I’m beginning to look for a replacement for my 4 year old iMac. The current specs of my iMac suit me fine, 8 GB of RAM, 256MB video card (I don’t game), Intel Core 2 Duo processor. I haven’t really run into any issues with the tasks I need to perform… Until recently.
I have been experiencing quite a few issues with kernel panics that seem to be caused by the video card (according to the console and crash reports). They will either freeze the computer or restart it. They happen at random times. Sometimes the screen will freeze on the screensaver (with very few apps running). Other times they happen just browsing the web (in Safari).
Back in June I was had some issues with the video card and luckily the iMac was still under Apple Care and they replaced the video card and the logic board. I thought that would solve all my problems, and for a while it did. Now I experience panics and freezes on a daily basis. I even did a fresh install of Mountain Lion, just to be sure it wasn’t due to something I installed and also because I haven’t done a fresh install since I got the machine. I may take the machine to the Apple Store for diagnosis, but I doubt they will find anything (they didn’t “find” anything the last time either, but wound up replacing the two components that were likely causing the issue). The Apple Hardware Test did not find anything wrong, but obviously, something is. The problem is, if I do need to replace the parts, the cost will be close to half the cost of buying a new machine with no guarantee that it will fix the issue. Then I will be out of that money and back where I started.
So that’s where my dilemma comes. Do I buy a new Mac (and no, buying a PC is not an option. I adore OSX and love the apps I use on it and do not want Windows 8) and if so, what model?
I currently use my iMac for web browsing, Photoshop work, web development and, most importantly, as my media server. I have Plex Media Server running and stream all my media to my Roku. I would really like a Retina MacBook Pro, but I would not want that running at all times in order to stream media to my Roku (and what’s the purpose of a MacBook if it has to stay on my desk connected to several external hard drives?). So, in all honesty, I have 3 options, a Mac Mini, an iMac or a Mac Pro.
The Mac Pro has not been update in forever and is really expensive. Not to mention, it is overkill for my needs. I’m not processing raw image files or doing a ton of video encoding. I don’t need server-grade (and outdated) Xeon processors. I don’t want to go with another iMac because of Apple’s move toward soldering the RAM directly to the logic board. I also don’t want to be stuck where I am now with my current iMac. That being said, any Mac I choose will face the same issues that all new Macs have with user-swappable parts (besides the Mac Pro, which I’ve pretty much ruled out at this point).
So that leaves the Mac Mini. I can upgrade the RAM on it, but that’s it. Everything else has to be done by Apple or an Apple certified repair shop. Also, the Mac Mini has integrated graphics and not a dedicated video card. I don’t do much (any) gaming, but it does worry me that I may need that extra power. I’m not sure how well the transcoding that Plex does or graphic intensive applications (Photoshop) will work on it. I imagine they will run fine, but I really need more information on that.
The Mac Mini is definitely the cheapest alternative. Building one online (without upgrading the RAM through Apple) will run about $1500. Not bad, but how will the machine handle in 3 or 4 years? Will I need a better machine by then (I like to keep my machines running as long as possible, in fact, I’m typing this on a 5 year old white MacBook that is also on its last leg, but with the iPad, I rarely use it)? Will it start to die on me like my iMac is? If I get the Mac Mini I will upgrade the RAM to 16GB, probably from Crucial, but the integrated graphics gives me some pause.
I feel that Apple’s tight control over their products and slow update cycles is hindering me here. I really wish they had a computer for people like me that were more tech-geek friendly. An iMac that users could open and swap parts would be ideal, but that is not Apple’s style, unfortunately. A cheaper Mac Pro would work too, if it were cheaper and not reliant on server-grade hardware. I don’t think I can wait to whatever mystery product Tim Cook hinted at for Mac Pro users in 2013, especially since I can’t go on using the iMac with it freezing every day.
So what do I do? I’m not sure.