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Old May 30, 2010, 7:39 AM   #51
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Originally Posted by Jazzer251 View Post
On a note back on the original topic -- I'm still not sure what I am going to do, but should I decide to go the Apple route and am looking at an iMac, are there any suggestions as to what processor/level I should consider from a price/performance perspective?
I just now remembered I hadn't replied to your questions, after seeing where you posted them on another forum.

The issue with the smaller iMacs are that they use a Core 2 Duo based CPU. It's not a bad way to go if you don't care as much about performance with newer apps compared to what you could buy a box from someone else for (other than the price Apple wants for them). But, you'd get dramatically better performance using a CPU with more cores with modern image processing applications. So, I would personally not go that route and spend what they want for a dual core CPU.

Now, Macs benchmark a *lot* slower than 64 Bit Windows using some apps like CS4, because of the way Adobe wrote it. There's really no comparison at all usng popular benchmarks, as the Intel based Macs test dramatically slower, even running a high end Mac Pro with a Nehalem based CPU and loads of memory, unless you install 64 Bit Windows and run the Windows version on a Mac.

But, CS5 fixes that so that they benchmark closer to what you'd expect from a similiar PC running 64 Bit Windows now (where CS5 for a Mac is now 64 Bit running on Snow Leopard) usiing a Mac equipped about the same way for CPU and memory.

See this page for the type of improvement they made with it:

http://blogs.adobe.com/jnack/2010/04...enchmarks.html

Now that was a dual Nehalem CPU based Mac Pro with 12GB of memory. But, it looks like the single CPU Core i7 based iMacs and Mac Pros test well from benchmarks I've seen using CS5 under Snow Leopard, too (not really out of line compared to what you'd see from the same benchmarks under 64 Bit Wndows 7). So, it's improved in that area, thanks to Adobe rewriting CS5 to take better advantage of OS X (even though CS4 is much slower compared to the Windows version on a Mac).

Here are some benchmarks at Anantech (including the same Retouch Artists benchmark series used in that article) that may help you see where more cores tend to work much better.

http://www.anandtech.com/bench/CPU/25

So, the Mac lineup, I'd lean towards the 27" iMac to get a Core i7 type CPU with more cores (versus the much slower Core 2 Duo type CPUs the smaller iMac uses); or go Mac Pro with a Nehahlem instead (the Nehalem CPUs benchmark the same as the Core i7 9xx series CPUs, given the same clock speed).

But, You may want to look at a something like the Dell XPS 9000 instead and save some money. That would also give you some expandibilty to add cards, drives, etc. later (USB 3.0 cards, tuner cards, etc.); whereas your choices for expansion would be more limited with an iMac. With a separate CPU/Monitor solution, you'd have more flexibility, too (getting a larger or smaller display as desired), as you could always take your display with you if you upgraded your machine later (versus it been permanently associated with the iMac if you go that route), or update your display separately instead. IOW, I'd look at a separate PC and Monitor as being far more flexible, in the same same way a dSLR with interchangeable lenses is more flexible compared to a camera with everything permanently attached.

These Dell models (XPS 9000, a.k.a., XPS 435) use an X58 (Socket 1366) chipset and use the Core i7 9xx series CPU (Nehalem architecture like the Intel XEONs in the Mac Pros).

http://www.dell.com/us/en/home/deskt...cs=19&%7Eck=mn

You may also want to consider going refurbished. Just look at the XPS 435, which is the same box as the XPS 9000. You can pick up one nicely equipped with a Core i7 920, 6GB or so of DDR3 and a dedicated video card for around $800 now (or even less if you don't mind a scratch and dent model with cosmetic blemishes)

The normal refurbs are usually indistinguishable from a brand new system, and when they have any scratches or blemishes, they mark them as "Scratch and Dent" with higher discounts on them. They still have a one year warranty (with options for a longer warranty).

I've bought 4 refurbished machines from Dell Outlet so far (3 desktops and 1 laptop) over the years, and they all appeared to be new machines when I got them and worked fine.

