Why I Downsized from a 27″ to a 21.5″ iMac

The last iMac I bought was a late 2014 5K iMac, the first with the retina display. I tricked it out with the fastest processor, the best video card, and lots of extra RAM. It’s still fine, but for accounting reasons, it was beneficial to me to upgrade.

So I bought a 21.5″ iMac.

I’ve been using 27″ displays for about five years; prior to the iMac, I had an Apple Thunderbolt Display which was the same size. It’s great for having two big windows open side by side, or a bunch of smaller windows. But in the past year or so, I realized that it was just too big; that it took up too much space on my desk, and especially in my field of vision.

A computer is a tool, and is only useful as long as it works efficiently. But I found the size of the iMac somewhat oppressive, as if too much of what I saw during my work day was a computer screen. Yes, this may be parodical, since most of my work is done on a screen, but I realized that I could be more comfortable if I had more space.

The smaller iMac isn’t that much narrower than the larger model; only 12cm. And its height from foot to top is only about 6cm less. But that’s enough to make it feel much smaller. There’s more space between my iMac and my speakers; there’s more room to see the walls behind my desk, to see the items on my desk. There more room in my mind because my eyes see more beyond the screen.

I won’t miss the extra size. The only work I do where I need a large amount of space is photo editing and screencast creation, and I can zoom in when I need to see either of those with more magnification. If I worked all day editing video, then the 27″ iMac would be essential (frankly, if I did that kind of work, I’d want a larger display). But for what I do, it’s overkill. Bigger isn’t always better.

Amazon Discounts the iMac Pro: Save $500

We don’t usually see sales on new Macs. Sometimes, after a while, certain chains will discount Macs, but not by a lot. In recent times, however, this has become a bit more common, though it’s rare to see such a new model discounted.

The new iMac Pro – the 8 core, 1 TB model – is currently $500 off at Amazon. While that’s only a 10% discount, it’s not negligible. There have been a few other retailers discounting this Mac, as much as $1,000, but this is the first major reseller that I’ve seen offering a discount.

It’s worth noting that the iMac Pro currently has no user reviews on Amazon.

Possible 5K iMac Graphics Card Overheating Issue

The iMac’s fan is quite silent; at its default speed of 1200 rpm, I don’t hear it. The only times it revs up is when I’m using Skype for videoconferencing, or when I rip a video with Handbrake. I have a late 2014 5K iMac with the AMD Radeon R9 M295X graphics card.

But in recent days, I’d noticed that my iMac’s fan was running more often than usual. Since I already use iStat Menus, I set up the app to display sensors in a menu. The menu displays temperatures and voltages for more than a dozen locations in the Mac.

At the time, I noticed that the GPU Die was showing a temperature of more than 90 C, even when the Mac wasn’t doing anything. You can see the spikes early in the Last 7 Days graph, when it was over 100 C when viewing a video. It reached as much as 105 C, which is not necessarily a problem, but the fact that it didn’t go below about 90 C was suspicious. (Note that the peaks in the last hour occurred when I was running a GPU benchmark app, which pushed the graphics card to the limit.)

I couldn’t find any conclusive information about this on the internet, so I contraction Apple. The technician checked and said that it certainly wasn’t a normal temperature. He was prepared to set up a repair, but first had me reset the SMC then reset the NVRAM on the iMac.

To my surprise, this resolved the issue. The resting GPU Die temperature dropped to the 50s-60s C range, and the fan no longer runs fast when I’m not taxing the computer.

So if you encounter this issue, try the above steps: reset the SMC, then the NVRAM. Please post a comment if this does resolve the problem, or if it doesn’t.

Additional 8 GB RAM Adds 18% to the Cost of a New iMac

I was looking at the 21″ iMac recently, and I hadn’t realized that the RAM is not user-upgradable. In other words, if you buy an iMac, you had better decide how much RAM you want right away. By default it comes with 8 GB, which is a bit tight; kind of like getting an iPhone with only 16 GB storage. But you can opt for a build-to-order option of 16 GB RAM (the maximum in this model).

However, that 8 GB RAM – which you could buy for, what, $50 or so? – cost a whopping 18% of the iMac’s price! ($200 added to the base price of $1,099.)

8 GB RAM

Granted, I took the entry-level model; pick the retina iMac, at $1,499, and that $200 RAM addition is only 13% of the base price. So I guess it’s a bargain.

This sort of price gouging is simply unethical.

A Week with the Retina 5K iMac

ImacIt’s been just about a week since I got my 5K iMac (whose official name is iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, Late 2014)). I wrote about my first impressions, and it’s time to give a one-week report.

From time to time, a computing device comes along that changes everything. The 5K iMac does just that. Granted, Apple started with other retina devices: first the iPhone, then the iPad, then the MacBook Pro. But bringing a retina display to the desktop is a paradigm shift.

I’d been spoiled working with a retina MacBook Pro for a couple of years, and had been longing for a desktop display of the same quality. I’m not a photographer, I don’t work with video, but I do work with text, and look at my display most of the day. While a retina display is excellent for those working with visuals, I think it’s just as important for those working with text. I find it more comfortable to work with this display, and the crispness of the text has actually allowed me to move it a bit further away from my eyes than before, and still see it very clearly.

Apple promotes the 5K iMac on its website. It is in a category of its own; not lumped in the general iMac category:


products.png

This won’t last, I’m sure; in a couple of years, they’ll all be retina, but for now, they do make it stand out, and rightly so.

Compared to the Mac Pro, which I bought in June (and which I’m selling; hey, want to buy a Mac Pro?), the iMac is, for my use, very similar. The only noticeable difference is an audible fan when the processors are working hard. With the Mac Pro, the sound is just a whisper; this is because of the way that computer is designed. It is essentially a heat sink with an exhaust column around it. The iMac has an exhaust vent on the back-center of the computer, so when the fan gets going, it’s more audible. However, in normal usage, it runs at 1200 rpm, and I don’t hear it, any more than I heard the Mac Pro.

Compared to my 27″ Thunderbolt display, the iMac is very cool. The Thunderbolt display gave off a lot of heat – though this may be because of a power supply problem; this was just repaired, and I haven’t unboxed it yet to check – but the iMac is cool, unless, of course, it’s working hard, something it doesn’t do often. Even then, it’s only warm on the back, in the area near the CPU.

But the Thunderbolt display’s exhaust is at the bottom-left of the device, meaning that the heat blows out onto your desk; with the iMac, any heat blows out the back, so you don’t notice it. And I could feel a bit of warmth radiating from the front of the Thunderbolt display, if I put the back of my hand near it. Apple has mentioned how much less power this new iMac users, and much of that power difference may be in the display part of the computer.

The 5K iMac is a premium computer. It’s not for everyone. But if you work with a computer all day, you’ll appreciate how much better the display is. I’m very satisfied with this Mac, and I hope to keep it for several years. If you get a chance, go see this new display in an Apple Store; you’ll probably want to buy one too.