Buying First Mac - Need Experts Advice

Posted on 2009-02-11
Last Modified: 2012-05-06
I fried the cpu (my stupid mistake) on my PC and even though I could rebuild it (with a quad core 3.+Mhz) and faster ram for under $500,  I have allowed my wife and children to talk me into buying an iMac to replace it as the family computer.  Any of the iMacs are fine for their applications.  I do some video editing as a hobby (with 5 kids I've got plenty to edit).  Here are a few items I need your thoughts on.

"Preinstalled items"  $150 for the extra 2GB of Ram??  Why can I buy it on Kingston's website for under $50?  Am I missing something?  Am I going to create PC-like stability issues?   Even the apps like final cut express and Aperture are $50 less on Newegg.  What's the extra $50 for, labor to install?  

CPUs - I really need or for that matter want the 24" screen.  But I do want the 3mhz CPU.  More for whatever the future applications than what I'm doing now.  I had an AMD dual core 2.4Mhz so I guess even the "loaded" 20" iMac would be slightly faster.  

I think I will see a boost in the RAM chips from my old 184 pin DDR to the iMacs DDR2.  But I did notice the CAS latency on the Kingston chips is 6 where my old Crucials were at 2.  

I obviously know nothing about the architecture of a Mac so maybe they all work together to actually perform better.  Are there any benchmark results that show how a Mac would rank vs a PC with similar CPU and RAM configuration (especially in speed of rendering video).

Any other buying tips would be most appreciated.  Anything else I should look at that I may have missed?  Hardware or apps.

On a final note, why don't they at least offer a 10,000 rpm HDD.  It would help (I think) with video editing.

Thanks in advance for your advice

Question by:abpowell
    LVL 39

    Accepted Solution

    Lots of questions there!!

    The iMac is designed to be a mid-range computer .. for home and small business use.  Higher-end video editing would be better on the MacPro.  That is one of the main reasons Apple does not "offer a 10,000 rpm HDD".  You can of course buy one yourself and install it.  Or use an external Firewire drive to expand the capacity of your Mac.

    I usually buy the minimum RAM from Apple and upgrade myself from Kingston/Crucial as Apple installed RAM is definitely overpriced.  Just make sure to select correct RAM from Crucial - I've upgraded the default RAM on many macs over the years and rarely had any issue.  The only issue can be faulty chips .. which can happen with Apple as well as Crucial.  The difference is that Apple Warranty will not help if the RAM is self-installed.

    Software from Apple is usually as cheap as you can get anywhere.  I would be surprised if NewEgg or anyone was much cheaper .. check that the versions of the software are the same and they are not selling older versions of Aperture, Final Cut Express etc.  If they are genuine newest versions .. go for it!  The iLife suite is a great value bundle and if it isn't included in the Mac you are buying, make sure to get iLife 09 as the iMovie, iDVD and iPhoto alone are great little home apps for family photo & video production.

    The 24" iMac is a beautiful, quiet and well built computer.  I have one as my main work PC and love it and can highly recommend it.

    LVL 28

    Assisted Solution

    Some additional thoughts.  My son is in college and needed Final Cut.  We bought him FC Studio2 (with the student discount) and a 17" MacBook Pro with 2 GB RAM.  This has worked great for him, although the hard disk that came with it was a little small and we had to add on an external hard disk... which worked OK.  An iMac or Mac Pro is a better choice if you are going to be living in FCP/Studio, but he wanted the portability.

    As noted by the other expert, you don't have to be extra hardware from Apple. I have added two off the shelf WD hard disks to my Mac Pro without issue as well as brand-name, but not from Apple, RAM.

    Apple hardware is always more expensive than anything similar in the Windows PC world.  But their hardware is really nice and the couple of times I've needed tech support it was really good.  Apple usually gets top awards for tech support in the annual PC Magazine Tech Support ratings. We even bought 10-15 Mac Minis and removed OS X and loaded XP.  I can't use the Mac OS for too much in my environment, but I needed an inexpensive and quality hardware solution for some areas of my company.

    You usually can get software a little cheaper from many vendors than from Apple, but as the other expert pointed out the difference is minimal.

    An advantage that Apple has over other vendors is that they control the hardware AND the OS. You end up with a much more stable platform. It's not without issues and I've personally experienced some... but you'd be hard pressed to get me to go back to a Windows-based PC.  And that's saying a lot since I've been a PC guy since before Windows 3.1.

    The biggest thing for me is: Can I do my work with this computer?  If everything you do exists only in a Windows environment, a Mac may not be the best solution for you, although it's possible to run Windows on a Mac bare-metal, as a bootcamp partition, or in a virtual machine using VMware Fusion or Parallels.  Personally I can go for a couple of weeks without ever having to to go Windows and when I do, I just open up my virtual machine, do my Windows task and shut it down and go back to my mac.

    Author Comment

    If final cut works on the laptop, then I should be fine.  Curious if he has the standard 5400 RPM HDD or the 7200 RPM.  Either way if he is only using 2 Gigs of Ram.  I believe I will be fine.  

    Author Closing Comment

    Sold!  I'm going to pick up my iMac today.  Stayed tuned, I'm sure I'll have a lot of questions.  It's going to feel like trying to write with my left hand for a while.
    LVL 28

    Expert Comment

    I'm not sure about HD speed, but he definitely only has 2 GB RAM and has the entire FC Studio 2 suite.  He's just used it for post production editing of he and his friends latest full length film and I didn't hear him complain about any speed or performance issues.
    LVL 28

    Expert Comment

    Actually, I think you'll find the Mac interface very intuitive to use.  Yes, it's pretty much totally different than Windows.  I know that I made the transition to Mac without much fanfare. I did buy a book off eBay to help me become more familiar with the interface and it did help, but it really didn't take long at all to become totally familiar with the Mac.  Now I don't even think about not having a Program Files folder or a C: drive.  I'm still learning and find new things almost every day, but it fits just like a glove.

    Author Comment

    "not having a Program Files folder or a C: drive"

    What!!!  HUH!!!  OH NO!!  I'm scared now.  I'm going to be lost.  How will I ever find anything.  Between the the 4 HDDs on my PC (1 external) I think I have a total of 9-10 *:drives.  A folder for each little peice of data I've ever entered (ok, not really that organized).  This will be interesting.  

    Author Comment

    I think it will be more like trying to throw left handed for me.  Which is even uglier than trying to write left handed.  

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