iMac: With GeForce 9400M or Radeon HD 4670?

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by arnabdas, May 15, 2010.

  1. I'm switching from Windows PC to Mac (and from reflex interchangeable lens cameras to mirrorless but that's another story).
    I'm considering one of those new 20.5" iMac boxes with LED display. That particular size comes with two config options -- the lower priced one has 500GB HDD and GeForce 9400M graphics, while the higher priced one has 1TB HDD and Radeon HD 4670.
    The larger 1TB storage is nice but not quite worth the upgrade cost by itself, considering I can add another USB HDD at much lower cost and with marginally compromised wiring/asthetics. What I don't know is if the Radeon HD 4670 graphics will offer any substantial benefits over GeForce 9400M.
    I will mostly be working on RAW image processing and output for prints. The files will include raw files from various cameras and also 5400DPI linear TIFF scans of 35mm film that are typically 250+MB in size. I will also likely install Windows 7 via BootCamp.
    I wonder if the Radeon HD 4670 will offer any significant benefit for above type of work -- significant enough to justify the cost differential. Your thoughts?
  2. This is for photography and not 3D? You'll see little or no difference. The only issue could be that the Geforce uses "shared" memory, meaning the video card can "borrow" memory from the system, but it does have 256MB of its own, which is the same amount the Radeon card has, so I don't see that being a big deal.
    2D work does not tax the video card, it relies on the CPU, RAM and hard drive. So if you do end up using an external hard drive for large image files you'll be working on, you might want to get one that uses the Firewire 800 port instead of USB.
  3. What Andrew said.
    For photography the graphics card is not taxed. Most important (given the capabilities of the base machine) is RAM. Both have 4GB RAM which is a pretty good starting point, but, given that you are working with 250MB+ files could fill up quickly. (I work with 130MB TIFF 35mm scans and the current 2GB on my MBP is inadequate.) Historically, Apple prices for RAM upgrades were high but you should compare the Apple price with the cost of getting 2x2GB 3rd party sticks to upgrade the RAM (it looks like the iMac has 4 slots for RAM and comes with 2x2GB - confirm this before purchase).
    I'd plan on doing primary editing on the internal hard drive and then offloading once you are done editing. Unless you get an eSATA drive it will be hard to compete with the speed of the internal - even with FW800.
  4. The current iMacs do have 4 slots, of which 2 are used in the default configuration. If you were to increase the memory to 8GB, Apple would charge you $200 but a 3rd party would cost a fair bit less. What you can do is, go with the 4GB configuration and if you decide you need more later - and, really, many to most people don't - do it yourself. IIRC there's an access panel in the back and it's pretty easy, and there are instructions all over the web.
  5. FWIW I would focus (no pun intended) on RAM as opposed to the video card. I have a 21.5" iMac with the 1 TB, 8GB of RAM and the 4670 video card. The full 1TB HD is worth it in my book because I run a separate partition with Windows on it. The extra 4GB of RAM cost $120 online (Crucial). It's absurdly easy to install, and will make your processes run faster, especially if you are doing work with large files in Photoshop. The display is gorgeous - one of the best out there right now. I would also recommend getting the extended Apple Care (3 year) warranty. If *anything* goes wrong, e.g., faulty drive, bad video card, whatever, Apple has stellar customer service. I had an iMac previously and had the entire main board replaced under warranty, which would have run me close to the cost of a new computer. The better video card shows its chops when you are using 3D graphics - in my case gaming, which I enjoy and which is fabulous on this machine (I run Windows 7 in Boot Camp). I built my own PCs for years and then moved to Apple when they began incorporating Intel chips and moved to a UNIX-based OS. It's the best of both worlds now. Hope that helps.....
  6. Thanks everyone :)

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