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Bob Hewson
Where to begin
on Nov 4, 2014 at 10:57:43 pm

Hi all. I'm in the exciting position of preparing to buy my first ever Mac. Remember what that felt like for you? Sure you do, and I'm guessing by your membership of this forum that you still consider it to be a good decision. So you're the right people to advise me.

Now I know this is a noob question that gets asked all the time, but after what feels like weeks of Internet research, I still don't have the answer. You know what's coming don't you? I hardly need to say it - but, just for clarity, here it is.

Which Mac should I buy?

There we are. Such a simple little question, but with seemingly no simple answer. Now in the last month I have seen this question answered in many different ways, but never quite *answered*. It always seems to end up with "Get the most Mac you can afford." Let me tell you, that means nothing. I can feasibly afford anything from an iPod shuffle to one of those black cylinder Pro jobs, depending on how long I'm willing to save or go without food. What I want to know is, what's the right Mac for my personal needs?

Here's my needs.

1. Moderate video editing, using iMovie and (if necessary) Final Cut Pro. By moderate I mean probably not HD, or not super HD anyway. I make videos lasting up to 30 mins, using transitions and text, and some simple effects (a la Movie Maker). I'd like to do some green screen. My videos mostly get uploaded to YouTube or Facebook, or maybe burned onto a DVD. I'm not looking to edit a feature length movie, or get into serious professional animation/effects. My cam is a little handheld JVC which creates weird files that probably won't play nice with anything except Sony Vegas. But I'm not about to let that dictate my choice of hardware. I'll throw the damn thing in a river if necessary.

2. Music production, using GarageBand or Logic. No crazy synths or anything, I'll use VSS. I have a lovely Scarlett 2i4 which should work nicely with this. I'm told this doesn't require too much processing power.

3. IOS app development. Ditto on the power requirements.

4. Usual stuff. This will be my main desktop.

So based on the above, if you were me, what would you get? At the moment I'm torn between getting a used Mac Mini 2012, or splurging £1500-£2000 on an iMac. I'll do that if I have to, but I'd hate to waste money unnecessarily. I'm slightly worried the 21.5 iMac will be too cramped screen-wise. Although I will defo get an extra monitor. But I'm also concerned that a Mini would be an underpowered short term solution I will regret.

Presently I am going round in circles. I'd love to hear from you regarding what machine can do the job I need it to do. And also what spec and configuration I should aim for (SSD/HDD, internal/external drives, etc)

Many thanks in advance. Hopefully your answers will be useful to lots of other people stuck in the same position as me.

Cheers
Bob


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Mark Suszko
Re: Where to begin
on Nov 5, 2014 at 2:56:03 pm

I think your "sweet spot" is with a recent used imac. The main consideration would be to not obsess so much on the processors but to get the most maxed-out graphics card version you can, because that's where the magic happens on FCPX, which is what you'll use, unless you're more of an Adobe guy. You'll want to get an outboard interface box for it from AJA, Blackmagic Design or similar, on Thunderbolt 2. At minimum, you could get an AJA T-Tap to come out of thunderbolt into HDMI for your external TV monitor. You'll NEED an outboard RAID-5 array with thunderbolt 2 connectivity.

As to the SSD versus spinning media thing, the boot drive on SSD would be smoking fast. The RAID, you might still keep that as spinning drives for now, as they are cheaper. I'm skeptical of the fusion drive still.


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Bob Hewson
Re: Where to begin
on Nov 6, 2014 at 4:26:33 pm

Hi, thanks very much for your reply. I'm definitely keener on an iMac. I forgot to ask what size screen is best. Not sure whether 27 might be too big, or if 21 will feel cramped. Either way I will be getting an extra monitor.

So I'm guessing an i5 quad core will be ok for my needs. I have to admit I don't have a clue what an external interface is. I was expecting to preview my work on monitor #2. I'm not doing professional work, I just want a machine that can cope with the modest demands I'll place on it.

I also don't know what RAID is, or why I need one. Is this just an external HDD for my source footage?

I will do some more reading to get my head round this stuff, but any more comments or tips about hardware (or a safe place to buy it) would be most welcome.

Cheers
Bob


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