Why You Should Get an SSD With Your New iMac & Why You Should Get it from Apple



Apple’s new family of iMacs launched today, featuring Intel’s latest Core i5 and i7 processors, 4GB of RAM, and 3x faster graphics; all the ingredients needed to bake a super speedy all-in-one. However, there’s one thing missing from Apple’s lineup of four ‘ready-made’ iMacs, and that’s a solid-state drive. Without one your shiny new iMac might not be as fast as you expected it to be.

Traditional hard disk drives are famously the bottlenecks that slow down modern-day Macs, and more and more people are now adopting solid-state drives thanks to their outstanding performance.

Recent tests performed by MacWorld proved that MacBook Pros equipped with SSDs were up to 20% faster than notebooks fitted with a traditional HDD. The difference means significantly faster startup times and faster disk functions that make everyday computing super quick.

For instance, MacWorld found a 15-inch MacBook Pro with a 2.0GHz processor took 39 seconds to boot up. Whereas a 13-inch MacBook Air with a 1.83GHz processor took just 15 seconds. With the SSD upgrade, a 13-inch 2.3GHz Core i5 MacBook Pro outperforms a 13-inch 2.7GHz Core i7 MacBook Pro.

These aren’t the only tests that demonstrate the differences either: simply type ‘HDD vs. SSD’ into Google and you’ll be greeted with an endless list of sites that compare the two drives – all of which find an SSD to be noticeably quicker than a HDD.

So, it’s pretty clear, then, that SSDs are the way forward. While your new iMac might boast a quad-core i5 or i7 processor, it still won’t boot up as quickly my dual-core 1.4GHz 11-inch MacBook Air, unless you fit it with an SSD. And here’s why you should buy that SSD with your iMac from Apple:

While it may be cheaper to buy RAM from a third-party and upgrade your Mac yourself after purchase, that’s not the case when it comes to upgrading your hard drive.

Firstly, Apple sees RAM as a ‘user upgradable part’, and therefore makes it easy for you to change this yourself. As for hard drives, upgrading is a great deal of work, and unless you’re highly skilled and know exactly what you’re doing, you’ll have to pay a professional to do it for you. It requires that the whole rear casing of the iMac is removed, and as such voids your machine’s warranty.

Secondly, it’s not a great deal cheaper to upgrade yourself anyway. Swapping the 1TB HDD in the low-end 27-inch iMac to a 256GB SSD increases the price by $500. It may sound pricey, but you’ll struggle to find a decent 256GB SSD from a third-party for under $400 right now. Sure, that’s $100 less, but your warranty’s worth a lot more.

After using a new 11-inch MacBook Air for the past few months, modern Macs with HDDs, despite their incredibly fast processors and countless gigabytes of RAM, still don’t feel as quick when it comes to every day computing. Go into your local Apple Store and compare the performance of a MacBook Air with your HDD-equipped computer and I bet you’ll notice the difference.

Use one for a few months and try going back to a machine without one.

  • Atabs

    Too bad the SSD option adds 4-6 weeks shipping time currently on the 27″ models…..

  • KillianBell

    It is, however, there’s really no other way of upgrading without voiding your warranty.

  • Scetillenta

    Excuse me for my ignorance: these speed imporvements will only affect those apps and files installed in the SSD, or the speed improvemnt is avaraged for every app and file saved in your new iMac?? Thanx for the answer in advance.

  • Anthony Harvey

    Yeah it’ll only be faster for files saved on the SSD, however if your using the SSD as your sole drive it’ll essentially work for everything.

  • lemarques

    Actually your math is kind of wrong. When you add the SSD alone, you get 256Gb but you loose the 1TB HDD. The way to go would be 1Tb HDD + 256Gb SSD which is $600… Then you would have a fast machine with good storage. I did that to my MBP and the speed is jaw dropping. Photoshop opens in 3 seconds….

  • London Snoward

    Not worth it…. Of course I’d like to have my machine boot up quicker and start apps in an instant, $600 for around 8-10 seconds faster is so not worth it…

    SSD’s are the future for sure, and in that future where they are cheaper and standard then I will upgrade to them.

  • reneMAC

    Just wait a few weeks and get a thunderbolt equipped external for a lot less than the apple version, with better performance…

  • reneMAC

    not true at all. thunderbolt externals will be out shortly.

  • raikk

    I’m positive about the fact that replacing both the ram and the hdd does not void your warranty. Even apple offers documentation to do so for every mac and declares those parts as user upgradable. Lastly all of the ssd’s apple offers are slower than third-party ssd’s. Just check the reviews and you’ll see for yourself. :P

  • Darrell Williams

    Funny how in the evolution of the imac image they don’t have to original ones in there. like the bondi blue

  • Erik

    I really hate that it increases the shipping time that much. Does Apple typically do that just in case, or are they usually accurate that the increased shipping time is when it will ship and not sooner?

  • sherman

    how much did this uprade cost. i have a Macbook pro 15 in 2.8 gig core 2 duo with4 gig 1067 mhz DDR3 memory.

  • Figurative

    I opted for the 500GB SSD in my MBP and WOW!!! I’ll never go back to conventional drives. If you’re a professional and use your computer a good percentage of the day, the SSD purchase will pay for itself rather quickly.

  • huyett

    I talked to the salesman when I bought my new Thunderbolt MacBook pro. I was talking about upgrading the SSD myself and he told me it wasn’t a user upgradable part (it’s not as difficult as they make it seem) which means it would void your warranty.

    Hard drive replacements are considered a “Level 1 Repair” which is 19$ to keep your apple care intact — just tell them that your hard drive is acting up and bring in your own SSD that you bought online (it really is cheaper than buying through apple).

    Upgrading RAM may be considered “user upgradable” but that still requires removing the back plate on any unibody model — this article is misleading in that sense.

