Best iMac for graphic design?

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2014
Hey guys.



I'm gonna be buying my first Mac pretty soon as I start college this fall. I'm going into graphic design so ill be using it primarily for Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign etc. and also possibly some video editing. I'm kinda thinking to go with the 24" iMac but i don't know which model to get.



Do you guys think the iMac is the best choice for my situation and if so which model would you recommend?
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 23
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,179moderator
    I would say that the Mini with a 24" matte display is best (get PVA, EIPS, SIPS, MVA but not TN) or possibly a Macbook with the display so you can transport it easily. Laptops are best for college work IMO because it's easier to move around to get wifi signals or to move near to ethernet outlets. No firewire on the MB for video capture though. Solutions like these (via say VMWare capturing to a shared folder on the Mac) aren't ideal:



    http://www.9to5mac.com/firewire-usb-cable



    The 9400M chips are fine for graphics acceleration - well supported in apps that use OpenGL and very good performance. You can also upgrade your hard drive easily and get a 500GB internal.



    If for whatever reason you hard drive breaks in your iMac, the whole thing has to get sent back to Apple. With a Macbook or even a Mini, you can spend a low amount and put a new one in the same day and hopefully recover from a backup drive, which you should also get.
  • Reply 2 of 23
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,577member
    I agree with Marvin. Get a MacMini with the display of your choice, or a MacBook. Both are great computers and will suit your needs. If you get a MacMini, I wouldn't get the high end model. Its a ripoff and all you gain are items you can buy yourself and install for less that it would cost for you to get the higher end MacMini. The only downside is you have to get inside it which you may or may not be comfortable doing. The MacBook is really easy to get access to the hard drive and RAM. In fact, its easier to access the hard drive than it is the RAM. Not that its hard to get to the RAM, its just 8 more screws to remove.



    People will tell you not to get an iMac because of the glossy display. Its really a matter of personal preference. The best thing to do is hit an Apple Retail Store, or Best Buy with Macs in it and see for yourself if you like the glossy displays. If you want to get an iMac, any one of the 24" models will be fine. The NVIDIA 9400M graphics work very well for integrated graphics. If you want to step up to the stand-alone graphics, the next model up from the 24" with the 9400M graphics would also work. iMacs today are useable for a lot of purposes. There really isn't a bad choice IMO. If anything, you just may need to upgrade the RAM in whatever you buy. Don't get the RAM from Apple. They over charge for it. Go to some place like www.crucial.com and get it. You will save some money and its not hard to upgrade RAM in an iMac.



    If you get an iMac, I would get an external hard drive and backup your items to it. In fact, I would get one anyways. You can use the TimeMachine feature if you wish to backup your entire system. If your hard drive ever goes bad you won't lose your papers, graphics work, etc. I used to work in a computer shop and there's nothing worse than telling a college student you've lost everything on your hard drive because it failed and you didn't backup your items.
  • Reply 3 of 23
    trajectorytrajectory Posts: 647member
    I think the best, least expensive solution is the 24" iMac. This is what I use (I do graphic and web design for a living). Mine is a white iMac, which I was able to find at an authorized Apple dealer (not an Apple Store) last year. I think the LCD panels in the white iMacs are much better than the ones in the new aluminum iMacs. Not sure why. I then upgraded the iMac to 3 GB of RAM.



    I used to buy the Mac Pro mini towers in the past, but, the iMacs are now so powerful and fast, I just buy them for our shop, and they work perfectly. Video editing might be a bit more challenging on an iMac, but, it can be done!
  • Reply 4 of 23
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,570member
    Seriously I'd hold off for as long as I could. There are a number of reasons which I will touch upon below.



    1.

    Some of the product line is likely to get reved before the start of school. I'm actially thinking Mac Books before the new school year. There is the possibility of other hardware. The key here is that if you don't need it today you are likely to get more for your dollar in the future.

    2.

    The second issue is the dropping cost of SSD if you go with a laptop. Not saying you should go laptop just that it maybe beneficial to get a SSD if you do. For college the big benefit here should be reliability as crashed HDs really suck.

    3.

    Lots of rumors afoot with respect to Apple adjusting prices in the future. Either by new lower cost machines or just being a bit less greedy. Will it happen? Frankly I'd be surprised if Apple did anything but again if you don't need it now......

    4.

    Unfortunately there are a lot of bugs in the current harware line up. Better to sit back and see which machines firm up best.



    Now to discuss choosing:



    Being in design choosing between a desk top or lap top is a little more involved. I'm assumming a big issue for you is screen size which admittedly is important. As a college student though you need to look long and hard at mobility.



