New or refurbished iMac?
August 2, 2012 7:22 AM   Subscribe

New iMac or refurbished? Help me weigh my options.

So I currently work on a mid-2007 iMac and love it (though it's now only just fast enough for what I need), but it's not mine and I'll be leaving this office soon. For various reasons, not least because I'd have to buy a large new monitor anyway, I'm looking into buying an iMac when I move.

My needs: I'm a translator, and use specialist database software to store and re-use my translations, which takes quite a bit of processing oomph. I need to be able to run that software, a browser with lots and lots of tabs open, electronic dictionaries, Twitter and all the usual background programs (Spotify etc). I sometimes use video (I occasionally translate subtitles) but only for viewing, not editing in any serious way.

So, options: I can get education pricing on new Macs. And let's assume I want as much computer as possible, as long as the price is reasonable. So my options are as follows:

1) Brand-new 27"iMac, 2.7 or 3.1 GHz quad-core i5, just over £1200 including one-year warranty (from memory - I'm not on my college network at the moment so can't see the education pricing).

2) Refurbished 27" iMac from Apple, May 2011 model, 2.7 GHz quad-core i5, quoted price is £1199 including one-year warranty, but I'm not sure if I can claim an education discount on refurbs.

3) Refurbished 27" iMac, 2010 model, 3 GHz quad-core i3, sold via Argos on Ebay, just over £1000 including one-year warranty.

As this will be my main income-generating machine (I'm self-employed) I don't want to stint, but I still want to spend money wisely. I'm inclined to bite the bullet and go for the brand-new one, to be future-proof, but am interested in what the hive mind thinks....?
posted by altolinguistic to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm pretty sure you don't get education discounts on refurb models, so likely it's even on new vs. refurb, so go new.
posted by fatbird at 7:38 AM on August 2, 2012

I bought a 27" iMac refurb from Apple and there was no way to tell that it had been touched, other than the price. If the price is right, there seems to be no downside to going with a refurb.
posted by tommasz at 7:45 AM on August 2, 2012

Get the three year warranty. I have had a number of issues with my late 2008 model, and I would have been out a fair amount of money without the extended AppleCare. I'd also warn you off getting one at all, because the first time you have to haul that behemoth into a store to get it fixed you realize what a giant pain in the ass the whole Apple aesthetic can be; better off getting a mini or a pro and sticking a monitor on it.

I don't know if you can get the extended AppleCare on refurb models, is the reason I mention this.
posted by curious nu at 7:52 AM on August 2, 2012

Go for a new model with education pricing factored in and, if you can, wait a few more months. The iMacs are overdue for a refresh and the rumor mill suggests we'll see one in fall. It could be an entire redesign but at the very least you'll get a processor bump and more RAM than the current models for the same price. Don't upgrade the RAM through Apple, fill the other two slots with sticks from OWC, Crucial or Newegg. You can get 16GB (2x8gb) for a reasonable price.

A tip from an iMac owner who has had to take their iMac into the Apple Store on multiple occasions: keep the box. It has a handle.
posted by popculture at 7:55 AM on August 2, 2012

I used to work at an Apple Specialist store. I was a "Pro" (our store's variant of the Apple "Genius/Creative" naming scheme), meaning I mostly did customer training and worked with the repair techs.

Here are my thoughts on this:

1. Yes you can get AppleCare on refurbs. I highly recommend AppleCare, it's very good.

2. Especially if you get AppleCare, chance are good you're going to have this machine for a very long time. So you want to get absolutely as much power as you can afford. We had people bringing in 7-10 year old macs all the time for help/upgrades so these computers can last quite a while.

3. That being said, HDD and RAM are not difficult to upgrade, but you basically can't ever upgrade the CPU or Video Card, so if it were me I would absolutely go with the i5 model and then upgrade the RAM with 3rd party memory for a nice performance boost. Then in a year or so I'd buy a solid-state hard drive (prices should be down even more by then) and experience a nice boost in speed from that.

Oh yeah and totally what popculture says, wait till fall if you can. (and keep the box! It's super handy for shop-visits)
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:04 AM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Education pricing was still more expensive than my refurbed MBP when I bought it several years ago.

And yes, I can confirm that you can still get AppleCare.

I've never noticed a single difference.
posted by Madamina at 8:06 AM on August 2, 2012

The tie breaker is that with the purchase of the new Mac from the Education & Student Apple Store, you could be eligible for the £70 App Store gift card.

Check the rules:
posted by inturnaround at 8:19 AM on August 2, 2012

Apple refurbs are excellent. If you can get the latest model as a refurb, go for that.

