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Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Comments

is there a name for people who've been using Macs since the very beginning? No sarcastic answers, now

Awwwww.

Well, okay. If you insist.

People have been asking for this for ages, it even has a name: xMac. I've been one of those in the past, but I have to ask, what's too small about the Mini? With a fast hard drive and enough RAM, it's a pretty competent machine.

What about buying a Mac laptop, and using it with an external monitor (+keyboard+mouse+tablet) when in your office? This way you also get the functionality of a laptop when on the road.

Perhaps screens are like VR in lenses-- Apple makes more money selling them to you over and over again?

More likely is that Apple thinks the market for the computer you want is small, and it saves them money streamlining their product lines as much as possible.

Here's a suggestion: purchase a MacBook Pro, hook it up to your monitor, keyboard and mouse. You could use it as a desktop most of the time but this gives you the option of taking it elsewhere on occasion.

Or, you could just buy a PC.

Why do you say the Mac Mini is too small? Lack of expansion capabilities?

Well, at least with the current 27" models you'd be able to use it as a second monitor down the road. It's also a nice IPS type panel so it would still be great to have as a dual monitor setup.

Come to think of it, why not maybe a laptop as a better bet for your goldilocks box?

At least they talk about how recyclable their machines are.

What about a hackintosh???

Take a closer look at the Mac Mini, it's a surprisingly capable machine, and with an external hard drive, would likely suffice for most of what you'd ever want to do with it.

You could make yourself a Hackintosh using any appropriate PC - see http://www.hackintosh.com . I see Apple is now making standalone 27" monitors, as well as 24" and 30" models.

If the screen on your iMac is still working, you could also recycle your old iMac into a TV or DVD monitor elsewhere in your house where you have some more room (or recycle it to charity). You'd probably need to get a DVI converter cable, but certainly possible.

...or buy a MacBook and let it live, semi-permanently, on your desk, connected to your monitor of choice. Obviously, it still has an in-built monitor but you don't need to use it if you don't want to plus you get all the obvious advantages of a laptop.

Well, it suits me, anyway.... :o)

Mike It's called a Mac Mini. You may laugh but it's not as bad as you think. David Brooks swears by them, iMacs have a bad reputation for uncontrollable screen brightness. You could buck up and buy a Quad Core Mac Pro. There is a refirb on the Apple site for $2100. that's $500 more than the 27" imac but allows much more expandability and you can add 3 more drives inboard. The go shopping for for your Ezio or Lacie and tell the kids that there will be a year between high school and college.

Mike,

forgot to add this if you fancy the Hackintosh route: it appears to be simpler now than it used to be.

http://lifehacker.com/5360150/install-snow-leopard-on-your-hackintosh-pc-no-hacking-required

Another issue that I have with Apple is the way that it obsoletes perfectly good equipment because it does not make it backwards compatible with what you currently have. It is plainly a marketing technique, and it is really annoying.

For example, current stand alone Apple monitors only have DisplayPort connectors, and you can't plug in ANY older equipment that does not have a Displayport output. So if you have an older laptop or mini or whatever, you can't hook it up to a new Apple monitor. There are no xxx-to-Displayport adapters. There are Displayport-to-xxx adapters, but that solves nothing. Your older equipment is effectively obsolete since you can't connect it to a new Apple monitor. The solution is to get a Dell monitor (same quality at half the price), but Apple fanatics loathe 'polluting' the purity of their equipment. So you need to buy a new computer in order to use a new monitor. $$$Kaching$$$

If it were not for the slow laptop drive in the mini, it would be the recommended upgrade path. The towers are ridiculously overpowered and waaaay overpriced.

I'm also an original Mac user. I've had eight (I think) since 1985.

I had the same issue re size. I bought a mac mini in 2006 because I didn't want to have to replace the monitor when I upgraded, but I found it a little slow for my needs. When I upgraded earlier this year, I was caught between the too small mini or the too big pro, so I ended up buying an imac. For the purposes of future upgrades, it's a little annoying that the monitor is built in, but I have to admit, having a single, elegant component on my desk is pretty nice. And the monitor itself has a fantastic picture.

Mike,

Does your existing iMac have an second display input port? If so, you could consider a Macbook Pro as your new computer, using the iMac as a second monitor. You get more real estate (the palettes go on the laptop screen, the image on the iMac screen), while keeping the actual footprint small. Plus the laptop can actually travel.

You can probably even do the same with a regular Macbook. But only if your horsepower requirements fit those.

Joel

As an Apple user and shareholder, I have to say ... you're absolutely right; Apple doesn't make the product which would most closely fit your needs.

“David Brooks swears by them, iMacs have a bad reputation for uncontrollable screen brightness.”

There is now fine control in System Prefs.

In my recent upgrade I decided to go with a MacPro: a refurb. A very good price and a great machine.

