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New 27" IMac configuration

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Finally, Apple updated its iMacs a couple of days ago! Looking to upgrade my 2013 machine with a top of the line 27".

 

Any ideas/Recommendations as to rating the value of upgrading the following specs specifically for a Vectorworks 3D modeling/rendering workflow- what would give my the biggest bang for my buck?

-Processor Chip to the 3.6GHz 8 Core vs the standard  3.7GHz 6 Core-

-16 or 32GB RAM vs the standard 8GB-

-Graphics Card from the IMac Pro vs standard 580x

 

The full upgrade adds over a grand to the standard configuration. I tend to keep my machines about five years an don't mess with it after I buy it.

 

I always forget which parts of the machine's guts process 3D Rendering and complex modeling files where that upgrade makes the biggest difference.

 

Thanks!

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Vectorworks rendering is CPU based at the moment, so more cores are a better choice than a higher clockspeed for this, escpecially given the marginal difference in clockspeed between the two options I would suggest to go for the 8-core processor.

 

For general graphics operations it depends a bit, some stuff is still single core CPU and other stuff is done by the GPU. E.g. moving objects around is done by the VGM through the GPU but the initial processing of selecting objects to be moved and the initial geometry calculations etc. are still done by a single CPU core, though more and more will be shifted to the GPU. So for that a higher CPU clockspeed would be beneficial, but the difference is 0.1 GHz so virtually unnoticable in real world use so given the above regarding rending the preference would still be the 8-core processor.

 

It depends a bit on how heavy your models are  or how many programs you have open, but 16 GB of RAM should be considered a minimum nowadays. If you are creating relatively heavy documents or have multiple programs running at the same time when using Vectorworks then 32GB is preferred. It may be of some benefit for rendering purposes as well as it allows to keep as much as possible in memory instead of having to use swamp/temp files.

 

Regarding graphics cards... I don't know what is in the iMac Pro but you should have a look at not just the speed but also the bandwith and how much memory it has. Given that the VGM will offload more and more things to the GPU and if you want to attach a second monitor then choose the one with more memory (i.e. preferably 8GB) and if the amount of memory is the same then the one with the higher bandwith (i.e. data throughput) to keep things running smoothly in the future.

 

It is hard to predict future hardware requirements but given all the "heavy duty" stuff that is proclaimed to come in the near future I'd go for the more powerful hardware options if you can afford, especially if you don't think you will be upgrading hardware parts in the next 5 years. In your case the extra investment comes down to slightly less than 17 dollars a month. Of course you are paying it all upfront but only you can tell whether it is worth that investment in the long(er) run for the time it may save you because things run more smoothly or faster etc.

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Hey Art V

 

Thanks for all the useful information. I'm with ya that given my infrequent hardware upgrades I should probably go pretty much all in what I can afford.

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I'm going to upgrade here shortly to one of the new 27" iMacs. I'm thinking the top of the line with the 8 core i9 CPU, upgrade to the 512GB SSD storage, and stick with the Pro 580X graphics. I read in one of the mac forums that the Pro Vega 48 was only about 10-12% faster than the Pro 580X. They both have 8GB of memory, but they are different types of memory. I don't thnk that slight increase in speed is worth $450.

I'm also going to stick with the standard 8GB of memory because for $220 I can add 32 GB (2-16GB chips) for a total of 40GB. A tech from OWC said that the original 8GB will be inclusive with the new 32GB.

 

I do some fairly complex renderings, with lighting and shadows and all that good stuff, but now that I'm retired from the building business most of my design work the past 5 years has been furniture, but I still do the furniture in a room setting so the renderings can still get quite complex. I have the full suite of Arroway wood textures and I use displacement mapping and all that good stuff; all set to high or very high quality settings. Getting pretty close to photorealistic quality with Renderworks, but rendering times can be quite long. Most of my initial drawing is done on my old iMac, then check it with Open GL which is pretty quick on my iMac. Once I'm satisfied with colors and orientation, I'll create a viewport. If it's a fairly large file, I'll export it over to my MacBook Pro Retina to do the actual hi-rez rendering, which is a lot faster than the old iMac. Then I'll save it as a .png or .tiff.

 

The price from Apple according to the specs I gave would be $2829 with a numeric keyboard. My wife is a librarian so I think I can get the education discount. Got that discount when I purchased my MacBook. 

So my question for you guys, am I on the right track with the specs I gave in the first paragraph?

Edited by Borderdog

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I don't think you can go wrong with those hardware specs in general. One question and one comment though...

 

Question: Is the 512 GB SSD going to be your only disk in the iMac and is it a SATA or nvme SSD? If it is the only disk and of the SATA type then I suggest to go for at least a 1 TB SSD instead as those are often faster and usually have a higher endurance (i.e. you can write more data per GB of storage over its lifetime) than lower capacity SSD's. Especially with complex rendering there may be quite a bit of use of the disk cache and then you would benefit from a higher endurance SSD.