The iMacs are overdue for a refresh and the rumor mill suggests we'll see one in fall.
This. If you can, wait a month or so until the new iPhone is announced and hopefully there will also be an iMac/Mac Mini update. Current rumor pegs the date as September 12.

BTW, you should be able to access the education store by clicking on the menu item and selecting your school. You can do this from anywhere, not just your school network.
posted by puritycontrol at 8:19 AM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice, everyone. I don't have to decide immediately, so sitting tight for a few weeks looks like the right thing to do.

puritycontrol: perhaps this is a US/UK difference? I should have said that I'm in the UK (though the £ pricing should have made this clear) and I get the following message when I try to go to the education store: "Sorry, you can only access the Apple Store for Higher Education when connected to your university's network."
posted by altolinguistic at 8:27 AM on August 2, 2012

Response by poster: and thanks for that link, inturnaround: I am both a student and a lecturer at the moment so definitely qualify for both education pricing and that offer. Though I have not yet spent anything at the App Store despite using this machine for the last two years...
posted by altolinguistic at 8:29 AM on August 2, 2012

All the Macs I've ever bought from Apple have been refurbs, which is quite a few -- probably 7 or 8 machines, and they've all been great. I've seen it suggested that refurbs actually have fewer initial problems that bran new, because they've already had the once-over, and the initial problems have been gotten out of the way. None of mine have ever shown any signs of visible wear, either.

Also, I'd skip the 2010 model, because you'll want the Thunderbolt connector some day.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:34 AM on August 2, 2012

Adding my vote for waiting a bit longer. Another translator here using the kind of software and multitab browsing etc. that uses up a lot of RAM and resources. I got a refurbished iMac a couple of years ago and it's been perfect, really, but at the time it was the newest model still in the store, launched a couple of months before - sometimes they do have very recent refurbs. When I need to upgrade again I would still go for the latest model or near-latest, because that way you can be sure it will give you more "oomph" for longer. Especially if there's no huge difference in price and you can get other discounts.

Check the Buyer's Guide from MacRumors, they tell you when to buy or not buy based on when you can expect upgrades.
posted by bitteschoen at 9:42 AM on August 2, 2012

I've bought both refurbs and new Macs direct from Apple in the past. The refurbs I've bought have always been like-new, and with AppleCare just in case. You're in good shape in either case. If you do not get your education discount on the refurb though, wait until the new line (hopefully) is announced this autumn, and either pre-order the new iMac, or see if you can save a few quid on the newly discontinued Mac. Buy extra RAM from the usual third-party sources.
posted by Hylas at 9:51 AM on August 2, 2012

I'm voting for a new one.
If you get an older one that likes to overheat or has cheap capacitors, it may not last long, and those are expensive repairs.
posted by luckynerd at 10:20 AM on August 2, 2012

My iMac was a refurb, bought in 2009 I think? Have never had any problems with it.

Ditto on keeping the box - I've never needed to take it for service, but I did just move apartments, and having the box to transport it was very helpful.
posted by dnash at 11:01 AM on August 2, 2012

Is it true that in the UK you get 3 years of Applecare for free when you buy through the education store? If that's the case then I think it's absolutely worth buying new.

The Apple refurbs are very good and I wouldn't buy a 2010 model from ebay without a very good reason. I'd only use ebay from models significantly older and cheaper than what you can get straight from Apple.

I'm not always a fan of buying the latest and greatest, but if you don't need the computer yet, you might as well wait and see what's coming so you can make an informed decision instead of feeling cheated.
posted by Salamandrous at 4:11 PM on August 2, 2012

"Especially if you get AppleCare, chance are good you're going to have this machine for a very long time. So you want to get absolutely as much power as you can afford."

I think this is pretty much always terrible advice. Buy as much as you can afford now if you absolutely need as much power as you can afford now, not because you think it is going to make some incremental improvement to the useful life of your computer years in the future. The savings can be substantial and you'll have a major downpayment on your next upgrade.

I agree though with the suggestions to wait a bit if you don't need it right away. We'll see what Apple comes up with, but your best bet will probably be a refurb, perhaps with a third-party RAM and SSD upgrade, because it sounds like the most taxing thing about what you do is all the stuff you are switching between, which is best addressed by having more memory, and being able to page to an SSD when out of physical RAM.
posted by Good Brain at 10:10 PM on August 2, 2012

Response by poster: Salamandrous, I haven't seen that, but I hope it's true!
posted by altolinguistic at 1:48 AM on August 3, 2012

Response by poster: After further research - three years of AppleCare seems to cost about £45 with education pricing in the UK, compared with £139 normally. Not bad.
posted by altolinguistic at 2:24 AM on August 3, 2012

« Older Get a Canadian a Passport in Chicago   |   Does Facebook publish photo upload statistics? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.