Should I trade in my iMac for this PC?
September 24, 2017 5:16 PM   Subscribe

For the last 8 years I have used Mac; but due to the age of my iMac (2009), it's decreasing performance, etc., and that my wife bought a refurbished PC that is equally as good, if not better, than my Mac for 1/6th the price, I am thinking of getting a PC.

The specifications on my 2009 iMac are:

OS: OS X El Capitan Version 10.11.6
iMac (24-inch, Early 2009)
Processor: 3.06 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
Memory: 8GB 1067 MHz DDR3
Hard Drive: 1TB
Graphics: ATI Radeon HD 4850 512 MB

The PC I am looking at is refurbished Lenovo E30 Workstation Tower Computer:

OS: Windows 7 Professional Pre-loaded
Processor: Intel Core i7 2600 3.4 GHz
Memory: Quad Core 8GB Memory
Hard Drive: 1TB
Graphics: Unknown

posted by 8LeggedFriend to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It really depends on a lot of factors, such as how it will be used and your personal preferences. I use both Mac OS and Windows and like different things about both of them. I do have some Mac apps that I would hate to be without, but that line is starting to thin even more now. I just prefer Mac OS for coding and everyday tasks and Windows for mostly gaming.

As far as sheer performance is concerned, going from your current iMac to the E30 will be a huge upgrade. The i7 2600 is, per core, synthetically benchmarking at about 4x the performance. Not to mention it's quad-core, so multitasking or anything multi-threaded (audio/video editing, some games) will get a huge boost.

The drive speed will probably be about the same. I typically recommend going for an SSD for the boot/programs drive and using the HDDs for data storage, just because SSDs as boot/software drives give you a massive perceptible performance boost. Even old systems like the iMac would seem insanely faster with an SSD. It's probably the biggest perceptible-performance upgrade one can make these days.

If you game or use anything graphics-related, it could be a downgrade if the E30 doesn't have any good GPU. The 4850 was good for its time, and still great for older games. If the E30 only has an internal GPU then the 4850 would still destroy it in performance. If you do any gaming/video work it might be worth upgrading the GPU in the E30
posted by kup0 at 5:29 PM on September 24, 2017

That looks like a good configuration. Add a 128GB SSD for the OS and if you can bump up the RAM to 16GB.
posted by WizKid at 6:23 PM on September 24, 2017

PCs are generally more affordable than Macs -- you get more bang for you buck, which you seem to be noticing here. I won't deny that Macs look pretty and the trackpads on their laptops are better, but otherwise, I don't think there's any reason to pay more for specs, unless you are looking for Mac-specific software and features. I think what you need to first think about is what you use your computer for. If it's run-of-the-mill email, watching YouTube, Word documents, web surfing, etc. then either choice is fine.

In this specific case, the processor on the PC has more cores and will be able to work faster, and it looks like the RAM may be an upgrade too. I would add, the nice thing about a desktop PC tower is that you can upgrade one component if you ever wanted to without needing to replace the entire machine. You might need to watch a YouTube video to learn how to do it, but let's say you decided to become a gamer and wanted a great graphics card -- it's as simple as opening the tower, pulling out the only one, and inserting the new one. Since you don't seem to know what the graphics card is on that machine, it may use integrated graphics from the motherboard. In that case, to upgrade, you'd simply add a graphics card to the machine.

One last consideration is whether you are familiar with Windows or like it. I have a Windows PC and a Mac laptop. I still don't like the Mac OS very much because I find certain quirks cumbersome and annoying, and I love Windows 7 and the amount of control I have. Using my Mac stresses me if I ever actually try to do any work on it, so I just use it for browsing and leave the serious tasks to my Windows 7 PC. I'd never be able to live with an all Mac setup. Just make sure you aren't the opposite of that.
posted by AppleTurnover at 8:31 PM on September 24, 2017

There's no doubt that you can improve on the hardware of an eight-year-old Mac with cheaper but more recent PC hadrware, but there are a couple of issues that seem to be left out of your question and which possibly change the 1/6th metric.

You are missing the monitor. The iMac is all-in-one, the Lenovo is a tower, so you will need a monitor. This might not be expensive, but needs to be figured into the calculation.

The other thing you have not mentioned is software. If you are only going to use browser based apps or freeware you're good to go (or if you only want new software/games you don't already own), but if you have commercial software you still need to use you will need to repurchase equivalents for the PC, wich again alters the cost matrix.

As noted above, the biggest speed boost you can give a computer apart from sufficient ram, is to replace a HDD with an SSD. That would be true for the Lenovo, but giving the iMac an SSD would almost certainly give it an enormous performance boost too.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 8:31 PM on September 24, 2017

If I'm understanding you correctly, you're saying that a brand new 2017 PC is as good as your 8 year old Mac.

I would certainly hope so.

