Originally Posted by Marvin
Thanks very much for those details. It shows some interesting information about current desktop performance.
The quad-core i5 750 even overclocked to 3.2GHz manages between 7500-9000 on Geekbench (64-bit is towards the higher end) and the 3.2GHz 3.6GHz i5 in the 21.5" iMac gets 7000-7800.
The iMac comes with a 5670 and the 5770 is about 60% faster.
With an IPS display, your setup comes to about $1500, which you could get a bit cheaper vs $1700 for the iMac.
What you gain is a slightly faster CPU, a 60% faster GPU and upgradability. What you lose is space given that it is the size of a Mac Pro, perhaps some fan noise you wouldn't get from an iMac, power consumption, which will be more than the iMac's 240W maximum.
Once you factor in resale value, you would probably break even with the iMac.
As time goes on, the benefits of building a custom machine diminish. Personally I do like the option of having my own display and being able to switch out a hard drive but for $200 difference (eBay machines with the same spec similarly sell around $1300 minimum no display), the iMac is so much less hassle.
In this example, the 'Apple tax' is coming in at around 13%. Although you also get a wireless keyboard and mouse thrown in, which would cost about $100 if you get decent ones.
If they'd allow access to the hard drives easily by using 2 x 12.5mm 2.5" drives that slot in the bottom and perhaps a matte option or better anti-glare, the iMac would be a pretty compelling alternative.
Thinking 4-5 years down the line though, the Mini will get to this point and have wireless display tech.
I don't use the HDMI cable as my main video cable, that's still VGA (my Mini is connected through the DVI port), but I use it to connect to my HDTV - I have a small apartment, and my TV makes a great 2nd monitor, and it's pretty sweet to throw Hulu desktop, a movie, or game on it. In a lot of respects, it makes it similar to my 360, but just more powerful.
Noise isn't an issue - probably not an iMac, but there's an option in the BIOS, to set the fans at certain levels, I set it to 'quiet', and it's temperature controlled.
I don't care a lot about resale value, I reuse parts, or give them away to family members, and building my own, allows me to pick and match components, and if something does somehow break (probably a HD), it's easy to replace. Hardly any downtime, and I don't have to screw around with an Apple Store, or glorified computer tech.
If I bought an iMac back in March, like I sort of wanted to, I would've had a C2D, some integrated junk graphics, 4 GB of slower DDR3, a few USB 2.0 ports, less HD space, and it would've cost another ~$300.
Even now, I'm ahead on connectivity, graphics, CPU, RAM, expandability. I even have a Bluetooth KB/trackpad, got that for about $65 at Best Buy, makes it great for the HTPC setup too. Windows 7 is really good - I can do BR, do the gaming stuff, it picked up the HDTV with no problem, DX11/OpenGL 4.0, OpenCL (if it ever amounts to anything), Flash acceleration is terrific.
In the end, I may have spent about the same, but I feel that I'm still ahead, and it just comes down to OSX vs Windows, and it's a wash IMO. I'm really not that impressed with SL, my Mac is too old for some things, and Win7 has rock steady for me.
Apple just isn't going where I want - I really don't need all the power I have, but I won't have to upgrade for another 3-4 years, but on the other hand, I want all my multimedia - Apple shut the door on a lot of that, they just care about cultivating some image at this point.
I just remember when I was a kid in the early ninties, reading Mac User and Macworld, and not even owning a computer, and though Apple was the shit - anything and everything was done with one, and it could run it. Now, it seems like a consumer-ish electronics firm, and whatever SJ wants, happens.