What exactly do you need the Mac for? A Mini is as powerful as a MacBook Pro 13", and of course can run a great editing monitor.

Thats why they invented the PC, for just this type of Freedom Of Choice =)

As I read this on my 24 inch Eizo and super powerful pc that has plenty of room around it. I'm not filled with self satisfaction. I'm not laughing maniacally as I spin round on my chair without hitting anything. The feeling I have is guilt; Guilt that I'm surfing the web on a super powerful pc and an Eizo monitor that I still haven't finished paying for.

Does anybody know how to turn the Internet off?

Mike, seriously? If the MacPro is too much Mac for you then you probably are not looking to get the fastest, nasties Photoshop rig possible, but a good solid fast machine that doesn't take up too much room and has an external monitor. The Mac Mini is the ticket: up to 8gb of ram, swap out the drive for a big monster SATA drive or a SSD in the Mini, place the original in an external box, you can even do dual monitors with the display port and and HDMI>DVI adaptor. Make it exactly what you want and its a teeny little box. The mini rocks! On the other hand, I am seriously in love with my iMac 27" - just saying.

As an owner who upgraded to both a 15"
Macbook Pro and a 27 inch iMac, based on screen size alone,the MacBook Pro is much preferred.
Unless i am doing photo or manuscript editing the 27 inch iMac is over kill.

And Apple no longer manufactures a 30 inch monitor!

My Apple based friends use a Mac mini and purchase monitors from other suppliers.

"Does anybody know how to turn the Internet off?"

No!!

Mike

Mike, I had a macbook pro 15" which for me was too big to lug around and did not have a decent screen for editing photos. Switched to a memory-maxed-out mini with an inexpensive Dell IPS monitor. Everything improved significantly for little $ outlay. Bought a netbook for travel (my wife needed a WinTel) but may pick up an iPad someday. Works for me!

I'm curious what exactly is wrong with your current machine. You can upgrade its components if needed, instructions and parts can be found online.

Recently I transitioned from iMac 24" to MBP 15" + external monitor, wireless keyboard and trackpad. Works great and is portable when needed. You can remove the SuperDrive and install a second HD in the MBP if that's useful.

You can certainly reduce the financial pain of a new machine by wiping and selling the existing machine, or turn it in for recycling/gift card to Apple-yes they will give you 'blue book' value on a used computer!

Don't despair! there are good solutions out there!

24 yr of Mac use? That's called an 'Early Adopter'

Anyway, do take a look at the Mini. They have been surprisingly capable computers ever since they received Intel processors.

Well Mr Jobs probably reckons the 'lower' end Macs as being consumable items, hence when you get a new one you throw away the old one! The new screen should be better than the older version though with better technology. Bit like a modern dslr :-). I normally give my PC a partial refresh every 6 months or so, last upgrade was a couple of SSDs and a couple of 1TB hard drives, come Christmas I'll throw in a new motherboard, cpu and memory and cycle goes on, come June I'll get a couple of newer graphics cards.
Fair play to you for keeping with Macs for almost 30 years though.

I have had the intention to switch from PC to Mac for several years, but the situation you describe is precisely what has stopped me. I now use a 30" Cinema display hooked to a PC.

You are found guilty of committing thought-crimes. Your sentence is 25 years of probation.

Your thinking is simply wrong. You must change your mindset to agree with what Apple wants you to think.

One thing that I think is really neat is not throwing away my monitor OR my computer - at least not with any frequency. As a PC user I can replace my harddrive if it's too small, or my RAM if it's too few (too few in gigabytes? too little in capacity?), my video card if it's GPU or RAM are inadequate, or my CPU if it's too slow. There are limitations, such as the bus speed on the motherboard, that occasionally necessitate replacing multiple parts at once. But I seldom feel a need to chuck it all and buy new.

Of course, this could be a disadvantage, too if you're the sort who wants an excuse to chuck it all and buy new. ;-)

But modular is cool. I'm just sayin'.

Another vote for the MacBook Pro/ external display/drives route, although the 27in iMac display are purty. Being able to drag your machine anywhere, even if it's just down to the darkroom or the back porch, is a nice, nice thing.

I dunno... I've been working on a 23" Apple HDCD and a 15" macbook pro laptop for years. But the i7 Imac I just got a month or so ago is a whole new world. After a couple of days adjusting the iMac's massive screen it normalized for me and now I love it (and using the 23" as my secondary display).

Ha! Apple does NOT obsolete perfectly good computers - have you compared the resale value of Macs vs Dells, etc? I upgrade my Mac every year, and lose only about 10-15% of the purchase price. If I bought a new Dell every year, I'd lose about 30-35% of the purchase price.

A 17" MacBook Pro is perfect for photographers - lots of screen real estate while on the road (or at the kitchen table), and lots of power to run 1-2 huge external monitors.

