Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Computers, Cameras, and Money

    I am thinking about getting a new computer in the next month or so, not due to the issues I have with Aperture 3, but because I need more storage space, which a notebook just cannot handle. I'm debating between getting a 27" iMac or a Mac Pro, and I can see up and down sides to both. The Mac Pro gives me the ability to at some point have as much as 8TBs worth of drive space, which is almost unbelievable, but will likely become necessary at some point in the future. In other words I can see my storage needs could easily get that high before I would consider buying a computer after the one I am considering buying in the next 5-10 weeks. I already have a 500GB drive in my MBP, then two external 1TB drives, one for backups and the other for images and video files, along with additional external drives, a 500GB drive for windows files, and older 250GB, and 80GB drives with other photos on them. I'd likely buy another 1TB drive for photo backups, to be stored off site. I do use windows applications and games, and so having a Windows 7 install on a separate drive would be a big plus.

    I am just not sure that the 1TB or 2TB drive options in the 27" iMac will satisfy me during the period of ownership, which will likely be 3-5 years. I also like the idea of having an SSD boot drive, once the prices on 64+ GB SSDs come down to a price point of around $100. The SSD of course would be out of the question if I went with the iMac, since the price on large enough SSD would be mind boggling to say the least. Either computer would better serve me in terms of peripheral usage, since the iMac has 4 USB2 ports, vs. the 2 on my MBP. The advantage of the Mac Pro of course is that it has 5 USB2 ports, and four FW800 ports, vs one FW800 port on the iMac. I could also add a USB3 PCI-E card in the Mac Pro, something I could never upgrade in the iMac. The ability to upgrade the graphics card in the Mac Pro is also something that is appealing.

    I also have some concerns with the iMac, being an all in one device, if something happens the enter machine needs to go off for repair, including the screen. If I got the Mac Pro I'd likely grab myself a Windows based Netbook in a few months, just as portable web using, photo displaying tool, and I could still hook it up to whatever monitor I happen to have. Back to the concerns I have with the iMac, I've seen too many people have problems with overheating due to heavy usage, which leads to hardware failure. For many iMac users that may not be a problem, as they spend most of their time working in iPhoto and surfing the internet. I can see myself pushing it a lot though, between working in Aperture 3 and when I want to play some video games, both of which create a lot of heat after a while. That said, I've used Mac notebooks for the last year years, since parting with my Power Mac G4 a few years ago when I was in collage, and I've not had any serious problems, although I was always mindful of how hot I let them get.

    The downside to the Mac Pro are two fold, first the additional price required to buy the hardware, and secondly the operating cost, in terms of the electrical bill. The Mac Pro at full power uses over 200W, while a iMac uses about 130-150W at full power, but then again having 4-6 external drives running at 10-30W each would equal out the energy usage anyway. The iMac also has an higher quality monitor than the 22" LCD that I am using now, and not just in terms of inches and resolution. If I go for the Mac Pro, I'll want to upgrade my monitor, which is getting close to 2 years old anyway, to something at least 24" with a resolution of at least 1080p (1920x1080) , with a higher colour garment. I would likely keep my current monitor regardless, because my current monitor has a fast response time, which is nice to have when I play some video games in my spare time. There is of course a third option.

    I could always stick with what I have now, it mostly meets my needs. If the issue I'm having with memory usage in Aperture 3 were somehow to disappear, then any thoughts of a new machine, might fade into the background till next year, although gaming is limited on the MacBook Pro with the 9400M IGP. Considering that I haven't bought a new video game in the last year, well other than an old game from 5 years ago that I got for $10, maybe I can just live without some nice gaming hardware? I think think of a few ways that I could better spend the money, than on a new computer.
    Ever since I got the F90X last month I've really come to like the large viewfinder that it offers, it would be nice to have an FX camera, but then again I find it hard to justify buying another camera, since I've only had the D300 since September last year. I would really like to wait till next year, after the D4 is released to get into full frame. A D700 replacement would be a good buy at that point. I could also snag a lightly used D700 as people upgrade. Of course I would only do that if I do not buy a new computer this year, as I limit myself to one big purchase (over $1000) a year, with last year being a bit of an exception. Another option is to save the money and put it towards the D300 replacement and a nice telephoto lens next summer.