Working from home

There is no doubt that, post pandemic, more and more of us will be spending at least part of our lives working from home. In truth, things were going this way before Covid reared it’s ugly head, but lockdown has accelerated the need for home office environments.

Without doubt, the Apple iMac is a the perfect solution for the home office. It’s an all in one solution, neat and tidy, with everything you’ll need built in - no need for the spaghetti of cables that a modular approach would lead to (although you may do well to consider a couple of ‘extras’ – more of which later).

It’s a plug and play solution, with a large screen that affords plenty of real estate - this is, after all, what you look at all day. Depending on which model you select, it will have plenty of storage and power for your needs. The choice can be bewildering, so the big question is –

Which IMac do you need rather than want?

The need for speed

Please excuse this short rant…..

This is the modern world, folks, and we’re constantly being sold the newest version of just about everything in our lives. That washing machine that you bought last year has now been upgraded so it talks to your toaster, and you just have to have it. But…..do you really need your appliances to be deep in conversation just because they can?

We’re all suckered into the upgrade arms race. Take the IPhone 12. It’s indisputably a fantastic device, but it’s chief big upgrade over the previous version is…..a better camera. We seem happy to part with large sums for that better camera. It appears that marketing is, indeed, king.

Deep breath. Forget the marketing. See your new office computer as the utilitarian device that it really is, and make your choice depending on your demands of it.

The newest range of IMacs feature the much vaunted M1 chip. Like the IPhone 12, it's a truly wonderful machine that will indeed fly you to the moon. Most of us, though, spend our lives flying to Manchester for a meeting at best, but more often it's a short drive to Basingstoke that's required. No disrespect to Basingstoke intended.

I’ll make the argument here for a good refurbished iMac or iMac Pro – with the right choice, you’ll have more power than you will ever possibly use, and save a substantial amount of extra cash (to buy that new talking washing machine?). You’ll also help to save the planet. by keeping older, perfectly good machines in use and not buying in to our cultural unsustainability. Rant over.

What do I use my computer for?

So what do you do? Everyone’s needs will vary, so at this point it would be good to consider what you do on your computer (and what you may wish to use it for in the future). It’s a generalisation, but when using the term ‘power’ in an IMac context, we’re talking CPU (the processing) and RAM (memory).

Low power usage

If you generally use the Microsoft Office suite (Word, Powerpoint, Outlook etc), Zoom (or MS teams) comms software, browsing, cloud services – in other words, general office stuff, you are a low power user.

High power usage

If you deal with high end graphics (in which case a higher end graphics card is also a consideration), or high end audio (which I do), then you’re a high power user.

Please bear in mind that IMacs have reached such a high level of base power in recent years, that even a mid range five year old model is a very capable machine for some high end use – processing and rendering may just take a little longer.

What should I look for in an IMac?

The screen!

Apple introduced the 5k screen with 2014 models onwards, and it really is a gamechanger. It’s just less tiring to stare at all day. If your work involves a lot of detailed work, I’d strongly recommend a model with a 27” screen. If your work involves ‘multi windows’ (i.e. having to refer to several programmes at once), you should really consider buying a second screen. This needn’t break the bank – many 3rd party (non Apple) screens will work just fine, and you can pick them up on Ebay for £100 - £200 for something decent.

Memory (RAM)

I’d recommend 16gb plus. 16gb will be ample for most people's power usage.

Storage

Look for an IMac with an SSD or Fusion drive with a minimum of 1tb. An SSD (or partial SSD) really does boost performance.

The obvious caveats apply – if you’re a gamer (as well as running your office), a higher spec GPU (graphics processing unit) may be part of your ‘want’ list. If your work (or play) involves a lot of graphics or audio work, you may want to consider an iMac Pro for the extra CPU and Ram. If large storage needs are required, then external hard disks are always an option (or select a refurb that has a bigger internal disc). Having said that, in my day job as a music producer, I’d be happy to run pretty much any post 2014 IMac on most projects!

If you want to push the boat out, but an iMac Pro is just to pricey, I’d say the pick would be a 2017 model (with whatever extra spec you think that you need).

Future proofing

There is the (natural) assumption that by buying new we future proof ourselves. Not so with computers, no such thing. It’s best to assume that whatever you buy, you’ll be upgrading in somewhere between three and ten years. Depreciation from new in computing is steep, but less so with a good IMac – they tend to hold their value reasonably well. Nevertheless, it’s good to consider it as buying a car from new (and think about how much you lose as you drive it from the showroom!).

I’d also recommend learning a little more about your iMac than you think you need to know – basic maintenance. Run a diagnostic from time to time (like TechTool Pro), and keep that downloads folder slimmed down. Learn good file management, and don’t just dump everything on the desktop. I do a lot of troubleshooting family and friends' Macs – machines that appear almost dead are too often just groaning under the weight of redundant files, over used storage and desktops that look like Piccadilly Circus.It's not anyone's fault that they're not taught about this - in fact, it's almost encouraged by an OS that tends to obscure redundant files in folders that can quickly become bloated.

It’s really not that hard to learn what and how to maintain a healthy IMac. You wouldn’t run a car with no servicing for years and be surprised that it ended up as smoking wreck.

I’d also recommend buying an external USB disc as a backup. Use something like the excellent Carbon Copy Cloner to schedule backups of your internal disc on a daily basis (or at night, when you’re asleep!). Personally, I prefer this option over Apple’s Time Machine.

 


Thinking of buying a iMac from new? Think different.

Apple are working hard to reduce their carbon footprint, but computer manufacture is notoriously carbon and rare earth heavy - not to mention the sumptuous packaging!

We all have a part to play in maintaining the environment we live in. By buying a refurbished iMac we are collectively reducing the overall technology carbon footprint and preserving the planet now and for our future generations. A good iMac is both a sound economic and ecological choice.