Here's a link to the XPS 435 at Dell Outlet:

http://www.dell.com/us/en/dfh/deskto...35&s=dfh&cs=22

Just click on the button to check availability and prices. Then, when you get to the listings, click on the Price Column to sort by lowest price first.

I'd avoid using the filters (as they usually don't work right and filter out boxes that meet the specs because they were not entered correctly). LOL It also doesn't work right if you change pages (from 1 to 2) and resort again.

Nicely equipped machines usually start out at around $700 for this model (again, click on the price column to see lowest price first).


Then, click on the details link to see how a machine is equipped (as they vary a lot, with some equipped with more options compared to others). Listings change pretty often. So, check periodically during the day until you find a good deal on one equipped the way you want it.

Note that they posted a coupon on the Dell Twitter page recently (good for 1500 uses or until 5/31) for 15% off refurbished desktops and laptops. So, that would lower the price even more if you find a deal and it still works.

http://twitter.com/delloutlet

You can sometimes find good deals on theiir refurbished displays, too. Also note that if you go with a Premium display (like their better displays with IPS panels), you get a 3 year warranty on them, just like you'd get with a new one, and they also have a no hot pixel guarantee on theiir Premium displays with an Advanced Exhange program if something goes wrong. Just click on a desired size series, and check the details link for an individual display to see more about one (full tech specs, features, etc.).

I'd check reviews for displays you're interested in. Here's where you'll find their reburbished displays.

http://www.dell.com/content/products...39&lid=1397897

If you want a better machine compared to the Dell XPS 9000 (a.k.a., XPS 435), I'd probably look at these guys:

http://www.cyberpowerpc.com

That way, you configure a machine with a better PSU, nice overclockable Motherboard with more features like USB 3.0 if desired, a nicer case with more drive slots for expandibility, etc. I'd stick to a Core i7 based CPU in a new machine for the best performance, using their configurators to put together a box using either a Core i7 8xx series CPU, or a Core i7 9xx (Nehalem) based CPU.
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Old May 30, 2010, 10:13 AM   #52
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Jim --

Thanks so much for your detailed reply (in both locations ;-)). It's really very helpful. As you say, the PC route is definitely more flexible and it does seem that the PCs are a good bit less money (interestingly, I don't own an interchangeable lens camera at the moment, but am considering one -- except THAT decision can really cost me a lot of money in the long term :-)). It was the flexibility, cost, my familiarity with Windows and the fact that we use Windows machines at work that has always pushed me in that direction in the past. At the price point you have indicated for a refurb., it makes more sense to do that than to buy a new hard drive for my old computer and see if I can some more mileage out of it.

I'm still not sure where I will wind up, but I thank you again for all of the input.
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Old May 30, 2010, 11:34 AM   #53
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Well... now fairness, the 27" IMac isn't too far out of line price wise, considering it has a 27" IPS Panel display. It looks like one would run around $2399 after the extra cost for a Core i7 type CPU and equipping it with 8GB of memory.

http://store.apple.com/us/browse/hom...ac/family/imac

If you bought Dell's latest 27" Premium display in new condition, you'd end up spending around $1100 for it.

http://accessories.us.dell.com/sna/p...9&sku=224-8284

But, the Dell display has a much wider color gamut compared to the iMac displays from tests I've seen, making it more suitable for graphics work; and it also has an available sRGB mode (since wide gamut displays can make reds and greens look oversaturated unless you're running color managed applications).

You'd probably spend close to the same amount (around $1100) for a loaded Dell with a Core i7 type CPU and the same amount of memory taking advantage of one of the bundles you can find on theiri site.

But, you may not need a 27" Display either (and that's the only way you can get an iMac with a Core i7 type CPU). So, with the Dell, you'd have far less expensive options. For example, the latest U2410 runs around $500 now in new condition (and it also has a wider color gamut compared to the iMac panels from tests I've seen).

http://accessories.us.dell.com/sna/p...9&sku=320-8277

You've got lots of other monitor options available, too (and you wouldn't be limited to a Dell display either).

