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Quick and Dirty Desktop iMac Configurations

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Here are different configurations on how I would personally configure a new Macintosh Computer for the average Adobe Photoshop CC 2020 user. These selections and prices are subject to change without notice and could be out of date in a few months. As always, NEVER PURCHASE A 21.5" IMAC!!

In all cases, we are buying directly from Apple.com and not a Big-Box Store such as Best Buy. Unfortunately, you can't change the configuration when you buy from one of those stores, and to get the most value and longevity for our money, it's best to purchase from Apple directly. I would also have it shipped to a local Apple Store, not only to save on shipping, but to make sure things stay secure. No sense in having a $3000+ computer get stolen by Porch Pirates. Speaking of prices, all prices are US Dollar Based and are as of December 9, 2020.

OK, first we head to  the 27" Mac section on Apple.com. Click the Blue Select Button for the $2299 Model, it should be the column on the right; of course it's me that's writing this article so we are going with most expensive default configuration. :D

Edit 1: Just in case you are reading this article from another country head to the local Apple URL for your area, when you select "Buy" under the "Mac" Section and click on 27", you will be configuring the iMac that is typically all the way over on the right. Bear in mind that yes, this is the most expensive configuration, but trust me, it's not as expensive as one would think.

If you do try to choose a cheaper option, Apple charges you more to upgrade certain items!! For example, if you chose the Middle Column, typically the mid-range price, and were to upgrade the HD, you will end up paying $100 (or more) for the same exact HD upgrade as for the most expensive option!! You read that correctly, remember...Apple wants you to "Go-Big-or-Go-Home!" You are penalized for choosing a lower-cost Mac when it comes to upgrade options. By the time you configure a lower-cost iMac to "Save" money, you only end up paying $100 less for a lower-end model.

Sneaky, eh?

Screen Shot 2021-02-25 at 8.23.54 PM.png

Edit 2 : Mac Laptop configuration, scroll to the bottom of this thread.

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For Standard Photoshop Work, start with the $2299.00 27" iMac and configure it as follows:

  1. Leave the CPU at the Intel i7 3.8GHz 8-Core. (Default Configuration)
  2. Leave it at the Standard Glass. (Default Configuration)
  3. Leave it at the default 8GB RAM. (Default Configuration)
  4. Upgrade the Video Card to the Radeon Pro 5700 with 8GB of GDDR6 memory (The Middle One / Add $300.)
  5. Upgrade the Internal HD to the 1TB SSD Storage (Add $200)
  6. Leave the Ethernet at Gigabit (Default Configuration)
  7. Leave the Magic 2 Mouse alone. (Default Configuration)
  8. Personally, I'd upgrade the Keyboard to the one with the built-in numeric keypad. It's totally worth the extra $30.873407653_ScreenShot2020-12-09at9_03_49PM.thumb.png.8f17514813c871a2d6084d743cf4e483.png

You should be at $2829.00, plus applicable tax and any shipping. Oh, do not forget to purchase AppleCare for an extra $169. It's on the next screen when you click Add to Bag.

I would then purchase TWO OF THESE Crucial.com 16GB RAM Sticks to take your RAM from 8GB to 40GB for $155. If you want to splurge a little, purchase this 64GB Kit ($320) which will take your RAM from 8GB to 72GB. I'm at 64GB with my 2017 27" iMac, and it works fine with editing images from my Nikon D850. So for Photoshop work, even with PS CC 2020 and a modern camera, 72GB is more than enough for the majority of today's Raw files from modern cameras.

Here is a screenshot with my configuration above:

 

Screen Shot 2020-08-21 at 1.26.07 PM.png

EDIT: Just in case if Crucial.com is out of stock, you can buy a 32GB RAM stick from B&H. Please remember, you need to purchase RAM in pairs when it comes to iMacs. So you will need two 16GB sticks or two 32GB Sticks. With today's 2020 iMac, it's better to get two 32GB sticks and be done with it. This will take you from 8GB to 72GB, for a third of the cost of just taking the RAM to just 64GB! If you purchased the RAM from Apple, the 64GB Upgrade adds $1000 to the cost. Think about it, purchasing two 32GB Sticks for $320 increases the RAM from 8GB to 72GB! You are getting 8GB more for a whole lot less money!!

