It is the end of the year and time for my biennial technology refresh. My computers get heavy use since I work in the technology industry, write and take thousands of photos. I also build websites and have a few books to my credit including one on my career at Apple. During my last refresh in late 2012-early 2013, I bought a new Mac Mini and a new Lenovo Yoga laptop and a Lenovo I5 desktop.
My desktop is not a normal one but it has gotten to the point that I could use a new Mac. My I5 iMac is four years old and my I5 Mac Mini will be two years old in January. The hard drives are both are nearly full and the back of my Mac Mini is a cable nightmare. The Mac Mini chugs along much slower running Mavericks than it once did. Yosemite has not wowed me on my somewhat cursed iMac.
With earlier Apple products, I might have just popped the cases open and put in larger hard drives as I did many times in my still running dual G5 that I bought in December 2004, for $1795. I think it started life as a system with a single 80GB drive. It now has a pair of 1TB drives.
Popping the case open is not much of an option on either of my current Mac systems, but I work for a company that uses Macs which means Pages, Keynote, and Numbers are part of my daily work life. So I need a very functional system. Considering my job and the fact that I also spent almost two decades working at Apple, a new Mac would look like a shoe-in.
My history with Apple computers began with an Apple II+ and I got my first Mac when I joined Apple in 1984. When we sold our home in Roanoke, Virginia and made our final transition to the North Carolina coast, I cleaned out my home office equipment closet which had a wonderful collection of Macs that I had purchased over the years including my Mac IIcx/Quadra 700, Mac 8600, and Blue and White G3. I even had the motherboard and hard drive of the Mac II that I got as my company own-a-Mac when I moved from Apple Canada to Apple USA in 1987. The closet also had a couple of the six iMacs that I had purchased for my wife and daughters.
With that much history with Macs, it would seem that I would be a perfect candidate for a new Mac. Unfortunately Apple does not have a product that fits my needs. iMacs are hard to repair and the Mac Mini is just not expandable enough without resorting to expensive Thunderbolt upgrades. Even then the memory is limited to 16GB.
The dual G5 I got ten years ago is one of my favorite Macs of all time. It still runs whenever I need it. The $1,795 that I paid for it was a good investment and I would gladly pay something close to that for another updated version of an expandable Mac with a couple of easily swappable hard drives.
Unfortantely Apple has abandoned this segment of market. If I want a nice I7 system with 32GBs of RAM, a hybrid 2TB hard drive with a DVD drive and lots of USB ports, I have no choice but to look elsewhere. I can find something like that at Lenovo with a nice video card for $1,050 before taxes.
I would be happy to pay a 30% premium on that or close to $1,400 to Apple if I could get a product that really meets my needs.
What kind of desktops could I get from Apple for $1,000 but less than $1,500. It is a pretty unimpressive list.
I could get a 2.8Ghz I5 MacMini with 8GB of RAM and a 1TB fusion drive for $999. If I bump the Mac Mini to an I7 and 16GB of RAM, the price goes to $1,399. Unfortunately the Mac Mini now comes with soldered in RAM so even if it supported 32GB, there would be no way to get it there. You don't have to take my word for the latest Mac Mini not being what people might have wanted. Here is what Ars Technica has to say.
But as iFixit's teardown confirms, the system is no longer as versatile as it has been for the last few years. It's sad to see upgradeability thrown out the window even though the computer still has room for it on the inside.
The 21.5 inch iMac is limited to 8GB of memory and already costs $1,099. If I step up to the iMac with 2.7GHz Quad-core Intel Core i5 and !6GB of RAM, my cost goes up to $1,499. I am still stuck with a 1TB drive for that price, 16GB, and no DVD drive. I can get 32GB of RAM if I go to the iMac with Retina display. That would set me back $3,099 and I would still just have 1TB of storage, no DVD and an iMac that is even harder to service than the one I have. One of my least favorite things about the new Apple is how they force you to go up the line to get basic functionality. When I bought my I5 iMac, I had to buy the one with the largest screen at the time just to get an I5 processor.
I sold Apple products for years and understand well the mantra that specs are not everything. However, if you seriously use your computer for work like I do, the amount of RAM matters a lot. I already have a 16GB Mac Mini and I find it is not up to the job. So why would I replace it something just like it which by the way now costs more than the one I bought in 2013. The current low end Mac Mini is less expensive than what I paid for my Mac Mini but the processor is slower. A Mac Mini with the same processor that mine has costs $100 more than what I paid for mine and comes with RAM that cannot be removed. What a deal you have given us Apple.
So here I am wanting to buy a Mac that will go to 32B and have the potential for lots of extra storage. It appears that I have no choice but to look at the Mac Pro. The $2,999 Mac Pro comes with plenty of processing power but only 12GBs of RAM and only a 256GB SSD. It costs twice what I want to spend, has less RAM than I want and I still have to buy some Thunderbolt drives with enclosures to get to a couple of TBs and a DVD reader. A Mac Pro system would be well over $3,700. Would it last ten years? Who cares?
It does not matter whether Apple builds better sytems or worse ones. If they do not have anything that will meet your needs, you are out of luck. I hate to see Apple walk away from this segment, but I for one am tired of waiting for Apple to address its core computing markets. I will make do with the Macs that I have for work, but I plan to buy a new Windows machine that matches my needs. I will transfer more and more of my work to a Windows computer. Then I'll take my old Windows computer and make it a very nice Linux box. It was only about one and half years ago when I gave away my 2004 Dell Pentium running Ubuntu to a young student interested in Computer Science.
I have delayed this decision far longer than I should have. Apple with its less than stellar software, so-so Cloud software, inattention to the education market, attempts to force me to upgrade and lack of backwards compatibility should have already convinced me to long ago run away to another platform.
Apple built its computer business on the fact that you could customize its computers to your needs. Thunderbolt is way too expensive for most of us. I just need a serious computer with lots of RAM and the ability to have a couple of drives that I can change as technology moves forward. Apple is MIA in this segment. It might come back to bite them.
But I am tired of fighting it. Apple I get your message, I will go buy a new 32GB Windows machine with a 2TB drive and use the leftover money from what I had reserved for your coffers as a start towards a new camera.