So, although you can say the iMac prices are really not bad price wise if you look at a very similar system as far as display size in an IPS panel, CPU type, amount of memory and available connections.

But, you'd have far more flexibility in how you could equip a system going with a non Apple Solution. You'd also have more expansion options available (since you'd have extra drive bays, card slots, etc.). Some options wouldn't even be available for an iMac running OS X. For example, you could buy a USB 3.0 PCIe card and give a PC USB 3.0 ports, as we're starting to see some peripherals going that way now. But, you wouldn't have that options with an iMac.

In the Dell lineup, just look at the current specials for bundles that look interesting like these:

http://www.dell.com/content/topics/s...=19&l=en&s=dhs

Or, look at bundles for the individual systems, like these for the XPS 9000:

http://www.dell.com/us/en/home/desktops/desktop-studio-xps-9000/pd.aspx?refid=desktop-studio-xps-9000&s=dhs&cs=19&~ck=mn

Or, like these for the XPS 8100. Note that the XPS 9000 has a better PSU in it and uses a Nehalem based CPU. But, either system would be a good performer (and either one would have better internal expandibility compared to an iMac solution).

http://www.dell.com/us/en/home/desktops/studio-xps-8100/pd.aspx?refid=studio-xps-8100&s=dhs&cs=19&~ck=mn

They always have lots of available bundles (where the more options they're equipped with, the better they try to make the savings look). lol

If I were on a really tight budget, I'd look at the XPS 435 at Dell outlet (same box as the XPS 9000), buying a refurbished box instead. That's the way I buy PCs from Dell.

Or, if I wanted a better machine (better case with more drive bays for internal drives, better motherboard with more options and the ability to overclock, better power supply for more graphics card options, etc.). I'd use one of the configurators at http://www.cyberpowerpc.com

For example, start with something like this one:

http://www.cyberpowerpc.com/system/Gamer_Xtreme_XT/

Pick a case that you like (and just google for reviews of a given case model), perhaps scale back on the graphics card in it (for example, change it to a GTS 250 with 1GB of DDR3 instead of the more expensive default card for a $200+ deduct in the price, ending up with a really loaded machine for around $1K), and tweak drives as needed.
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Old May 31, 2010, 8:13 AM   #54
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Thanks again, Jim. It sounds like these machines are probably on the cutting edge today and a good bit more powerful than is necessary for the comparatively modest photo editing that I expect that I will be doing. One never knows what the future will hold, however.

The Mac monitor is very nice, but somehow I suspect if I were simply looking for a monitor I would not think it necessary or be willing to pay $1100 at this point for a 27 inch display. I have to think very hard about whether I am willing to consider doing just that because the monitor is part of the computer. As you point out, unfortunately there is no real choice if I go the iMac route unless I go for the 21.5 inch screen, but it seems that these are a bit overpriced given their current configurations.
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Old May 31, 2010, 9:37 AM   #55
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But... you're getting more expandability (drive slots, room for expansion cards, more powerful PSU), superior cooling, more flexible motherboard and BIOS, faster memory, 3 year warranty and more; for less than a comparable system from Dell would cost you buying new.

Just start with something like this one, click on the customize button and change the video card to something like a GTS 250 for a $200+ deduct and you'll be under $1K with a very powerful and expandable system with a nice Asus Motherboard in it. ;-)

http://www.cyberpowerpc.com/system/Gamer_Xtreme_XT/

Given the 5% off promotion they often run on systems $999 or more you can get by typing INSTANT as a discount code at checkout, just add something else back in to bring the price back up to slightly over $1K. For example, go Win 7 Pro instead of Win 7 Premium (click on the section to config software), or add in something like Wireless G/N (see the accessories section).

Then, you'd have a very powerful system using higher quality components with more expandability compared to the Dells in that price range ( $1000). The default case they use for that one has something like 11 drives bays, including 6 internal 3.5" bays and a 2.5" you could use for an SSD. You can click on the thumbnails and see larger images of cross sections of it). It's got lots of room for more drives later, etc. You don't have to turn on interior lighting in those things either. . LOL Or, find one you like better.

