Upgrade RAM Imac or Mac Mini?

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by hugh_sakols, Dec 29, 2012.

  1. Hi,
    I use a Nikon d800 with Adobe Lightroom 4.3 on a 2007 imac. It works but certainly is sluggish especially when trying to zoom into my images. Right now my imac has 3 GB RAM, but could be upgraded to 6 GB. Would I see any improvement in Lightroom performance upgrading my RAM. Or should I look at a quad core mac mini with 16 GB of RAM from OWC? I really hate the idea of upgrading my computer when I don't absolutely have to when I could instead upgrade my lenses. I'd appreciate your insight.
  2. I guess I could replace the drive with a SSD drive, yet I keep all of my images on an external FW drive.
  3. EricM

    EricM Planet Eric

    I'd sell the D800 and purchase a D700 along with a new mac mini. Lightroom loves a fast cpu (and as many cores as possible) before it loves ram and ssd drives.
  4. A quick computer chat...
    When you computer boots up, it loads the OS from the HD and into ram. Once booted it only needs the HD for new stuff to load into memory. Once things are in memory, the speed of the RAM and , if processing is involved, the speed of the CPU is what you notice when using the computer.
    In the case of a program like Lightroom, and most other image manipulation applications, a faster HD will only boot your computer and load the App and data into memory faster. Once there, it's all up to the speed of the ram and CPU to make the changes happen. If you had a computer with a separate video card, THAT really comes into play as well, since most graphic intensive things are off loaded to the GPU ( Graphics processor ) on the video card. Unless you have a Mac Pro with a video card, you can't change that feature, so you get what Apple gives you on an iMac. The more ram you have the more can be in memory at the SAME time. If the computer doesn't have enough to get the job done, it starts swapping out part of the data back and forth to the HD, which slows things down.
    What about those SSD hard drives ? Well, Apple charges the same amount for a 128Gig SSD as a 750 Gig regular one. What do you need more of ; Space or speed ?
  5. Adding RAM will definitely speed things up. If your machine can handle an internal SSD that will boost Sppedlite even

    However there will be no getting around three hardware facts: you've got a Core 2 processor in there, it tops out at 6GB
    RAM and you have a fluorescent backlit LCD.

    My advice is if you like the form factor of the iMac andif you can swing is to get a more recent iMac . Preferably an i5 or
    i7 quad core that has been refurbished (check Apple's factory refurbished offerings. It doesn't (and maybe shouldn't be
    the very latest ultra thin versions but should have the 27" screen.
    All of the 27" iMacs have white LED backlit screens and this makes a huge difference in image quality (tonality and color).
    Mine is a late 2009 2.66GHz i5 quadcore that came with 4GB RAM and it started out really good but over time I have
    supercharged it by increasing RAM to 8 and then 16GB (my model's maximum, more recent ones can handle up to 32GB
    but for many people that will be overkill.)

    More recently I had the internal Optical drive swapped out for an OWC 240GB 3G Mercury Electra SSD and that really
    made a performance difference for Lightroom, Creative Suite 6 applications, PTGui (stitching) and other computationally
    intense programs. The SSD is now my boot drive (OS, applications, and Lightroom catalog) and the existing 1TB HDD is
    used for"hot projects", scratch disk for Photoshop CS 6, and Time Capsule. My image library (several TB) is on external
    RAID 5 boxes connected via FireWire 800.

    I bought the RAM and SSD from Other World Computing http://www.macsales.com - great service and support.

    More recent iMacs have faster processors, Thunderbolt, and can take more than 16GB RAM.

    The overall gamut on the white LED backlit display on my iMac is somewhere between sRGB and Adobe RGB(1998)
    but a section of the magenta gamut nears the Pro Photo RGB limits. I calibrate and profile every two weeks and there's
    been very little drift as the display has gotten older. I use the X-Rite i1 Display Pro and i1 Profiler software.
  6. If you had a computer with a separate video card, THAT really comes into play as well, since most graphic intensive things are off loaded to the GPU ( Graphics processor ) on the video card.​
    Not where Lightroom is concerned - it doesn't make use of the graphics card.
    Lightroom requires a video card that can run the monitor at its native resolution. Built-in, default cards that ship with most desktop or laptop systems typically suffice for Lightroom.​
  7. Once you are up to a certain level of RAM, unlike Photoshop, Lightroom performance improvements are
    far more driven by CPU, *especially* when comparing 2007-era Intel CPUs with current offerings. The
    difference is very noticeable. For example, my new 2012 mac-mini with quad core i7 CPU and stock RAM is much faster than my 2008 8-core
    MacPro with much more RAM. Another factor is memory speed. My MacPro uses 800 MHz RAM, my mini's memory speed is 1,600 MHz - data is moved much faster.

    Eric nailed it up above.
  8. Thanks for all the help. It is amazing how we all survived when we just used photoshop and scanned film. But then we didn't use lightroom. Yes I see that making the plunge is necessary if I want to play. Of course this would be a no brainer if I sold more photographs. I'm curious, how hard is it to replace the drive in a mac mini? I know that replacing RAM is quite easy?
  9. EricM

    EricM Planet Eric

    I'd just order it with i7 and the ssd hard drive. But not with the fusion drive. Then I would add a second hdd like the 2TB Black Western Digital. Or the new 4TB Black WD if you are feeling flush. This dual hdd kit on iFixit seems to work on the new 2012 mac mini as the comments are recent
    and here's another link on mac rumors
    This flexibility for adding parts in the mac mini makes it the best choice for desktop digital photographers imo. Because of the iMacs expense, its average monitor, and the difficulty of getting inside it, I feel the iMac is for a different market other than the digital photographer.
  10. I was looking at the mini server, on that one the ssd is only $200 which is kind of a good deal. On the base one you could
    save a little by doing it yourself, but may not be worth the risk.
  11. There is another solution. I've a mid-2006 iMac - just a little older than yours. Max ram is 3gb (motherboard limitation). The machine came with Tiger. Over the years I upgraded to Leopard, then Snow Leopard and then Lion. Lion proved a bit too much for it. Slow and laggy. So I backed up, wiped the machine and reinstalled Snow Leopard.
    And had a shock. I know clean reinstalls are supposed to work wonders, but the iMac was scarily fast with Snow Leopard. It felt about twice as fast as it had under Snow Leopard previously.
    So it's possible that doing some maintenance on your ageing machine could have a beneficial effect on it. And all for free.
    PS: I tried Lion on it again after a few weeks and Lion feels much quicker this time. Maybe not quite as quick as Snow Leopard but acceptable. I don't use Lightroom though, so no advice there.
  12. Are you storing your images on an external drive or internal on your iMac' This can make a huge difference if you don't have FW800 or USB3 Even these can be a bit slow to draw up in comparison. FYI I'm using a mac mini i7 with 16Gb RAM and Fusion drive. I keep working files on the mini and performance has proved impressive so far.
  13. Hello !
    I use Mac Mini late 2009 with Snow Leopard and uprading RAM helped a lot in working with 18MB raw files. Mac mini is upgradable to 4GB officialy but my works with 8GB with no problem ( but you have to check carefully wchich type of RAM is usefull for your model) I would buy new mac mini but it doesn't has DVD drive.
    all the best
    Maciej Męczyński

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