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For a Mix of Photoshop Work & Light Video Editing, start with the $2299 Model and configure it as follows:

  1. Display: Leave it at the Default / Standard Glass.
  2. Processor: Upgrade the CPU to the Intel 3.6GHz 10 Core - 10 Gen i9. (Adds $400)
  3. Memory: Leave it at the Default / Standard 8GB Configuration. (More on this later.)
  4. Video: Upgrade the Video Card to Radeon Pro 5700 XT with 16GB of GDDR6 memory. (Adds $500.)
  5. Storage. Upgrade the Internal HD to the 2TB SSD option. (Adds $600.)
  6. Ethernet: Leave it at the Default / Standard Gigabit Configuration.
  7. Mouse: Leave it at the Default Magic Mouse 2, or switch to the TrackPad if you'd like.
  8. Keyboard: Click the hyperlink / word "Change" and select Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad - US English. (Adds $30.)
    720696853_ScreenShot2020-12-09at9_03_49PM.thumb.png.bb62b8662c35762c0011419dff8b986f.png

You should be at $3829.00, plus applicable tax and any shipping. Oh, do not forget to purchase AppleCare for an extra $169. It's on the next screen when you click Add to Bag.

I would then purchase this Crucial.com 64GB Kit ($320) which will take your RAM from 8GB to 72GB. If you need more, the 2020 27" iMac versions can be increased to 128GB, but if you need that much RAM to edit video, you really are beyond the specifications of this iMac Configuration. Remember, this is for Photoshop Work and to Edit Videos from a GoPro or DSLR that will most likely end up on YouTube or a Blog somewhere.

There is one more thing you could add to this configuration, and that is upgrade the Ethernet to 10Gb instead of leaving it at the default Gigabit Configuration. This option would only benefit those who transfer videos between computers or work from a centralized location, such as a Server that houses the videos. You would need a 10GB Switch and CAT6A Ethernet Cabling at the very least, too. So if you have thoughts on a 10 Gigabit Ethernet Configuration in the near future, might as well upgrade that option as well. Truth be told, if you are doing that kind of video work, you are more interested in the Mac Pro Configuration in the next section.

Screen Shot 2020-08-21 at 2.02.11 PM.png

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For Heavy Duty Video Work, you will probably want a Mac Pro. Believe it or not, Adobe Photoshop CC WILL NOT FUN FASTER ON A MAC PRO as compared to the standard 27" iMac. In fact, it might actually run slower. Why? Because it's not encoded / programmed to take the advantages that the Mac Pro provides. So if you are primarily editing still photos in Photoshop, stick with the "Photoshop Work" or "Mixed"  Configurations in the above sections and save yourself A LOT of cash.

For primary users that are looking for "Serious & Heavy Duty" Video Editing, start with a All-in-One Macintosh Pro and configure things:

Why start with a Mac Pro for $5000? Because for the true Video Professional, time is money. Since there are less options when it comes to a Mac, both Adobe Premier and Final Cut have drivers that are optimized for a Mac Pro, resulting in a better user experience. Things like syncing video and more importantly EXPORTING VIDEO are much faster and smoother as compared to their Windows Computer Counterparts. Now, if you are only editing one video every few months or so, than this Mac Pro Configuration might be a bit overkill and you'd probably want to save yourself $9000+ and stick with the "Mixed" Configuration above. If you are editing video daily / weekly and have multiple customers looking for final projects on a normal basis, this Mac Pro Configuration should pay for itself within a few months. Again, waiting an hour or two instead of 20-30 minutes while exporting video adds up. Think about it...you can get 3-4 videos delivered to a client in the time that it takes you to export ONE on a slower iMac. So without further ado, let's have some fun! Let's start with the only Mac Pro Configuration for $4999.00

  1. Processor: Upgrade the CPU to the Intel 2.3GHz 18-core Intel Xeon W processor, Turbo Boost up to 4.3GHz (Adds $1600)
  2. Memory: Since you can not upgrade this after the fact, upgrade the RAM to 256GB 2666MHz DDR4 ECC Memory. (Adds $5200)
  3. Video: Upgrade the Video Card to Radeon Pro Vega 64X with 16GB of HBM2 memory (Adds $700)
  4. Storage. Upgrade the Internal HD to the 2TB SSD option. (Adds $400.)
  5. Mouse: Leave it at the Default Magic Mouse 2, or switch to the TrackPad if you'd like.
  6. Keyboard: Leave it at the default Keyboard with Numeric Keypad.