I picked it because it's already using a good Asus Motherboard (whereas some of the systems using an MSI board), and already had Windows 7 in it (whereas some don't) and a 1TB drive, roomy case, 6GB of faster RAM, liquid cooling, and more. It's sometimes cheaper to start with the more expensive configurators and make changes (like change the video card to a less expensive version for a deduct as I'd do with that one) as a starting place (versus using a base system and adding to it). ;-)

Just use the Save Configuration button and you can get e-mails with links to them as you play with their configurators and decide if you want to give them a shot.

I'm aware of multiple members that have used those guys for systems. You can get one from them prebuilt and tested for very little more than what you'd pay for the parts building it yourself.

Here's a post from one member that's used them before:

http://forums.steves-digicams.com/co...ml#post1067808

IOW, if you plan on spending around $1K for a box before the monitor cost, you can get a much better system that way. If you're on a tighter budget, then you could get a Dell Refurb for around $700 after using the current coupon code for more off. But, for a few hundred more (approx. $1K), you could have a pretty nice system with much better expandibilty for more drives, larger graphics cards, etc., should you want to add to it, without the need to go external; and it would also be slightly faster and run cooler.
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Old May 31, 2010, 4:43 PM   #56
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There's no real right and wrong way to approach it. I'd let members know the budget you have in mind for a PC and Monitor combo. Then, you'd probably get better suggestions.

But, I'd keep in mind that the coupon code for a 15% discount on Dell Refurbished desktops ends today. Of course, they'll have them again if you're not in a big hurry.

If you wanted to do something quickly and you're on a tight budget... you could probably pick up a nice Core i5 (quad core without HT) equipped box from Dell Outlet with 8GB of memory and a dedicated video card for around $500 to $600 after the current coupon code for more off, looking at the cheaper boxes versus the XPS 9000 series), giving you more than 4 times the computing power you have with your Dimension 8300, and get a significantly faster box than you'd get with the smaller iMac.

Then, just buy a better monitor as time permits when you decide what you want in one (size, type, etc.). ;-)

Frankly, that's what I usually do anymore (buy a cheaper refurbished box when they have coupons available for them, usually not going for the top of the line offerings), as I prefer to upgrade more often versus buying a more expandable system. I used to build all of my systems myself. But, anymore, I just go refurb (as you can't tell them from brand new boxes from my experience with them), waiting for coupon codes for more off, rather than messing around with more complex designs. Then, tweak them a bit with different drives, more memory, etc. (checking the specials at newegg.com often for that kind of thing). lol

But, if I wanted a more flexible and expandable box up front that I wanted to last for a while (versus more frequent replacements), I'd probably go with one of the cyberpowerpc.com boxes using higher quality components before I'd buy a new box from Dell, HP, Gateway, etc.

There are pros and cons to any approach.
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Old May 31, 2010, 5:56 PM   #57
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Jim, thanks.

I'm not in a big rush, but some of the prices do seem pretty good. Another thing Dell was doing (but I'm not sure it applies to refurbs) is selling their Dell Mini netbook (which I am also potentially in the market for) for $199 with a purchase of $699 or more.

I do tend to keep my computers for a while, so I am probably more likely to buy "up" a little, but I also know that I don't need the absolute fastest thing on the block.

One of my problems, and I suspect a problem that brings many ordinary consumers to Apple, is that with all of the various configurations I'm not always sure what a good price really is on some of these Dell units. They play so many games with their sales and bundles that it gets very confusing. Also, it's difficult for me to relate the performance numbers of various chipsets and hardware to the real life computing situations that I'm likely to get involved with. Sure X performs faster than Y on the benchmark tests, but does that mean that 'X is worth spending more money for given what I do? And, if so, by how much? For example, I'm not a gamer, but I will do some simple photo editing. At at some point, I would be paying for video card speed that isn't likely to do me too much good, I would expect.

