The Online Photographer

Check out our new site at!

Friday, December 22, 2006


I know a lot of readers of this blog are a lot more computer-savvy than I. With CS3 hull-down on the horizon and my hard drive full, it's becoming obvious that my sturdy old eMac is getting due for an update. Any expert opinions on what Mac a photo-stylin' cheapskate should buy at this point in time? Used or new? Mini or iMac? G5 or Macintel? Two-piece or all-in-one? One Gig or two? I'd sure appreciate input from wiser brains.


UPDATE: THANK YOU for all the great replies. The strongest consensus recommendations seem to be:

a) Wait until after the MacWorld Expo;
b) Get a Core Duo iMac (with 20" being the main recommendation, 17" to save money and 24" for a "dream machine");
c) Go for 2GB of RAM minimum.

With weaker but still prevalent recommendations being:
1) Choose the Core 2 Duo (I'm not quite sure what this refers to, but I'll find out);
2) Seek out a refurb, or an educational or employee discount to save money.

Bruce McL points out, "Since you have an eMac, you'll be pleased with the performance no matter what you get." I agree, although have to admit that the eMac has been the best computer I've ever owned—the monitor is beautiful, with very accurate color (albeit with the benefit of frequent calibration) and the box has been largely trouble-free.

Just as a curiosity, I might mention that I learned to use computers on some of the very first Macs ever sold, original 128k Macintoshes, which I was using even as the original "Big Brother" TV commercial still ran over network TV (or so I thought, anyway—my memory may be of re-runs of the commercial on news and information programs). A gallery owner named David Adamson bought six or eight of them for the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C. where I was a student (thanks again, David, wherever you are) and taught a course in computers that I took as an elective. My parents then bought me a 512k "Fat Mac" as a graduation present when those were the latest thing. That "Fat Mac" and its dot-matrix printer, which I believe was called an Imagewriter, is still the most expensive computer I've ever owned, although I believe it had less computing power than my current digital SLR. I've had one-piece Macs ever since, with the exception of a G3 desktop I used at home for two years that belonged to an employer (it was probably the worst Mac I've ever used). For most of my tenure at one job I used a Quadra 604 in the office. It wasn't even new—I inherited it from a predecessor. That Quadra 604 failed exactly once—when the battery on the motherboard that kick-started the monitor ran out of juice. Apart from that, it worked for me 9 hours a day, 5 days a week for five years without so much as a single crash or screen-freeze (when I'd say that to PC users of the era, they look at me blankly and blink rapidly, about like you'd look at someone with a serious mental defect that had just become painfully evident. Such a thing did not compute with them. But it was true.)

My next one will be my seventh Apple Mac since 1984.


Blogger Sabawa said...

20" refurb imac intel duo2 with 2 gigs or ram... if u r use to the emac screen, then u could get a refurb duo2 17"

dream cheap system would be refurb 24 duo2, 2g... apple had one for 1699!

my $0.03


10:27 PM  
Blogger H_Leighton said...

Do you really really need CS3?

I am planning to stick with CS2 until it no longer runs on my computer. I don't use a 1/4 of its power so why upgrade.

As far as upgrading computers if you are buying Mac, some of the best prices are in the Apple Web Store refurb section.

10:46 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

MIke, I think one of the new Core 2 Duo MacIntel iMacs would be perfect for you. These processors are smokin' fast, and the new Core 2 Duo processors seem to have had the bugs ironed out of them. The iMacs now are very fast, with all the power anyone needs to be productive in Lightroom or Photoshop. They also sport a beautiful LCD display. I'd recommend getting 2 Gig of RAM and the biggest hard drive you can. With that, you should be set for quite a while.

-Stephen Scharf

11:00 PM  
Blogger Christoph Hammann said...

I'd recommend a MacBook. My new one (2,0 Core 2 Duo, 1 G RAM) is about as fast in PS CS3 beta as my PowerMac G5 DP 1,8 is in CS2. The MacBook's screen is useless for picture editing, though, so I'd use a good external monitor with it. You might already have that. Add a bunch of FireWire drives and you're set.

Festive regards, Christoph

11:14 PM  
Blogger Ed Wolpov said...

iMac 20" or 24" with 2gb ram. I've got the 20" and love it. It does everything I need to do in LightZone, iView Multimedia Pro, and when I need the capabilities of Photoshop, it works perfectly.


