Buying an New Computer (Apple Desktop). Looking for Options...
February 24, 2016 7:12 AM   Subscribe

I am in the market for a new desktop, and would like an iMac. Wondering if there are other options (read more inside if interested).

Ok, so I am in the market for a new desktop computer. I actually thought about replacing my current one a couple of years back (so much so, that I actually posted this question in 2014 about which iMac I should purchase).

Anyway, long story short, I still haven't purchased one, and got by with my current desktop, but its dying fast and I need something new. I am looking for an open to options. Here are some points that might help:

- I currently have a PC desktop that I purchased in 2006 (ish). Its old and slow and has no hard drive space left and I need something new. Plus, it has a 17" monitor and I would like something bigger (looking to replace the keyboard and monitor).
- I currently have a Macbook Air that I use exclusively for work purposes. I don't do anything personal on it, its my work laptop, and I use it for client work, taking to presentations, etc, and would like to keep it that way. Therefore, I like the idea of a home desktop and a work laptop.
- I won't be doing anything on my desktop other than Office related stuff (Word documents, Excel, Powerpoint and emails and surfing the internet). I won't be using this computer for any photo or video editing or playing games.
- I currently have my entire itunes library on my old PC and want to shift this on my new computer (and therefore need something at least 1TB of space).
- I would prefer to stay in the Apple family, as I am fairly invested now (have an iPad, iPhone, Macbook Air, Apple TV, use iTunes for music, etc.
- I have considering going with a Mac Mini, but I would still need to buy a new monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc, so it might be just as easy to get a entire iMac, correct?
- Money (budget) is a concern, so i am seriously considering buy a refurbished iMac from the Apple Canada refurbished store (I live in Canada) and based on my previous post, I people pushed me in the quad core options vs. the dual core (which I am fine with), and will use the savings of refurbished to buy Apple Care. The thing that makes me nervous is the fact that when I originally posted my question (in 2014), the refurbished was the 2013 model (and it still is...thats almost 3 years old now).

Any suggestions or recommendations? I am pretty set on getting a 2013 Apple refurbished iMac (quad core), unless someone thinks there is a better option.

Also, I need to get a copy of Microsoft for Mac (the one on my laptop was a single user license from work, and I am assuming that I can't use it on this one). I honesltyl don't see the benefit of buying the 365 version for $70 per year, when I can buy it outright for $150. Does that make sense?
posted by dbirchum to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I think your assessments are correct. I'm currently typing this on a 2008 iMac, they tend to hold their value and ability-to-work decently well. The good news is that it's a lot easier to share certain things (calendar, contacts) between Apples than it used to be with your Apple login. I've always bought refurbs and never had an issue. Only suggestion: if you're planning to keep this for a while: max out the RAM.

The one wrinkle I could see is that you won't have a thing with a CD/DVD drive if you go this route unless you buy the drive separately. And yeah either buy the Microsoft for Mac yourself (if you have a friend who gets a student discount you may be able to get it more cheaply) or just consider using the Mac suite of stuff and converting back and forth depending no how intensive the stuff you need is. I have one machine at home with no Microsoft software and it mostly works okay for me.
posted by jessamyn at 7:55 AM on February 24, 2016

Best answer: I came in planning to suggest the newer version even though it's a few hundred dollars more (they do have 2015 refurbs in the CA store right now), but it really isn't worth it. Those older machines are a great deal. The only reason I'd get a newer one is for the retina display, but that's $600 more, so if you don't care about that, go for the 2013 quad. It's basically the same spec as my macbook pro 2013, and it still feels like a new computer.

The office thing, it depends. Here's what Macworld said in 2014, I'm not sure what still applies:

-Subscribe if you need Office on your iOS devices, as it's the only way to get it.

-Do not subscribe if you have no need for Office on iOS, and have only one Mac.

-Possibly subscribe if you have two or more Macs, depending on how often you upgrade Office and your likelihood of continuing to subscribe.

