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Is it worth upgrading an iMac late 2009 model to max RAM at 16gb for video editing/exporting? Currently to export a 3gb video file in Final Cut Pro it takes 1 - 1.5 hours to export the file. Is it worth it to upgrade the RAM or buy a new iMac ( was thinking this model)

Think its a late 2015 model which is the current one in store

21.5 inch

2.8GHz Processor 1TB Storage

2.8GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz

8GB of onboard memory, configurable up to 16GB

1TB hard drive1

Intel Iris Pro Graphics 6200

1920-by-1080 sRGB display

  • As other people have said you need to check if RAM or Hard drive speed is your limiting factor, since these are the only things you have control over. BUT.... if I had to guess I'd say its your GPU. Even the new computer you posted DOES NOT HAVE a dedicated GPU (the Intel Iris Pro Graphics 6200 is built into the CPU). If you really want to do video editing, you NEED a computer with a dedicated graphics card (ie one built by AMD or Nvidia). ONLY the 27 inch Imacs, 15 inch Macbook Pros, and the Mac pro actually have graphics cards. – Evan Rosica Jun 1 '17 at 15:18
  • Also how much RAM do you have right now? Whats your hard drive speed? Do what @bmike said and post the screenshots! This information needs to be in your post. – Evan Rosica Jun 1 '17 at 15:23
  • Note to close-voters. I actually think the answers to this, especially bmike's have turned this in to more of a 'what to look for/how to test' which I think is worth saving. – Tetsujin Jun 2 '17 at 6:21
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You have the perfect test setup here:

iMac late 2009 model ... to export a 3gb video file in Final Cut Pro it takes 1 - 1.5 hours

You can restart your Mac and quit all the apps except FCP and open activity monitor. You can watch the memory usage during the export. If the memory pressure is green, then no amount of RAM will help speed up the export.

Assuming RAM isn't the bottleneck, next to eliminate is the storage - watch the iops and data rates for read and write. That too is easy to benchmark - ssd gets higher iops than most single hard drive. The other answers have great advice and your bottleneck is likely CPU/GPU but you can measure precisely what you need with activity monitor.

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  1. The week before the Apple WWDC is the worst possible time to buy a brand new Mac
    Next week there might be a new model at the same price, or last year's for less.

  2. FCP wants cores & clock speed.

    iMac
    16GB, 4-core, 2.8GHz

    MacPro 4,1 upgraded to highest spec 5,1
    64GB, 12-core, 3.46GHz

I ran a quick & dirty test - I have no idea how my export settings compare to the OP, but on the Mac Pro mentioned above, running from HD rather than SSD...
11 min video, output as 1080p MP4 best quality -
25% [total] CPU,
RAM negligible, less than 1GB,
output file 1GB,
time 9 mins.

  • Worst time? Is that usually when they announce upgrades to their computers? – Throwawaymac2009 Jun 1 '17 at 5:04
  • No... next week is when they announce upgrades. This week you're buying the old one at full price. – Tetsujin Jun 1 '17 at 5:05
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    imnsho, you don't want a glorified laptop doing high end tasks. That's why I said to look at the Mac Pros. – Tetsujin Jun 1 '17 at 5:13
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    I've voted to close this question as being primarily opinion based, but I've upvoted your answer anyway. Not just because I agree, but because I loved the glorified laptop comment! :) – Monomeeth Jun 1 '17 at 5:18
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    Not similar year - an 8-year-old Mac Pro will dance rings round a brand new iMac; & at not too much more expensive. Add a good sized SSD & a decent graphics card & away you go. – Tetsujin Jun 1 '17 at 5:28
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To know how much of a boost you would get I would suggest searching for benchmark results from other users with a similar setup and work as you that upgraded the RAM.

RAM and SSD are huge boosts to performance, I just discovered that with my 2011 MacBook Pro (doubled the RAM and installed a SSD).

What I also frequently found when looking for the RAM is that the highest the better for video editing and having friends working in that field too, 16gb is the minimal amount apparently so I would suggest boosting the RAM and then buying the new Mac maybe, depends on your budget and the price of the RAM you specifically need. Maybe the upgrade in RAM won't be that expensive and a good trade-off while waiting for the new Mac purchase. You have to see for yourself.

I don't want to make any advertisement but the brand Crucial has come recommended on many sites and communities online for Macs. Of course you should do your own research and decide what suits you best. I also got my SSD and RAM from them. Also on their site you can either choose your model or use their system scanner to precisely identify the RAM and SSD upgrades that are right for your precise model, with prices.

Also if you decide to put an SSD in addition to the RAM, the PCI version as opposed to the SATA ones are supposedly much faster since the PCI port is faster than the SATA, therefore for video editing that would be good I suppose.

Just my 2 cents, hope it helps !

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