11:20 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

Definitely an Intel Mac. If you check out the latest benchmarks here: , the performance of Intel Macs are just way better (in most cases).

If you need portability, go with the MacBook Pro. Stay away from the MacBooks (because of the glossy screens).

1GB of RAM is bare minimum, and if you want to save some $$$, get the 2nd gig from a 3rd party like

Mac Mini, iMac or Mac Pro? All depends on your budget. The more you can spend, the faster a Mac you can have. Same goes for the question whether you should get a used or new Mac.

Perhaps you can write a post on the approximate budget you have in mind?

11:27 PM  
Blogger BWJones said...

You have a few options for a low cost decent image machine for Photoshop. One option that I just finished dealing with was taking an older 733Mhz G4 Quicksilver machine, dumping three 250 GB hard drives in it and a Sonnet dual 1.8Ghz G4 making for a decent photo machine for home. Granted it is not nearly as fast as the MacPro I have in my work office, but it is plenty fast for dealing with large RAW images with Photoshop.

The other low cost option you have is to pick up a Mac Mini with a few external hard drives. I tend to like internal drives, but this is a personal preference.

12:31 AM  
Blogger Rudi said...

iMac, at least the 20" IMO, with at least 2 GB of RAM. There is no point in buying a G5 at this point in time...

12:47 AM  
Blogger Richard Ripley said...

Hi Mike:

I certainly would consider the amount of money you could spend, i.e. what's your budget. I would also wait until after this year's MacWorld - January 8 to 12. If you could let me know what kind of money you want to spend I could give you some of my advice - at least 2 cents worth.


1:13 AM  
Blogger Noah Hamilton said...

Get a refurbished MAC here is the link.

Any mac is a good mac, it depends on your needs. Just make sure to buy Apple Care basically gaurantees your computer for 3 years, cause apple is awesome when it comes to fixing your machine and tech support.

3:30 AM  
Blogger Robin P said...

My immediate knee jerk reaction to such a question would be "time to move to a PC" but having seen what a complete mess Windows Vista is I'm not so sure.
Very depressing times for PC users as Microsoft seem to have tried to make Vista look more Mac like on the surface whilst adding to the complications and bad points of Windows under the surface.

Cheers, Robin

4:01 AM  
Blogger OldKing said...

I am not a Mac owner (yet) but I've been doing low-key research recently, and I follow PC technology.

Core 2 Duo are widely regarded as a step above the other available processors in terms of performance per watt.

The MacBook, MacBook Pro, and Mac Pro are all now using Core 2.
Actually, mac pro is 'Woodcrest', but it's the same architecture...)

1GB is now considered a minimum for system RAM. I would suggest 2GB.

As far as used / refurb / open box... I found this outfit

They have a *very* good reseller rating. They have a mac trade in program.

Good luck, I'll leave the rest to the real experts...


4:55 AM  
Blogger stephen best said...

If you can afford it, I'd go for the cheapest Mac Pro that's available after Macworld in January. Base options are fine but aim for a minimum of 4GB. When funds allow, add a small fast (10,000 RPM or better) drive and copy your boot drive to this, using the original drive for Photoshop scratch space, image storage etc. If you're memory or disk speed constrained, it won't matter how fast the processor is.

Failing this a second hand Power Mac G5 will do the job. You can buy mine when I upgrade to the above sometime about the middle of 2007!

5:23 AM  
Blogger Richard Howe said...

I was struck by your description of yourself as a "cheapskate" vis-a-vis computers and would like to ask, are you a "cheapskate" also about cameras and lenses? (I doubt it.) In any event, a former "computer cheapskate" myself, I did eventually realize that the computer--and software!--are as much a part of the image chain as lens and camera (and printer too, at the other end). I now use a Mac dual processor G5 with a Waco pen tablet and a 30" screen and am as grateful everyday for these tools as I am for my Canon full frame bodies and Leica lenses. Even ease of use and speed contribute, indirectly, to the final image quality, by reducing the cost (in frustration and impatience) of aiming high at the image processing stage. My advice: don't stint, get the biggest, fastest, etc., computer equipment you can possibly afford. I haven't regretted it and I don't think you will either.
Richard Howe

6:17 AM  
Blogger Dr Hiding Pup said...