    Here I'm thinking a laptop might be a better choice. Especially for your first year or so. Talk to recent college students In similar programs. The reality is you will likely be all over the face of the earth or if not that the campus and the city it is located in.



    If you don't go the notebook route I'd have to agree with other here that a Mini might be a good choice. The thought here is that you can start off rather cheap and incrementally improve your system as you go forward. For example you could have a goal to increase functionality every year with an add on. Start initially with a good quality monitor and then in two years get a Pro Monitor.



    DO NOT BY ANY MEANS OVER SPEND ON THE INITIAL MACHINE!!!! Yeah I know that is yelling but you are likely to have a lot of unexpected expenses in the first year. Better to buy extras when needed. BUT back up is not extra, no matter what institute a personal back up plan. That can consist of CDs, flash dongles or whatever but it needs to be supplemented with something off line/dorm or person. If your school does have a storage allotment I'd reccomend Mobile Me. Your school work needs to be secure from theft, loss, fire, water, beer, fights, fits, disk crashes and other realities of college life. If you have to you will want a plan that keeps you working even if the computer is missing in action. Even if that plan is as simple as running down to a library or other public connection point.





    Dave
  • Reply 5 of 23
    gannongannon Posts: 5member
    Thank you all for your responses.



    Just to clarify I'm actually commuting to a community college from home for my first year or two. Then I will most likely transfer to an actual art college for my last 2 or 3 years. So I will mostly just be working on the computer at my house. So i don't think portability is all that necessary for me. And yes, screen size is a big issue for me.



    And with Macbooks and Mac Mini's wouldn't the slower processor speed and video card be a hindrance?
  • Reply 6 of 23
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,179moderator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Gannon View Post


    And yes, screen size is a big issue for me.



    You do have the option for dual displays on the iMac, which is a plus over the Mini. If portability isn't an issue nor price, the 24" iMac is ok and it has an IPS display unlike the 20" model.



    If you were budgeting though, you can for example get:



    2GHz Mac Mini

    4GB Ram

    500GB HDD

    256MB 9400M

    24" LED IPS Cinema display



    for $599 base, $899 display, $70 Ram, $90 HDD, $50 keyboard and mouse = $1708



    vs



    2.93GHz iMac

    4GB Ram

    640GB HDD (which you can't upgrade or replace)

    256MB GT 120

    24" non-LED IPS display



    for $1799



    The iMac will be close to 30% faster for rendering so for example encoding a DVD would take 10 minutes vs 15 minutes on the Mini and the GT 120 will be over double the speed of the 9400M but only really matters for games currently (Crysis playable vs not playable).



    But on the plus side, you get a much better display that you can upgrade/sell separately from your machine. LED makes a nice even backlight. I wouldn't recommend that display as it's glossy too and you can pick up another display for probably half that - probably not IPS, but still good quality.



    Minis are also far easier to sell on ebay.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Gannon View Post


    And with Macbooks and Mac Mini's wouldn't the slower processor speed and video card be a hindrance?



    Not really except when it's encoding. The actual editing doesn't matter much at all. You're only talking about 25% difference in performance.



    The GT120 will make a difference when the GPU computing takes off but I'd go for the Mini with the better screen. I'd pick the iMac for gaming or dual displays and the Mini for budgeting and resale.
  • Reply 7 of 23
    hudson1hudson1 Posts: 800member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Gannon View Post


    Thank you all for your responses.



    Just to clarify I'm actually commuting to a community college from home for my first year or two. Then I will most likely transfer to an actual art college for my last 2 or 3 years. So I will mostly just be working on the computer at my house. So i don't think portability is all that necessary for me. And yes, screen size is a big issue for me.



    And with Macbooks and Mac Mini's wouldn't the slower processor speed and video card be a hindrance?



    I doubt the video card is what would define the key difference between an iMac and a mini or MacBook. For games, yes, it would be important. Instead, for your needs the RAM ceiling is something to make sure you're comfortable with. If you expect to be dealing with massively large Photoshop files then the 8GB RAM ceiling on the iMac may have some importance to you. The mini and MacBook can "only" support 4 GB though by modern standards that's still a lot of memory.
  • Reply 8 of 23
    mdriftmeyermdriftmeyer Posts: 7,142member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Hudson1 View Post


    I doubt the video card is what would define the key difference between an iMac and a mini or MacBook. For games, yes, it would be important. Instead, for your needs the RAM ceiling is something to make sure you're comfortable with. If you expect to be dealing with massively large Photoshop files then the 8GB RAM ceiling on the iMac may have some importance to you. The mini and MacBook can "only" support 4 GB though by modern standards that's still a lot of memory.