Here's a more recent article about the differences.
posted by Huck500 at 7:56 AM on February 24, 2016

My daily use computer is a 2012 MacBook Pro. My work system is a 2011 iMac. Don't think a 2013 would be a bad proposition. They hold up well, long-term, but whatever you do, do your best to max out the memory - it will help in the long run. Newer (solid state, memory-soldered-to-the-motherboard) systems you won't be able to upgrade the internals, so make sure you don't end up with a system that has a too-small hard drive or insufficient memory... and is stuck that way.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:58 AM on February 24, 2016

My work system is a 2011 iMac. Don't think a 2013 would be a bad proposition

Yeah, I'm doing heavy-lifting audio production at 96KHz (ugh) on a 2011 i7 iMac (with 12GB RAM). It was a heavy-hitter when I bought it, but it's 5 years old now, and yet, every time I think about replacing it, I realize I don't need to because it's as good as lots of new machines. For web browsing and office apps, just about any recentish machine will be good. But get plenty of RAM.

Hell, my mom is still using my 2006 Core Duo iMac for web browsing, and it's still plenty speedy. iMacs are, in my experience, built to last.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:24 AM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Spring for a Retina 4K or 5K iMac, if you can. There are refurbished models available. The difference in display sharpness and quality is remarkable, like reading paper. I have a Retina iMac from work that is hooked up next to a relatively low-resolution Thunderbolt display and so I see the difference every day.

Definitely max out the RAM, whatever you get. This will help ensure that the computer will be very usable 6-7 years from now.

A Mac mini will take up more desk space than an iMac, and you have to buy the keyboard, trackpad and monitor separately. I wouldn't go this route unless you have strong feelings against all-in-one computers — some people do, and there's nothing wrong with that. An iMac will offer greater performance and features per dollar, though.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 9:55 AM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A note regarding the RAM: the 21.5" models (2013 and later) are not able to have the ram upgraded. The 27" models have easily upgraded ram. A quick look suggests that all the models on the Canada Refurbished store have 8gb. That should be sufficient now, but if you're planning on keeping the machine for a long time, you may want to keep that in mind.
posted by bluloo at 10:13 AM on February 24, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks SO much for the responses thus far!

A couple of notes, I have to echo what bluloo appears that the only options in the Canadian Apple Store for the 21.5 model (which I am interested in) is 8GB of Ram. And I don't think that you can upgrade in the refurbished store.

Will this be an issue? Is 8GB going to limit me?
posted by dbirchum at 11:29 AM on February 24, 2016

Response by poster: Also, based on what you folks are suggesting above, it appears that the differences in the Refurbished US Apple Store and Canadian store are HUGE (check it out here). I know our exchange rate is in the tank right now, but in Canada, the cheapest I can get a 21.5 quad core from 2013 (2.7Ghz) is $1309 Canadian. The cheapest Retina quad core (from 2015) is $1939 Canadian.

In the US, you can get a 2015 (not a 2013...) quad for $1099usd and a 2015 refurbed Retina from 2015 for $1269...

That's sad. It would cost me almost $2000 to get a Retina quad.

And again, I am on a budget for this.

By the above, it looks like I will be getting a 2013 8GB quad core and hope it lasts me a while...

Granted, my pc clone that I am typing this on (with 4GB of RAM) from 2006 has lasted me 10 years....
posted by dbirchum at 11:34 AM on February 24, 2016

If it helps save money, I suspect you'll get more mileage out a computer with less processor and more memory. A quad-core computer is excellent for high-performance tasks like video editing or audio production, but not as useful for Office and web/email tasks.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:00 PM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

i am seriously considering buy[ing] a refurbished iMac...

That’s exactly what I did in March 2014 (21.5-inch, late 2012, from the Mac Store online) and I’ve been extremely pleased. (Probably shouldn’t mention that I’ve bought... is it two? three?... refurbished computers from them now, and never had any problems – that would be just asking for trouble.) Since I do a lot of design work and photo editing, I did as Jessamyn suggests and maxxed out the RAM.

Previously I used a Mac Mini because I switched houses twice a year from 2006–2012, and with a keyboard and monitor in each location I only had to carry the little box around with me. The one thing I didn’t like about it was that the hard drive back then was 320 MB maximum, but I see the latest versions are up to 1TB.

Last summer, after feeling that maybe I should have the ability to watch movies on DVDs, or burn discs, I bought this external drive for <$30. It seems to work fine, but I think I’ve used it less than half a dozen times in eight months.
posted by LeLiLo at 1:48 PM on February 24, 2016

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