Sell your "old" iMac and buy what you want. The screens on them are much cheaper than an external one of the same size, so you're not buying a whole new expensive monitor if you get another iMac. You'd get another great monitor at a big discount. (Compare the cost of getting a Mac Pro and a 27" monitor with getting a high power 27" iMac and you'll see what I mean.)

Have fun shopping!
Paul

I think Apples hardware is way over-rated. Last year I had to spend $600 to have my three year old 24" cinema disply repaired. A month ago our 15" Powerbook went out, the apple store wouldn't even look at it ( Anything more than five years old is obsolete.. their words) and it cost nearly $300 to have it fixed... a problem with the inverter board. I've got cheap Dell laptops still chugging away that are ten years old ( not to say they aren't problems at times)
I have always viewed Apple as top of the line, something that would last... but its not my experience lately.
Jim
and ps we got the laptop fixed only because thats what our daughter uses in elementary school.

Most of anything serious I do these days is on a unibody MacBook (13") hooked to an external 22" widescreen. This involves (apart from the usual web-mail-office stuff) some very light GIS work and editing photos in Lightroom. Seriously, I think this is my sweet spot at the moment. I've found that I don't need that much raw power or endless amounts of screen real estate.

There's a limit of how many things you can look at once and keep your concentration. This is especially evident when working with detailed maps. On very large screens you are going to end up with vertigo before the day ends or find yourself working with small windows in the middle of an empty screen. IMHO, the huge screen thing is rather pointless for anything but video work. I haven't used the new 27" iMac, but it seems very nearly an overkill.

Personally, given my needs at this point and the power available in modern laptops (mine's 2 years old, not modern at all), I can't see why I would want a desktop computer as my main/only machine. For working on drum scans of 4x5, maybe... But why would I want to end up doing _that_? :D

Good luck with the upgrade!

Yes, many of us struggle with the same thing. At the moment, I have an external monitor and external drives connected to my MacBook Pro ... but the MBPro is rather limited (for me) with its sole FW800 and 2 USB slots ... I've got wires all over and am constantly unplugging something to plug something in ... thankfully my new monitor has some USB ports ... re: the iMac, I've always worried that if the monitor goes down I'm out of luck (and, yes, you can add an external monitor to the iMac) ... I'm currently using a 27-inch monitor (NEC Spectraview) and love it b/c it's almost -- not quite, but almost -- like having dual monitors ... I'll likely go with a refurbished or older model Mac Pro. While I would prefer something with more expandability than the iMac, what's frustrating is that it wouldn't take much more expandability to make me happy: a headless desktop that can hold two hard drives, 2 FW800, 1 eSata port, 4 USB ports ... In the NYC subway system they tell you to "mind the gap"; I just want Apple to "fill the gap," but it's not going to happen.

Well, honestly as an IT guy I would never ever buy a Mac for standalone box computer (or any other overpriced branded box). Why ? Well, there are many reasons for this. First, such solution is generally more expensive and you are constrained to what marketing people invent (but, I think you know this already). There is so much gear to choose from nowadays ... There is however a price to pay - for one thing, you need to know how to put all parts together (this however can be done once by a professional). And you would probably be constrained to Windows or Linux as a operating system. This may or may not be a big deal for you. Both systems are perfectly stable nowadays (really, provided that you don't install some really crappy software).

Mike, as a technophobe (Mac user) you've done very well with the transition to digital imaging so why not bite the bullet and move to using a PC.
Windows 7 is pretty enough and simple enough to use.
I'd love to recommend Ubuntu but lack of software, scanner and printer support means it's still not suitable for photographers.

Similar message to iPhone users - leave Apple, get Android and find freedom!

On second thought, no XServe for you! Too loud.

"So why do I have to toss my monitor every time I want to upgrade my computer? Because Apple doesn't make the box I need."

I'm not schizophrenic, I AM!

Seriously Mike, it sounds as if you have every intention, if I read you correctly, of buying another Apple. If so, that Kool-Aid sure is scary stuff ;-).

I got the i7 27" monitor to replace my G5 + 17" monitor from days yore. The combination lasted about 8 years. That's a long time in computer dog years. Apart from the obvious here's what I noticed about my last monitor vs my new one.

WOW my 17" was at the end of it's life. More like a zombie I had been keeping undead because I was too sad to let it go. I never noticed this of course, until the two were sitting next to each other.

So if I get 5 years out of my i7 iMac, that's about the life of my display anyway. Assuming I can recycle the computer once I put it down, I'll be perfectly happy replacing my entire set up. It's actually quite perfect for photography if you ask me.

I secretly think Jobs makes products with photographers specifically in mind, and then for some reason doesn't tell anybody. iPads, giant screen computers, Aperture 3 (the underdog next to LR, but a great program on it's own).