I'd go for the newest 20"/24" iMac, and max it out with RAM. You'll be able to run the CS3 beta on the Intel chip, and be all ready for it when it comes properly. S/hand prices are so relatively high, it's not worth the investment in my view. I don't know whether it works in the US, but if you call Apple's sales hotline directly, they should be able to offer a substantial discount, particularly if you can legitimately claim Education rates.

6:20 AM  
Blogger sebastian said...

your (expensive) options are two:
1) portable
macbook pro 15 or 17
full blown intel core 2 duo @ 2,33Ghz
plus 2Gigas of ram (not three or you won´t get DDR)
I have one of these, you won´t regret
select the fastest harddisk (not the biggest)

mac pro
only reason for this is having two harddisks and separate the virtual RAM from Photoshop "scratch disk"
on a macbook Pro you can´t have two hds

I'm looking for a decent NAS (like the intel byod)

6:24 AM  
Blogger Joe Holmes said...

Macs aren't discounted at all through the usual retail outlets. That's why retailers are always sweetening the deals with extra RAM and free printers, etc. But there are three ways to get a cheaper Mac.

First, the Apple Store online usually has some refurbished models listed if you dig for them. Look near the bottom of the right column for the SAVE tag. Right now they've got some good deals.

Second, if you're leery about refurbs (I've had mixed luck) look around to see if you know anyone on a college faculty or a college student. The discounts in the college book/computer stores is substantial. Same goes with school teachers and kids. (This is also a fantastic way to buy software.) You could even sign up for a noncredit class, get a student ID, and buy cheap Macs and software.

Finally, if you know any Apple employees, they get a very good deal on some of the brand new but aging models. These lists of deals are issued to employees as the QPromo list. Example deal is the 20" iMac Intel Core Duo for $1200.

6:31 AM  
Blogger Pixel8ted said...

Which Mac to buy is always a hard question.

A source of information I look at is:-

Others may have a different view but this is a good start

6:45 AM  
Blogger sjmilzy said...

20" Intel iMac with 2G ram. Intel is going to release a quad core chip so you might be able to get a deal on the dual core if you time it right.


7:18 AM  
Blogger Rene said...

I just bought a Macbook notebook and a 20 inch Cinema display. Before I owned an Imac G4. You get the best of both worlds... outdoor the Macbook is very portable with a nice 13 inch screen and at home I have a fantastic view with the (DVI connected) Cinema display.

- - -

7:33 AM  
Blogger Bryce said...

First you do most of your computing work at home or on
the road and do you have a really good
monitor, now? If yes to the first question and no to the second and if yes to the third I'd suggest the biggest Mac Mini with the Ram maxed out.
Otherwise you're looking a laptop.
And how much time do you spend on said computer? You may wish to upgrade the keyboard and peripherals.

Merry Christmas!

7:37 AM  
Blogger David said...


I am in the same position. We were on the iMac/eMac train for a while, but I am going component because I am tired of having to completely replace my setup because one part goes bad, or obsolete.

I went with a duocore mac mini - the $599 model - with some extra ram. Then picked up a very nice Acer 19" 1440x900 widescreen monitor for just another $175.

It is a very sweet little setup for not a lot of money.

It has USB and firewire out the wazoo, and will be easily upgraded on a per-component basis.

Additionally, the mini has Front Row, and could have a second (or present) life as a DVR. The size means that I could literally mount it behind a flat panel TV.

8:15 AM  
Blogger Dwight Jones said...

I have a Mac Mini with G4 and one gig of memory. I'd say it's adequate even though it occasionally slows down a little when doing photo stuff. A pro would want something faster.

Anything Mac sells today should be faster, so I don't think you can go wrong if you get enough memory.

8:32 AM  
Blogger Jim Kofron said...


On the Mac side of things, especially with being frugal---I'd recommend an Intel iMac, either the 20" or 24" model. 2 GB RAM. If you've been working on an eMac for a while, this will make you feel pretty darn good... The intel iMacs will drive a second screen if you need to. They're quiet, and plenty powerful unless you're attempting to batch process 1500 photos through photoshop or a raw converter.