    In a perfect world we’d have an 80-120gb SSD in place of an optical drive as the boot disk and for applications and a larger HDD in its normal place for storage.

  • lkahney

    If you perform the SSD upgrade carefully Apple shouldn’t be able to tell that you cracked the case. At least, that’s what they are saying on the forums.

    The problem seems to be symbolic links to the Documents/Pictures/Movies and other media folders. It’s not clear to me how you set it up so that these folders are on the HD, not the SSD.

    Anyone know the answer?

  • DaveLG10101

    So maybe a 120 or 180 SSD inside the iMAC and a 2 TB Thunderbolt HDD for mass storage. Fast start up and BIG Storage.

    But where are the Thunderbolt HDDs and what is / will be the price?

  • Tgiencke

    I totally agree, after you go to a SSD you never have look at the spinning beach ball again.

    256GB is larger than most people buy for a SSD. Most people put the OS and applications on the SSD and the data goes on a external HD. But $500 for a 256GB SSD is not a bad price, and really not subjected to the infamous “Apple Tax”.

  • Ben

    It’ll be great when they introduce TRIM support with OS X Lion, it will help maintain the speed of the drives by freeing up unusable blocks. I don’t know why they didn’t release it with Leopard.

    For anyone interested in doing this before 10.7 is released there is an article on Lifehacker about enabling the function in 10.6 Leopard. This should help speed up your drive again if you rewrite large amounts of data to your drive, or have owned the SSD for a while. However it is only possible if your drives supports TRIM.

  • Atabs

    I wish I knew. I went with the 2 TB drive as shipping was only 2 days versus 4-6 weeks for the SSD. I can wait a few months/year and if prices come down (and warranty runs out) always decide to upgrade to a SSD. I must admit I am a little sad to purchase without a SSD. I got a MacBook Pro with SSD and love every day using it. Oh well……

  • Steven Chaffer

    Well written. I have three macs and only one of them has a HDD. I will never go back to a HDD again. The money is worth it.

  • Spamspamspam

    Ordered it already … I feel giddy.

  • Richard Stephen James

    I guess I don’t really care about how fast the computer boots up or opens applications…. I do care about how fast it is while using applications. The 256GB SSD isn’t going to cut it, so if my applications and libraries are stored on the SSD and the files (think Aperture here) are stored on the internal HDD, am I going to see an appreciable difference?

  • CharliK

    In the laptops perhaps but the hard drive in an iMac is not user replaceable. Too much risk of you breaking the logic board etc.

  • CharliK

    They wont do it if you bring in the part. They have to use the parts they are provided or it voids the warranty as well.

  • Ignignokt

    Read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D

    tl;dr: 1Tb = .125TB
    (one terabit equals one-eigth of a Terabyte). Capitalization is important.

  • raikk

    yeap I was talking about the laptops sry

  • cheah

    and when you upgrade to an SSD there will be SSD2 which will make the SSD perform like a today’s 5400 HD, you either spend the money for the technology or you dont

  • cheah

    replacing the HD requires to take the screen out, or if you have 2 people, to hold it up you can do it in about 15 mins.
    Its not that hard, but it does void the warranty

  • cheah

    apple never drops the prices on parts, ram, video cards, HDs etc. look at the ancient ati 4870 video cards, they are selling as much as they did 2 years ago.
    Its like my bmw dealer, they sell parts for my 4 year old 750li for the same price they did back in 07, the car is not worth 90k anymore, but the parts are ridiculously high

  • mahimahimahi

    Can you get an ssd of your choice installed at the apple store? Would that void the warranty?

  • Tgiencke

    In a word yes you’ll see a big difference. Photo and video editing are some of the best reasons to use a SSD. Think of the swap file that the app uses while editing. The speed of the SSD is so much faster that it will really speed up your Mac.

  • Bengalbod

    Moving to an SSD is one of the best ways to improve performance period. Too bad that to get trim you have to stick with one of the lackluster drives that Apple offers.

  • Joram Oudenaarde

    You could also get an SSD from your preferred brand, and then go to an official Apple reseller and ask them to put it in your Mac. That’ll not void the warranty from what I know, at least not in Holland. I’m not sure if it’s any different in other countries though :)

  • mrplowinc

    The article is referring to an iMac. You don’t take the back off to upgrade the ram on an iMac.

  • Dilbert A

    great article.

  • Bob Forsberg

    I looked at a tear down of the new iMac today by iFixIt and didn’t see a connector for an SSD when it wasn’t ordered with one from Apple. Maybe a connector, cabling and a solder connection to the motherboard might be required if not originally equipped with a SSD…and require that extra time for a special order? Beware.

  • freediverx

    SSDs are tempting, and perhaps a good option for a notebook, where someone may not necessarily expect to store all their data.

    But they’re still a poor choice for one’s primary desktop computer. Sorry, but 256GB is not even remotely adequate for anyone with a decent sized collection of hi-res photos, HD movies and music. Add to that the insanely high cost of an SSD compared to a top quality HDD with 4X the capacity, and this is just not at all a good value.

    When SSDs are available for a more reasonable price in the 500GB-1TB range, then they will be a no-brainer.Oh, and startup times – while certainly significant – are hardly the last word in performance metrics. Again, perhaps more so for a notebook, but a desktop machine like an iMac can easily be left on all the time, since it’s dead quiet and relatively energy efficient in sleep mode.

  • freediverx

    What would really be slick, while we wait for SSD prices to come down and capacities to go up, is a computer with two internal storage devices: a superfast SSD drive just for the OS, in a small capacity, and then a conventional HDD for data storage. This would give you the fast startup times and speed benefits for some operations, while keeping the cost affordable and providing reasonable storage space.