Apple doesn't do everything well, but they seem to always to what I want to do very well. So I'm happy. :-)

"is there a name for people who've been using Macs since the very beginning?" - smart.

Really, the mac mini is a good bet, the guts are not much different from the imac or an mac book pro, what greg suggested is a good idea. Add a drobo for mass storage that is also backed up, leave the internal drive alone, and you're off to the races. Lot's of nice monitors to choose from out there in retail land.

buy a pc

macs are just not what they used to be.over priced under performing buggy devices with a crappy software
they make good gadgets like phones but not so more on the computer part
with a pc you have freedom of choice and endless configurations.you can even run leopard on some

As a long-time DOS-then-Windows user, I've only started taking Apple seriously (maybe that's because Windows used to be ok, but is increasingly frustrating). There's a certain appeal to a computer-as-a-commodity, a box that you plug in and it works, even if that requires limiting what you can plug into it.

But I want something more customized than I can get with the Mini or iMac and the entry price for a sufficiently customizable Mac is $2300 for the low end MacPro (which admittedly, is overkill). Thanks, but no thanks. I can get what I need in a Windows box for less than half that. (And don't need to buy a new monitor).

Actually, I was surprised to see that Dell & HP don't allow nearly the customization that they did last time I bought a computer, and I'll likely end up building my own or paying a slight premium to have one built by Maingear or a similar "boutique" vendor.

For what it's worth, I bought a Mac Mini last year (opted for the faster processor and I upgraded the RAM to 4GB myself). It's been just fine. The newer ones are even better, with faster processors, bigger HDs, and better graphics.

In my case, I work from an external HD for my photos (all my data files in fact; the mini's HD is for the OS and system files only). You can connect it with Firewire 800, which is super fast. However, the new Mini has the option of 2 x 500GB 7200 RPM hard drives, so an external isn't even necessary, except for back-ups.

Seriously, take another look at the new Mini. It's pretty amazing what they've managed to cram into such a small space. I have a 24" Dell UltraSharp (U2410) attached, and it looks great!

I'm a big believer in component systems, insead of all-in-one units. I feel like I'm covered; if anything breaks down, I only lose that one thing, not the whole system.

Unless you are planning on running fast fourier transforms on gigabyte sized files or playing some fancy interactive games, the Mac Mini is plenty fast enough. I use one at work in my Windows environment, and it runs circles around my crippled-by-antivirus-programs Winboxes. Greg's suggestion to get the 8GB RAM version, cram a nice SSD from Macsales.com in it is a good one. You will have a smoking fast machine.

I use one of the dual-disk versions of the mac mini with Snow Leopard Server at home to manage my network for the family. Very capable, although a little tricky to set up. ( http://www.clayharmon.com/techne/ for the gory details)

Another very good option is one of the Mac Pro notebooks combined with an external monitor and keyboard for use at home.

Hi, Mike!

I actually design publishing systems for a living so dag-nab-it your question started-up the machine. %^)

You’re quite right, Apple does need a monitor-less mid-range machine but there is a non-greedy reason behind their design. That is, most people keep machines longer than before and flat-panel displays do eventually wear out. If your display is older than 4 or 5 years it is very definitely dimmer and very definitely difficult to keep calibrated (unless you sprang for an Eizo, of course). So, for example, if you were to buy an Imac now and use it for 5 years it is entirely reasonable to think you’ll need a new monitor by that time, too, particularly if you dabble around with photography. . . .

I would suggest the lesser of the 27” Imacs. It’s faster than the towers of a few years ago. 27” does seem huge (nearly every time I walk into my office I say, “Holy Smokes!”) but the first time you sit there with TWO full pages showing on screen along with palettes and the like, you’re sold.

The one reservation I have about the current Imacs is their glossy screen. Some designers love it because the blacks are so much better while others absolutely detest the reflections. I prefer the wider range, myself.

If you are doing huge amounts of photo manipulation I would consider a refurbed tower but if you aren’t,
the second choice would be a Mini with a faster hard drive. The Mini is faster than your current machine for sure and it requires *vastly* less power than a tower (10W stand-by versus several hundred). Be sure to up the RAM though.

Dave

Devil's advocate here, suggesting a solution aimed between the horns of this dilemma. Do you REALLY need to upgrade? Another solution to the endless cycle of consumption and its attendant waste, is to be content with whatcha got. Your old computer is as fast and as capable as the day you got it. Are there NEW things you need to do that are beyond its capabilities, or are you just jonesing for the speed of current models?

This logic keeps my G4 Cube (w. external HD's, upgraded processor and video, true) on my desk to this day. Full disclosure: I have started editing photos on my much faster gaming PC, but that was already in the stable. So my point remains, functional solutions abound that obviate the need to retire equipment if we are conservative about our needs and are flexible.

