Should I get an iMac?
June 30, 2010 4:11 PM   Subscribe

Help me choose my next computer

My six-year-old PC desktop just quit on me, and I need to buy a replacement. I'm trying to figure out what type of computer to buy, but I'm leaning towards some sort of "all in one" setup, such as an iMac. The computer doesn't need to be very powerful. It will be used mostly for web surfing and light word processing, and little else. My highest priorities are finding something that will look good in my home office (no wires, sleek appearance, etc.) and has a large screen. An iMac seems to fit the bill, but it might be more computer than I need, and so not worth the expense. Any suggestions?
posted by crLLC to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The Lenovo all-in-one desktops look pretty good. Especially the A300.
posted by mullacc at 4:17 PM on June 30, 2010

A new iMac, even the low-end one, will probably be significantly more computer than your six-year-old one. Since your main concern about 'more computer than you need' seems to be cost, have you thought about a refurbished older model?
posted by thesmophoron at 4:19 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Curious that you don't touch on the issue of what using an iMac would be like for you. Have you used Macs in the past? How do you like the experience of OS X vs Windows? If you think you'd enjoy the interface then I would think it worth the additional cost to move to an iMac. If, on the other hand, you're happy with Windows, well, it's probably not going to seem worth it to you. My father's a dedicated Windows user, and bristles whenever he has to do something on one of my Macs. It just feels wrong to him, for some reason.

How do you feel about Macs?
posted by mumkin at 4:25 PM on June 30, 2010

Mac mini plus digital TV/big monitor is a nice compromise between computing power and price. We have one in the living room.

If you're not committed to going Mac and your needs are really minimal you might want to consider a nettop plus monitor: they're not much in terms of performance but are tiny, aesthetically pleasing (especially the EeeBox), and cheap. I don't have any personal experience here to draw on, but the Acer Aspire Revo and the Asus EeeBox seem to be the top contenders in that arena.
posted by en forme de poire at 4:39 PM on June 30, 2010

Response by poster: mumkin: I like Macs. My wife has a Mac laptop that I'm using to write this. Having used PCs heavily and Macs lightly, I really can't say that I prefer one over the other.
posted by crLLC at 4:46 PM on June 30, 2010

Consider a retail PC such as Best Buy, Costco. Treat yourself to a high quality graphics card (standard on some models) and big, LCD high resolution monitor. You'll love it. I have a retail HP with quad core AMD X4 CPU, 8GB RAM, 750GB disk and a nice 22" monitor. I have two drives on it, one with included Windows 7, the other boots Ubuntu 10.04 . I love Ubuntu and now run it fulltime except I like Microsoft Movie Maker. Tonight I am installing a virtual Windows on it too. Its much faster running Ubuntu than Windows 7. Get all that for less than $1000.00 .
posted by nogero at 5:00 PM on June 30, 2010

Liking Mac's OS X and Mac software is a separate issue. if your preference is strong one way or the other, th t will make your decision

The iMac is a very capable machine, especially for the minimal requirements you've laid out. I'm on my second and, as Mr. Jobs says, the only thing that locks it up is bad Flash code.

If you already own a monitor you like, buying an Mac Mini could give you equivalent performance while saving a few hundred bucks.
posted by justcorbly at 5:03 PM on June 30, 2010

(trying not to fanboy here) If you're not fussed about Mac OS and you don't need a powerful computer, Apple may not be the way forwards. In your situation I'd buy the cheapest computer I could find -- I've had good luck with Dell -- and splurge a bit on wireless peripherals, a graphics card, and a big screen. Even the cheapest computers today are a lot better than the best of six years ago.

For instance, a cheap NewEgg desktop PC with a big monitor.
posted by katrielalex at 5:37 PM on June 30, 2010

I am vey happy with my IMac, going on now for 6 years and trouble free...Daughter and wife have PC laptops and I had Dell in the past. We get used to what we use a lot and that seems to account for "tastes," though PCs have caused problems now and then in our home. My son just finished college and has IMac, now 5 years small thing went wrong but got fixed free.
posted by Postroad at 5:38 PM on June 30, 2010

Ah! Apparently angle brackets throw the system (should have previewed!).

What I meant to say is: if you're going to be using your device for less than 1000 word documents and web browsing / email, you'll be fine on a iPad with dock/keyboard combo or wireless keyboard.

