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BARE FEATS LAB - real world Mac speed tests

SHOOTOUT: $1099 iMac 2014
versus four pricier iMacs

Posted Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014 by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

So far in 2014 the only new iMac is a low-end model priced at $1099. How does it compare in performance with pricier models of iMacs currently being sold? Caveat: We had limited access. Therefore our testing is limited to a 'snapshot' of CPU and GPU power.

GRAPH LEGEND
3.5GHz i7 780M = 2013 iMac 3.5GHz Quad-Core i7, GeForce GTX 780M GPU 4G GDDR5
3.2GHz i5 755M = 2013 iMac 3.2GHz Quad-Core i5, GeForce GT 755M GPU 1G GDDR5
2.9GHz i5 750M = 2013 iMac 2.9GHz Quad-Core i5, GeForce GT 750M GPU 1G GDDR5
2.7GHz i5 IrisP = 2013 iMac 2.7GHz Quad-Core i5, Intel HD Iris Pro integrated GPU
1.4GHz i5 I5000 = 2014 iMac 1.4GHz Dual-Core i5, Intel HD 5000 integrated GPU
(All iMacs had 8GB of memory and were running OS X 10.9.3)

Geekbench 3
This is Primate Labs' cross-platform processor benchmark, with a new scoring system that separates single-core and multi-core performance, and new workloads that simulate real-world scenarios. The score is an amalgam of Integer, Floating Point, and Memory performance tests. (
HIGHER number means FASTEST.)

GPUtest - FurMark is a very intensive OpenGL benchmark that uses fur rendering algorithms to measure the performance of the graphics card. Fur rendering is especially adapted to overheat the GPU and that's why FurMark is also a perfect stability and stress test tool for the graphics card. We ran the test at 1920x1080 Windowed with anti-aliasing disabled. (HIGHER number means FASTEST in Frames Per Second.)

REALITY CHECK

CAUTION #1: ONLY 8G MEMORY
The $1K iMac comes with 8G of main memory. It's soldered to the main logic board. There is no factory "configure-to-order" (CTO) to add more. There is no way to upgrade it. Before you get too excited about low price, you should inventory your most important apps and your normal workflow to see how much your current Mac consumes in real memory. A good way to measure this is with Activity Monitor.

We checked the real memory in use after a fresh Restart. With no user apps running, only 5GB was left. Once you use that 5G up, the iMac has to switch to virtual memory swap space on your boot drive. Even if you choose the extra cost flash boot drive, it's not nearly as fast as main memory. In other words, everything goes into molasses mode once all real memory is exhausted.

The $1K iMac is fine for light use (Mail, Safari, iTunes), but for serious pro apps, you should consider one of the 21.5" models with a factory option for 16GB of main memory. It too is soldered on the main logic board. Only the 27" iMacs allow you to install third party memory upgrades up to 32GB -- after purchase.

CAUTION #2: MULTI-CORE CHALLENGED
Note the results of the Geekbench multi-core test. If you are running iMovie, FCPX, Photoshop, HandBrake, or any other app using multiple cores, the $1099 iMac will be rendering only half as fast as the next higher model costing $200 more.

CAUTION #3: WIMPY GRAPHICS PROCESSOR
Finally, if you are buying it to play sophisticated games, it will likely disappoint as predicted by the FurMark test. Better to spend at least $200 more for the next model with the Iris Pro GPU. For serious gamers, only the top model with either GeForce GTX 775M or 780M will handle the most demanding games running native resolution and best settings. If cost is an issue, look for factory refurbished or used iMacs with the best GPUs.

Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to email me,
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WHERE TO BUY A iMACS and OTHER APPLE products:
USA readers can help us earn a commission by using this Apple Store USA link or by clicking on any Apple display ad. Live outside the USA? No problem. We are affiliated with these Apple Stores:

OTHER SOURCES FOR iMACS

WHERE TO BUY MEMORY and CPU UPGRADES FOR THE 27" iMAC

WHERE TO BUY FACTORY REFURBISHED MACS
Apple Store USA has refurbished Macs with 12 month warranty that can be extended to 36 months with AppleCare. Pay attention to the GPU it comes with.

PowerMax not only sells new and used Macs, but will give you a generous trade-in offer on your old Mac.

Other World Computing has a Used Mac Store.

 

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copyright 2014 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
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