About a year ago I went from a G3 iMac to a G5 iMac, via refurb (a 17" model). The revB iMac had problems after a month or so. Apple was unable to repair it successfully (4 onsite visits later...). They replaced it with a new 20" iMac (a day before the intel iMacs were announced...). It's been great. I'm very happy with the screen quality, the Apple service was very polite and reasonable (I wish I wasn't down for a month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, tho...)

I also recommend AppleCare for these computers. It's good piece of mind, and you can get it relatively cheap when it's on sale (SmallDog currently has it discounted). Also, if you can wait until after MacWorld in January---that's always good advice.

8:36 AM  
Blogger DonovanCO said...

Mike: I have the same problem with my old eMAC. BUT
after seeing the performance of my son's new IMac,
with intel processor, I've decided that that is the route back to sanity in my "computer darkroom".

8:53 AM  
Blogger Pete Vagt said... put a used Mac built to my spec on my doorstep in a couple of days. The machine has been good, the price was right, and the service was great. (They might want to advertise on your blog!)

I have a G4 (silver plastic tower case) with 75 gB hard drive (original), 1.5 MB RAM, and superdrive. It continues to serve my digital photography needs well. While I shoot mostly with an 8 megapixel DSLR now, the G4 is adequate to handle 16 bit scan files from my Nikon Coolscan 9000 when I relapse to using my 35 mm or 120 film camera.

Six months ago, the orginal equipment 75 GB hard drive was getting full. For less than $100, I got a 250 GB Seagate hard drive and installed it easily in 20 minutes.

8:56 AM  
Blogger cadron said...

Maybe you could work out a deal with someone like B&H photo. A little add space for a nice new mac pro setup.

8:56 AM  
Blogger Paul Andrew Nakroshis said...

Hi Mike,

What software are you using? If you use Aperture, you want to get a machine with a good graphics card, as Aperture relies on the Graphics card heavily. The cheap route is to get is to get a used G5 with a good graphics card and as much RAM as you can afford.

Otherwise, (this is what I do), get the most recent and highest end Powerbook or iMac or MacPro you can afford (ok, the high end MacPro can run into 4 figures if you really configure the hell out of it, so that's not reasonable). Intel is where Macs will be for a while, so I'd recommend this route if you can do it.

(I have a 1 GHz 17" powerbook G4 with 1 GB ram I'd sell if you are interested...)


9:10 AM  
Blogger chelt said...

Four questions:

How much are you willing to spend?

How much desk space can you use?

Laptops have gotten a lot more capable in the last five years - could you use a portable computer?

How long before you plan on replacing this computer?

9:23 AM  
Blogger Big Mac said...

I would recommend an Intel Mac. It's the way of Apple's future, and you will get longer-term use out of it.

I don't know how important it is to you, but you can run Windows on your Mac desktop if you get an Intel Mac.

9:31 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

Whatever you do, don't buy anything until after Macworld - mid January or thereabouts. The first morning of the show has Steve Jobs announce all the new machines, and they go on sale immediately afterwards. We're due a big new revision of Apple's desktop range (as they're not all Intel at the moment.)

Other than that, the key rule for me is always "as much ram as you can afford, and then a bit more."

9:54 AM  
Blogger Trevor Hambric said...

I would recommend an Intel Core 2 Duo iMac. I lookecd at the Mini but found that, once I'd added a monitor, keyboard, mouse, and upgraded hard-drive and the like, it was too expensive for its limitations, which include relatively weak embedded graphics.

Two Gig of Ram is the only way to fly. You can get the minimum from Apple or Amazon, then upgrade from Crucial for much less than Apple would charge.

The major limitation in this solution is that when you're ready to get your next machine, the monitor doesn't come along for the ride (it and the machine are one).

10:25 AM  
Blogger matt~ said...

Definitely not used, and certainly not G5. For a desktop, if you don't have an appropriate monitor sitting around, the 2ghz, 17 inch imac with 2GB of ram an a 250GB drive is hard to beat. Skip the mini, and the Macpro tower unless our definitions of cheapskate are highly divergent.

A Macbook is anothter interesting option. $1500 gets you a lot of laptop if you go that route.

For the truly cheapskate options, look at the refurbished systems down at the bottom left hand of the apple store page. A few friends have had good luck going this route.

10:35 AM  
Blogger Rusty said...