    4GB is not a lot of RAM, especially with graphics intensive work. Having 8GB is essential. Having a monitor to support as broad portion of the color spectrum is also essential.
  • Reply 9 of 23
    tenobelltenobell Posts: 7,014member
    4GB is plenty of RAM. Its been only recently that using more than 4GB of RAM was possible and only very recently that 8GB has become viable and is still extremely expensive. There aren't too many situations someone would have to have more than 4GB.



    As far as glossy and matte screens. Its really up to your personal preference. I just worked on a giant greenscreen HD shoot were we had two 24" Sony CRT monitors (they cost $14,000 each) with highly reflective screens. Its not true that professionals only use matte screens.





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post


    4GB is not a lot of RAM, especially with graphics intensive work. Having 8GB is essential. Having a monitor to support as broad portion of the color spectrum is also essential.



  • Reply 10 of 23
    splinemodelsplinemodel Posts: 7,311member
    Dude ... a 24" iMac with 4GB of RAM will kick ass. The Mac Pro is overkill, unless you do a substantial amount of renders where time is money. Also, the graphics card does matter for Aperture, if you use that, but the iMac graphics are fine.



    As for the glossy display

    - if you design for screen, most people use glossy screens these days, so it makes sense.

    - if you design for print, just put your lights or windows behind the iMac ... really, quite easy.



    Around 4 years ago I used to do a lot of graphic design -- even product visualization type work that does require lots of render time -- and I had no problem with the hardware of the day. When i look back at the work I did, I'm pretty confident that it's still much better work that 99% of the crap out there today, despite the "hardware limitations" of 2005. With today's CPU power and great monitors, the quality of you work is almost entirely dependent on you, not the tool. The 24" iMac is a good choice.



    Lastly, the price of the imac we discussed (base model 24") appears to be about $1600. That's a hell of a deal.

    http://www.appleinsider.com/mac_price_guide/
  • Reply 11 of 23
    mdriftmeyermdriftmeyer Posts: 7,142member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by TenoBell View Post


    4GB is plenty of RAM. Its been only recently that using more than 4GB of RAM was possible and only very recently that 8GB has become viable and is still extremely expensive. There aren't too many situations someone would have to have more than 4GB.



    As far as glossy and matte screens. Its really up to your personal preference. I just worked on a giant greenscreen HD shoot were we had two 24" Sony CRT monitors (they cost $14,000 each) with highly reflective screens. Its not true that professionals only use matte screens.



    He's merging into a market where the baseline will soon be 2GB of RAM. 4GB is not a lot of RAM, period.



    All 3 major platforms are now 64 bit. 4GB of RAM is not a lot of RAM and especially not in his field of imaging where one wants to work with 3 or 4k pixel size images.
  • Reply 12 of 23
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 29,891member
    It is mystifying to me to why instructors would even consider the use of a computer for 1st year graphic design students ... The fundamentals of design must be learned first, and it doesn't take a computer to do that.
  • Reply 13 of 23
    tenobelltenobell Posts: 7,014member
    Few people are using 4GB much less 8GB.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post


    He's merging into a market where the baseline will soon be 2GB of RAM. 4GB is not a lot of RAM, period.



    All 3 major platforms are now 64 bit. 4GB of RAM is not a lot of RAM and especially not in his field of imaging where one wants to work with 3 or 4k pixel size images.



  • Reply 14 of 23
    gannongannon Posts: 5member
    I think I'm going to get:



    Mac Mini:

    2.26 GHz Processor

    4 MB Ram

    120 GB Hard Drive



    3 External Hard drives: 1 as my main HD, 1 as a backup, and 1 to bring back and forth to school.



    With this monitor:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16824176104



    Unless you guys know of another monitor i should get instead. Would the wide gamut of this monitor really mess up the saturation of regular web pages?



    Do you guys think this is a good setup?
  • Reply 15 of 23
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,179moderator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Gannon View Post


    I think I'm going to get:



    Mac Mini:

    2.26 GHz Processor

    4 MB Ram

    120 GB Hard Drive



    3 External Hard drives: 1 as my main HD, 1 as a backup, and 1 to bring back and forth to school.



    With this monitor:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16824176104



    Unless you guys know of another monitor i should get instead. Would the wide gamut of this monitor really mess up the saturation of regular web pages?



    Do you guys think this is a good setup?



    That setup sounds pretty good - 24" H-IPS display with the Mini will do just fine. It will hook up via Mini-DVI to DVI connector that comes bundled with the Mini.



