 256bit memory bus, which matches both Pitcairn and Tonga.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
pigmode
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Oct 13, 2015, 11:24 AM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
Apple has updated its entire iMac line. The 27"ers are now all Retina, they get Skylake, newer graphics, better display (wider color gamut) and a cheaper but worse Fusion Drive. For some reason they stay with DDR3 RAM, but I don't think that that will matter much...

Thanks much for the summary.

I'd have pulled the trigger avoiding the 512 flash drive for a 2-2.5 yr buy/sell/upgrade cycle, but of course they dumbed down the fusion drive. Not sure which direction I'll take--maybe an expensive fountain pen, hahaha.
     
P  (op)
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Oct 13, 2015, 12:04 PM
 
Apparently only the 1TB Fusion Drive is worsened (smaller flash cache at 24GB, which is curious because it is the number that comes included with the some 2.5" laptop drives. I expect that that is the way they went). I'm also not sure where reviewers got that piece of info from, because Apple doesn't say so in its specs.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Oct 13, 2015, 01:43 PM
 
What piece of info?
     
P  (op)
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Oct 13, 2015, 02:52 PM
 
That the flash segment in the new Fusion Drive 1TB is apparently only 24 GB. Both Macworld and Ars mention it in passing.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Oct 13, 2015, 05:25 PM
 
It's in the full-on press info from Apple.
     
sek929
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Oct 13, 2015, 06:40 PM
 
The best non-retina 21.5" iMac looks a bit tantalizing but I admittedly know next to nothing about what to expect from integrated graphics. I assume with all the extra pixels to push around the 4k 21.5" model would do much worse with gaming? Also, I assume the RAM on these models is still "pay us to do it or go through hell to do it yourself."

At any rate I was waiting for an iMac refresh but now I don't know why, these machines get less tantalizing with each revision it seems.
     
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Oct 14, 2015, 05:48 AM
 
You are not going to be gaming at Retina resolutions with any single mobile graphics card on the market right now. Even with real desktop cards, you will be hard pressed to do it with a single card - Fury and 980 Ti can kinda sorta do 4K if you don't push the graphics slider all the way quite to the top, but 5K appears to be out of reach even for them. The best you can do is cut the resolution in half, which is 2560*1440 for the 27" and 2048*1152 for the 21". The first is the common 1440p res, and the second is close enough to 1080p.

For the 27", the top GPU hasn't really changed, so check Barefeats for that, or this review for Windows results. In general, the Tonga chip in the top model is fine for that gaming for now, but you don't have any real safety margin for the future. Your best bet there is to hope that all the ported Mac games gain Metal support and the Windows games go all in on DirectX 12 and async shaders.

For the 21.5", the situation is worse. A Windows review of that graphics chip is here, but they don't even test at 1080p in most games. It works, sort of, but that is still not a gaming card on the desktop. On a laptop with its lower resolution, it works - which is why they test at 720p, it is more the res they GPU was made for, and I'm waiting with baited breath for that thing to show up in a 13" MBP - but it simply doesn't have the ROPs or the bandwidth to push 1080p, no matter the fancy tricks they play to get the shaders to perform.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
pigmode
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Oct 14, 2015, 10:14 AM
 
They still list the same delivery date (from yesterday) if you order today. I'm considering the 2TB fusion or the 512 flash drive.

With the 512 flash drive I'll need to keep my iTunes files on a peripheral drive. Will this process be a big hassle? The 2TB fusion drive simplifies matters considerably, but the 1TB flash on my 13" retina has me spoiled in both its speed and its ability to have everything on the home drive.
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Oct 14, 2015, 10:26 AM
 
Originally Posted by pigmode View Post
They still list the same delivery date (from yesterday) if you order today. I'm considering the 2TB fusion or the 512 flash drive.

