I’ve finally got to the point where I’m considering upgrading my computer again. Some of you may remember that it’s actually not that long ago that I bought my current computer, a second-hand Mac Mini, to replace the previous G3 tower that died. In all honesty the Mac Mini was only intended to be a short-term solution, as I need to replace the G3 but didn’t really have a budget for it at the time, hence the need for a cheap stop-gap solution.
To be fair, the Mac Mini has been superb. It looks great, does the job very nicely, is blissfully quiet, and has a faster processor than the G3. And for a £260 Mac, it really was a bargain. Unfortunately, however, its power just doesn’t match up to my needs, and I’ve reached the point where I have to seriously consider budgeting for a more powerful alternative.
In truth, I am not the sort of user Apple targeted the Mac Mini at. I use my computer for significantly more than surfing the web and checking e-mails. On an average working day I will normally end up with at least a dozen programs all open at once, some of them big hefty ones like Photoshop; and my nice big 19″ monitor still isn’t big enough, and I make regular use of virtual desktops, switching between various screens for different types of work. All this is sometimes reasonably processor-intensive, and definitely requires plenty of RAM. And it’s on this count that my Mac Mini falls down.
The 1.42Ghz G4 processor isn’t exactly sluggish, and handles everything I throw at it. It’s the memory that lets it down. The 512MB of RAM is quickly used up, and beyond that it seems to spend all its time swapping memory in and out from the hard disk, which slows everything down considerably and doesn’t do the hard disk much good either. I did consider upgrading the memory in the Mac Mini, but it only has one slot and has an upper limit of 1GB, which I don’t think will be enough for very long.
So, the upshot of all this is that I’m looking at buying a new computer. By ‘new’, incidentally, I mean second-hand, but not old. After reading an interesting article on buying a Mac the other day I don’t think I’ll need a nuclear-powered fire-breathing Mac Pro, that’s perhaps a little too much power and far too many pennies. And a laptop just isn’t enough of a step up from my Mac Mini to be worth the expense, along with the fact that I would never need it to move from the desk. It seems the iMac is therefore the best option for me at the moment, with its reasonable price and mid-range performance. It also has a built-in screen, which means I can use my existing TFT monitor as an additional screen for some double-headed fun. I’ve found some machines on eBay with 4GB RAM and 2GHz processors, and that should certainly do me for a while.
The only problem with this approach is that it’s harder to replace bits when they go wrong. Then again, when do Macs go wrong? My old G3 only died because it was old, and by old I mean really old, and by really old I mean it originally had a 450MHz processor. Ouch.
So, a new iMac is on the cards for the near future. The biggest complication in all of this is that we’re also trying to save every penny at the moment for a deposit for a house, so that needs to be factored in as well. Before I buy myself a shiny new computer, I shall need to make sure I can guarantee I can sell my Mac Mini to a good home and get some return on it. Anyone interested?