iMac or Macbook Pro w/ external monitor?

Hey guys–

I am in the process of buying a new computer set up and have been going back and forth between buying a 27" iMac or a 15" Macbook Pro (or even a 13" Macbook Pro) with an external monitor. I am looking at buying a new Mac because:

  1. my old macbook pro is about 5 years old now and is starting to really slow down even after upgrading to 4 Gs of ram
  2. I want to have a nice desktop workspace to do personal/freelance work through
  3. I have Adobe CS3 for mac and I don’t have the money to buy the CS5 package for PC.

I am leaning towards getting a 15" Macbook Pro with an external monitor so that I can still have the portability of having a laptop with the capability of plugging into a “workstation” type of setup when needed. Or, I could always get the iMac and then wipe my current Macbook Pro clean and use it for basic functions. Does anyone have an opinion?

Also, in regards to external monitors–I was thinking of getting a 24" Dell Ultrasharp. I am also looking at a 27" Samsung Syncmaster. Honestly, I’m lacking in knowledge when it comes to the advantages of certain external monitors compared to others, so any advice would be much appreciated. I have just heard great things about the Dell Ultrasharps especially for their cost value.


I would go MBPro + external monitor. More mobility and bang for the buck.

The Ultrasharps are a great monitor - I’ve only run them on my personal machines for 8+ years now. The 2410/2410 Ultrasharps are both great and this past weekend the 24" US was on sale for under $300. Keep in mind these are higher end IPS panels so they have much better color than the cheaper 24" monitors you’ll find in the $150-200 range. Also they are still true 16:10 aspect ratio so you get a 1920x1200 desktop vs 1920x1080. That extra 120 pixels certainly doesn’t hurt, especially when your windows are full of toolbars.

The Dell 27" is phenomenal if you can spring for it, it is super high resolution like the Imac (2560x1440) and the quality is fantastic, but it is an expensive piece of kit. Still a bit cheaper then the Apple Cinema display and lots of connectivity options if you want to connect it as a TV also.

Thanks for the advice Cyberdemon. Yeah, I was leaning towards going with the macpro and external for the mobility aspect. Definitely getting an ultrasharp, I have heard nothing but good things about it–we’ll see how much money I have after I finish up some more freelance work. Hopefully I can spring for the 27" :wink:

This isn’t an issue for everyone, but keep in mind that the iMac only comes with a really glossy screen. I would personally get a 15" mbp (possibly with a matt, hi-res screen) and an external monitor that has a matt screen. I would shy away from the 13" because of the weak GPU in these. The flexibility of this set up would also be important to me.

In school, i had a Macbook w/ external monitor for a few years. Still my home setup. Love it.
At work, I now have a CAD-capable MBP with a huge external monitor. Love it. Honestly, I wouldn’t do it any other way.

If you do a lot of CAD work and processor intensive apps, then get the iMac. If not… get the MBP. Simple.

The processor difference between the current MBP 15" i7-2675 and the current iMac probably won’t be a deal breaker for most people.

They’re both quad core with hyper threading (8 threads) which means they’ll be silly fast in rendering and the MBPro can turbo up to 3.1ghz for single threaded apps.

If you were a professional animator and rendering was key (in which case I would never buy either Apple product when you could get far more performance out of a PC) then the difference would amount to something, but for the normal designer the CPU of a MBPro is more than you’d need these days. It’ll crush Hypershot and most normal ID tasks with ease.

I would also be wary of BOTH machines due to the AMD/ATI Graphics card. If CAD is your thing be certain your software will run properly. I know Alias had known graphics issues (wouldn’t draw the selection box) with the previous gen ATI cards and I doubt it has been resolved.

And don’t forget that the mbp is closing in on a possible “major” overhaul on the exterior as well. Im keeping my fingers crossed for a mba sleek-style.

Disclaimer: Since its apple, nobody really knows.

“- MacBook Pro: The source indicates that 2012 will indeed see the launch of a thinner MacBook Pro form factor, barring any last-minute problems. We’ve been hearing for some time that Apple has been finishing up work on just such a redesign, although the company did sneak in one last minor refresh using the current form factor just last month. Recent reports have claimed that an ultra-thin 15” Mac notebook, whether it be a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, is on target for a March launch with small volumes of components already making their way through the supply chain." --MacRumors

Macrumors actually has a pretty tight listing of the Apple product refreshes here:

They did just update the MBP for their “Late 2011” release, given the launch of the Ivy bridge chips you can expect the next update late spring.

The bigger news would be they are planning on switching BACK to Nvidia GPU’s - so if CAD is your bag and you can survive another 6 months then it might be worth waiting. Whether or not they’ll actually do much to the form factor remains to be seen. I have a feeling they’re pretty close to the physical limit of what they can cram in a “Pro” size form factor, so I wouldn’t expect to see a huge change in ID or form factor, but they are certainly due for an ID refresh - it’s been several years now. If only they didn’t look so good the first time.