With the 512 flash drive I'll need to keep my iTunes files on a peripheral drive. Will this process be a big hassle? The 2TB fusion drive simplifies matters considerably, but the 1TB flash on my 13" retina has me spoiled in both its speed and its ability to have everything on the home drive.
Nah- iTunes library migration is easy. Copy the entire iTunes folder to another location. Hold the option key down when you launch iTunes, and select the new library. Playlists, play counts, and ratings are retained.
     
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Oct 14, 2015, 11:29 AM
 
Sorry, I hate to go more off topic, but what is the best way of copying and transferring? I dragged and dropped (to an external drive) when I got my 13" retina, and had 30 odd songs lose all their info.

Should I copy and transfer the Music folder, or the iTunes folder in it, or the iTunes Media folder in that?
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Oct 14, 2015, 12:36 PM
 
I can't even imagine the mechanism on how 30 songs lost info during the move. The track metadata is associated with the file itself. Hive mind, any clues?

I've always copied the iTunes folder itself, and pointed to that. This is how Apple recommends it too.
     
sek929
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Oct 14, 2015, 05:04 PM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
For the 21.5", the situation is worse. A Windows review of that graphics chip is here, but they don't even test at 1080p in most games. It works, sort of, but that is still not a gaming card on the desktop. On a laptop with its lower resolution, it works - which is why they test at 720p, it is more the res they GPU was made for, and I'm waiting with baited breath for that thing to show up in a 13" MBP - but it simply doesn't have the ROPs or the bandwidth to push 1080p, no matter the fancy tricks they play to get the shaders to perform.
I don't expect to be playing something like Battlefront at high settings 1080p, but none of this sounds even good enough to run your average new steam game at decent settings and frame-rates. I guess buying a new iMac will depend on how long browsing duties on my current machine run smoothly. If gaming is going to be very disappointing on any size/spec iMac then I guess I might as well give up on that idea sooner rather than later.
     
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Oct 14, 2015, 05:33 PM
 
Top of the line iMacs are fine for gaming, as long as you set your expectations at a reasonable level, but it isn't their main function. You'd have to pay a lot to get what is effectively upper midrange graphics. Now, this isn't unique to Apple - try speccing out a good gaming PC from a big OEM, and you'll find that what they offer is roughly the same level graphics paired with an overpowered CPU and a too wimpy PSU. To get great bang for your buck in gaming, you build your own - which is easier than it used to.

"Average new Steam game" is likely to run fine on even the 21.5", though. Anything strategy is fine because it doesn't need massive frame rates. Anything 2D, like indie games are, is obviously no problem.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Oct 14, 2015, 05:37 PM
 
Originally Posted by Mike Wuerthele View Post
I can't even imagine the mechanism on how 30 songs lost info during the move. The track metadata is associated with the file itself. Hive mind, any clues?
Shots in the dark here, but I know that odd format files that don't store metadata in the file have their metadata in the library file with their play counts. That would be files not MP3 or AAC. There is also the chance that some file corruption event ate that data but that the info Cached in the library file survived. If you in either of these cases copied files but not the library, that might happen.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Oct 14, 2015, 05:46 PM
 
3.1GHz / 8GB / 512GB available Oct 27 at Apple Store. I'm assuming if I'd ordered earlier delivery would have been closer to the 22nd, which might mean Apple could be close to maxing their limited early availability till Nov. The latter was mentioned somewhere earlier, so not sure if it's still valid.

P.S. I ended up with 30 odd songs at the bottom of the Music Playlist. Some I was able to recognize, a few I couldn't. I think they mostly needed renaming after which they popped back into place.
     