I'd go with a refurbed iMac 17" Intel Core Duo 2. Best bang for the buck. Adobe's new CS3 should run fine on it, just buy some more RAM for it and have a blast. Merry Christmas and good luck.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Richard Graves said...

I used an eMac for several years before trying out a dual G5 box. This made a huge improvement in the speed of photoshop and its plug-ins. Sadly, my G5 box died several months ago and I decided to make the swith to a 24" iMac. Speed is pretty much the same as the G5 even though its running in emulation mode on photoshop. There are a few filters that are painfully slow. I use Bibble for RAW comversion and it is blastingly fast as is iView mediapro. Cost wise I can't complain since a 23" cinema screen would cost about $1000 and even an eMac or cheap iMac is $1000. I did get an extra gigabyte of memory though to match my G5 box. Total cost with AppleCare was less than $2500.

11:13 AM  
Blogger PatrickPerez said...

I would recommend a Mac Mini for a photographer with normal needs. It can take up to two gigabytes of ram, and anything typically needed expansion-wise can be done through external ports (hard drives, scanner, etc). You have a choice of display (either LCD or CRT) and unlike the iMac, when it is time to upgrade, you aren't forced to upgrade monitors. The CPU options are as good as the iMac, and certainly powerful. Don't get lulled by the siren song of dual-dual core processors in the Mac Pro, as it will likely be awhile before applications are able to fully utilize all CPU cores.


11:38 AM  
Blogger jimby said...

Not knowing what you budget is, it's hard to make a recommendation. But keep this in mind: the G5 chips and architecture are on their way out. No future Macs will have these processors as Apple has officially switched to Intel.

My own system is a MacPro 2Ghz and I can tell you that the new CS3 Photoshop beta flies on it.

11:38 AM  
Blogger macdaddy said...

Depending on your needs and budget, one of the new Intel iMacs would be an excellent option, especially the 24" model! $2000 gets you a LOT these days; especially so if you qualify as a student/instructor (which you are!) or staff/faculty at any school, even home school.

11:43 AM  
Blogger Erik DeBill said...

It depends on how big a file you want to work with. I've got a single proc Intel Mac Mini (single core, even) with 2G of RAM. It was great for processing RAW files out of my 20D using LightZone. I'm now scanning 4x5 negatives, and it just doesn't have the oomph to do it comfortably, mainly due to lack of RAM. To get 4G of RAM I'd need a Mac Pro.

A Mini won't let you use dual monitors, which is actually fairly cheap these days. If 1 monitor (say a 20" LCD) is enough, then I'd go for a mini with 2G. For Dual monitors, I'd check out the 20" iMacs. You can get a second LCD to match for $200 or so.

12:00 PM  
Blogger Geoff said...

I second the recommendation for a current 20- or 24-inch iMac. I could go on and on, but in the final analysis if I had to pick one config. for you, this would be it. Treat yourself to the 24" screen and get the upgrade to 2GB of RAM and the higher-spec graphics card, this is a great value all in at around $2.3K.

12:38 PM  
Blogger Just Plain Hugh said...

If you are going to get a Mac, then you should get an Intel not a G5 for all the reasons stated above. But, if you get a Intel based mac, you should wait until Photoshop CS3 since CS2 does not run so well on Intel Macs and Adobe says they are never going to make an version of CS2 that does.
Of course there is the Beta of CS3 if you want that.

1:07 PM  
Blogger Robert Roaldi said...

I'm just praying and praying that they port Picture Windows Pro over to the MAC platform by the time I am ready to buy my next computer because the one thing I know for certain is that I am migrating to MAC.

CS2? CS3? They costs upwards of $1000 here in the frozen north. I can buy a lot of lens or disk space for that kind of money.

I'd go for of those 20 inch IMacs myself.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Bruce McL said...

I actually give people advice like this for a living. I agree with many of the posters:
a) There's not quite enough information for a definite recommendation.
b) Apple's refurb section is a very good place to look for bargains (click the red tag in the lower right part of the Apple Store web site). Myself and many of my clients have had good luck with refurbs.
c) Waiting for MacWorld is probably a good idea at this point. New models announced there might mean better deals on current models in the refurb and clearance section.
d) Yes, of course fill the new machine with RAM. That's a no brainer.

