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I do graphic designing, prepress & most of the file management at a small (2 owners – 5 employees) print shop. Although its not a huge operation, we're very busy and the iMac that I work on has taken a decent beating over the past few years, and definitely needs an upgrade because the performance of the HDD thats currently being used can be pretty bad at inconveniently random times. I use an SSD with my MacBook at home, and the performance between the two is always noticeable, so we're looking to get a SSD running on the iMac.

My question is, since we will have a lot of file reading/writing, and are constantly running relatively big applications like MS Office and the Adobe Suite, even though I'm intending on setting up a separate external drive for file storage, does anyone have experience with what SSDs perform best both in terms of longevity and speed in a commercial printing environment such as what I mentioned, and which perform best for Macs? We're also trying to keep the cost below $400 or so.

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  • Yes. I've written an answer to a similar question and addresses this very topic. – Allan Oct 1 '17 at 13:41
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I would suggest a Samsung 850 PRO. Great longevity, warranty and performance. Or, if you want a bigger drive, get the 850 EVO. Not so durable, but we're still talking of decades.

The Pro is rated for more writes than the Evo but costs more and has slightly higher benchmark performance. On an older iMac it’s not clear you’d benefit from the faster or more durable option.

Basically: 1000 write cycles per cell for the EVO and 3000 for the PRO. If you write 10GB/day (which is quite a lot) on a 256GB EVO, the disk will die in about 70 years, when you'll have written 256x1000 GB of data.

  • Thanks – I'll have to look into what the differences are between the two. – Alex Monterville Sep 30 '17 at 21:55
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    Basically: 1000 write cycles per cell for the EVO and 3000 for the PRO. If you write 10GB/day (which is quite a lot) on a 256GB EVO, the disk will die in about 70 years, when you'll have written 256x1000 GB of data. – user1527576 Sep 30 '17 at 22:02
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    In this case I'd suggest a bigger drive available in the price range over one a smaller one with better longevity. It's really very difficult to wear out a modern SSD. SSDs are much faster than HDDs, but they still suffer performance problems when they're at or near full capacity. Having lots of free space available is good for both reliability/wear leveling and performance. – barbecue Oct 1 '17 at 16:22
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Get the $1799 stock 27 inch iMac you can, skip RAM upgrades initially, put in a 256 SSD and don’t look back. If you’re worried - bump up to the $1999 model with 256 SSD.

You can add aftermarket RAM later if needed for your specific workloads - you'll be able to see memory pressure in Activity Monitor and then see if you need to change default settings in Adobe or need to upgrade based on your file sizes. You can add external storage or have a network server for long term storage.

Apple’s SSD are the best in class and the 5k display are amazing for all sorts of prepress tasks. You can’t source equivalent options for twice the price as a small business or consumer.

We are rolling the mid line iMac with 256 SSD / 8 GB RAM for a large prepress installation and just finished deploying the first 50 to production on 10.12.6. The results are stunning - far faster than the max CPU/RAM MacPro for everything except dedicated 3D rendering and we’ll keep a dozen of the MacPro in a server room as render farms / nodes.

Even with a full install of Adobe CS6 / CC 2014 / CC 2015 / CC 2017 on them to handle all clients - we’re not even 50% full on the SSD so we have a lot of room for fast local file storage for working files.

For normal prepress - the current iMac 27 is the best bang for the buck. Just be sure to get an Apple SSD / NVMe preferred on the latest model. It’s a huge step up in performance for Adobe and Office. I wouldn’t go to High Sierra for a few months until Adobe gives the green light on APFS.

  • I appreciate your answer – I guess I should've mentioned though that our budget is limited, so I know for sure we can't get a new iMac. We'd just be looking to install an SSD on the iMac that we're using now, which I believe is a 2013 with 32GB RAM. Even with the huge amount of RAM it doesn't save the HDD. – Alex Monterville Sep 30 '17 at 21:18
  • Ok @alxmntrvl - see what your hourly rate is - any SSD will help. Just be sure you’re ok without heat sensors and get an SMC fan control app if your blowers go loud and you care after an aftermarket drive upgrade. – bmike Sep 30 '17 at 22:03
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    Assuming the OP already has enough RAM is a mistake IMO. 8 gigs is the minimum RAM I'd recommend for a DTP workstation, but many iMacs came with 4 gigs. A 256 gig SSD leaves plenty of money for a RAM upgrade too. – barbecue Sep 30 '17 at 23:17
  • @bmike well I will care, yes. Not trying to destroy the computer. Thank you for the app suggestion, might need it. – Alex Monterville Oct 1 '17 at 2:11
  • @barbecue theres actually 32GB of RAM, but it might as well not have it because it doesn't seem to make much difference. – Alex Monterville Oct 1 '17 at 2:12

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