There, saved you some money and freed up your deskspace too :)
posted by Galen at 5:47 PM on June 30, 2010

Any cheap computer you get will not last six years, whereas an iMac just might. And if it's more computer than you need right now, it'll last a lot longer for you before you run up against its limits.
posted by mcwetboy at 7:08 PM on June 30, 2010

But you could get a $300 nettop today and another $300 computer in three years, and be ahead re:money by quite a bit.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 7:52 PM on June 30, 2010

Do you have any youngish/teenage/enthusiast relatives? I bet they could build you a really sleek silent PC for well under a a grand. $1500 for a really really solid system. Or maybe spec out something with a local mom&pop (or enthusiast) computer shop. Either should be able to build you a good looking and solid computer without the price premium that should last you another 6 years.

If you're getting a new PC, what you're looking for is an i5 750 processor (i7 is probably more than you need), maybe an SSD main drive with a traditional SATAII magnetic media "data" harddrive. Win7 x64. 4 or 6 gigs of RAM, partially depending on your motherboard. The ASUS P6 series are decent and were at a good price point, but I'm about a year out of date on mobo particulars. The AMD offerings right now are a little more cost effective for high-end performance, but the i5 is the winner for what you need, and the future.

If you're not doing any gaming, the venerable GeForce 9800GT with a DVI out and maybe TV/HDMI out will also be more than you need and will let you do some pretty better-than-ok gaming. The 250 is at a really good price point right now, as is the ATI 57xx series. Don't get any superclocked or GTS or whatever - hot and noisy. IME, "modern" 9800GTs are quieter than the originals were and much quieter than any 3yo card will be (unless you take good care of it; regular deep fan cleaning), which came out 3 years or so ago. Maybe more.

"PC Power and Cooling" makes solid power supplies that are very quiet. At least, the power supplies that they market as quiet. There are lots of aftermarket CPU coolers that are very quiet - Thermalright makes very good quiet coolers and aren't very much.

CoolerMaster and Lian Li make good looking and properly laid out cases; if you go for quiet, get a case with a BIG (like, 10"+/22cm+) side fan. Otherwise, go for looks. Lots of cases out there.

Samsung makes a good looking, high quality 24" 1920x1200 monitor (2443?) but see if you can get a "zero-dead-pixel" or an extended warranty on it. 1920x1080 is just... disappointing. Lenovo, for whatever reason, sells The Best LCD Display. But at a premium, a very very steep premium. I checked recently and they had ONE GREAT monitor, but everything else they sold was crap, but that ONE GREAT monitor is fantastic. I have that one (basically), which I bought at 2/3rds the price a couple of years ago and another a year ago at a little under 3/4 the current price.

If there aren't any local shops, maybe check out; you can custom order a computer (or solicit them to spec one out for you) and have it shipped. I'm not affiliated with them, but they've been my go-to guys for the last few years (for parts; a friend of mine recently had them put a custom system together for him and it was reasonable).
posted by porpoise at 9:41 PM on June 30, 2010

I love it. One person recommends a $300 nettop, the next says $1500 for a solid system.

You're doing light web browsing and word processing, with no gaming. You are replacing a six-year-old PC because it broke, not because it wasn't meeting your needs. Literally anything on the market will today work for you. However, I would avoid anything with an Atom chip in it, because something might come up in the near future (video content on the web, most likely) that an Atom couldn't handle. Otherwise, if sleek looks and no wires are your main concern, get an all-in-one. There are plenty of options here.

The Lenovos above or the cheapest iMac you can find should be the highest you go. Cheaper will get you lower specs in the processor and hard drive (that you won't notice with your usage) and a smaller, less impressive screen.
posted by whatnotever at 3:25 AM on July 1, 2010

I have an Acer Revo R3600 net-top running Windows 7 that I've used as my main computer for the past year - I listen to music, web browse, watch videos (including HD) both from my hard drive and on YouTube (and such-like), and use Microsoft Office. It does all these things fine.

While it's not an all-in-one it comes with an attachment in the box that mounts it to the back of most monitors (where a VESA 100x100 wall mount usually goes), where you can't see it (picture here). It cost me £160 delivered. As whatnotever points out the Atom processor might not be able to cope with the demands of everyday computing a few years from now, but it was so cheap that I'd never hesitate to replace it when that day comes.
posted by tsh at 4:10 AM on July 1, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great suggestions, everyone. They gave me a lot to think about, which is what I was looking for. Right now, a PC all-in-one looks like the front-runner.
posted by crLLC at 7:00 AM on July 1, 2010

« Older Where would you put this extra money?   |   Can i pimp my Pashley? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.