One Word Describes the Retina iMac with an SSD: Wow!
Yesterday I picked up a 27″ iMac with Retina display that I’d ordered in December with some end-of-year money. The machine has so stunned me with its display, thin design, and super-fast solid state drive (SSD), that it has almost instantly changed my relationship with my Mac.
You may ask, “What…are you in love with your Mac, Borsch? Do you hug it?” (That came from a buddy in an email, who thinks I have far too much affection for technology!). 😉
The answer is “yes” since my face is in front of this machine for hours each day. I use it for photo work, video editing, podcasting, writing, finance work, and a bunch of other tasks. I’d played with one in the store, but until I got it home, migrated my previous 27″ iMac’s files and settings to this new one and started to use it, did I realize why and how that relationship has shifted with just a couple of hours of use.
In no particular order, here are a few impressions with only a few hours usage:
Display: This is the #1 feature, obviously. The clarity is so good that I’ve been opening photos in Aperture just to look at them. They are so crystal clear—and I’m seeing things in them I’d not noticed before—that I laughed when I realized I’d spent an hour last night just gazing at pics!
Text and graphics are like you’d see on an iPad, Chromebook Pixel, or any extremely high resolution display. Reading on this display is easy, clear and just stunning.
SSD: I gulped when I ordered this machine since I’d chosen the 1 terabyte solid state drive (SSD) option and the upgrade from a spinning drive (or ‘Fusion‘) to SSD wasn’t cheap. Best decision I made, however, and here is where my ‘relationship’ with my iMac changed.
I didn’t realize how reluctant I’d grown when, in the middle of some work, I had become hesitant to launch an application because of the time it would take to have it up and running. Same thing with updates requiring a restart. Since so much stuff loads on my machines (I have multiple apps opening upon restart as well as various things like Dropbox and Little Snitch running too), the boot time was in the 2-3 minute range so I was always running system updates in the evening so I wouldn’t interrupt workflows. With the SSD, boot time is about 45 seconds! I actually launch stuff on-the-fly whenever I need it now and will run updates when they appear.
Memory: Though the only user-modifiable part of this machine is being able to add RAM to it later on, I also added 32GBs of memory to the machine. Though 16GBs on my former 27″ iMac seemed like enough, if I was running a virtual machine (e.g., Windows, Ubuntu Linux) at the same time my machine would slow to a crawl. Plus I’d always be quitting memory-hogging applications like Photoshop, InDesign, or my 20-tabs-always-open-in in my web browser of choice, Google Chrome.
I’ve never had a problem with Apple RAM but have had with third party memory. Figuring I’m keeping this bad-boy for some time, I wanted the best possible machine I could build so I opted for the cost of Apple memory (which is actually quite competitive…but never used to be which is why I would opt for third party RAM most of the time in the past).
Other: Also upgraded the processor to a 4ghz i7 as well as the graphics card, an AMD Radeon R9 M295X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory. While I’m not a gamer (but sometimes run Windows in a Boot Camp partition and play games), I also noticed a very nice increase in video performance and scaling in Final Cut Pro, as well as playing 4k videos.
Yes, I know the machine is expensive (nearly $5k with tax) but click on that receipt to see a larger view and see what I paid for a Mac IIci with 13″ color monitor in August of 1990.
The retail price of this Mac IIci/monitor bundle was almost $6,000 and the Apple employee discounted price was $4,193.00. Using a simple purchasing calculator and the Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation rate to figure out what that amount would be in today’s money, if I had purchased that Mac IIci bundle now it would have cost me roughly $7,470.00 and had a retail price over $10,000!
So yes, I think this iMac Retina is an amazingly good value. Because of that I can almost even justify spending that kind of dough on a computer! 😉