New iMac or Used Mac Pro?

I had the unfortunate circumstance of having my 2014 iMac 5K Retina 27" (32GB RAM, 512GB SSD with a second monitor) breathe fire out of the USB ports yesterday (not a joke). I’m thinking if there is a charge to repair the device that I should just invest in a new Mac. I’m weighing the benefits and drawbacks of having a CPU without an integrated monitor.

The things I mainly do to tax my computer is use Dragon Naturally Speaking in a Windows 7 virtual machine (Parallels), and program in Xojo. Honestly, both of these tasks were working fine on my older iMac. There was a lag to compile my 64-bit Xojo apps but that seemed markedly improved after the first compile (maybe 15-30 seconds for my app).

I see that OWC has a 2009 Mac Pro starting around $400, and a 2013 Mac Pro starting around $2000. Each of these can be configured with upgraded CPUs if desired. I can also get a refurb 2017 iMac configured similarly to my 2014 iMac for about $1800.

Or I could just get a new iMac 5K and depending on how I configured it, from somewhere between $2300 and $3300.

This would be the computer I would stick with for the next 5 years, so I would also have to run an older Mac OS in a virtual machine so I could continue to use my older 32-bit apps. I have a few 32-bit apps that will bite the dusk with Catalina.

Is there an appreciable difference between these computers in speed and/or life span? Is a refurb computer a good or bad idea? Should they only be bought from Apple?

It’s so easy to just say go for the new iMac 5K, but I am looking for some level headed advice. Thanks.

Personally, I would avoid the 2009 Mac Pro. Those are great machines, had one myself, but I don’t think they can run Catalina.

I have a 2013 base model Mac Pro (the cylinder) and it runs great. The problem is that since it is 6 years old, I am concerned at how much longer Apple will continue to support it. Based on their current trend, I would say one, maybe two more major OS versions before they drop support, but I am just guessing and could be totally wrong on that.

If you can get a new iMac that would work for you at $2300, I would probably go with that.


I agree with Phillip: if you have the money go for the new iMac. The speed of the computer and the monitor are great.

I bought 2 refurbs so far and they are as new. The older machines won’t last as long as a new one.

Look at the new mac Mini as well… got one for the wife… and I’ll admit had this model been available when I got my recent iMac… I would have gone that route for sure.

I have a few previously used Macs, plus a new Mac Mini on the way. When it comes to deciding which to buy, I use to help drill down into the specs of each and to know what is upgradable, or not.

They even have a comparison feature between the different Mac models, which includes benchmark scores, if that helps. Here’s an example.

I hope that helps.

Edited: to add, two of my used Macs were bought as refurbished from vendors other than Apple and so far so good. Good luck!

If you’re not worried about Apple’s hardware support, I’d go for a Mac Pro 5,1. We have a number of them (and I’m using one right now) and they are absolute tanks. Expandable without an external Thunderbolt Chassis, uses very cost effective RAM, and comes in with money to spare for the Christmas party :).

TRIGGER WARNING — If you are an Apple purist and fan boy - stop reading here …

One other option, if the Apple pedigree is not of concern, is to go for a more modern PC and set up a Hackintosh. We have 4 of them running in the lab with 10.4.11 (yep, Tiger), 10.12.6, 10.13.6, and 10.15.2 successfully. The most expensive cost $1,900, has 8 cores, 64GB, and 32TB of RAID. You do need to be willing to get your digital fingers dirty, but they’re rock solid and run everything we toss at them.

Nice! Well done Tim.

I’ve tried the Hackintosh route a couple of times over the years, but couldn’t get things to stay stable and reliable enough for any sort of daily work. In the meantime I’ll just stick to be very selective and avoid the newer Macbooks for the foreseeable future.

With the new Mac Mini I ordered, to go from the standard 8Gb RAM to 32, Apple wanted $720 CDN. So using the information from and I sourced a 32Gb kit for $200 CDN and saved myself a good pocket full of cash at least. I also didn’t bother with AppleCare this time, because if it came up - I’m sure they’d know I swapped out the RAM myself. Of course this was my own choice (and risk) and don’t recommend this as a preferred solution to anyone. Just saying :wink:

Any suggestions where to find a clear description how to build a Hackintosh? Up to now i only got Mojave and Catalina working in a Virtualbox on a AMD Ryzen and on an old i3 Intel pc.

Were you able to get the 2019 iMac or the 2017? Just wondering.

I was reading that the Mac Mini is basically the equivalent of a 21" iMac and that the 27" is somewhat more powerful (not sure how much). How do you think today’s MacMini would compare to my 2014 iMac 5K?

How do you think the Mac Mini would be able to handle a virtual machine running Dragon speech dictation software (a real memory and processor hog)?

I thought the end-user could upgrade the RAM in a Mac Mini.

Here’s a comparison of specs and some benchmarks between a 2014 iMac i7 4Ghz 5K, the latest Mac Mini and latest 21" iMac.

I think I’ll be pretty happy about that Mac Mini, when it comes down the chimney :slight_smile:

And there will be longer time until Apple shuts the door on the Mac Mini if we are talking about new one. Biggest problem is always that Apple makes it so at certain point that you can’t get the latest OS when the comp reaches age.

You can of course.

I just don’t put much stock in warranty promises when you get down to the fine print and what the manufacture’s interpretation of what is considered self-replacement and self-inflicted damage is, when it comes to fixing something unrelated. So I don’t set my expectations too high and don’t want to mislead anybody about it either (thus my disclaimer ;-).

It depends on the device of course. I recently used the Apple Trade-in program on my old 2015 Macbook Pro 15", to finance my new Mac Mini (which should run ~60% faster than my old MBP). I always had Apple service the MBP (replaced 2 batteries and keyboards and a network jack) and never tampered with it myself. As a result, I got the full trade-in value back.

But this will be my fourth Mac Mini. The others I’ve done self-repair/replacement on, because they are much easier to work with than a Macbook. When I used to be a strictly Windows programmer, the older Dell laptops were always quite easy to repair and upgrade yourself. I kinda miss that.

I replaced my 2009 Mac Pro with a Mac mini i7 a few months ago. Highly recommended. Fast and cost-effective.

@David Schlam: I bought 2 MacBook Airs. The iMac was new.

I had a Hackintosh for 2 years made by a guy in Germany who specialises on making them. You really really have to know what you are doing there. In the end the hardware was a bit problematic. Oh, the thing is still in my office if someone wants it.

I have a Dell P2715Q 4K display that I was using as my second display (I think I paid about $500 for it a few years ago). Any suggestions for a primary display?

Scott, thanks so much for this link. I can see just how much faster this Mac Mini is compared to my 2014 iMac (which I was very happy with).

I can see that the Mac Mini i7 (32GB/1TB) with a $500 monitor ($2800) comes in about the same price as the 27" iMac i9 (8GB/2TB) ($2700) and I can upgrade the RAM myself to 32 GB for $125 more. This is a compelling argument for the iMac.

Sounds like a good plan.

For myself, I already have a couple of great 4K 27" Dell monitors and some other Desktop goodies like a multi-device switching keyboard and mouse for my other Macs, so just getting a new brain box was all I needed.