Too many choices isn't always a good thing. LOL

Oh. and in terms of budget, I'm not really sure. I prefer not to spend $2000 on a computer and monitor, especially as fast as everything changes. However, I will pay a little more if a particular upgrade makes sense. When I bought the last Dell computer/monitor (which is my wife's), I think it was somewhere between $1000 - $1200. We have two desktops in the house spread out by about 2-3 years and tend to alternate replacing them on about a 3 year rotation (so we often get between 4-6 years or so out of a box with a little bit of memory upgrading over time).

Last edited by Jazzer251; May 31, 2010 at 6:06 PM.
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Old May 31, 2010, 6:08 PM   #58
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It can get confusing. I'd lean towards a box with a better case, motherboard and PSU if you plan on keeping one for a while, versus more frequent upgrades.

It sounds like the boxes from cyberpowerpc.com would probably be a better bet in that case (as you'd get far better expandability, cooler running systems thanks to much better cases with better ventilation, liquid cooling, etc.); with much higher quality components than you'd get from Dell (just go with a better Asus Motherboard, higher end DIMMs for memory, etc. with a custom system). Dell goes cheaper on components compared to what you could get from a custom configurator like cyberpowerpc.com (using cheaper PSUs, lower quality Motherboards from vendors like Foxconn, etc., versus you selecting much higher quality components from someone like cyberpowerpc.com). Dell has some great deals and can give you really good "bang for the buck". But, if you want to keep a system for a while, you can do much better.

IOW, I'd probably go with something like the system I mentioned for around $1K if you want a better quality system (changing the video card to a GTS 250 for a deduct to bring the price down to under $1K). That's a better card than you'd get in the systems that don't have a large enough PSU to support it, at a good price point.

IOW, go with something like this one, changing the video card for a deduct to keep the price down (unless you're into more FPS for gaming, you don't need one as fast as the default system has in it):

http://www.cyberpowerpc.com/system/Gamer_Xtreme_XT/

That would be a good bet for a system lasting you a while -- giving you plenty of processing power for newer apps (and as time passes, more apps will take advantage of more processing cores), a nice video card that's capable of handling HD Video, etc., with plenty of space in the case for adding drives as needed without it being "cramped" as some of the cheaper designs from vendors like Dell can be. Keep in mind that bare drives are cheaper than going external as you need more storage (you can find 1TB drives for well under $100 now), and more drive slots can be a good thing. ;-)

Even though you may not see any need for more processing power now... times change quickly with higher resolution and larger file sizes for images, video, etc. ;-)

For example, I've got a dual core based box that literally "chokes" working with large 24MP raw files from my perspective (taking far too long to render them). You'll want more processing power as time passes so that you're not waiting on your PC, especially if you plan on keeping a box for a while. ;-)
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Old May 31, 2010, 6:27 PM   #59
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For example, here's one with a few tweaks (changed it to Win 7 Pro versus Home Premium, added a built in card reader, went with a slightly different case) that comes in at $1007 before the 5% discount you can get at checkout by using INSTANT as the discount code. I'd play with the configurator and use the Save feature to send yourself e-mail links to them (as I did with this config).

It would give you a Core i7 930, 6GB of very fast memory, a 1TB Drive, case with plenty of expandability (just buy more drives from someone like http://www.newegg.com as needed), a nice mid range Nvidia GTS 250 video card, a really good Asus motherboard, a 3 year warranty, Win 7 Pro, and more for under $1K after a discount code for 5% off (as you can get with their $999+ systems much of the time), and you'd have 3 DIMM slots for adding more memory later if desired (using 1GB, 2GB or 4GB DDR3 DIMM modules) in addition to the three 2GB modules it would come with, as the X58 Motherboards have 6 DIMM slots in them.

http://www.cyberpowerpc.com/saved/1CGNM0
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Old May 31, 2010, 6:33 PM   #60
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I think they probably also have a benefit of not charging tax. That alone can same me almost $100. How is their customer service/tech support? One nice thing about Dells and Macs is that so many people own them you can usually just do a quick search on line and find a solution to your problem.

I bought a computer to spec about 15 years ago and it was just a nightmare getting everything to work right -- but a lot has changed since then and things seem much more compatible.
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