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Hardware specific issues - computers, graphics cards, mice/input devices, system benchmarks, protection key issues, etc.

Moderators: Barry Kelly, Karl Ottenstein, LaszloNagy, ejrolon, gkmethy


My sister recently finished her degree as an architect and is looking to replace her old MacBook.

She will be using programs like Archicad, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and the usual office programs (Word, Excel). She said it will be mainly (detached) houses and probably not all the technical inventory like plumbing etc. Being able to keep multiple programs running simultaneously will be needed, but maybe not having them all perform CPU heavy tasks.

A local store recently had a sale, where she bought a 27" with the i5 CPU. After buying it she started looking more into the specs and wondered if she should buy the i7 version instead. She's got 30 days to possibly return it.

The one she bought has got 8GB of memory, which might be a bit ow, but it's possible to upgrade later.

Since the sale is over, she won't get as good of a deal on a new one with i7, which makes the price difference higher. They didn't have the i7 on sale either.

The question we're looking for an answer to is what difference it will make to get the i7 4,0 GHz. Both today and possibly for the next 5+ years. Will the difference be large enough to make it worth the investment? We're hoping someone in here has got the i5 or tried both versions. I realize that people use Archicad and the other programs differently, but I hope to get some useful input.

More power is always nice, but not so much if you don't get to use that power. IMacs are not exactly cheap.
Refcar wrote:More power is always nice, but not so much if you don't get to use that power. IMacs are not exactly cheap.

It all depends on how much you are willing to spend. The obvious answer would be — more is better.

There are 3 major components that make a difference in how fast the system reacts to your requests. Processor, RAM and Hard drive.

Every software mentioned in your post will take full advantage of all three.

Processor: if the choice is between i5 and i7 on iMac 27" then i7 will be over 25% faster. You can decide whether the price difference will be sufficient to justify the purchase.
RAM: this is very important. Get as much as you can afford. You can save on a processor, but don't save on RAM. 8Gb is no-no; 16Gb is a good minimum. I would go for 32Gb if money is no object.
Hard drive: Should be SSD, as Laszlo mentioned above. SSD stands for Solid State Drive... basically a hard drive with no moving parts. SSD hard drives are much faster than regular drives and will speed up your work considerably.
Note. iMacs have an option to have a Fusion Drive. Basically, an SSD plus a big hard drive. I would consider 2Tb or 3Tb Fusion drive (not 1Tb, as it has very small SSD that would work hard if taxed) instead of a full SSD drive if cost is appropriate.

My take: RAM first, SSD second, processor last. In the end, unless your sister is a power user that would tax all the computer systems to the max i5 with 16gb of RAM and Fusion Drive is a good choice for the next several years, but if you have the cash — go for the top.
One more note.

It does not have anything to do with iMacs, but if any other computer or laptop model offers "dedicated video card" as an option (macbook pro, for instance) — take the biggest you can afford.

It basically means that computer/laptop will have a bigger, phisically-separate video card, as opposed to a basic setup where a smaller graphics chip is embedded on the main motherboard.

Dedicated video card will make 3D editing in ARCHICAD (something you do a lot) leaps and bounds more productive. iMacs have that by default.
Not all iMacs have a dedicated gfx 'card'. In the latest line all the 27" iMacs have a dedicated GFX processor and video ram while on the 21.5" they all have onboard Intel HD or Intel Iris gfx which is part of the CPU.

The gfx processors on the 27" machines are by far faster and more capable than the HD or Iris on-chip gfx capabilities.

But I would opt for a fast i7 with at least 16GB ram.