Another strategy is the classic, think different (sic). Can your new functional needs be met with a new category of equipment that complements your current stock? For instance, my Cube is starting to choke on modern video codecs. Rather than replace it with a Mini, I'm considering supplementing it with an iPad or an AppleTV!

Three Macs in 18 years. Four if you count my Newton ;-) Live lightly and resist the pull of the new. I will not discuss the number of cameras I own.
--Jeff

I'm with you on this one, Mike. I've got a very nice 20" LCD screen sitting unused in the corner because it's attached to an ancient iMac whose power switch is broken. For shame.

The yawning gap between the Mini and Pro is not by accident. Somewhere in Cupertino, a product marketing team is getting a bonus based on their ability to regularly take money from my checking account.

I was in the same boat as you about a year ago. I had a 15" MBP with 24" external monitor... but wanted faster, better, bigger... ;-)

I purchased the 27" iMac-i5 when they came out. The system is FASTER, and BIGGER... but better?

For me, the 27" at it's default resolution was/is difficult to read. The text is way too small, and if you were bi-focals like I do... then it becomes impossible. I guess that's the story with any "big" high resolution monitor. I tend to use my second monitor which is a 20" in portrait mode, as a default web browsing monitor.

The iMacs have another major short coming; they don't support fast external drives (no SATA or usb3 ports).

If I had to do it all over again, I would buy the fastest (older) MBP which has an ExpressCard port for external SATA drives. Max out the memory, and get solid state internal drive, and big SATA external drives. It will be faster than any stock iMac.

If you decide to get an iMac, look this up:
http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/turnkey/iMac_2010_27/

Then again my current system is;
- 2009 iMac 27" i5, with external 20" monitor
- 2010 13" MBP (love the 10 hr battery)
- iPad

Hello Mike,

In case you want to compare CPU computing power:

http://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu_list.php

I had much the same problem with my last upgrade decision, although another drawback to the iMac for me was the mirror-like glossy monitor finish as the only option.

I ended up biting the bullet and getting the cheapest Mac Pro (a single-processor quad-core at the time) from the refurb store. True, it's huge, but for me the expandability is a big plus. My previous desktop machine was a G4 tower that had had almost every internal component upgraded, including the processor. It lasted me eight years - far longer than an iMac purchased at the same time would have.

And then as a plus, I get to choose my monitor (in my case a great 24" NEC Multisync IPS LCD monitor with a matte finish which will be with me a long time).

It's certainly a mystery why Apple doesn't introduce a machine to fill this gap.

I found myself with a similar delimma. Look at a MacBook or MacBook pro. Yes, they're laptops but work very well hooked up to external monitors and keyboard mice. I've used my MacBook pro this way for the last 4 years and I won't go back.

Get a top-end Apple laptop and a good flat-screen monitor. You can edit articles at the coffee shop or botanical gardens, or plug-in at home.

I had the exact same thought, that I would not want to throw away the screen after the mac has gone obsolete and bloated. I went the mac pro route, pay an outrageous price. A very bulky machine indeed, but the nice thing is that you can stuff it with hard drives (I have 5), get to play with RAID configs, and be sure your data is indeed backed up and safe.

Get the 30" Apple monitor with a non glossy screen while they are still available. My
30"works perfectly with the MacBook Pro 15.

One word: Hackintosh.

I'm onboard the Mini train too. I upgraded from my old G5 tower and have a LaCie 2Big external hard drive. It's plenty fast enough to run Photoshop, Final Cut Pro etc. etc. etc.
The older Minis were too slow but the last two generations are plenty fast enough, and with HDMI out now available you have more monitor options.
I too used to hanker after a mid-level machine with more expansion capability like user-swappable hard drives and RAM and a plethora of connection, but I find I realistically don't need those features.
The only thing I miss is a direct Firewire 400 port but I'm daisy-chaining through my LaCie and that works fine.

Mike

What do you have now, and what specification do you want? Or need?
What do you want to do with it?

My second system is a MacBook Pro i5 2.4GHz with HD matte screen option, 8GB and 120GB SSD connected to a NEC PA271W. It won't be as fast as an iMac, but more than adequate for the smallish files that DSLRs produce. The NEC is also self-calibrating. Photoshop panels go on the MacBook Pro screen, the large screen is reserved for images (I never mix interface elements with image display). Add an external Firewire 800 drive for file storage and a Wacom Intuos 4 and you're all set.

Iphone+MacBook pro+iPad.

Sweet!

Could you actually give up Apple service?

.

Mike, go to lifehacker and learn how to easily build a "hackintosh." I built one a few months back, and it worked great. You can choose any size case you want, and it'll be surprisingly cheap. I built my quad core for well under a grand.

I know the feeling. I stick with PC's so that I can keep using my nice monitor from computer to computer.