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Oct 16, 2015, 10:43 AM
 
Looks like they have a pretty good supply, orders pushed back only two days from what it was on the 14th. Mine was actually delayed a few days because of the custom order.
( Last edited by pigmode; Oct 16, 2015 at 11:01 AM. )
     
P  (op)
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Oct 18, 2015, 04:34 AM
 
A tidbit from the rumors: it seems that the CPU used in the 21.5" iMac, the desktop CPU with full integrated graphics and Crystalwell on-package memory, may not be getting an upgrade with Skylake at all. There is one pencilled in for Kaby lake, the refresh on the same process that Intel has introduced, but it is not until January '17 it seems. Rumors being what they are, this may not be entirely reliable, and Apple of course has a couple of options for an earlier refresh even if this is true - going to mobile CPUs or using discrete graphics, but if true, we might be stuck with this generation of iMacs for all of 2016.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
pigmode
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Oct 19, 2015, 11:42 AM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
A tidbit from the rumors: it seems that the CPU used in the 21.5" iMac, the desktop CPU with full integrated graphics and Crystalwell on-package memory, may not be getting an upgrade with Skylake at all. There is one pencilled in for Kaby lake, the refresh on the same process that Intel has introduced, but it is not until January '17 it seems. Rumors being what they are, this may not be entirely reliable, and Apple of course has a couple of options for an earlier refresh even if this is true - going to mobile CPUs or using discrete graphics, but if true, we might be stuck with this generation of iMacs for all of 2016.

Looks like I might be keeping my iMac 21.5R for close to or over 3 yr, bypassing Kaby Lake waiting for 10nm.

Wondering if I should change my order from 8GB RAM to 16GB? What are the chances System/apps will increase RAM usage in the short term?
     
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Oct 19, 2015, 12:05 PM
 
More is always better, but the last two OS revisions have been lighter on memory usage than predecessors.
     
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Oct 19, 2015, 02:11 PM
 
Note that Apple still sells Macs with 4GB RAM, so any OS that comes out within a reasonable time has to at least run on that. I do think that they're about to raise that floor - only the bottom mini and the old Airs still come with 4GB - but they'd have to support that amount of RAM for a few years still.

The one big change that will increase RAM usage is if they finally update the storage system and kick HFS+ to the curb, and as much I'd love to see that, we haven't seen any evidence of that happening.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Oct 19, 2015, 03:21 PM
 
Thanks. Changed my order to 16GB, with delivery pushed back 3 days. Always the possibility this one might stay in house longer than expected.
     
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Oct 19, 2015, 05:08 PM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
The one big change that will increase RAM usage is if they finally update the storage system and kick HFS+ to the curb, and as much I'd love to see that, we haven't seen any evidence of that happening.
I'd settle for updating HFS+ to include checksums on all files. Bitrot silently destroys data. The other improvements from advanced file systems are mostly conveniences.
     
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Oct 20, 2015, 01:17 PM
 
Well, 64-bit allocation blocks is starting to become a necessity, but sure - the other things are mostly about implementing all the things that HFS+ has bolted on (journalling, hard links, extended attributes, the Spotlight database, compression) in a way that doesn't eat quite so much performance. I do think that the checksums is one of the things that drives memory usage, though.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Oct 20, 2015, 10:13 PM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
I do think that the checksums is one of the things that drives memory usage, though.
And IMHO this is something that should be done by the SSD controller in hardware.
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Oct 21, 2015, 04:23 PM
 
If we are going to take a slight detour into file system reliability...

What makes sense to me is to copy the way ECC works in DDR4 RAM - one scheme to protect data in transfer, and another to protect it on disc. The first bit would then be an upgrade of the transfer scheme (NVME or whatever it is called these days), and the second would be a feature of the SSD controller. This works fine for the "single bit correct" part of the scheme, but the second part, "double bit detect", would require some sort of interrupt signal back to the OS to detect, and some way for the OS to react to that - preferably, restore from a block-based backup. And if the checksum scheme only has detect and not correct, that becomes even more important.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Oct 21, 2015, 06:53 PM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
What makes sense to me is to copy the way ECC works in DDR4 RAM - one scheme to protect data in transfer, and another to protect it on disc.
I thought PCIe does provide error correction by default. For the second part, you have to make the protocol aware of this capability and also enable things like ZFS's “copies” feature where you can store files multiple times so that you are protected against bit rot.
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P  (op)
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Oct 22, 2015, 12:18 PM
 
Reading through the Wikipedia piece, it seems that there is a CRC error detection in PCIe, and I assume that the protocol knows to resend a failed packet.

