Which computer is faster/better and is it worth the price to upgrade?
November 19, 2012 1:53 AM   Subscribe

Which computer is faster/better and is it worth the price to upgrade?

I currently own the following:

27inch iMac (late 2009 model)
Core 2 Duo 3.06ghz

I Want the following:

13inch Macbook Air (most recent 2012 model)
1.8ghz Core i5 (w/turbo boost up to 2.8ghz)

Please do not consider the monitor size or portability factor of the two machines. I am simply looking for someone to answer which machine is actually faster for things like Watching movies, Microsoft Office, playing movies etc... No gaming. I can sell my iMac for $1K and buy the macbook air for $300 more. So I want to know if the $300 difference in price is worth upgrading to the macbook air. Cause if the speed boost is negligible then I'd rather stick with my iMac.

posted by Wanderer7 to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
You have missed the most significant likely difference between the two which is that the macbook air has an SSD drive(whereas I assume your imac does not). The SSD drive in the macbook is the performance difference between the two and it will make all the tasks you describe significantly "faster" - in that the mac will be more responsive and take less time to load. (the speed difference in all other respects is negligible)

Purely on speed you could achieve the same result for $300 by sticking with your mac and install an SSD or hybrid drive in your iMac (you could get a decent sized ssd for that price easily). So it will come down to your opinion of the other tradeoffs that you don't want us to consider.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 2:37 AM on November 19, 2012

I doubt you'll notice much, if any performance difference between the two machines for the tasks you've outlined. You might get a fractional speed boost from the SSD in the Air, but that would be slightly offset by the slower processer. I think it'd basically end up a toss-up for most tasks.
posted by Magnakai at 4:06 AM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

And benchmarks (iMac | Macbook Air) suggest I'm right - slightly better CPU performance from the iMac, and the Air will have slightly better disc access performance.
posted by Magnakai at 4:08 AM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Magnakai: "and the Air will have slightly better disc access performance."

Switching from a regular harddrive to an SSD on my 5yr old computer had my boot times (granted, this is in Windows) go from 1.5 minutes to about 8 or 9 seconds. That was literally the only change in hardware. So I'd think upgrading to the air would give you a very noticeably faster machine.
posted by Grither at 4:55 AM on November 19, 2012

Oh, though there is a rather large caveat with that that I missed.... installing a fresh copy of windows on the old HD would probably have taken me from 1.5minutes to 40-45 seconds, so it wasn't just the SSD I think. But still, I think these days the general wisdom is that upgrading your hard drive to an SSD is the single most effective way to speed up your machine.
posted by Grither at 4:59 AM on November 19, 2012

You mentioned watching movies twice. Are you streaming/downloading? This may be obvious, but just in case you're not already aware, the Air does not have an optical drive.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:00 AM on November 19, 2012

My air absolutely sucks at streaming flash video. The fan spins constantly and it gets very hot.
posted by empath at 6:08 AM on November 19, 2012

Here are all the things I will be using my computer for.

- Streaming HD Video
- Watching HD Video from the harddrive
- Web Browsing with multiple windows/tabs open
- Playing iTunes music all the time
- Working on Microsoft Excel
- The occasional use of iMovie and iPhoto

Thanks, and I appreciate everyone's input so far.
posted by Wanderer7 at 9:02 AM on November 19, 2012

You want to use the computer with the larger screen for most of those tasks. I have a PC laptop with an MBA sized screen and there is a surprisingly large difference in enjoyment for anything but basic content consumption going from even a 14" 4:3 to the 12" 16:9 form factor. The lack of screen real estate is maddening.

Put an SSD in your iMac.
posted by wierdo at 12:49 PM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

For information, I have both a 2011 27" iMac and a very recent MacBook Air. I do far more demanding things on both computers than you're considering, and neither computer has found the tasks too demanding.

FWIW, my iMac does start up a bit slower than my MacBook, but it does have a bajillion things running on boot. Everyday usage isn't that noticable. The difference hasn't been quite as night and day as I was promised. Granted, this is anecdotal and with a newer, faster iMac.

On the upside, I haven't had a single problem streaming video, flash or otherwise, to my MacBook. And I have a very cheap USB DVD drive that worked fine the one time I used it (which was mainly for the sake of it.) They're generally both damn lovely machines to use.
posted by Magnakai at 3:01 PM on November 19, 2012

« Older I have a bunch of taters. I need to eat these...   |   I promise I'm not a snob! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.