Another way to look at it is that you could spend a bit more for a Mac today it may end up lasting longer than a cheaper PC. I have personally found this to be the case--things like cpu performance (and obsolescence) has not been an issue the way it used to be, whereas it's all the other features that tend to make something "usable" or not in the long term. For example, having things like a SSD, and lightning/USB3/HDMI ports and a retina screen, etc has made the experience of using my 2012 MacBook not very different from my 2016 MacBook.
posted by danny the boy at 8:57 PM on September 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

I switched from Mac to PC recently mostly for gaming. It's worked out OK but let me tell you, Windows sucks. Windows 7 is way worse than Windows 10; try to upgrade if you can. Also iMac hardware is not nearly as expensive as it first looks. By the time I bought a camera, speakers, a microphone, a screen, and an ethernet adapter that iMac didn't look so expensive.
posted by Nelson at 10:38 AM on September 25, 2017

I had an iMac as my work machine up until about a year ago, when the Powers That Be in IT decided they were done supporting Macs (at our facility only, thanks IT). They replaced it with a generic Dell Windows 7 box.

I have grudgingly adapted (and mind you I was Windows-only from 1995 to 2007, so it's not like I NEVER used it, but after 10 years on a Mac I have realized which OS fits me better!)

My impressions to date:
  1. The monitor SUCKS. It's the same physical dimensions but the screen is much lower resolution, lower pixel depth, the font handling/rendering is awful, and because of the difference in density I can't fit nearly as much on the screen at once when multitasking.
  2. ALL of my workflows needed to be changed. Shortcuts and etc. that are second nature to me on my Mac were useless. Typing special characters, folder navigation, window focus, multitasking, everything needed to change. For many things there is NO replacement.
  3. Explorer ain't the Finder. The "Recent Folders" link is some arcane collection of places I have been to once, or maybe never, but the folder I was JUST IN never shows up, so to save a file there it is an endless repeating string of navigating back to the folder path I use constantly yet Windows never saves where I was. Mouse pointer doesn't focus on windows as it does on a Mac - you have to physically click the window before you can scroll (and in Explorer you have to click the specific window PANE) - it won't automatically realize that the window under your pointer is the one you want, or allow you to interact with that window without selecting it (and therefore giving it focus and pulling it to the top of the stack!)
  4. File locking. Windows SUCKS at letting more than one process access a file at any given time. Rename a folder that contains an open file, you'll get an error and it won't work. Try to delete a folder and the file is "still open" (WHERE???), sorry, it won't work. I am CONSTANTLY having to shut down programs because some file or other is locked and I can't finish task A until the system decides task B is done.
  5. Do you do anything under the hood? Command prompt is a poor replacement for Terminal. Yes, you can install a bunch of languages but you can't just copy or paste (PowerShell apparently helps with this, but it still is not nearly as good).
  6. Are you factoring in cost of software? A lot of what you use daily (likely all of it) will need to be replaced or re-purchased, there are precious few cross-platform programs. Some programs have no direct replacement, so you'll need to find something that kind of sort of does the same thing - this site is helpful for that!
  7. The associated hardware. Ugh. The keyboard sucks (you could keep using your iMac keyboard, if you wanted - it'll be better). The box itself kinda sucks. Lots of people use old Macs, not that many people use old PCs, because they generally don't age well - they are cheaper partly for the aesthetics, but not TOTALLY so. If you build a Windows box that is as solidly made as a Mac, you won't be saving much. On the plus side the USB ports are on the front, so they ARE easier to find...
  8. Don't now about you but my pinky is my weakest finger (doesn't help that I had surgery on it to repair a tendon tear years ago). CMD is right under my thumb. CTRL is under my pinky. It HURTS to copy-paste-etc. all day now. I'm wondering if IT will bring back my Mac if I file a "reasonable accommodation" request...
  9. What's your backup solution? If you use TimeMachine, that will need to be replaced - and you will lose access to old files if you don't transfer them from Mac to PC - Macs will happily read (but not natively write to) NTFS formatted drives, PCs will NOT read from Mac-formatted (HFS) media. If you replace the Mac and then get rid of it, you're potentially losing access to data.
You CAN make the switch work, especially if you are not overly tied to any specific software and/or have a home ecosystem that isn't heavily Apple (I personally would miss the handoff between iOS and macOS, etc. that a one-company ecosystem makes possible at home). There will be an adjustment period, and it may or may not be easy. Little things like "why the hell doesn't the window scroll... oh yeah it's backwards on a PC" will annoy you for a long time.

There are some good things (Windows has the "throw window at edge of screen to snap to 1/2 screen view" thing that I quite like; You needn't be an admin to manage printers; a world of games is available; more accessory/peripheral hardware is Windows-only than is Mac-compatible). There are bad things (the above, the need for constant antivirus, the fun hunting for drivers for stuff, the difficulty in updating things because every single app has it's own update mechanism, etc.). Your call, hopefully some of the above helps you decide.
posted by caution live frogs at 12:00 PM on September 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you have some technical handiness and the time, you might try building a hackintosh. This is a PC built from a careful selection of modern parts that then runs MacOS quite well and quite quickly. I'm sort of a computer geek so this is what I have been doing.

The cautions are that not everything always works smoothly, though you can mitigate this by being careful of what components you pick; and that you have to wait a while each time a new release comes out to upgrade because it takes a bit for the people who work on the hackintosh software to get it updated to work with new systems.

That being said, I'm quite happy with mine.
posted by procrastination at 1:20 PM on September 25, 2017

If I'm understanding you correctly, you're saying that a brand new 2017 PC is as good as your 8 year old Mac. I would certainly hope so.

The PC is refurbished. E30s have been around since at least 2011.

Have you priced a secondhand Mac?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:56 PM on September 25, 2017

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