 

Comment: Regarding the memory, do make sure they have the same specification because with different sizes, types etc. because all of the memory will adjust to the slowest one. I don't know if it applies the same to OSX as it does on Windows machines but you may also want to consider adding another 8GB module in addition to the existing one so that you have all four banks filled symmetrically (i.e. 2x8GB into the two linked slots and 2x32GB in the other two linked slots) as that way it should take advantage of more optimal memory settings etc. that would then be available, otherwise it might run a bit less efficiently.  If you are working with very large and/or complex documents then I think that up to 64GB there is no such thing as too much RAM.

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Art V,

Thanks for replying. 

The read/write speeds (from Apple) of the 512GB SSD are the same as the 1TB SSD. I keep a really clean computer, so I think the 512 should be more than adequate for me.

I don't do any film editing or Photoshopping where I would need the extra headroom for disk cacheing, so for now, I think the 512 should be adequate. The 512 GB SSD is still a money upgrade from the base storage which is a 2TB Fusion drive and  which has only 128GB of SSD storage. At a later date I can always add an external SSD drive via Thunderbolt 3, which is very fast.

For instance, I have over 2 TB of music, none of which is on my computer, but on an external drive which is hooked to my router. I can transfer all my digital photos to an external, which also lowers my need for in-computer storage. 

 

The memory from OWC or from Crucial are the same specs as Apple's; 2666MHz DDR4. ( I did talk to an OWC tech).

Apple's memory cost upgrades:

16GB- $200

32GB- $600

64GB- $1000

 

So for about $220, I can do two 16GB modules and get 40GB total.

At a later date, for another $220 I can add two more 16GB modules for a total of 64GB

So it's $440 vs. $1000.

 

The one nice thing about the standard iMacs vs. the iMac Pro is the ease of memory upgrading. The iMac Pro is quite complex to upgrade the memory because it doesn't have the memory access trap door like the standard iMac. The internals of the iMac Pro are in different locations than the standard (I believe it has something to do with the cooling).

 

Anyways, I hope our conversation can also help others who are in the upgrade cycle. 

Thanks

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I'm not a mac expert, but when I built my PC I found that 2x 256GB SSD's was marginally cheaper. I put them together to make a raid0 512GB SSD, and wow, it's super quick.

Not often you can save money and get a performance boost, but worth while looking into

 

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Hi RussU,

 

Sadly, you can't do that on the iMacs. They only have one slot for storage. But then that's where the super fast Thunderbolt 3 ports come into play, so you can add another SSD as a peripheral and not lose too much speed.

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On 4/18/2019 at 4:39 AM, Borderdog said:

Art V,

Thanks for replying. 

The read/write speeds (from Apple) of the 512GB SSD are the same as the 1TB SSD. I keep a really clean computer, so I think the 512 should be more than adequate for me.

I don't do any film editing or Photoshopping where I would need the extra headroom for disk cacheing, so for now, I think the 512 should be adequate. The 512 GB SSD is still a money upgrade from the base storage which is a 2TB Fusion drive and  which has only 128GB of SSD storage. At a later date I can always add an external SSD drive via Thunderbolt 3, which is very fast.

For instance, I have over 2 TB of music, none of which is on my computer, but on an external drive which is hooked to my router. I can transfer all my digital photos to an external, which also lowers my need for in-computer storage. 

 

The memory from OWC or from Crucial are the same specs as Apple's; 2666MHz DDR4. ( I did talk to an OWC tech).

Apple's memory cost upgrades:

16GB- $200

32GB- $600

64GB- $1000

 

So for about $220, I can do two 16GB modules and get 40GB total.

At a later date, for another $220 I can add two more 16GB modules for a total of 64GB

So it's $440 vs. $1000.

 

The one nice thing about the standard iMacs vs. the iMac Pro is the ease of memory upgrading. The iMac Pro is quite complex to upgrade the memory because it doesn't have the memory access trap door like the standard iMac. The internals of the iMac Pro are in different locations than the standard (I believe it has something to do with the cooling).

 

Anyways, I hope our conversation can also help others who are in the upgrade cycle. 

Thanks

Yeah I’ve been watching some of the reviews and it is pretty much unanimous to go with the standard 8GB and upgrade with a couple of much cheaper chips (but still quality) from another source.  Good info on the graphics card too. It also looks like it is well worth it to go with the SSD over the standard Fusion Drive, whether you choose the 512 or 1 TB

 

There is more than a little noise that this almost stealthy update of the existing shell and design of the IMac portends a more complete new design within the year but I don’t know if it is worth it to wait it out from just those rumors and noise. It doesn’t seem that Apple is investing that much in their desktops any longer. 

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