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iMac Core 2 Duo or Core i3?

1197 Views 3 Replies Latest reply: Jan 20, 2013 3:51 PM by StandardPerson RSS
jayj320 Calculating status...
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Dec 15, 2012 6:33 PM

Looking to buy a used 27-inch iMac, 2009-2011 Unibody model primarily for Web & Email, i.e., not CPU intensive. Have two options at the same price point: one is a 3.06 GHz Core 2 Duo with 12 GB RAM, the other a 3.2 GHz Core i3 with 4 GB RAM. Is the Core i3 much faster? Will the extra RAM on the Core 2 Duo make a noticeable difference? TIA.

  • steve359 Level 6 Level 6 (12,035 points)
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    Dec 15, 2012 6:36 PM (in response to jayj320)

    RAM will never make up for a slow CPU.


    You can upgrade the RAM in the iMac later at low cost.


    Most Core2Duo are so outdated they cannot run MountainLion, while the i3 is not only much faster but also buys you more years of use.


    My humble opinion.

  • babowa Level 7 Level 7 (22,055 points)
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    Dec 15, 2012 8:53 PM (in response to jayj320)

    I'd go for the i3 as well - had that model until I just upgraded to a faster CPU (do a fair share of video editing). In any case, the i3 is quite good and nimble - do increase the RAM though since both Lion and Mountain Lion are memory hogs. You can get RAM here:



    I'd go for the 2 x 4 GB matching kit and you'd wind up with 12 GB which is what I have - more than enough for what you want to do and then some.

  • StandardPerson Level 1 Level 1 (25 points)
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    Jan 20, 2013 3:51 PM (in response to steve359)

    steve359: Most Core2Duo are so outdated they cannot run MountainLion

    That's not quite right. The crucial CPU requirement for running Lion and Mountain Lion is a 64-bit processor, so any Mac with a Core 2 Duo (or later) processor should be fine. This includes all aluminium iMacs.

    However, Core Duo processors are 32-bit and hence will not run Lion, Mountain Lion or any newer version of OS X. (Perhaps it's worth noting that Apple have never sold a Core Duo iMac.)


    jayj320, while you've probably already made your decision, I'll offer my opinion on the off-chance that someone else is in a similar predicament.


    With a 2009-11 iMac, like the one you've described, the 5% difference in CPU speed is unimportant on its own. However, i3 CPUs use a much faster system bus than Core 2 Duos, and i3 RAM is about a third faster. Finally, in mid 2010 the i3 iMacs got a faster graphics card.


    In benchmark terms, the Geekbench2 scores are as follows. (The reason for the third benchmark is in the last paragraph.)

    • 4178 - for early 2009 iMac with a 3.06 GHz Core 2 Duo
    • 5837 - for mid 2010 iMac with  3.2 GHz i3 CPU
    • [3865 - for early 2008 24"  iMac with 2.8 GHz Core 2 Duo]


    What does all this imply? For "web and email" work, either iMac will be more than fast enough and should support future versions of OS X for some time.


    In fact, I've written this note on an "early 2008" 24" iMac (the last of the three iMacs listed above) running Mountain Lion, and I cannot say that I've noticed any speed problems with this supposedly antedevulian system since I bought it five years ago; And this system has a benchmark of just 3865!


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