No reason to fret about this issue... even if, like me, you've inculcated proper midwestern values that emphasize utility and thrift. Don't worry about your old monitor. Off it goes to the pre-owned market, where it will delight some other applista for years, and fetch you a good price, too. When you someday step up to the next iMac model, your trade-in will be worth more -- probably much more -- because it includes a big, shining 27-inch screen. It's been my experience that bargain-hunters prefer one-piece designs; my eMac was the only one of five macs that could bring more than half of the new price, five years later.

I faced this question this summer. I thought I needed a new computer as beefy as my old power mac, and I wanted to avoid "wasting" my old monitor (a CRT). So I bought a used mac pro and sold my old box. That was my second mistake. The new computer started showing buggy behavior, so I drove it back to the store, 60 miles distant. They wanted to keep it for a night, then a few days, waiting for parts. Meanwhile, I needed to process several jobs each day and I had no other computer to use. It was an easy choice to swap for a new iMac 27, right then and there, no bugs included.

So you're right- apple has a gaping hole in the middle of its product line. But that may not matter so much, because the iMac is so capable nowadays. Anyway, I'm certainly glad Steve Jobs made me buy a big screen...

Try:

http://turnofftheinternet.com

More seriously, there is a program (for the Mac) that disables your internet connection for a specified period of time, and the only way to turn it back on is via a reboot. Ah, found it. Its called freedom.

http://macfreedom.com/

And back on topic, I'm going MBP + monitor. Gives me dual head when needed, and portability. Otherwise I'd hackintosh.


Bite the bullet, Mac Tower w/ eight cores, minimum hard disk, minimum memory, good video card. Then buy memory (Other World Computing just south of you in Illinois) WD Black disks from a reputable supplier and your set for five to six years. Mine has been running for four years without a hitch and it is a refurb from Apple, the first dual processor Intel machine they made.

I am not an Apple fan boy, just an old guy who put two kids through college with side businesses based on Win machines starting with a Compaq knockoff suitcase machine from now defunct Corona Computers in California. Bought this just to see what my son was talking about. Now a dual boot machine 95% of the time in Win 7. But it is the sturdiest machine I have every owned.
Not one hard ware problem.

Al Anderson
Grayslake, Il

"iMacs have a bad reputation for uncontrollable screen brightness."

Rubbish.

I'm sitting here looking at a 27" iMac. Huge range of brightness control, from extremely dim (in day room light) to glaringly bright (in same). And it's stable-- brightness doesn't fluctuate.

pax / Ctein

I agree it is too big. My plastic fantastic wind tunnel Mac Pro just fit in my new cabinet at the time I bought it. The new one will not. I am not about to go out and find a new piece of furniture even to accommodate Steve.

What I learned:
My upgrades of the MacPro along the way did not really do very much.
I neglected to upgrade my monitor because it was always "the best" even when it was outmoded.
I got more room in my cabinet and everything fits inside except the large format printer.
I screw around less with computer hardware.

I am really fed up Mac mystique, its lowly tricks to make your life uncomfortable if you do not upgrade regularly your computer, its steep prices, etc

I work from a Toshiba laptop with a keyboard and external monitor, and I am pretty satisfied with the arrangement.
In the office we use PCs and Macs, been trough the first Mac, Powermac, PowerPc, 9600, the G4... now the G5 (in fact we still have the last three running) but recently we are doing most of our editing work with a humble MacBook, an old machine that holds remarkably well, and is the only Mac who hasn't let us down big way in the middle of a job. That's video editing, for longform videos of up to 60 mins. The editor prefers it over the Quad G5 we have. Says it's faster and more reliable.

So I suggest you do as other commenters have already suggested and go the laptop route.

Someone recently posted and article showing that buying a MacPro will save you money over a few years for the reasons you state. Doesn't solve the space problem.

BTW i'm on my second iMac after several towers and an SE/30 before that. The Macintosh IIcx still sitting in a corner wasn't a bad size compared to the towers. And it has a floppy drive ;)

Agree that a small tower with room for a couple of drives would be nice. Maybe I'll look at the Mini next round though. That's a couple of years off. The iMac is only a generation or two old.

I have to join the growing chorus of people singing the praises of the Mac Mini... If you don't need PCI cards or 12 processors, then the Mac Mini is for you.

I would upgrade the processor, but leave the rest of the specs alone. Then get 8GB of third party RAM and replace the internal drive with an Other World Computing SSD. You will not believe the difference that combined upgrade will make!

I agree, the mini does seem relatively underpowered, maxing at 2 cores (no more than i3, in that silly nomenclature). It's a laptop in a box.

On the other hand, it's sufficient to fulfill most people's quotidian needs, and then some.

