What's the Best iMac for Basic Creative Tasks?
Question: I'm finally ready to move to Mac, especially with Apple's latest iMacs. I really like the design and simplicity. But which one should I get? I was thinking I should get the base model for $1199, but the big 27-incher is pretty tempting, too, even though it's another $500. Or should I spend the extra money and get the upgraded versions of the iMac? So confusing -- I thought Apple was easy! I'll be using it for a little bit of everything, but my high-end needs will include a little video editing, music writing, and graphic design with Photoshop.
Answer: Apple certainly likes to tout its simplicity and plug-and-play usability, but try telling that to someone switching to Mac for the first time. On the surface, it looks as though Apple has two new iMacs out: the 21.5-inch and 27-inch. Simple. Done. Right?
Not so much. Let's take a quick trip to Apple shopping land (otherwise known as store.apple.com).
When hitting Apple's iMac "Buy Now" page, we're presented with four options ranging from $1,199 to $1,999. Okay, still pretty easy. Pick one and go, right? Again, not so much. When we select one, we're presented with more options to upgrade our processor, graphics card, memory, hard drive, add software, and buy accessories. Apple noobs, we feel your pain: It's worse than the grocery store check-out aisle in here!
So, we're going to make it easy for you.
Given your video editing and graphic design needs, you're going to want the base 27-inch iMac model for $1699 for two big, important reasons: the graphics card and screen size. The 27-inch model has a dedicated video card, while the base $1,199 model has an NVIDIA-designed 9400M video card that shares its memory with rest of the system. While the latter integrated card certainly works, it won't give you the headroom you'll want for running multiple windows while still expecting smooth, seamless playback of all the video and graphics you'll be editing.
We also recommend grabbing the bigger screen. The 27-inch screen is a thing of beauty, and you'll want that extra real estate when you're editing videos and photos -- the more widgets and tools you can keep open at a time, the more you'll get done. Plus, the 27-inch iMac can be used as an external display with another Mac in case you have (or end up with) a MacBook or MacBook Pro.
While you could certainly upgrade your processor to quad-core i5 or i7 and a more powerful graphics card, you'll be fine with the 27-inch base model if you don't make a living out of editing videos or writing music (you did say "a little video editing"). The quad-core processors are certainly nice, and they'll allow pros to edit more videos and pictures at the same time, but they're still on the front-end of their price cycle (meaning the prices will go down if you just wait a year). Your sweet spot right now is that Core 2 Duo 27-inch monster. Now go forth and switch!