Here's where my advice may be a little different from other people's:
e) Compared to previous years, I'd say don't let performance guide your choice. Go to a store, put your hands on some of the inexpensive machines and buy the model that pleases you and fits your budget. I think performance differences are more subtle and less noticeable this year than in past years. Since you have an eMac, you'll be pleased with the performance no matter what you get. At least once you get CS3 you will. CS2 performance could be disappointing.

2:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but one of the distinguishing points between the mac laptop models is the ability to use a second supplemental monitor. That might be something to think about; I have an iBook G4 and wish I could use my laptop screen for the tools and palettes and a larger, color-accurate monitor to edit on.

2:09 PM  
Blogger Michael Seltzer said...

There are two ways to think of "cheap:" spend the least money now to get what you need (it is never cheap to buy something that doesn't meet your needs); spend as much now as you can to stave off needing to do this again for as long as possible. It used to be that the sweet spot was to buy last years hot product, but that won't work now, because of the move to intel. That's a major technical move, and I believe you shouldn't saddle yourself with old technology, when there's been such a significant change. the rest is figuring what your needs (and perhaps wants) are. What I can tell you is that I am also a cheapskate and I just bought a new Mac, and I got a 15" Core 2 Duo Macbook Pro with 2 gigs of RAM (the jump to 3 gigs is prohibitive). Happy hunting.

3:26 PM  
Blogger Robin P said...

I am HORRIFIED at the blanket acceptance of Macs in all these replies! - how can you people live with such a gruesome user interface and trust the same greedy company that writes the software to make your overpriced hardware!
If the Mac OS could run on independant hardware (rather than pretty white boxes that look like bathroom accessories) and if it had a different look then millions of us happy PC users might be persuaded to regard it as a viable alternative.
Mike, I really wish you lived just down the road, rather than thousands of miles away, so I could build you a fast PC for less than the cost of a refurbished Mac Mini......

Cheers, Robin

3:58 PM  
Blogger eolake said...

You were very lucky with the stable Quadra. I have had over ten macs, and until Mac OS X came around, my single grievance was their instability. After OS X, that too was solved. (Along with new powerful multitasking ability.)

4:48 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

I don't think you should be "horrified," exactly, since I specifically requested information on Macs. As you can see from my "update" above, I'm a Mac user from way back, and I'm afraid pitching anything else to me is like preaching Shinto at a convention of Nobel Science Laureates.


4:53 PM  
Blogger terry chay said...


The "Big Brother" ad only ran once on network TV and that was just before the introduction of the first Macintosh.

(Okay, it did once more at 3AM somewhere in LA to be eligiable for a Clio).

While the Mac wasn’t my first computer, it certainly was my favorite.

A "Core 2 Duo" is Intel’s second generation Core Duo chip that is used in notebooks and notebook-like desktops (iMac, Mac mini). Like it’s predecessor, it’s a "dual core" and runs marginally faster and more efficiently (less power/more work/clock) than. I believe all the latest Mac notebooks, iMacs, and Mac minis now use it. If you are interested in those, it’s probably okay to buy now. But if you are interested in a super powerful Mac Pro, then it might be best to wait.

May I recommend visiting before making a purchase?

8:03 PM  
Blogger terry chay said...


Since it’s been a while for you I should mention Apple’s return policy is now only 10 calendar days from shipment (you have to request a return within 14 business days) I think the in-store policy may be 2 weeks.

If you order now, you might be outside the return policy in the event of MacWorld product intro. If I were a betting man, I’d say Apple has their hands full with the Leopard demo, iTV, new LCD panels, and possibly new Mac Pro to warrant incrementing the MacBook, MacBook Pro, Mac mini, and iMac on a chip that doesn’t even exist yet, won’t exist on January 8th. But that’s me.

I’m still wont to use the Intel roadmap to schedule purchases. Even after I had to wait an extra 2 months than I expected for my MacBook Pro. But I wonder if that was because the pre-N wireless card more than any perceived scarcity on the Core 2 Duo.

8:12 PM  
Blogger Mike Sisk said...

Jeesh, there's a lot of incorrect information here. For the sake of ease of discussion I'm omitting the Mac Pro tower system since it's more than you need.

All new Macs are Intel -- you can't get new PowerPC-based system from Apple anymore.

