Recently the hard drive on my late 2006 Imac failed. I am now trying to decide what to replace it with and can’t settle on a comfortable solution.
I am a print designer who works on catalogs and photobooks and also does some web design. Until it died, the Imac was adequate. Though it had only 1GB of ram and a 250GB hard drive I was running CS3 comfortably on the machine. I had about 100GB of data that I accessed regularly from an external drive and was using about 175GB of the machine’s internal hard drive.
I’m hesitant to spend $1299 on a new Imac because money is a bit tight and I have some reservations about working on a glossy screen. I was immediately attracted to buying the basic Mac Mini for $599 and a monitor, which I figured would cost me about $200, saving me around $500. I see that the Mini has a dual-core processor (same as my old Imac) and 4gb of memory (4x that of my old machine). This would be a step up, but will it be adequate working on modern browsers and new CS software 3-4 years down the line? Additionally, I’m rather clueless about monitor technology and, after some research, it seems I may have to factor more into my budget than $200 for one good enough to display accurate colors and render typography well.
If processing power and memory would be an issue, I could increase the memory of the basic Mini to 8GB for around $60 with aftermarket ram or buy the Mini with a quad-processor and 4GB of ram for $799. Add the $200 (or more) for a monitor and I’m creeping closer to the cost of the new Imac. I’ve all but completely ruled out the purchase of a Macbook Pro (which I desire for it’s portability) because the basic model is comparable to the basic Mini in terms of processing power and $600 more. I’m also considering buying a used machine where I could get a more power for less money.
Any thoughts that may help me come to a decision would be much appreciated.
For your uses, I'd probably recommend the iMac, as it simply has more horsepower than the mini. But....and this could be a big "but"...the memory in the 21.5" iMac is not user upgradeable. Because of this, I normally recommend spending a bit extra and getting it equipped with 16GB of RAM. Set up this way, I think it would provide you with a longer useable lifespan.
You say you're concerned about the glossy screen of the new iMacs, and I've heard this concern before. I can't say mine bothers me, because it doesn't...and the new iMacs use a different display construction than previous models that, in my opinion, is an improvement. This being said, Apple has a 14-day return policy, so if the ambient light in your workspace isn't conducive to the iMac's display, you can return it. (And there's really no way to judge this until you bring it home).
To keep costs down, I would also suggest you look at refurbished iMacs. They come with a full Apple warranty, and in many cases offer a substantial savings. The new iMacs may not have hit the refurbished store yet, though, so you might have to wait if you want the current model.