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Diagnosing a slow running Mac – Part 5: Choosing a new Mac

In this short series we’ve discussed some of the common problems that can slow your Mac down dramatically. In the final installment we’ll look at how you can make informed decisions about what new Mac you should buy.

Let’s assume that you’ve been through all the steps in the previous parts of this series and you’ve now got a sensible amount of RAM, the hard disk isn’t crammed full and you know that none of your application software is killing your Mac. So all that’s left is getting a faster processor. And that means on thing on a Mac. Buying a new one.

Now I’m sure if you walk into one of the Apple Retailers in Bath, Bristol or Swindon they will guide you towards buying the Mac with the highest profit margin for them, or  the most expensive model you can afford. But you actually need to have some idea of what will make a real perceivable difference to your daily life on the computer. It’s my experience that you only really feel like a machine is much faster if it’s twice as fast as your old Mac.

So how can we measure if a new Mac will be twice as fast as your old one? Firstly, completely ignore all the clockspeed and processor type jargon. You’ll get lost – I get lost! For example, did you know that the i7 processor used in the MacBook Pro only has 2 cores, but Apple can advertise it as having 4 ( it uses Intel “Hyper-threading” technology to make 4 “virtual” cores). To add to the confusion, the iMac i7 actually does have 4 cores, but they don’t mention that the iMac i7 has 8 “virtual” cores. I guess this is an attempt to make the MacBook i7 look as powerful as the iMac i7 – but trust me, it isn’t!

So if the specifications are a minefield, what can you do? Firstly, download a copy of MacTracker. It lists every Mac ever made and has a handy button called “Benchmarks” that will show you GeekBench scores for every Mac. Geekbench gives a good overview of overall processor and memory performance. Select a Mac you are thinking of upgrading to, then look at the GeekBench scores. Then download and run Geekbench on your current Mac. Your new Mac needs to be twice as fast as your old one to see a very noticeable performance boost. If it isn’t, you need to look at a model that faster. You might also want to look at XBench, as it tests the video and disk performance as well and gives a more “rounded” set of results. You can search XBench score here

After this, you should be able to know exactly what is the cheapest model that you can buy. If you’re still not sure what you model to get, please give us a call and we can walk you through the minefield of choosing your new Mac. Hopefully you’ll then click on the links to buy from the Apple Online Store, which will earn us a small 2% commission, which would be much appreciated!

I hope you’ve found this little series informative. It came about because my current 3 years old MacBook Pro has been driving me to distraction recently, as it was simply too slow for much of my day-to-day web development work. This lead to a long and involved analysis of what was causing it to run so slowly, and whether I should simply throw money at the problem and buy a new Mac. In the end I’ve decided that adding more RAM and a second internal Solid State Disk, at a cost of £200, will give me enough extra speed to put off spending the £2000+ necessary to get a decent i7 powered MacBook Pro or iMac.

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