October 2012 re-freshes. Which to buy?
I was ready to upgrade my iMac December 2011 but I told myself to wait until new iMac models would come out. I waited a while. That's fine, sometimes new models take over a year. It's expected. But then something happened. The iMac family changed in October 2012. The 21.5" models now have 5400 RPM hard drives, which is what laptops have. Why? But if this is a problem (says apple) then upgrade to the FUSION HARD DRIVE. OK, this is a great new option but if I want to buy the chepaest iMac, which is now $100 more expensive than models past, I need to upgrade to a higher iMac category just to be given the option to upgrade to the fusion drive!
Original entry iMac price = $1,200
New entry iMac price = $1,300
Want a laptop hard drive in here? Something that makes anything but internet and MS-Word lagging? Spend an extra $200 to get a better model iMac, then pay $250 for the Fusion HD. That's right, pay $450 just so you can use your iMAc without being pissed off all the time.
Oh, and one more thing. It gets better. You know the biggest rip-off when buying a mac...how they overcharge you for RAM? $300 upgrade from apple or a $60-$90 upgrade from amazon or crucial and bamn, same exact thing. Thing is, with the new 21.5 iMacs, you no longer have the option to insert these self-bought chips yourself. While the unit comes with 8GB RAM, which is great, if you want to upgrade, only apple has the power to do this for you (the chip covers are sealed shut), which means coughing up the $200 to $300 for apple to pop in the chips instead of paying significantly less and do it yourself.
So let's say you want the cheapest iMac (but want it to work) and dont want to deal with a RAM upgrade in a year or so, here is the cost:
iMac = $1,300
iMac upgrade = $200
Fusion Upgrade = $250
RAM upgrade = $300
applecare = $180
Taxes = $150
TOTAL COST = $2,380
That's a LOT of money for what I consider to be an ENTRY level iMac! Ideally the fusion drive would be an option for all models. That and all models have a normal 7200 RPM hard drive. That and you can still deal with the ram yourself. In that case, you would be able to buy a new machine for $1,300 + taxes & applecare, which is a great price. In fact, that's what makes the iMac Great! (or from now on, that's WHAT USED to make the iMac great).
Last comment: these issues with the 21.5" model - all go away if you buy the 27" model. Ram is user accessible. 7200RPM HD is there. That and the fusion HD option is readily available. So you can buy the cheapest 27" model for $1,800 and be all set! Problem is, $1,800 is still a lot of money (plus taxes and applecare), and furthermore, lots of people dont want a 27" screen. I know I dont. I love my 24" screen and if I wanted anything bigger, I'd want TWO 24" screen not one massive one.
So while I waited and waited for the new iMacs to be availble to purchase (they were "released" and then have yet to be available to purchase as of NOV 19, 2012). So for the last month, apple will not sell you a new iMac computer, new or older model. Crazy! So crazy it's funny! (especially that it's black friday this week).
At first this angrered me beyond belief. I wanted to upgrade and not only were there no iMacs to buy but I had to decide what mess of a system to purchase: overpay for upgrading the 21.5" model or pay beyond my comfort zone (rightfully so) for the awesome 27" model and settle with a massive screen I dont want. Urgh.
It took some time before I looked at the Mac Mini. I never paid attention to it because when it first came out in 2005 it was pretty minimal. But the newly refreshed models are pretty amazingly fast, nearly double in speed than the previous model. If you upgrade the Mini options, it's not that far behind the iMac. Yes, the 5400 RPM HD is not ideal but the fusion upgrade makes up for it. When it comes down to it, the only problem with the Mac Mini is the graphics/video card. Since I dont play games on the Mac (which is laughable as is because of the limited selection) it doesn't bother me. Yes, I will use this to edit video, and while a more powerful video card is ideal, this new Intel chip will work fine, especially since I am upgrading all options (2,6 GHz quad core + 16GB ram).
I upgraded a lot of options on my Mini: 16GB RAM (only $85 on amazon); 2.6 GHz i7 CPU, and a Fusion Drive. All this for roughly $1,200. Of course all I have here is a computer. No mouse, keyboard, speakers, monitor, etc. No problem! Anytime I can buy 3rd party accessories I am a happy guy. Especially when they can be purchased from amazon (cheaper than apple) and use my Amazon visa card and earn more cash rewards - bonus! So a wireless logictech keyboard, RAM, applecare, the monitor, and speakers were all bought from amazon. Not only do I get a price and credit card deal, but apple loses the sale. Not only that, but I purchased my Mac Mini from Mac Mall because they shipped the same day instead of the 5-7 business days apple projected.
Am I happy I bought the Mac Mini? YES. It's an amazing machine and while it could be a little faster, it's amazing and not far behind what the iMacs will be (if they ever come out). Considering I saved myself $500 to $1,000 compared to an iMac, I am very happy considering I will still have a 24" screen. Yes, iMacs will always be faster than a Mac Mini, no doubt. When it comes down to it, I can't justify paying all that extra money, overpaying for some add-ons, especially when I'd get stuck with a screen I really dont want (either the 21.5 or 27).
In the end, the iMac is now bigger and better! Problem is, they tried to make it more appealing by making it THINNER. considering it's a desktop that sits at your computer, with it's thickness never in view, it's a comedic change to cause the 21.5" models to get lesser hard drives and still cost $100 more (nevermind the RAM problem).
What should you do? If you need a faster machine, an iMac is definately faster hands down but consider if it's worth the extra cost for upgrade. Unless you want to go all out and buy the best 27" with all upgrades, which will run you close to $3,000 after taxes and applecare, buying a Mac Mini with all upgrades is a great deal and a great price, something the iMac can no longer say. For my awesome Mac Mini system: computer, applecare, taxes, and all accessories, I ended up paying $1,900. An amazing system and a great buy.