You should be at $12,899.00, plus applicable tax and any shipping. Oh, do not forget to purchase AppleCare for an extra $169. It's on the next screen when you click Add to Bag.

Again, most of the users here won't be buying a Mac Pro for Photoshop work. I'd just decided to include it for a comparison. Why did I upgrade the components with this Mac Pro and pay Apple's insanely high prices? Because when it comes to a Mac Pro, with both the Desktop and Laptop Configurations, YOU CAN NOT UPGRADE ANYTHING AFTER THE FACT. Adding RAM yourself is out of the question, and even upgrading the HD. Sure you could open the Mac Pro and attempt things yourself, but you really risk breaking things and having a $5000+ Paperweight is not an option in my book. Oh, why only a 2TB instead of a 4TB? Because 4TB is the newest option and I want to wait a little to make sure they are stable enough. The 1TB SSD Drives have been out for a few years, as well as the 2TB configurations. Plus, I'm assuming that most people using a configuration such as this would be working off a Thunderbolt 3 Drive, in a RAID0 configuration. They won't need 4TB of storage space as their files would be on a more suitable hard drive. 2TB is "More than Enough" for the OS and software like Adobe Premier and various Plug-Ins and Cache Files / Scratch Disks. Of course, since we are at $12899.00, why not add a few thousand more, it's only money...right? ;)

 

Screen Shot 2020-08-21 at 2.38.42 PM.png

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There is the newest Mac Pro Model, which isn't a All-in-One Configuration. For the members here that would purchase a Mac Pro such as that one, and more importantly have the funds to purchase one, they don't need help from me. They already know what to buy, so I won't be covering that model / configuration here, since this is mostly a Photoshop & DSLR Camera Website. :)

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For a those who are determined to purchase a Macintosh Laptop, here is what you need to purchase:

I will warn you, not only does Apple want you to "Go Big or Go Home," when it comes to Apple's current Laptops, YOU MUST UPGRADE THE OPTIONS AT THE TIME OF PURCHASE!!! Why? Because things like RAM and SSD Drives are now soldered to the motherboard. The Video Card is also a part of the motherboard. So if you are determined to purchase a Macintosh Laptop for Photo Editing, plan on spending $3000-$4000. Yes, I'm dead serious.

First, head to Apple.com and then click Mac at the top of the screen. Select the MacBook Pro 16". Do not click the 13" or Mac Air Models. Yes, MacBook Pro Laptops ARE EXPENSIVE and there is no getting around that. No, the $1300-ish models really won't cut it. Yes, you MUST PURCHASE Apple's insanely over-priced upgrades at the time of purchase, as there is no upgrading after-the-fact. OK, with that out of the way, once you select the MacBook Pro 16" click the blue "BUY" icon at the top of the screen. Immediately hit the "Select" button below the $2799 price-point.  

  1. The CPU can stay at the default, (2.3GHz 8‑core 9th‑generation Intel Core i9 processor, Turbo Boost up to 4.8GHz)
  2. UPGRADE THE RAM TO AT LEAST 32GB. 
  3. UPGRADE THE GRAPHICS CARD to the AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 8GB of GDDR6 memory.
  4. Leave the Hard Drive at the Default 1TB SSD Storage Option
  5. Everything else can also be left at the defaults, be sure to purchase AppleCare on the next screen.

As with anything, there is no such thing as "Too much RAM" or "Too much HD Space," etc. and if you can afford it, do be afraid to go even bigger. As it stands right now, my MacBook Pro Configuration is $3299 before any applicable taxes, AppleCare or shipping. The configuration should look like this:

1012628779_ScreenShot2021-02-01at6_25_43PM.thumb.png.efa80189de2953b81603d95e10a4ed10.png

 

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