The new iMac, MacBook, and MacBook Pro all use Core 2 Duo processors.

The Mac mini is still using the Core Duo (and only the Duo -- the single-core solo is gone).

Essentially, Core 2 Duo = 64bit, Core Duo = 32bit. There's other differences, but that's the basic one.

Unlike the earlier iBooks, the MacBook supports external monitors in either extended desktop or video mirroring mode. The MacBooks all have glossy screens and an integrated graphics processor that shares memory with main system memory.

The MacBook Pro is available in either glossy or matte screens. They use dedicated graphics processors and support dual-line DVI so they can even drive the 30" display.

The 24" iMac and MacBook Pro have FireWire 800 ports for external disk drives -- very nice to have. Everything else is limited to FireWire 400.

The 24" iMac is a gem -- it's what I use. The monitor is of high quality and exceedingly bright with two backlights like the standalone Cinema displays. It's also available with a much faster graphics processor which is really nice with Aperture.

For your needs I definitely recommend a 20-inch iMac Core 2 Duo with 2GB RAM. It'll give you the most bang for the buck with a little more useful life over the earlier 32bit Core Duo. The MacBooks are good, too, but you pay a premium for the portability which it sounds like you don't need.

Waiting until MacWorld probably isn't a bad idea, but I don't expect much to change in the lower end systems. I'm sure there will be a modest processor speed bump but I expect the quad-core processors will initially be reserved for the Mac Pro and Xserve hardware. The big story at MacWorld will be Leopard.

9:45 PM  
Blogger stephen best said...

Some timely info:

A few points regarding the above:

1. CPU speed isn't much of an indicator of Photoshop performance ... though it will certainly help with things like Rosetta emulation. If you look at the benchmark results for Photoshop suites, the gains from CPU upgrades alone are pretty small.

2. The article doesn't mention Blu-ray (BD) optical drives. I expect these to hit new Macs pretty soon, maybe even MacWorld. The blank discs are too expensive at the moment but are expected to drop substantially within the two years or so you're presumably planning to use your new Mac. These will be great for backups.

A new Mac is always exciting ... well, at least for a week until you stuff it full of new software.

Good luck!

12:29 AM  
Blogger John said...

I'm in the market for a new Mac, too. Maybe we'll bump into each other at the Mayfair Apple can recognize me by my old guy disguise .;-)

2:32 AM  
Blogger Jose Luis Gonzalez said...

here is David Adamson

4:44 AM  
Blogger Wituniasty said...

I didn't get through all the comments posted, so do not know, if I am the first writing about it, but it might be important.

Before you buy your new imac, please try out its display. Take a rich tonal range (especially in the shadows) file with you, and try to find out, if the imac LCD display can represent all the shadows recorded.
If yes -- enjoy your new imac, but if not,
then I'd suggest go for the used powermac g5 (with two processors or double core processor, but not 2x2GHz which has high failure percentage) and the CRT (tube) monitor from Mitsubichi, Iiyama or Sony (Diamondtron or Trinitron tube).

Merry Christmas!

7:20 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Many thanks for the link José!


10:14 AM  
Blogger plabby said...

Unless you have a 30" display, your productivity will suffer. There are useability tests that indicate this online, the bigger your display, the faster, more productive you are.

This means MacPro imho.

12:43 PM  
Blogger Bruce McL said...

Prices: This month I had a client with a University connection shopping for refurbs. She found that the refurb prices were the same on the educational side as the regular retail side. The Apple store will let you log in and look at educational prices without asking for credentials. So you can get a look at price differences.

Core 2 Duo: Just the latest, greatest chip. Newer Macs have it, older ones from the beginning of the year do not. Certainly it wouldn't hurt to have a Core 2 Duo chip and all of the new Macs except the mini have one. Core 2 Duos are starting to show up as refurb iMacs as well.

Chasing megahertz and chip improvements are important for some, but may not be as important for you. As has been mentioned, people do a lot of comparison testing on sites like barefeats and xlr8yourmac. I'm glad someone does this, and tests done specifically with PS CS 3 would be useful to look at. Photoshop has a mind of it's own. Speed in other programs or with a standard suite can be different than speed in Photoshop. Some improvements in newer Mac models can have big effects in Photoshop while other improvements may not.

12:44 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home