So I finally bit the bullet and purchased an iMac non-Retina on the 12 months interest free deal that Apple has going:
And although I was tempted by the Retina I had to weigh up all the pro’s and con’s of going with the iMac 5K or the iMac non-Retina – the first thing I started to have a look at was all the benchmark comparisons from the CPU, SSD and GPU to see whether there was a massive gap between the two hardware. In terms of the ports the only difference is Thunderbolt in the iMac non-Retina vs. Thunderbolt 2 in the iMac 5K so in terms of the hardware I have the Drobo 5D is Thunderbolt 1.0 compliant meaning that it will run on a Thunderbolt 2 port but I’ll never gain any of the benefits of having a thunderbolt 2 port so in terms of the comparison the iMac non-Retina was ‘good enough’ for what I need. Internally the performance of the CPU when the maxed out for both were compared the performance difference in the Geek benchmark scores was a matter of around 400 points between the two 64bit benchmarks – is it worth the extra $800 difference between the two? for me I couldn’t justify it to myself. There was also an interesting benchmark a while ago where due to the constraints of the iMac design the CPU throttling also kicks in so even though its like, “wow, that is a power processor” there is much doubt as to whether it is possible to max out the CPU for long periods of time so even though on paper the iMac 5K has the capacity of having a faster CPU in reality I think one would be lucky if one could really max it out in terms of squeezing every last bit of grunt out of the machine.
The GPU was the other concern especially regarding the running of a very high resolution screen even on an upgraded GPU option being the AMD R9 M295X the performance of a gaming benchmark and it was a matter of 10-20fps that weren’t even noticeable when the video was running the two of them side by side. Where the AMD GPU does get some benefits is around the OpenCL performance – so it is around on par with the 780M and the strength lays in OpenCL performance but given how fickle OpenCL is and how almost none of the applications I have use OpenCL (video compression use the built in hardware acceleration provided by the GPU vendor itself). The temperature of the GPU was also a concern particularly in relation to whether there is enough ‘head room’ left over in the GPU if at a later date more of the GUI is pushed onto the GPU to improve responsiveness which might end up proving that it becomes either a bottle neck or running hot for long periods resulting in a shortened life span.
Regarding the screen, although it is higher resolution on the iMac 5K (double the resolution of the iMac non-Retina) I had to check it out myself at the local Dick Smiths just so I can find out first hand what it is like – and to he honest the experience wasn’t as ‘great’ in terms of wow factor when compared to moving from a non-Retina to a Retina laptop especially when you consider that with a laptop you’re closer to the screen where as with a desktop you’re further back thus the impact of having a higher resolution is a lot lower.
In conclusion if I did go for the iMac 5K I’d get a slightly updated internal specs, a higher resolution screen and the over all performance was going to be around the same as the non-Retina iMac which a price tag that would be around $500 more which made going with the non-Retina more convincing. I’m looking forward to it being delivered between the 1-8th May so I’d probably say that it’ll arrive somewhere around 4-5 May so I’ll be excited once that arrives. Btw, the one thing I didn’t go for was a large internal drive but instead a 256GB SSD and instead will use my Drobo 5D as the drive to store all my music, videos etc. on for long term storage – SSD for speed, Drobo for long term storage.