    I would recommend at least one firewire 800 for external drives - get ones with 2 ports if you plan to get more than one.



    I would also say, when you buy a keyboard and mouse, only get the keyboard and buy a nice Logitech mouse. Mighty Mice are not worth the hassle. I highly recommend a VX Nano - it's small but notebook mice are great for moving over large resolution screens and the scroll wheel is very smooth.
  • Reply 16 of 23
    gannongannon Posts: 5member
    Does anyone know the specs of the 24" iMac?



    I am trying to figure out if it is worth getting a Mac Mini with this monitor:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16824176104



    or



    An iMac with a better processor and the ability to upgrade ram later on.





    Which is the better screen?



    By the way thank you all so much for your responses.
  • Reply 17 of 23
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,179moderator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Gannon View Post


    Does anyone know the specs of the 24" iMac?



    I am trying to figure out if it is worth getting a Mac Mini with this monitor:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16824176104



    or



    An iMac with a better processor and the ability to upgrade ram later on.



    Which is the better screen?



    By the way thank you all so much for your responses.



    iMac

    Brightness: 385 cd/m2

    Contrast Ratio: 750:1



    HP

    Brightness\t400 cd/m2

    Contrast Ratio\t1000:1



    ^ Not enough to notice the difference.



    Response times will be about the same.



    Both are IPS so they should be around the same quality of output.



    The iMac is glossy vs the HP being matte. I personally consider the latter to be better but not everyone agrees.



    It says the HP display has 6 USB ports so this means you get about 10 free ports with keyboard connected including the one on the keyboard vs 4 free on the iMac. You can easily get a hub of course but a powered hub uses another power supply.



    Both have HDCP support.



    If you get dead pixels on the iMac display or a dodgy backlight, your whole machine would have to be sent away for a warranty repair. It's an unlikely scenario but one you should weigh into the consideration.



    But on the plus side, if you use a Cintiq Wacom, you can leave it plugged into the iMac as a second display whereas the Mini you'll have to use a KVM switch or switch the plugs. If it's a non-display Wacom, the Mini + display has more USB ports.



    Concerning Ram, I would agree that it will be rare to use over 4GB. Adobe's apps for Mac are only 32-bit anyway and won't be able to be 64-bit until Snow Leopard. It's a good thing to be able to upgrade to 8GB and the iMac allows 8GB whereas the Mini only supports 4GB. I think it's an artificial limit Apple put in place as the Mini should support the same as the iMac.



    Apple want you to buy iMacs because they make more money. It will drop at least 50% of its value in 2 years but my Mini only dropped 25%. Plus the actual values are so much less so 50% of the iMac is about £600-700 over 2 years vs 25% of the Mini being about £150 over 2 years.



    If Apple updated the things more often, you'd be able to simply sell the Mini on each year, buy a new one and use the same display that you've calibrated for all your work.
  • Reply 18 of 23
    vineavinea Posts: 5,585member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Gannon View Post


    I think I'm going to get:



    Mac Mini:

    2.26 GHz Processor

    4 MB Ram

    120 GB Hard Drive



    3 External Hard drives: 1 as my main HD, 1 as a backup, and 1 to bring back and forth to school.



    With this monitor:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16824176104



    Unless you guys know of another monitor i should get instead. Would the wide gamut of this monitor really mess up the saturation of regular web pages?



    Do you guys think this is a good setup?



    If you can stretch $200 there is a refurb Dell 3007WFP in the Dell Outlet store today for $799. These come and go but a Mini should drive one with the mini-displayport to dual dvi converter. Okay, you need to stretch $300. The converter is $99...



    The 27" refurbs are S-PVA and $599. Same res as the 24" so doesn't need the expensive dongle.
  • Reply 19 of 23
    messiahmessiah Posts: 1,689member
    Most of the graphic design studios I work in are buying 24" iMacs instead of Mac Pros.



    A discreet graphics card doesn't really provide any benefit in Photoshop, InDesign or Illustrator ? so the current entry level 24" iMac with the 9400M chipset is ideal for you.



    That iMac's got 4GB of RAM and a 640GB hard disk drive as standard. The only thing I'd recommend changing is the keyboard ? the long version with the numeric keypad is worth going for.
  • Reply 20 of 23
    gannongannon Posts: 5member
    Thank you all for your responses.



    I ended up going with...



    24" iMac

    2.93 GHz

    4GB Ram

    640GB Hard Drive

    NVidia GeForce 120

    Wired Mighty mouse and numaric keyboard



    It should be coming hopefully sometime next week.
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