Having backups on the drive is both wasteful and unnecessary. SSDs don't fail in the same way that HDDs do, so wearing out a sector (like HFS+ can do with it directory files) is unlikely to happen. More likely then is a full crash where the drive electronics die. To guard against that, you need a separate backup, i.e. Time Machine - probably on a network drive if we're looking forward. That is where you should grab that broken block, but for that you need a block-based backup. If it is on a network drive, it probably needs to rise to the level of the user to make sure that that drive is available.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Oct 23, 2015, 06:58 AM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
A tidbit from the rumors: it seems that the CPU used in the 21.5" iMac, the desktop CPU with full integrated graphics and Crystalwell on-package memory, may not be getting an upgrade with Skylake at all. There is one pencilled in for Kaby lake, the refresh on the same process that Intel has introduced, but it is not until January '17 it seems. Rumors being what they are, this may not be entirely reliable, and Apple of course has a couple of options for an earlier refresh even if this is true - going to mobile CPUs or using discrete graphics, but if true, we might be stuck with this generation of iMacs for all of 2016.
One more update on this: There is a variant of Skylake-H (ie, the mobile quadcore) with the full GT4e graphics that can run at a 65W TDP in at least one Xeon variant coming beginning of next year. It will need the mobile chipset but is otherwise a suitable upgrade for the current 21.5" iMac.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Oct 25, 2015, 11:48 PM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
Having backups on the drive is both wasteful and unnecessary. SSDs don't fail in the same way that HDDs do, so wearing out a sector (like HFS+ can do with it directory files) is unlikely to happen. More likely then is a full crash where the drive electronics die. To guard against that, you need a separate backup, i.e. Time Machine - probably on a network drive if we're looking forward.
No, of course, you are right about the different failure modes. However, support for multiple versions seems like a smart feature to implement given what it could morph into: as far as I understand ZFS will try to spread these copies across multiple devices, and you could potentially use this feature not to make n local copies, but n distributed copies: OS data just gets one copy, your photos will get n copies where n is the number of devices (perhaps n - 1 if you don't want your photos on your Apple Watch), etc. You could then restore data if there is corruption over the network.
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Feb 25, 2016, 02:57 PM
 
I really like the new iMacs. But one use-case it does not support is something I do *ALL THE TIME* on my current (non-retina) 27" iMac. I use it as an external display for my work MBP. It makes an awesome second monitor without dedicating even more desk space for a display for my work machine. (It also means I can use it far longer than if I only needed the processing power)

Unfortunately the new iMacs won't do that. Regrettable.
- MacBook Pro 15" Core i7 2.3Ghz / 256SSD (Work laptop)
- iMac 3.2Ghz 1TB
     
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Feb 25, 2016, 07:40 PM
 
++ on this. I do it as well, which is why I will likely pick up an MBP + external display when I next upgrade.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Feb 25, 2016, 07:47 PM
 
Yeah, I really wanted this model to support TDM, but alas.
     
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Feb 26, 2016, 03:37 AM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
++ on this. I do it as well, which is why I will likely pick up an MBP + external display when I next upgrade.
The iMac is a family computer. (and my personal use computer). But when I have to work in my home office, it's nice to plug the corporate MBP into it. Was REALLY trying not to get yet another display. (My test-bed PC already takes up enough space on the second desk)

Love the iMac Retina, but without TDM, it's value drops a bit.
- MacBook Pro 15" Core i7 2.3Ghz / 256SSD (Work laptop)
- iMac 3.2Ghz 1TB
     
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May 20, 2016, 08:54 PM
 
shouldn't a really good imac have 4gb video with its 4 or 5k retina display?
     
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May 21, 2016, 08:04 AM
 
For gaming, sure, but Apple doesn't mainly make the iMacs for gaming. There is no use for it outside gaming.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
   
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