If you don't want to hack your own hackintosh, pre-rolled hackintoshes are a minor cottage industry, though you'd have to ask around for your best local options.

If Apple doesn't like it, they need only fill the gaping hole in their lineup. Though their refurbished store kind of makes up for it and is worth a look. There's an i7 iMac for $1,699 as I type this.

I keep wanting to reverse engineer a Mac Mini into a classic Mac case. The stumbling block is finding a 9" LCD monitor, other than that there is more than enough room for a hot swap RAID array and a whole lot of extra USB and firewire ports.

But yes, I'm with you on that. I'd like the equivalent of the IIcx - some expansion possibility but not the enormous silo that was the IIx.

I'd get the larger laptop and use it as a desktop and add an iPad for a portable.

But, I work with that other OS, so what do I know.

I looked at the 21" iMac, and with bifocals I can't see the entire screen without moving my head too much, and one shouldn't need to get a new pair of glasses when one gets a new computer.

I've thought a lot about upgrading my Mac situation recently. Truth is, I have no reason to do so. I've been running a Dell 2001FP since 2004 (a nice 21" IPS display that at 1600x1200 is much closer to the size, or rather the shape, of the prints I make than anything you can get from Apple -- and probably even Dell -- today). It's now coupled to a first-gen Mac Pro, dual dual-core 2.66GHz Intel Xeon-based machine. Prior to that, it was on a dual processor G5 and before that a beefy homebuilt PC. Though it only has 8GB of RAM, with CS5 I can (finally) give Photoshop another gig or more of memory and can still edit 8x10 scans without feeling like I'm living in the last century. Most of the large files I edit are scans of 67 or 4x5 and honestly it's more than enough for these. Most of my digital files are uprezzed 2x or so and again the lowly first-gen Mac Pro handles these with speed and grace. If you can find the space for a used, refurb'd or even new Intel-based Mac Pro, it might just be the last computer you'll ever need (but of course is very unlikely to be the last computer you ever buy ;).

"I will not discuss the number of cameras I own."

Aha!

Mike

Ah, the fabled mac mini tower. Midsized tower, xmac, or what not. I guess neither fish nor fowl, though, if you're Steve Jobs. iMac for consumers, MacPro for "creative professionals", everyone else cheating on their work PC can get a Mini or iPad.

I think for you a refurbished MacPro is the way forward, with non-Apple monitors (maybe NEC?) The expansion slots can be useful (cheap eSATA for example, or maybe CalDigit's USB 3.0 card), there's lots of memory slots (great for, well, everything) and it's surprisingly handy (and easy) to fill each of the four drive sleds with a big hard drive. Et voila, back ups (oh, let's do A Time Machine and SuperDuper back up), media storage, the works -- fast and quiet.

And finally, though it's perhaps not a decisive reason, MacPros are incredibly satisfying to look at internally; the user-installed bits are so easy. Not at all like the extra work that goes into pulling apart a Mac Mini.

The MacPro can sit at your foot under your desk. Put it down there, hook it up, forget about it. Nice.

Mike, the new 2010 Mini is still a most underrated machine. If you shop wisely (buy 2GB original RAM configuration, swap with 8GB OWC RAM), you can even beat the price hike.
Plus, it's cheap enough that you can run a pair or more in tandem for intensive parallel tasks, from one monitor, via screen sharing, Remote Desktop, or VNC. Unless you need pure raw speed, the level of redundant performance security you can achieve by piggy-backing a couple of Minis is a great comfort when running a mission-critical shop. More so than even one Mac Pro with umpteen cores. (Yes, redundancy can be quite a good concept in its proper place.)
As someone who downgraded in 1986 from an IBM 3090 mainframe to a Mac Plus, I have a healthy respect for what these little chaps can achieve when properly pushed.

Sorry Mike, but this post doesn't make sense to me. When you need to upgrade your old computer what do you do with it? Do you set it on fire, trash it or sell it on ebay?

I keep selling my old macs and one thing is for sure, they keep their value very well, upgrades are only incremental in price for me. I can get the fastest mac and the best display technology at the same time and save precious desk space.

PCs lose value *much* faster than macs, so when you will dell your white box you'll have to pay more for a new one.

Another consideration is ergonomics, macs are quiet, dead quiet. PCs always seem to have noisy fans and rattling cases instead...

- Fabio

Get a Mini. Put in 8 GB RAM (not from Apple). Get one of these as a backup drive, and another FW800 drive if you need extra storage. Done.

Apple does not sell a mid-priced "separate" computer (as opposed to integrated ala the iMac) because there is no margin in it. It's a commodity and no one makes money selling those machines. The money is in the high end and in more turnkey solutions.

The Mac Mini is a bit of a low-end bone for some special uses that don't require a lot of CPU or graphics power. But it's pretty marginal otherwise IMHO.

I don't see what the beef is. The machine will amortize its cost over 2 to 3 years of use.

Mike:
Gosh! I went through all posts in this thread. One of the best ever on this subject.
I'm a Mac "late adopter". I started computing (to go into digital photography) when Apple was in the verge of bankruptcy, so I was really reluctant on investing on this system. So I went the easy way and got a Windows 98 machine and PS. When finally decide to move to Mac 2 years ago, Apple was transforming into a consumer company rather than the pro-oriented graphic, publisihng and photographic computer company it used to be since its inception. I swear I had this funny itch that Apple was to be more preocupied selling ipods than selling professional monitors (as an example).
Two years later and my premonition turned to be true. Now Apple is a totally pro oriented consumer company and is neglecting a lot of the people that kept it afloat in its dark age. (imho). Enough tales!
I do too think there is a gap in Apple computers. Apple is so much like Canon. It doesn't matter what their loyal customers say they want, both companies will finally do their own holy will. The fabled xmac is like the fabled EOS 3D. They will never materialize. A huge gap repeats between the 5D series and the 1Ds series.
I could learn how to live with a glossy screen but I'd rather have a matte one.
I've thought about dual Mac Minis (since they are so comparetevely cheap. (Chris, can you provide a link on this subject?) I've barely considered the 27" iMac but since I learned (here in this thread) that it takes an extra monitor, I'm going to consider this possibiliy more seriously.
I've considered going the Hackintosh way for my next upgrade. They are very stable and easy to make now.
Have you considered this option?
But then again you wouldn't be anymore Mike-in-tosh.
-Eduardo

I upgrade every 5 years. My last machine was a PowerBook with external monitor and hard drives. I upgraded last year to re-furbished MacBook which I maxed out with RAM. Total outlay $1000 AUD and I'm very happy with it.

'Max Macker' perhaps?

i have been using and owning Macs since 1985 and i think it's just fine to criticize the heck out of them -- those who stereotype Mac users are themselves a bit hypnotized ...

On my last generation Imac the image is much darker on top than at the bottom , has this been fixed with the new ones ?

Another consideration is ergonomics, macs are quiet, dead quiet. PCs always seem to have noisy fans and rattling cases instead...

When composing a PC from scratch you can choose any cooling hardware you can find on the market. It can be even 100% silent if you want.

But anyway - it really depends on You what is better for You. If you like Mac - then buy Mac. It's that simple.

I was almost as early an adopter as you Mike. A Mac Plus and an SE around the time of the latter's launch - 1986? As "they" say, "the price is remembered long after the quality is forgotten". What really made Macs a success was the launch of DTP applications, notably QuarkExpress. HyperCard was a bit of a damp squib wasn't it?

By the mid 90's, working in a mixed environment I'd become completely sick of the pre-OSX crash-o-matic mode of Mac operation. By the time Win NT was released I switched over and have never regretted the move. Any way you cut it Macs are hideously overpriced - and personally I find the business style of Apple/Jobs entirely repulsive. Had they not adopted the closed approach maybe they might have achieved a market share greater than the (now declining) about 10% at which they peaked. But they were greedy.

As for Macs "holding their value" better, I run my PCs until they no longer do the job, then give away or scrap them. In the case of the four PCs I currently own, one is a 7 year old AMD processor based box which still works absolutely fine for non-intensive use and will run most applications I use, if a bit slower than I'm happy with.

The size thing I don't get. My own PCs have always been stuffed under a desk. I get them out when I need, typically, to add another HD or upgrade the RAM. Apple users in the main don't seem to need to do this... Not sure why. Of course recalling the sardine-can opener that I needed to get inside my Mac SE, maybe I do know why.

What difference does it make which platform you're running when using the majority of photographic applications? The interfaces all look exactly the same to me.

I was as enthusiastic a Mac evangelist as anyone else in the early days (first man in Hoxton to own one if that means anything to anyone!) but they quickly became a triumph of marketing genius and styling over function. Now Apple is principally a toy manufacturer with a declining market share in computers.

Light blue touch-paper, retire to a safe distance...

I am one of Those Without A Name who have used Macs since the very beginning. (My 128k Mac was ordered on January 25, 1984 and was received in February. It was one of the first 10,000 ever built.)

My Macs tend to serve me about 8 years each - unless there is a change in architecture, and I can no longer run current OS and software. I'm facing that issue now with my 7-year-old dual 2.0GHz Power Mac, which is still plenty fast but whose no-longer-supported processor is unable to run OS10.6, Lightroom 3, Creative Suite 5, and Office 2011, among other things.

So while I wince thinking about what an 8-core Mac Pro is going to cost me, I figure the amount will be amortized over seven or eight years. A more powerful Mac will serve me longer than a basic one. (And, yeah, it's big... but it sits on the floor under my work table... so it stays out of my way.)

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